David Chang is the latest celebrity chef to enter the fast-casual segment, with the opening Wednesday of Fuku, a lunch-only restaurant selling a fried chicken sandwich, a salad and fries.
Chang, founder of the Momofuku Restaurant Group, which operates casual and fine-dining restaurants, dessert shops and bars in New York City, Toronto and Sydney, unveiled plans for the restaurant in March at the South by Southwest conference in Austin, Texas.
Eater quoted Chang as saying that the restaurant was a prototype for a “bigger concept” that he hoped to open in the American suburbs. He said he drew inspiration from quick-service chains Chick-fil-A and In-N-Out.
Fuku, which is open from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., Wednesday through Sunday, features a single sandwich, priced at $8, made with chicken thighs that are brined and marinated in habanero purée, according to press materials. The thighs are coated in buttermilk, dredged in a proprietary spice blend, deep-fried until crispy and served on a Martin’s Potato Roll. The sandwich is topped with housemade pickles and “Fuku butter,” which Eater said is flavored with fermented chickpeas.
The restaurant also offers a salad, priced at $6, that Chang told Eater is “the healthy option that I don’t anticipate anyone ever really ordering.” The seasonal salad currently has farro, Napa cabbage, red cabbage, kale, red radish and shiso, garnished with mandarin oranges and toasted black and white sesame seeds. It is served with a citrus vinaigrette containing a “gochu chickpea hozon” developed by Momofuku.
Fuku French Fries, priced at $3, are wedge fries tossed with Old Bay Seasoning.
Fuku is the latest in an array of fast-casual chicken restaurants to open in New York City in recent years. Others include two-unit Sticky’s Finger Joint, which serves all-natural, antibiotic-free, never-frozen fried chicken tenders; single-unit Fields Good Chicken, which serves roasted, naturally raised, antibiotic-free chicken in sandwiches, salads, wraps and bowls; and The Nugget Spot, a single-unit location that offers various types of nuggets, including fish, cheese and vegan varieties, but mostly fried chicken nuggets. Hill Country, a Texas-style barbecue restaurant located in Manhattan, also operates two Hill Country Chicken restaurants that specialize in fried chicken.
Fuku is also the latest fast-casual chain to be opened by a celebrity chef, a trend that dates back more than a decade, with Wolfgang Puck’s Wolfgang Puck Express and Tom Colicchio’s ’Wichcraft. More recent celebrity chef fast-casual chicken chains are Bantam & Biddy, a four-unit roasted chicken concept serving pasture-raised chicken, developed by former fine-dining chef Shaun Doty in Atlanta in 2012, and single-unit Funky Chicken, featuring natural free-range chicken, roasted or fried in gluten-free batter, developed by Bradley Ogden and his son Bryan Ogden in Houston.