Pickleball is the fastest growing sport in America right now. The activity, which is akin to a combination of tennis and ping-pong, has around five million participants in its ranks, and according to the latest report from the Sports and Fitness Industry Association, it has increased by 39% over the past of the last two years. Some of that was fueled by the pandemic, as people searched for options to socialize safely outside the home. But we’ll attribute some of that growth to the recent proliferation of Chicken N Pickle, the delightfully named bar, restaurant and pickleball complex that draws attendees to its facilities for food, drink and friendly competition.
Chicken N Pickle opened its first location in Kansas City in 2016. This was followed by a few more locations in Kansas and an expansion into Oklahoma City and San Antonio. DFW just had its first outpost in Grand Prairie at the end of 2021, with another in the works for Grapevine slated to open before the end of the year.
“We looked at the number of active players and groups involved in pickleball, and tons of people are playing the game in the DFW area,” says Greg Bohn, General Manager of Chicken N Pickle Grand Prairie. Part of the call was the city’s development plan for the area, which already includes five man-made lakes and a water park and will eventually house two hotels and several restaurants.
The Grand Prairie location spans four acres and has 11 pickleball courts — six indoors and five outdoors — that open at 8 a.m. and draw attendees for early morning games.
If you’re new to the sport, Chicken N Pickle offers “beginners’ nights” and beginner clinics, as well as private and group lessons taught by certified instructors. So if you want to get really good at this sport, you can. Alternatively, there are also “beer in hand” events, where you play with a paddle in one hand and a drink in the other. This helps balance the skill level of players, and it’s also a very good life skill to acquire.
“It’s a very diverse crowd,” says Bohn. “Pickleball brings together all types of people and all age groups. Add the drinks and food, and it’s a place you can spend several hours.
If you’re waiting for a court to open or want to enjoy the good weather without running, there are also outdoor lawn games like cornhole and indoor games like ping pong, shuffleboard and table football. This ensures there’s always something to do and is part of the concept’s ‘less tech, more touch’ mantra.
All of this activity requires fuel, and there’s plenty to go around, with a restaurant and four bars on-site. Chicken is naturally the star of the show here. Dishes include a hot chicken sandwich, fried chicken, chicken and waffles and wings. But the menu also features burgers, salads and sides, street corn fries and Brussels sprouts. Weekend brunch adds cookies and gravy, burritos and avocado toast.
A mobile bar serves coffee and breakfast sandwiches in the morning and turns into a beach Tiki bar in the evening; the main bar is where you’ll place most of your orders; it serves a variety of craft beers, as well as a simple wine list and creative cocktails. There’s also a rooftop bar that spins over 21 after 8 p.m. and brings in a DJ on the weekends.
On a recent weekend afternoon visit, the courts were full and crowds were spread throughout the complex. The venue’s capacity is 2,700, but with plenty of space to spread out inside and out, plus 300 tables, seating throughout, and multiple bars, it didn’t feel overwhelming. Bohn says sunny days draw crowds, but even in bad weather they have these six indoor courts to keep people playing.
The ambitious concept is growing. The next Grapevine location is a collaboration with Delaney Vineyards, an 8,000 square foot winery that resembles an old French chateau – you can expect this venue to put more emphasis on wine. And Bohn says the company plans to continue expanding into Texas, looking at markets like Austin, Houston and the northern suburbs of Dallas.
In recent years, gaming and entertainment bars have sprung up across Texas, offering everything from ax throwing and golf to vintage video games. So it’s easy to see how Chicken N Pickle fits into the landscape. Experienced pickleball players can dominate the courts, while casual players can take a few swings between sips of beer. And, best of all, there’s always an option to abstain from exercise altogether and bask in the sun with a chicken sandwich.
This article was published in the InsideHook Texas newsletter. Join now to learn more about the Lone Star State.