Rick Robinson has led a travel-filled culinary career across the US, bringing his experiences to DeeLuxe Chicken in Durham (1116 Broad St. Suite 100), which he owns along with Scott Howell. There, you’ll find some of the most delicious (and wallet-friendly) fried chicken in North Carolina. Robinson knows this, and just before a busy Sunday, he took a few minutes to chat about where he’s been, things he’s accomplished, and what he hopes to keep doing at DeeLuxe Chicken in Durham.
Based on the amazing food, atmosphere, and more, we had to include DeeLuxe Chicken in our guide to Casual Restaurants in Durham, too!
DeeLuxe Chicken in Durham
& Owner Rick Robinson
Background & Magnolia Grill
Many years before DeeLuxe Chicken, Robinson started out in the Triangle at Ye Olde Waffle Shop when he was 14. He’s originally from Chapel Hill but has traveled around the US, either part-owning or working at restaurants in Boulder, Boston, and Dallas among other places. After finishing college in the early ’90s, he worked at Magnolia Grill in Durham. He eventually opened his own place, but decided to travel more after it closed. This time, he passed through the Napa Valley, Brooklyn, and Asheville. Rick’s recent return to Durham came in March, 2018 after he and eventual business partner Scott Howell looked at each other and said, “Let’s open a chicken restaurant.”
Rick is still recognized as part of the Barker-Magnolia family tree, which spreads throughout Durham and to other cities. We learned this in Carrboro and Chapel Hill while doing a Taste Carolina Gourmet Food Tour there.
Scott Howell‘s resume includes eight appearances as a James Beard Award semifinalist and collaborations with culinary geniuses on some of Durham’s best restaurants and bars. Some prominent names include NanaTaco, NanaSteak, and Bar Virgile. The goal, and a lot of what Scott does, is to eventually have his operating partners buy him out. He’s done this with NanaTaco, Q Shack, Durham Catering Company, and as Robinson explained, “Scott has fostered more people into giving them opportunities to become small business owners then just about anyone else in the area.”
Picking a Location
They had decided that we were only going to open DeeLuxe Chicken in a former restaurant’s space. Oval Park Grille had been sitting empty for eight or nine months and Scott had a great relationship with the landlord, who also owns the Bar Virgile space.
The Food at DeeLuxe Chicken
What makes DeeLuxe different from other fried chicken joints? They have a broad menu, with everything from burgers, to salads, to seafood to go along with their amazing chicken. Part of it is how Robinson approaches flavor. He’s a firm believer that there’s nothing new in food and there’s a reason why certain things go together. However, Rick changes how those flavor combinations present themselves.
The DeeLuxe Chicken Sandwich
A great example of this is the DeeLuxe Chicken Sandwich which is essentially a deconstructed buffalo chicken sandwich. The spice comes with the sambal mayo, the celery with apple celery root slaw, and there’s bleu cheese in the dressing. While it might not taste like buffalo chicken it has a lot of the components of that iconic dish.
The Purist Sandwich
We couldn’t help but have a little giggle at their Purist Sandwich, which is and elevated menu option that you might see at Chick-fil-A, except you can get it on a Sunday.
Bone-in Fried Chicken
Another unique thing that DeeLuxe offers is bone-in fried chicken. Maintaining a crisp outside and moist inside is incredibly difficult to pull off, but something Rick’s team has mastered. A limited number are available each day for customers.
The price point at DeeLuxe Chicken is also something to be noted. That was a goal for Robinson and Howell. While both chefs have experience in fine dining, affordability is also really important to them. “We really wanted to be accessible to all members of the community. It feels like it’s a really great cross-section of the Durham community that comes to enjoy our dishes,” said Robinson. And that’s really what food is all about—being delicious, affordable, and reaching everyone.
Advice for Others
We asked Robinson what his advice would be for someone looking to start their own business. He said, “The first thing I try to do is talk them out of it. This is an incredibly hard lifestyle.” It takes a passion and preservation to make it in the restaurant industry. So if Robinson is able to talk you out of it, according to him, then you’re not going to cut it for the harsh ups and downs that owning a restaurant will throw at you. It takes a certain glimmer and passion to be successful, and you can easily see that evident in Robinson. Of course, you could easily point to his years of experience, but based on first glances, this person is meant for restaurant success.
Have You Tasted DeeLuxe Chicken?
Rick Robinson has come a long way and has taken his decades of experience to create an amazing menu and restaurant. We’re hopeful that DeeLuxe Chicken will keep people coming back, because people need a good spot to fill that fried chicken fix. If you’re looking for new places to eat in Durham and haven’t tried this spot, then you’re missing out. You can stop by and eat in, grab take out, or even order online for pick up or delivery via DeeLuxe’s website.
This feature is part of our series on North Carolina food, the People of NC,and Durham. Special thanks to Rick and everyone at DeeLuxe Chicken for providing us with awesome service while enjoying our meals to experience this wonderful restaurant. All opinions within this article are our own.