Josh Kulp and Christine Cikowski had expansion on their minds almost immediately after opening Honey Butter Fried Chicken in Chicago’s Avondale neighborhood nearly a decade ago.
The ownership duo behind the popular restaurant explored “a bunch of opportunities,” and their vision came into focus in early 2020.
Then the COVID-19 pandemic hit.
“I think that experience changed everything for us,” Cikowski said. “I think we were sort of forced, like everybody, to pull back to reevaluate, to survive, and to try and stay in business without knowing what was going to happen. … Expansion talks, for all intents and purposes, just completely stopped (at that point).”
But as the outside world began to recover, Kulp and Cikowski reheated their hopes for a second storefront. And now, just months before they celebrate the restaurant’s 10-year anniversary, plans for a new location are solidified.
Kulp and Cikowski will bring Honey Butter Fried Chicken to downtown Glencoe in the space that formerly housed Poppy’s Social at 668 Vernon Ave. They hope to open before the end of this year, Kulp told The Record.
Cikowski described the chance to come to Glencoe as “a great opportunity to grow in a way that felt authentic to us,” adding that it was the “right time, right place and right circumstances” for expansion.
Kulp and Cikowski are partnering with the Kadens family, of Glencoe, to bring the new restaurant to life. Pete Kadens, a well-known Chicagoland entrepreneur and prolific philanthropist, owned Poppy’s Social, which opened in September of 2021 before closing in the summer of 2022.
In a LinkedIn post announcing the opening, Kadens said he is excited for the partnership.
“I failed in my first restaurant venture,” his post reads. “But it’s not how we fail … it’s how we recover and this one is gonna be a smashing success! See you at 668 Vernon Ave. in Glencoe this fall!”
Honey Butter Fried Chicken will join a surging dining scene in Glencoe’s downtown that experienced record sales tax revenue and vibrancy in the summer of 2021, as previously reported by The Record. The prospect of joining the fun has ownership eager to open.
“We’re not bringing the momentum; the momentum was already there. We’re just joining it,” Cikowski said.
Kulp and Cikowski first teamed up in the kitchen when the duo met at culinary school in Chicago nearly two decades ago. The two struck common ground largely due to their mutual appreciation of farmers markets and local foods, Kulp said.
Shortly thereafter, Kulp and Cikowski started a communal dining experience they coined Sunday Dinner Club. The idea started with the two cooking and serving small, five-course dinner parties in apartments with ingredients they bought at weekend farmers markets.
But their culinary fates forever changed during one iteration of the Sunday Dinner Club when a serving of honey butter accidentally made its way onto a plate of fried chicken. It took only one taste for Kulp and Cikowski to realize they found the perfect combination for their first restaurant.
The duo plans to bring a menu to Glencoe that is similar to the Chicago location’s offerings but also features additional options. The menu will still include all the fan favorites but will likely include different preparations of chicken including grilled and charbroiled choices and expanded salad and bowl offerings, Kulp said.
But the menu will ultimately have the “same ethos of the original Sunday Dinner Club, which is really being focused on great, fresh seasonal ingredients,” Kulp said.
Plans for the restaurant space include a dining room, a private upstairs dining space and the use of the existing outdoor patio, according to a press release detailing the announcement.
The space’s patio, mainly its capacity and hours of operation, was once a heated topic among nearby neighbors. As previously reported by The Record, after a moderately contentious public process, ownership behind Poppy’s Social scaled back its initial proposal that included live entertainment and an 80-seat rear patio.
The first-level interior dining space of the Glencoe location could fit between 60-70 diners, Cikowski said, noting the private space could fit approximately 25-30 people
After years of searching for the right situation to launch the second Honey Butter Fried Chicken, both Cikowski and Kulp are thrilled to showcase all the restaurant has to offer on the North Shore.
“This is the kind of food you really really want to eat but with the ingredients and the care you would hope for,” Kulp said. “We’re doing food that is craveable but is done really well and with really great ingredients.”
Making the restaurant feel accessible and open to all is also a key priority.
“It’s just a good place to be,” Cikowski said. “It’s a happy restaurant. People are friendly. The food is craveable. I hope that we make people feel welcomed and we feed them well and they like coming back.
“Hopefully people leave happier than they came in.”
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Martin Carlino is a co-founder and the senior editor who assigns and edits The Record stories, while also bylining articles every week. Martin is an experienced and award-winning education reporter who was the editor of The Northbrook Tower.