Restaurant Family in The Woodlands Open Portuguese Chicken Takeout Restaurant

Many residents in and near The Woodlands are familiar with popular French bakery La Francesita (formerly known as Gourmet French Bakery) located at 9950 Woodlands Parkway. Owned by the Costa family, the bakery has been a fixture of the area since 2009, serving up freshly baked croissants, tarts, bread and crepes. Now, a new generation of the Costa family is entering the food scene. Costa Flame Grilled Chicken, also located at 9950 Woodlands Parkway, opened its doors on August 20. The new business is a father-daughter partnership, and the two restaurants’ proximity allows Clara Pettibon and her father, Ifel Costa, to devote attention to both businesses in equal measure. 

“My Dad has the bakery next door, and he always wanted to do a Portuguese chicken place. He’s from Portugal, his family’s from Portugal and it’s the food he grew up eating. With the bakery, it would have been hard for him to have two stores. So he asked, ‘What would you like? Would you want to start something?’” Clara Pettibon agreed, and soon the pair were running a new family business.

We arrived at the restaurant and were greeted by a small, take-out style interior with an ordering window and menus high on the wall. Two barrels serve as little tables inside the space, and there are a few picnic tables out front.

Costa’s half-chicken with corn on the cob and sauce. Photo by Tori Rock.

The new restaurant offers a simple but extremely well-executed menu, with choices of a half-chicken, whole chicken, boneless chicken breast, salad or chicken sandwich. The restaurant offers six specialty sauces to use with either the chicken or fries as well as the more common ranch, ketchup and mayo. 

For the table, we ordered one-and-a-half chickens, as well as a sandwich. While we waited for the main dish, we enjoyed some of the specialty sides.

The Loaded Fries at Costa Flame Grilled Chicken. Photo by Tori Rock.

Costa offers sides such as corn on the cob and shoestring fries, but we were most interested in two specialty sides, the Loaded Fries and Truffle Parmesan Fries. First out of the kitchen were the Loaded Fries, and the dish lived up to its name. Crispy shoestring fries are topped with a blend of cheeses, shredded chicken, avocado crema and spicy mayo. Next were the Truffle Parmesan Fries, and as the name implies, these fries are topped with truffle oil and Parmesan. Both dishes are hearty enough for a full meal, and at a cost ranging from $4.50 to $6, are a serious bargain. 

We tried the chicken plain before dipping it into any sauces. The skin was crisp and light, while the chicken itself was moist and tender. Even without sauce, the chicken had a fresh and flavorful profile, with just the right accent of smoke-grilled taste. The chicken at Costa is cooked on a half-wood, half-charcoal grill, offering a unique melding of smoked and grilled flavor that isn’t often found in the South due to the lack of Portuguese and North African restaurants. The servings of chicken come with a pile of shoestring fries. These accent the chicken nicely, as they are crisped to perfection and ideal sauce carriers.

Costa’s Chicken Sandwich. Photo by Tori Rock.

The available sauces at Costa Flame Grilled Chicken are Garlic Lemon Butter, Thai Coconut Curry, Mild Peri-Peri, Hot Peri-Peri, Cilantro Avocado Crema and Spicy Mayo. As a flavor fiend, I couldn’t wait to try these. We first dipped the chicken into the Mild Peri-Peri sauce. It was warming and only lightly spicy, and accentuated the chicken nicely. We had some trouble differentiating the mild Peri-Peri from the spicy, until we stirred up the latter. The Hot Peri-Peri sauce offers bold peppers and spices that turn up the heat. My favorite sauce, however, was the Thai Coconut Curry. It had light notes of coconut that accented the other flavors in the sauce and highlighted the moist chicken. Finally, the Spicy Mayo sauce was a solid blend of the housemade Peri-Peri sauce and mayo. 

For daughter-father team Clara Pettibon and Ifel Costa, the best part about Costa Flame Grilled chicken is the connection to family. The Peri-Peri Chicken is made to Grandma Costa’s recipe, and both La Francesita and Costa are family-owned and -operated. The Costas have earned a good reputation for their open and friendly hospitality, as well as for the quality of the food they serve, be it French or Portuguese.

Costa Flame Grilled Chicken is currently open from 5 to 9 p.m. Wednesday through Friday, and 1 to 8 p.m. on weekends. Order online via Doordash, phone or in-person. It is recommended that you call ahead if you’re in a rush, as the chicken can take 45 minutes to cook.

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