Marrying chef-driven comfort food with a fast-casual approach, Brine Chicken is a new self-serve restaurant in New York City featuring American fire-grilled, antibiotic free chicken brined for 24 hours using a special recipe, from entrepreneur Dan Mezzalingua and Executive Chef Joe LoNigro (Founding Chef Partner of Otto’s Tacos). The cashless ordering is done on high-tech yet simple-to-operate TRAY Kiosks (developed by MIT graduate and former Google Senior Engineer, Peter Kellis), a system that offers an entirely new quick and stress-free way to enjoy incredibly tasty chicken.
Mezzalingua grew up thinking of chicken as dry and flavorless. A trip to the Caribbean when he was 18 changed this forever, when he stopped at a roadside stand and had the most tender and delicious brined chicken dish of his life. The experience remained in the back of his mind as he forged a career in technology, and he often tried to replicate it at home by creating different brines and spice mixtures. With the encouragement of his wife he changed fields, enrolling at ICE (The Institute of Culinary Education) and immersing himself in the restaurant world after graduating. During this time, he wrote and rewrote the business plan for the chicken concept that he had always imagined. He met Chef LoNigro, who was Founding Partner, Executive Chef and COO of successful mini-chain Otto’s Tacos, and the two cliqued over the budding restaurant idea. With LoNigro’s help, Mezzalingua perfected his recipes and crafted a truly unique method of preparing chicken.
The process begins with fresh, responsibly sourced antibiotic free chickens, but the key to its flavor and tenderness is in the top-secret house brine recipe that took over three years to develop. It’s a balanced, natural mixture that coaxes the inherent flavor out of the chicken without masking it with anything artificial. The birds spend 24 hours overnight brining, and then cook in state-of-the-art ovens that ensure perfect doneness on the inside. Next they get a base of house-made blackened-chili honey garlic sauce, a mild, balanced, deeply flavorful addition that truly sets Brine’s chicken apart. Finally, the birds receive a fire-grilled finish that creates a crisp exterior and locks in flavor and moisture. And then there is the sauce. There is also a sauce bar, where guests can choose from 5 different options to use as they please including spicy blackened chili & garlic, charred jalapeño, buttermilk red (a milder version of the chili & garlic), buttermilk green (a milder version of the jalapeño), and honey mustard.
Chicken options include the Signature Thigh quarter chicken, a Spatchcock (split down the back and laid flat) half-chicken, and a Chicken Sandwich with pulled breast and thigh meat tossed in signature blackened-chili honey garlic sauce on a butter grilled brioche bun. A full complement of market sides are also available, including crispy Yukon Gold crinkle-cut fries, refreshing white balsamic farro with cranberries, roasted red peppers, red onion and Italian parsley, brown sugar lemon carrots, and Ecuadorian hearts of palm salad with marinated grape tomatoes, basil and red onion. As for salads the initial offerings are The GIGI—romaine, kale, buttermilk tzatziki beats, roasted red pepper, goat cheese and white balsamic dressing, the Honey Roasted Garlic Caesar, and the Greek Village Salad (romaine, kale, buttermilk tzatziki beets, red onion, roasted red pepper, goat cheese, and white balsamic dressing).
The beverage menu includes a rotating selection of four beers (two microbrews and two macrobrews) and red and white wine on tap, and various soft drinks.
The interior design is sleek and modern, with white subway tiles on the walls and charred wood accents near the ceiling. A window into the kitchen provides a view of the chefs flame-finishing the chickens on gleaming high-tech grills. The four 22-inch kiosk screens feature large mouth-watering photos of each dish, allowing guests to see exactly what they can expect before they select their dish. Experienced hosts cover the floor, available to answer any questions, explain the menu and take orders if necessary.