Disclaimer: This meal was comped.
One of the city's biggest pandemic-era successes had quite the origin story. The journey from the independently-owned Korean eatery Le K'bob on Somerled Avenue to the budding fried chicken empire known as Olivia's took a couple left turns along the way.
Back in June of 2020, I was invited to try the first iteration in NDG during its infancy. I immediately fell in love with the product, despite its flaws at the time; and Olivia's quickly entered my takeout rotation. Fast forward to October 2021, when I was invited to the DIX30 location's soft launch; then again to last Monday at the latest downtown branch.
tagged: OPEN ON MONDAY
Open since the 3rd of March, the newest addition occupies a corner across the street from Concordia University's Webster Library. The low-rise building's façade is decorated by pop artist/muralist Antoine TAVA in his signature nostalgic cartoon trademark.
Inside, dramatic exposed brick walls are contrasted with Olivia's pastel color palette and white furniture. Given the location, it was not surprising to encounter a collegiate clientele, be it to occupy one of the dozen seats on site or take it to go.
tagged: STUDENT CENTRAL
Olivia's first incarnation was decidedly more Korean than it is today, as their fried chicken came dipped in sauce and sat next to pickled radish with no sign of fries – a must if you ask me. That, in addition to the large portion sizes made it a pricey and perplexing proposition – albeit a delicious one.
Months later, its fully-formed version would be unveiled with a new menu and fresh branding to go with it. The Korean touch stops at the method of preparation, with the rest of the menu beefed up using southern-style fixins such as macaroni and potato salads, coleslaw, fries, onion rings and dipping sauces.
The bird here is simply perfection; a beautifully-crispy casing hides tender, juicy meat inside. Light, non-oily and full of flavour; it marries well with the spicy Louisiana dip – a better version of Frank's Red Hot. They also nailed the side dishes with fries attaining the ideal balance between crunchy and meaty, a mustardy macaroni salad and fresh, tangy coleslaw. Only the potato salad needed work, despite its dill-enhanced taste. I found it too mushy, bordering on mashed potatoes.
Although fried chicken started its rise in popularity around five years ago across North America, its ascension to the top of the fast-food chain was catapulted since the COVID-19 pandemic. With everyone locked up at home, it is only natural to turn towards comfort food; and few things are as comforting while traveling as well during delivery as fried chicken.
Despite the fierce competition out there ranging from casual operations such as Roch Le Coq and Le Coq Frit to chef-driven concepts such as Le Bird Bar and Rubie's, Olivia's is the one name which rules the roost. With six more locations opening in the near future, there's no telling how high this bird can fly!
Price per person: $18.80
Montreal restaurant and bar reviews brought to you by two regular guys who like to eat and drink. We will go anywhere and we will say it like it is.