How do you choose one spicy fried chicken sandwich over another? It’s a valid question during this, the Era of Nashville-Style Hot Chicken. At least a dozen places devoted to the smoldering sandwiches have opened since the pandemic began, each distinguishing itself through subtle methods and/or eyelash-singeing heat.
In the case of Kick’n Chicken, which debuted last week in Farmingdale, composition may not really matter. The marketing buildup to the place lasted months, so buzz was at an apogee by the December 18 grand opening. The day after, lunchtime lines were still steady for buckets of fried chicken, platters of fried chicken, fried-chicken hot dogs (called "Kick’n Bird Dogs") and, of course, hot fried-chicken sandwiches that can be sauced with four levels of heat, from zero to "blazin’ inferno," and are also topped with cole slaw and pickles.
The restaurant is a collaboration between chef Ryan Carroll, founder of the nonprofit Carroll’s Kitchen in Sayville, and Michael LoManto, co-owner of Vespa Italian Chophouse and Harley’s American Grille, also along this stretch of Main Street. In a now-familiar story, the two took a trip to Nashville and "fell head over heels," with Nashville-style hot chicken, according to Kick’n Chicken’s creative director Alec Fox. After returning to Long Island, they developed a method whereby chicken parts are dunked in chili oil, then flour, then a dried spice blend, until the outer coating is a moonscape of spicy crunch, with more spice lurking under the coating.
How hot that armor is is up to the eater: "OG" has no heat, and it goes up three levels from there — through hot ("some heat,") hot AF (self-explanatory) and the aforementioned "blazin’ inferno." (I found the second level, "some heat," intense enough that I could feel the burn 15 minutes later, and I’ve eaten a lot of hot chicken sandwiches). Those who want to truly torture themselves can sign up for the Carolina Reaper challenge: Eat five fried-chicken tenders coated in Carolina Reaper spice (the hottest chili in the world) in under five minutes — without reaching for a beverage — and win a $25 gift card and a T-shirt; the first person to complete it will win $1,000. (As of press time, that prize was still up for grabs).
Kick’n Chicken’s dining room shares some of the style of LoManto’s other businesses, with an inlaid wooden floor and high-tops on one side, retro booths on the other. Down the middle is where customers form a line to the counter, buffeted by electronic screen menus that shift between chicken options — $8.95 sandwiches, including a grilled version and a vegetarian hot "chicken" sandwich of unknown composition; plates of chicken (starting at $10.95) served with fries, coleslaw, a slice of white toast and pickles; chicken tenders (starting at $8.95 for three pieces), wings ($7.95 for three) and buckets of fried chicken (starting at $18.95) with sides such as mashed potatoes, mac-and-cheese, corn pudding and fried pickles. All of the chicken is halal, and procured from the Pilgrim's Pride Corporation and certified by Halalco.
For dessert: gelato scoops and gelato-based milkshakes ($5.95 to $6.95), which come in flavors like Rainbow Cookie and vanilla with a swirl of Mike’s Hot Honey.
It’s probably wise to order in advance to avoid what might be a lengthy wait as the place finds its groove. Another strategy could be to wait until late — Kick’n Chicken stays open until 2 a.m. on the weekends, ostensibly to draw Farmingdale’s barhopping crowd. "Secret" menu items emerge in the wee hours, said Fox — so far, that’s mainly been a platter of seasoned tater tots for two covered in cheese sauce, scallions and pickles.
T-shirts, hot sauce and other merch is for sale, and Fox said Kick’n Chicken is pursuing a liquor license.
Kick’n Chicken opens at 11 a.m. daily, staying open until 9 p.m. Sunday to Thursday and 2 a.m. Friday and Saturday at 342 Main St., Farmingdale, 516-730-8906. kicknchicken.com