In 1991, country music legend Kenny Rogers joined forces with John Y. Brown, Jr., the former governor of Kentucky, to launch a chain of wood-fired rotisserie chicken restaurants called Kenny Rogers Roasters.
Brown, now 80, whose second wife was Miss America 1970 Phyllis George before they divorced in 1998, had previously gained much of his wealth as a businessman investor partner with Colonel Harland Sanders for the Kentucky Fried Chicken chain franchise from 1964 to 1971.
Although I've interviewed Kenny Rogers a few times, I never made it to a Kenny Rogers Roasters. The first flagship restaurant opened in Coral Springs, Fla. in August 1991. Brown expanded the chain to more than 425 restaurants before selling his interest in the franchise to the Malaysia-based Berjaya Group in 1996.
By March 1998, the company entered Chapter 11 bankruptcy, and in 2000, the chain was down to only 40 restaurants left in the U.S. The last Kenny Rogers Roasters operating in the U.S. was located in the Ontario Mills Mall in Ontario, Calif. until it closed on Dec. 31, 2011. My Times Columnist Colleague Eloise Valadez tells me the only Kenny Rogers Roasters we had in our area was a Chicagoland location in Schaumburg. However, the chain has remained successful in Asia. In its 2012 Annual Report, Berjaya Corporation reported Kenny Rogers Roasters restaurants numbered 74 in Malaysia and eight in Indonesia, including locations in Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, China and the Philippines. Last year, the newest Kenny Rogers Roasters opened its first outlet in Brunei, on the island of Borneo, in Southeast Asia.
American diners consider roast chicken a slice of Americana. If Kenny Rogers ever needs some inspiration about how to prepare a perfect roast chicken, I'm convinced he need not look any farther than Grand Lux Café, the restaurant concept with 11 locations across the country featuring casual global cuisine in an elegant yet relaxed setting.
This nearest Grand Lux Café, along Chicago's Magnificent Mile, is at 600 N. Michigan Ave at the intersection of Ontario Street, with it's signature large glass bay style dining room windows overlooking Chicago's famed shopping strip.
Just added to their new dining menu options is an amazing succulent Honey-Roasted Chicken dinner priced at $17.95, served up as half of a free-range marinated chicken served with roasted rainbow carrots and crispy fingerling potatoes in a pool of natural chicken-herb jus. This is the best roasted chicken I've tasted in recent memory. Also new is a Parmesan Crusted Thick-Cut Pork Chop ($19.95) served with garlic buttered breadcrumbs, Parmesan cheese and fresh herbs with mashed potatoes, brussels sprouts and roasted carrots.
Reservations are made at (312) 276-2507 or grandluxcafe.com.