• Milwaukee Journal/Sentinal "Top Notch Takeout"
  • Milwaukee Journal Sentinal "Foodies"
  • On Milwaukee.com

Top-notch take-out

Champion Chicken

If you see a large delivery truck with a roof topped by a giant chicken dressed in a red-checkered cape, follow that fowl to its roost: Champion Chicken on Lisbon Ave.

There you'll find irresistible crispy fried chicken served in a number of combos: dinners, tubs, wings and more. Champion, which is celebrating its 50th year, pressure-fries its chicken, a quick method of cooking resulting in hot yet juicy meat sealed in a golden brown coating. The crunchy, slightly salty skin puts you in a lightly greased stupor that almost makes you forget the calories you've just consumed. Almost.

Chicken not your thing? Champion also makes appetizers, wings, pizza, pasta, ribs, fried fish and other seafoods, salads, hamburgers, Mexican dishes, sandwiches and soups - all available to go. A special menu for Lent features five kinds of fried fish and shrimp. And don't forget the custard, which you can take home in sizes from single servings to quarts.

The restaurant has a few tables, but most customers order ahead and take their meals home packed in sturdy, stapled brown grocery bags. Champion delivers - sometimes in that iconic chicken-topped vehicle - to homes within about six miles of the store.

Do you have a favorite takeout place?

What: Four-piece chicken dinner

Where: Champion Chicken, 8718 W. Lisbon Ave.

How much: $6.95

Serves: One

Why we like it: If you're going to be bad, pressure-fried chicken is a good way to go.
Wrap-up: Standard foam box

Suggested side: It comes with fries, coleslaw and a small cup of frozen custard, though you can substitute other sides, including mashed potatoes with gravy, fresh vegetable or bun. Try one of the many retro Boylan Bottleworks drinks, cherished by soda aficionados for using cane sugar and glass bottles.

Parking: Surface lot
Hours: 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Monday-Thursday, 11 a.m. to midnight Friday and Saturday, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday; deliveries start at 4:30 p.m.

Menu: www.championchicken.com

To order: At the counter or call (414) 462-6200

-Cindy Eggert Johnson
E-mail Tina Maples at tmaples@journalsentinel.com.

Johnson, Cindy Eggert. "Top Notch Takeout: Champion Chicken." Milwaukee Journal/Sentinel, March 3, 2009: <http://www.jsonline.com/features/food/40658242.html>.

How the idea of a legendary chicken was hatched


Special to the Journal Sentinel
Last Updated: July 3, 2003

Who they are: Ed and Tom Seebach

What they do: Own and operate Champion Chicken

Perhaps it was just coincidence, perhaps it was fate. Just after Ed Seebach and his brother, Richard, started a little carryout chicken place on Lisbon Ave., in 1959, the Sperry Candy Co. went out of business. And the Seebach brothers needed a truck. "Sperry made a candy bar called the Chicken Dinner bar," Ed recalls. "I remember buying them at the drugstore for a nickel when I was a kid."

Sperry had a whole fleet of trucks, painted different colors but all sporting a big setting hen on the roof to advertise their Chicken Dinner candy. It seemed like just the thing Ed needed to advertise his real chicken dinners.

"Sperry had authorized their distributors to sell off all these trucks," says Ed. "I got one for $200.

"Of course, it already had 200,000 miles on it, and we had to park it outside, so in no time at all it was just falling apart, a heap of rust."

The undaunted Seebachs simply had the roof cut off the old truck, chicken and all, and mounted it on a new truck.

"Oh, it's been through five or six trucks," says Tom Seebach, Ed's son, who is now largely in charge of operations at Champion Chicken. "But it's the same chicken." Same chicken dinner, too - four pieces of pressure-fried bird, choice of potato, slaw and a roll - and the price has crept up only to $5.95 from Ed's original menu, when it cost $1.35. But you can also get a wide array of salads, soups, sandwiches, pizza, steaks, ribs and seafood, and you can have any of it delivered to your home, if you live between Mill Road and Blue Mound Road, from 60th St. to Pilgrim Road.

On a typical Friday, from 100 to 125 customers do just that. Many more make the drive to 8718 W. Lisbon Ave. to pick up dinners or to sit down and enjoy one in the dining room. The Seebachs - minus Richard, who sold out his share long ago - have expanded five times at their current location, which now seats 120.

Tom's two sisters also work at the restaurant, and Mom still serves as night hostess -"to keep an eye on us kids," Tom says.

"People come here because they know there are people here who care," says Ed Seebach.

"They know," adds Tom, "that 95 percent of the time, there will be a family member here."

After 44 years, Ed still makes deliveries when needed, and loves to fix things around the place. He's also an avid sailor, woodworker and collector of wooden decoys. Tom is even bigger on woodworking than his dad. He's made nearly all the furniture in his own home. He haunts furniture stores with a digital camera, looking for eye-catching contemporary styles.

There's really only one problem at Champion Chicken. That old hen, now riding a sleek, modern van, is showing its age.

"It's getting awfully rusty," Ed admits. "We're going to have to do something." A modern, fiberglass or plastic chicken? "We're looking into something like that," Tom says.

And is it the scrap yard for the yardbird?

"I don't know," Ed says. "Maybe a museum would want it. Maybe the Brooks Stevens people would be interested."

PRICE, JIM. "Top Notch Takeout: Champion Chicken." Milwaukee Journal/Sentinel, July 3, 2003: <http://www.jsonline.com/onwisconsin/dining/jul03/152563.asp>

Champion Chicken feeds hungry nor'westerners

By Bobby Tanzilo

Have you seen the chicken? No, not the rhythm chicken. I'm talking about that huge bird roosting atop a white van decorated with the Champion Chicken logo?

We spotted it almost daily after moving to our new neighborhood and although tempted to follow it, we didn't. But soon
enough, we found its coop at 8718 W. Lisbon Ave.

Champion Chicken, on the northwest side since 1959, is something of a throwback to the days when neighborhood places ruled the roost. The dining room is open late (until midnight every day) and there's a counter, where even on a Saturday, just before closing time, there are regulars chatting up the young staff.

Neighborhood memorabilia adorns the walls of the dining room, with dark wood benches and an assortment of knick-knacks. But don't come for the decor, come for the good, home-style food. Most times, the dining room is doing a brisk business in, of course, fried chicken, but also in hamburgers, sandwiches and frozen custard. You haven't seen busy, though, until you've clocked the pickup counter next door on a Friday at dinner time. A window opens up to a large staff running hither and thither preparing hundreds of fish dinners, fried chicken meals and more for the steady stream of customers popping in to pick up a quick meal.

Amazingly enough, even when the rush is on, the counter staff is all smiles and cheer. How do they do it?

The Champion Chicken menu is wide-ranging, like any good family restaurant. There are salads, soups, chili, hot and cold sandwiches, burgers, seafood, fried chicken, ribs, meatloaf, pasta, pizza and Mexican fare. However, it is lacking in any breakfast choices, since the place doesn't open until 11 a.m. This leaves the late-night diner with a yen for an omelet out of luck, though.

The Chicken also delivers and caters, if you can't make it over there. But make it over there, you should, because only there can you purchase the awesome midnight blue muscle-flexing Champion Chicken t-shirt for $15! It is, at the moment, the coolest Milwaukee tshirt around.

The Chicken sometimes hosts events, like a recent car show in the parking lot, too.

Call Champion Chicken at (414) 462-6200 or visit them on the Internet at: www.championchicken.com.

<http://onmilwaukee.com/dining/articles/champchick.html> 05:43 a.m. September 22, 2003