The owners of Honey Butter Fried Chicken are savvy when it comes to building a loyal customer base and serving some of the city’s best fried chicken. The Avondale restaurant, which emerged from a series of underground dinners, continues to thrive. Now HBFC ownership is turning their attention downtown where they’ll open a three-month pop-up inside Revival Food Hall. TriBecca’s Cubano debuts on April 2 featuring food from Sunday Dinner Club executive sous chef Becca Grothe.
The center of the menu is Grothe’s sandwiches which she debuted three years ago at a Cuban-themed Sunday Dinner Club, the dinner series started by Honey Butter’s Christine Cikowski and Josh Kulp. Kulp calls the Cubanos “perfectly juicy.” The unique pickles, made by staff, give it a great tang.
“When Christine and I tasted it, we knew it was extra special,” he said.
The sandwich (mojo slow-roasted pork, ham, Wisconsin Swiss, chipotle mayo, pickles, mustard butter, olive oil panino) impressed Kulp and Cikowski so much that they began scheming on ways to feature it, and perhaps using it as a basis for a new restaurant. When Bruce Finkleman, co-founder of 16” on Center and owners of Revival — contacted them about a pop-up, Kulp and Cikowski figured the Loop food hall would be a good venue for Grothe’s creation.
“The sandwich that we will serve — we’ve made a couple alterations,” Grothe said. “But we’ve found the perfect mix.”
While food halls seem like trendier and pricier versions of a food court shoppers would find at a mall, they do differ. Traditional food courts feature national chains like Panda Express, Subway, and Orange Julius. Food halls, especially in city settings, lure established restaurateurs with an opportunity to try new menu items and experiment without the financial risk of committing to a lease and other expenses. Kulp and Cikowski are taking advantage.
Grothe wants to highlight local vendors. She’s created a Midwestern spin on the Cubano using Beeler’s Pure Pork, ham from Twin Oaks Meats, and kimchi from Honey Butter’s chef de cuisine Cam Waron. Waron is launching his own pickling company, Camchi Kimchi. They’ll also serve a vegetarian option with tofu.
The restaurant features Cubanos, but Kulp said don’t sleep on dessert which could turn out to be most popular item. The griddle rum cake donut comes with a lime-rum glaze: “It’s absolutely the most delicious thing,” Kulp said.
Honey Butter Fried Chicken strives to be a good place for employees. They were among the first to declare themselves as a “sanctuary restaurant” and they’ve been vocal supporters of a living wage for restaurant workers. Giving workers, like Grothe — who has been with the team for five years — an opportunity to shine continues that philosophy. TriBecca’s Cubano runs from April 2 through June 29 at Revival. That’s only a three-month stint, but depending on how the pop-up is received, it may lead to bigger things in the future.
Check out the menu below.