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Behind the Menu: Chicken Ranch brings flavor and fast, fresh food to University Heights

The quick-serve comfort food concept Chicken Ranch from Chef Demetrios Atheneos opened in December

UNIVERSITY HEIGHTS, Ohio — Chef Demetrios Atheneos has left his mark on a number of popular Cleveland restaurants, like Forage Public House, The Oak Barrel and BOLD. But when it came time to launching his newest concept, he took things in a different direction.

"Chicken Ranch is our our way of doing, you know, the farm to table food in a smaller, to-go kind of setting," he said in a recent interview with 3News anchor Jay Crawford. "When COVID happened and everything went on on lockdown, I spent a good six months, eight months trying to come up with concepts that were going to fit the times we're in."

Credit: Demetrios Atheneos
A photo from the Chicken Ranch buildout process.

The result? Quick-serve comfort food concept Chicken Ranch, which opened in University Heights in December —  but he's not doing it alone. His brother Niko is his partner on the project, and Atheneos explained that his wife handles all design and marketing. Both his sister and daughter also work at the restaurant.

Credit: Demetrios Atheneos
The Atheneos family.

"Being a family-run business is really what's kept us ahead of the game," he said. "We keep moving forward, and ... we love working together."

And here, the family influence actually goes back decades.

"My uncle had [a restaurant called] Chicken Ranch originally in the '80s in New York, in Brooklyn," Atheneos remembered. "When I was designing the menu, it was kind of like an homage to that."

Credit: Demetrios Atheneos
A photo from the original Chicken Ranch restaurant in Brooklyn, New York.

Cleveland's Chicken Ranch focuses on quality ingredients and freshly made products — everything from their signature chicken sandwiches to ribs, fish, even homemade cannoli.

"And what really keeps people coming back ... is because of the different layers of flavor that we do with the chicken, from the brining process to the breading and the sauces," Atheneos explained.

That's 16 sauces to be exact — many of them perfected over many years in the kitchen, everything from what Atheneos calls the best honey mustard there is to soy chili jam to Cleveland hot sauce. 

And judging by Jay's reaction to the menu highlights he sampled (which you can watch in the player above), you can't go wrong no matter what you try!

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