By 9 a.m., the parking lot of Long Island's first Chick-fil-A in Port Jefferson Station was dotted with little campsites, not a protester in sight. The vibe was festive, with 23 people already registered and assigned numbers to be among the first 100 in the door Wednesday to win a year's worth (52) of Chick-fil-A meals. (By 2:30, 35 people had registered and were cordoned off in the overnight waiting area.)
Inside their tent, Heather Kittenplan of Ronkonkoma and her friend Chinnu Antony sat comfortably, surrounded by stacks of board games, books and comforters. Antony had never eaten at a Chick-fil-A before, but Kittenplan made it her business to do just that whenever traveling down South. Then, there was Aaron Foss of Port Jefferson, who, with his girlfriend Keri Mahoney of Rocky Point, had arrived at 5:30 a.m. "I've loved Chick-fil-A since college," Foss said.
Inside, the kitchen was a flurry of activity. Biscuits were being rolled and baked, chicken was being breaded and fried. Free meals -- breakfast, lunch and dinner-for the First 100 crowd to keep them going on Tuesday, courtesy of Chick -fil-A.
There was no sign of the controversy surrounding the chain, based on comments made by Chick-fil-A president Dan Cathy regarding same-sex marriages. "These are his personal beliefs and don't represent the brand," said Brenda Morrow, regional communications manager for the Northeast. "We are inclusive and do not discriminate." The focus, she said, was on "great food, great service and, also, community." And family. A large and colorful indoor playground offered testimony to that.
One family -- or at least part of it -- was on hand for the festivities. Keri Johnson of Shirley had set up a tent with two of her seven children. The rest were home with her husband. "We're originally from Maryland and there are Chick-fil-A's everywhere," she said.
The new branch of the nation's No. 1 fast food chicken chain features a drive-through and seats 126 in its dining room. Its signature item is a breaded boneless chicken breast sandwich. Other menu items include a grilled chicken sandwich, salads, wraps and, at breakfast, a chicken biscuit, an egg sandwich on a biscuit and a platter that includes eggs, a biscuit and bacon or sausage with gravy. The price of a signature Chick-fil-A sandwich is $3.55.
Chick-fil-A is open 6:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday to Saturday and is closed Sunday. Find it at 5184 Nesconset Hwy., Port Jefferson Station, 631-476-8100.