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Want this chicken right away? You’re out of cluck.
NYC’s hottest dish is the fried chicken meal from Pecking House, a Queens takeout and delivery spot, which has a list of some 5,000 hopefuls who will have to wait eight weeks for the finger-lickin’ fun.
The buzzy bird is buttermilk brined and country-fried, then dressed with Tianjin chilis and Sichuan peppercorns. For $35, you get three pieces of the chicken plus three seasonal sides: fried rice, a Brussels sprouts salad and sweet potatoes with almond pesto and bacon.
Chef Eric Huang, an alum of Michelin-starred Eleven Madison Park, never expected his grub would go gangbusters when he launched the makeshift shop in September out of his uncle’s Fresh Meadows restaurant, Peking House, to help pay the rent after it closed due to COVID.
“It was meant to be a holdover, a way to pass the time — and maybe help my uncle out a little bit,” said Huang, 34, who lives in Clinton Hill. “But now it’s a full-fledged business and I really enjoy doing it, and we’re going to commit to it.”
What started as a struggle to sell 30 meals per week ballooned thanks to Huang’s family and friends spreading the word — and Instagram intrigue: He started off taking orders by direct message only, and New Yorkers love nothing more than a secret splurge.
In October, “All of a sudden I got 600 messages in one day, and that’s when the waitlist started,” said Huang, who had to create a password-protected order website to control the demand. “Ever since then it’s been nonstop.”
If you’re on the waitlist, you’ll receive an e-mail when it’s your turn to receive the delivery. But even Huang hopes that mystique is short-lived. “I wish I could expedite the process,” he said. “I promise I’m working hard at it.”
He estimates that Pecking House now puts out 550 orders each week — they only serve the fried chicken meal, plus a peanut butter pudding dessert a la carte — which the chef and his staff deliver by car around Manhattan, Brooklyn and Queens from Wednesday to Sunday. (You can also pick your chicken up at the restaurant.)
For Bedford-Stuyvesant resident Brandon Martinez, having the chicken to look forward to — he’s coming up on two months on the waitlist — is a fun way to break up the monotony of cooking at home.
“This is a treat, something really nice and indulgent, kind of over the top,” said the 37-year-old entrepreneur, who initially spotted the chicken on a popular food blog.
Upper East Sider Jazmin Johnson has been waiting since Jan. 8 to snag her order.
A chef herself, Johnson respects Huang’s hustle. “Experiencing what Eric is passionate about, or what he knows is totally his jam — he can do chicken all day for days — is what I want to experience,” said Johnson, 30. “And, for me, food is really that exchange of things you are passionate about.”
Huang still gets a thrill from churning out the coveted chicken every day.
“We get a lot of great feedback. That’s what really keeps me going: ‘This is the best meal I’ve had in the pandemic,’ or ‘I was losing my faith being in New York in the pandemic, but these kind of fun experiences remind me I love being in New York,’ ” he said. “It really means a lot to me and makes me realize the nurturing power that a chef can have.”
He’s scouting a Manhattan or Brooklyn storefront “to make this real” — and reach more customers. Until then, fried-chicken fiends such as Martinez have to be patient.
“Good things are always worth waiting for, or so I’m told,” he said.
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