East Idaho Eats: Jill’s Chicken Shack brings family favorites to Iona
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IONA — A local family is bringing southern fried chicken to the town of Iona inside a much-loved building.
Jill and Clint Reading opened Jill’s Chicken Shack on Saturday in the old Ernie’s Cafe building. It’s the small community’s first restaurant in years, and the couple hopes customers will build memories here just like people did when it was Ernie’s Cafe.
“We want it to be a destination,” Jill tells EastIdahoNews.com. “There are some other restaurants in the area that are a destination and they’re not right in town and they seem to be pretty popular and we want that. So we are advertising in ways that will draw people not just from Iona and not just from Idaho Falls but also from the outlying communities.”
The couple only recently purchased the building, and with a lot of effort, they were able to open in time for Iona Days over the weekend.
“We had a guy in last night who worked at Ernie’s before it closed and when Ernie the original owner lived next door,” Jill says. “That’s been fun to have the community come in and talk about ‘remember that one time Ernie’s?”
As the name suggests, there is no beef at the new restaurant — just chicken. After living for a few years in the south and vacationing in the region, the Readings began to make their own southern fried chicken for their family after not finding any good offerings in eastern Idaho.
“It’s been a two and a half year journey just to get the chicken dialed in,” Clint says. “The first few times we made it, it was terrible. But we’ve really honed in on the recipe and it’s beautiful.”
The process to make Jill’s chicken starts with an hours-long soak in brine before hitting the fryer. The fresh chicken — legs, thighs and breast — is served up to customers along with family favorite sides.
Jill uses her grandmother’s recipe in the restaurant’s “Not your grandma’s potato salad” and her sister’s recipe for their Raspberry Wipple. Jill’s Chicken Shack also serves up sweet and tangy baked beans packed with bacon and a vinaigrette coleslaw.
The restaurant also does not forget dessert with homemade cinnamon rolls and soft-serve ice cream. For only 50 cents (tax included), customers can pick between vanilla, chocolate or swirl ice cream.
“We don’t make any money on that, obviously,” Clint says. “It’s something we really just wanted to give … the kids, having them come in and seeing their faces that’s part of what we wanted to have … It’s the most happiness that 50 cents can buy.”
Jill’s Chicken Shack is located at 3372 North Main Street in Iona. Those who want to order ahead can call the restaurant at (208) 607-9773. For more information on Jill’s Chicken Shack, you can visit their Facebook page.