Above: Bashir Rafiqie, AKA Nazir, owner of Halal Palace and the Crown Fried Chicken at Troy Kitchen. Photo by Eddie Quinn.
Bashir Rafiqie, owner of Halal Palace and the new Crown Fried Chicken, was working at Congress Chicken on Congress Street when Troy Kitchen owner Corey Nelson came to him with an opportunity. Troy was in need of a solid halal joint and Nelson had space in his new food court right down the block. Rafique, who goes by Nazir, has been cooking halal since age 14 and had been operating a food cart in New York City before moving to the Troy. He jumped at the chance to take on his own space, this is what he came here to do.
The success of Halal Palace in Troy Kitchen, which opened in 2017, led to the construction of a protruding wall between the lounge and food court that would soon become home to Crown Fried Chicken, complete with its own separate kitchen.
Born and raised in the Bronx, Nazir says he wanted to bring a taste of home to the place he has come to love. From the menu style to the brilliant white tiles on the counter, he wanted his fried chicken joint to look, feel and taste like New York City.
Graffiti designs on the wall by Albany artist Jalaun Taylor, who decorated the walls of the “selfie hall” and food court bar of Troy Kitchen, depict NYC icons, the street signs–W. 161st and Jerome Street–his old stomping grounds. Nazir’s name hangs over the painted skyline on the backdrop of the counter. He pays tribute to Troy through a collection of the local university mascots, for the students who frequent his food stalls.
“I try to bring this home to higher heights too,” he says. “There was an absence of a chicken spot and a good halal spot. In this place right here, you don’t get food like [you can get] in the city, so I thought, ‘Well let me try and see.’”
Crown Fried Chicken celebrated its grand opening Feb. 1, which Nazir says went beyond his expectations. “All the customers that came showed genuine support which I’m very appreciative of.”
Though they’re certainly here for the fragrant fried chicken and fish or the puffy fried dough with just enough powdered sugar, the prices certainly don’t hurt. It’s a breath of fresh air in the midst of Troy eateries opting to take a pricier, approach to craft foods. If you’re paying over $15 for a meal at Crown Chicken, you’re feeding a few people.
“I want the community to enjoy the food and not get killed,” he says of his accessible menu offering meals like pizza or spinach rolls for $1.50, a 15-piece chicken finger special for $5.99 and hearty six-piece chicken, 5-piece BBQ beef ribs or fish combos for under $10. “I know I’m gonna make money, so why not let them have a taste in a way they can afford too?”
He is most excited for people to try the whiting fish and BBQ ribs from his spacious kitchen or the sweet potato pies that he orders from his favorite spots in the Bronx.
At Crown Fried Chicken (and Halal Palace, for that matter) customers get a true bang for their buck and they are eating their full of the foods that Nazir keeps close to his heart. Troy is where he came to find success, where he has come to love the genuine and unpredictable customers looking to feed their families a satisfying meal without breaking the bank. It’s where he has come to take ownership of the food he grew up cooking, from his name on the wall to the custom-labeled, candy striped to-go boxes.
He regards his Troy Kitchen establishments like a proud father, pointing at Halal Palace and patting the tile counter of Crown with a grin, “These are my babies. That’s my son and this is my daughter. Daddy’s little girl right here.”
Crown Fried Chicken
77 Congress St., Troy
10 AM – 10 PM Mon.-Sat.
10 AM – 4 PM Sun.