From New Orleans, to Tennessee, to Kentucky, Ricky Warfield has incorporated a little of each place he’s lived into his most popular food items on the menu at his restaurant Chicks Wings Express.
The boneless chicken wings are dressed with Warfield’s signature Cajun dry rub.
“It’s a little taste of New Orleans,” Warfield said.
Warfield is originally from New Orleans, Louisiana, but also spent time in Tennessee and Frankfort during his childhood. He attended Franklin County High School.
He grew up watching his mother, Dornah Warfield, cook.
“She loved cooking,” Warfield said. “She always had other people ask her to make things. Watching my mom cook inspired me to cook. Everything she did was special.”
She passed away in October, but Warfield said she was very proud of all he has accomplished in his cooking career.
After lots of trial and error, Warfield finally concocted a fried food batter that he knew he wanted to share with others, and in 2016 he told his fiancée, Melissa Nentwick, who was working at Shoe Carnival in Lexington at the time, to quit her job because he had found his recipe.
“I would go to Kroger and get chicken and cut it up and fry it, but I could never get the restaurant quality I was after,” he said. “I was wasting money, not making money.”
Eventually, he figured it out and told Nentwick “you should take off work. I think I found my recipe.”
Warfield describes his food as flavorful and “not over battered.”
“It’s not like a cake batter. You can enjoy the chicken with the crunch,” he said.
In 2016, Warfield opened up a restaurant in Richmond. The restaurant also had a full bar and pool tables. He bought the kitchen equipment he needed. However, when the COVID-19 pandemic hit, he had to close the doors.
He then took his operation on the road with a food truck he named Chicks Wings Express.
“We traveled the expressway and had success.”
He set up in Harrodsburg, London, Frankfort, Versailles and other locations until his food truck caught fire, which brought his business to a halt. That’s when he started looking around for a brick and mortar.
He and his brother, Mike Warfield, saw the building at 599 E. Main St. — the former Taco Johns building — for sale and decided to purchase it. Chicks Wings Express opened its doors and drive thru in October 2022.
“This has always been my dream,” Warfield said. “To have something small like a Rally’s with a drive thru. It’s on one of the busiest roads in Frankfort.”
Warfield and his crew of six employees have hit the ground running since opening, rarely having a slow day.
“Frankfort actually supports us,” he said. “Richmond doesn’t want chicken like Frankfort wants chicken.”
Chicks Wings Express is open from noon-8 p.m. Sunday thru Thursday and noon-11 p.m. Friday and Saturday.
When Warfield isn’t working as the cook, his right hand man, Ricky Glass, is manning the grill and fryers. However, even on his day off if the restaurant is busy his store manager — who also worked at his restaurant in Richmond before it closed — Delana Day, will call him in to work.
“I love the adrenaline rush behind the fast food business,” he said. “And, I love the customers. We all end up like family.”
Warfield doesn’t currently offer catering, but he will accept large orders.
“For a small business, I think we do good, but I always want to reach higher,” he said. “I want my chicken to hit the next level where we have a big crowd.”
Warfield has no doubt that he’ll eventually reach his goals. His food speaks for itself and will raise him to the top.
“Everything here is hand battered. The burgers are hand pattied. Nothing is frozen. Everything is fresh and cooked to order.
“You’re not getting chicken from a warmer.”
Some of the menu items include bone in chicken wings, shrimp, burgers, boneless chicken wings, buffalo chicken wings, fish and more. Instead of fries, he serves chick rounds, which are similar to potato ole’s that Taco Johns used to serve at that same location.
Warfield said his ultimate goal is to own a couple of stores “and sit back and let it do what it’s supposed to do,” he said.