Welcome Chicken + Donuts in Phoenix: Asian Fried Chicken and Kick-Ass Artisan Donuts

Fried chicken and donuts, a match made in fried food heaven.
Fried chicken and donuts, a match made in fried food heaven.
Lauren Saria

When a new spot opens in town, we can't wait to check it out -- and let you know our initial impressions, share a few photos, and dish about some menu items. First Taste, as the name implies, is not a full-blown review, but instead a peek inside restaurants that have just opened, sampling a few items, and satisfying curiosities (yours and ours).

Restaurant: Welcome Chicken + Donuts Location: 1535 E. Buckeye Rd, Phoenix Open: Less than a week Eats: Fried chicken, donuts Price: $12 - $15/person

Chances are that if you've been to Welcome Diner then you already know chef Michael Babcock has a way with fried chicken. It's been on the menu in sandwich form since even before the he and Welcome Diner co-owner Jenn Robinson found their restaurant's brick-and-mortar home.

Now he's given his fried chicken the spotlight -- or at least, half of one. At Welcome Chicken + Donuts the name of game is exactly as it sounds: Bone-in fried chicken and artisan donuts. And if you're a fan of either or just love good food, you'll want to get over there ASAP.

See also: 10 Best Restaurants for Fried Chicken in Metro Phoenix

The new restaurant is located near 16th Street and Buckeye in an adorable freestanding building that once housed a bbq restaurant. There's still a lot of retro charm, but the space is also bright and clean. There's not much seating inside -- fewer than ten tables -- but there is a large covered patio with a good amount of space.

From 7 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. the menu includes a pretty large selection of donuts, as well as both hot and cold coffee. Standard cake doughnuts in flavors such as classic and chocolate cake with mole sugar will cost you $1.30 each, while premium cake donut flavors include classic glaze with sprinkles, lemon poppy seed, and cream cheese with blueberry.

We tried the classic cake doughnut with chipotle sugar and loved both the perfect texture -- dense but somehow airy at the same time -- and the smoky, spicy, and sweet combination of flavors. The subtle spiciness from the sugar made for a perfect balance of sweet and heat.

If you're looking for a raised donut, Welcome delivers on that front, too. There are standard classic glazed donuts ($1.30), in addition to a roster of premium options that range in price from $2 to $3. The list includes flavors such as apple fritter; chocolate, rose, and pistachio; apple fritter with cheddar cheese; and banana cream with peanut butter, pecans, and cacao. The cajeta and mesquite salt was a bit heavy-handed on the salt and light on the cajeta for our taste -- it may be best enjoyed sans salty fried chicken or before your meal.


Right: Cajeta and mesquite salt donut; Left: Classic cake donut with chipotle sugar.
Right: Cajeta and mesquite salt donut; Left: Classic cake donut with chipotle sugar.
Lauren Saria

Once 10:30 hits, you can also order up a plate of fried chicken to go with your fried dough. The menu is short and simple: Choose a combo, choose a sauce, and choose a side. A two piece combo ($8) includes a thigh, drum, a side, and a cake donut, while a three piece combo ($10) includes an additional breast. The whole bird combo (two breasts, two thighs, two drums, a side, and a donut) will set you back $18.

You can also opt for either a half dozen ($6) or full dozen ($11) order of wings, which don't include a side order.

On the sauce front you have your choice of three Asian-inspired sauces: Korean chili, Vietnamese + Fresh Herbs, or Japanese BBQ.

We enjoyed all three but if we had to pick a favorite it might be the Vietnamese, a salty, slightly tangy, but not overly seasoned sauce that let's the flavor of the moist chicken really stand out. The Korean chili has only a slight bit of heat and the Japanese BBQ stands out for its heavy tomato notes. All are worth a try and make a great pairing with Welcome's light, crunchy batter.

For sides, you'll have choices including ginger scallion cucumber salad, Thai yum slaw, and corn miso butter stir fry. We could probably take or leave the corn stir fry, though the Thai slaw made a good impression. If you're not a fan of mayonnaise-y or vinegar-y cole slaw, you'll appreciate the nuttiness of Welcome's version.

Southern food is definitely having a moment right now, but Welcome Chicken + Donuts raises the bar with Asian-inspired sauces and excellent chicken. We loved the focused offerings and that this second spot has a unique identity from the original spot.

And on the doughnut front, Welcome Chicken + Donuts has taken Phoenix's game to a whole new level. Phoenix, this is the artisan doughnut shop you've been waiting for.

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