When Budlong Hot Chicken owner Jared Leonard teased he wanted to open a fried chicken restaurant back in 2015, his intention was to debut in Lincoln Square. But observers know the restaurant industry is volatile and even the best-laid plans don’t always manifest. The Budlong instead unveiled its first location in 2016 in Lakeview and the Lincoln Square location didn’t open until April 2017. However, the neighborhood’s joy was short lived as the Lincoln Square restaurant closed after 15 months in September 2018 at 4619 N. Western Avenue.
Now four months later, Leonard will reopen the Western Avenue location on Thursday. He’s added items to the menu including wings and bone-in chicken meals with pub fries and Texas toast. He feels that will give customers a better value.
“[Lincoln Square is] where the concept started, and we owe it to the neighborhood,” Leonard texted.
Known for its crispy and spicy fried chicken, the Budlong has helped popularize Nashville-style birds in Chicago. Another Lincoln Square change is the addition of weekend brunch. Leonard has a soft spot for Spudnuts, doughnuts made with potato flour made popular by a defunct chain. They’ll serve those on the weekend.
For Leonard, the reopening represents a refocus on Chicago. He moved to Denver to open other restaurants but now he’ll spend more time back in Chicago, returning on a weekly basis to help run his restaurants. Leonard also has news on BBQ Supply Co. in Hyde Park. He wants to make the restaurant more comfortable to locals. He’ll share that news soon.
“I’m putting more of my efforts and energy back into my Chicago projects to continue to grow this market,” Leonard texted on Tuesday night.
Closing the Lincoln Square location allowed him and his team to regroup. Leonard admitted that he neglected his Chicago projects a bit in 2018 and wants to rededicate himself to the city to improve morale and keep a good thing going. To bolster staff, he’s hired an employee from a rival. Ryan Territo, the former director of operations for Leghorn Chicken, will now lead operations at the Budlong.
The Budlong also has locations at Revival Food Hall in Lincoln Park, the Loop, Merchandise Mart, and in suburban Evanston.