[all photos by Conor Rose]
Life is too short to be eating mediocre chicken, and Brine Chicken will be the one to save us all. Recently perched in Chelsea right off the bustling corner of 15th and 8th Avenue, Brine’s founder/owner Dan Mezzalingua and Executive Chef Chef Joe LoNigro are eager to bring better chicken to the world, or more specifically, advocate for the “revolution against dry chicken”. That’s a revolution we can get behind.
Touting itself as “fine-casual”, Brine describes itself with a term I hadn’t heard yet, but I have to admit if I was going to apply it anywhere, this might be a good place to start. Fast-casual it is not, for sure – you’re not herded down a line in front of a sneeze guarded set of pre-prepared meal portions. Ordering is cashless and done on kiosk, so in true millennial fashion, you don’t have to speak to anyone if you don’t want to – though there are employees on hand to guide you if you need human interaction. You can take orders to go if you’d like, and delivery is supposed to be on the way soon, but Brine is a space you wouldn’t mind sitting down at, a minimalistic spot that also has great people watching on Eighth Avenue. Sleek and bright, the space features an open kitchen where diners can watch the action.
Brined chicken is obviously the star here, showcased three ways – in a Signature Thigh quarter chicken, a Spatchcock half-chicken, and in sandwich style, with pulled meat tossed in their signature sauce and piled between butter grilled brioche.
These guys don’t play around with chicken. Fresh and responsibly sourced birds are brined for over 24 hours in a top secret brine recipe that took over three years to develop. It’s dressed in a housemade blackened chili honey-garlic sauce and then finished on the open grill. Sauces typically tend to be what saves a meat that’s typically bland, and yes, this sauce is pretty amazing – but the actual chicken itself is juicy, tender, and flavorful on its own, even without the sauce.
Side options are abundant, and even hold their own against the mains. The side situation is so strong that it wouldn’t be out of the question to see a vegetarian dine here solely for the sides.
The menu boasts crispy Yukon Gold crinkle-cut Shake Shack style fries, brown sugar and lemon carrots, marinated tomato with hearts of palm, grilled coleslaw, plus white balsamic farro with cranberries, roasted red peppers, red onion, and parsley. The charred broccoli drizzled with pepper aioli, roasted beets with goat cheese, and coconut rice with peas stood out as our favorites, and I would have been happy combining all three as a grain bowl for lunch on a regular basis. Drizzle anything and everything with one or more of the housemade sauce options – honey mustard was our favorite. Wine and beer options on tap are available and selected specifically to pair with the chicken, in turn elevating the dining experience.
Though Brine Chicken is still incredibly young, we’re excited to see what’s next for them – there no such thing as too much good chicken, and we’re confident Brine Chicken can spread the gospel high and low all over the city.
To visit Brine Chicken, head over to 106 8th Avenue in Manhattan. This meal was provided by Brine Chicken, and all opinions are our own.