Lenoir chef-owner Todd Duplechan is teaming with Jeffrey’s co-founder Jeffrey Weinberger, former Trio at the Four Seasons general manager Jeff Haber, and a member of the Youngblood family to reboot legendary Youngblood’s Fried Chicken.
Youngblood’s was a massively popular group of chicken restaurants that opened in the 1940s and grew to more than 30 locations across Texas before shuttering around 1970.
“We’re trying to usher in a new style of fast food,” Duplechan said. “The Southern food your grandparents would have had. Not Paula Deen-Southern, but from-the-garden Southern. Good, fresh healthy food.”
The counter-service restaurant’s menu will include fried chicken, oak-roasted rotisserie chicken and homemade sides. The first Austin location, expected to open sometime next year, will be on Airport Boulevard west of I-35.
Duplechan said he was inspired in part by the influx of out-of-state brands like In-N-Out Burger and Gus’s Fried Chicken invading the Austin market in recent years. He wanted to build a home-grown concept that could represent Texas at home and outside of the state. The former chef at the Four Seasons also wanted to create a family-friendly environment that didn’t sacrifice quality for flavor.
“I wanted to open a place where you can bring your family and feed them real food. I don’t feed my kids health food, but I feed them good food,” Duplechan said. “I want them to eat food that tastes good but is also sound in a lot of ways … I’m trying to figure out how to live my life and not raise my kids on ramen noodles and Twinkies. But I’m also not going to tag along to the health food store every five minutes, because I’m not going to sacrifice my lifestyle.”
The original Youngblood’s had an Austin location near the current P. Terry’s on South Lamar Boulevard. Austin native and former adman Forrest Preece has fond memories.
“I still remember the smell of that place — the fried chicken and yeast rolls. My version of nirvana in the fifties,” Preece said via email. “The breading on that chicken had a certain crispy pop that made each bite special. Of course, it was a day of total entertainment when my parents would take me to the Kiddie Park directly across South Lamar and I could ride the ponies and the merry-go-round and then we ate at Youngblood’s.”
Duplechan said his group is currently focused on the Airport Boulevard location, but they hope to eventually expand outside of Austin.