BLUE POINT

FOOD REVIEW: Hot Chicken Mama set to open this Friday, Jan. 15

It’s got spice and everything nice

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Request extra napkins, because this behemoth of a chicken sandwich is going to require some.

Co-owners Nick Petro and Joe Esposito along with partner Bobby Gulinello, local owner of the South Shore Dive in West Sayville and the Cortland in Bay Shore, are serving up a new kind of heat with Nashville hot chicken at a fast-food takeout restaurant in Blue Point. Hot Chicken Mama will open at its 168 Montauk Highway location, the former site of Beyond Philly, on Friday, Jan. 15.

“The chicken sandwich overtook the burger as the most popular sandwich in America for the past couple of years,” Petro said, noting that after a visit to Nashville with friends, he became obsessed with their chicken as the reasoning behind bringing it back home. “As far as Nashville hot [chicken], we are as close to authentic as you can get outside of Nashville.”

Menu items featured by chef Steve Esposito, Joe’s cousin and former chef at the seasonal sensation Swallow in Montauk, include the Nashville hot chicken sando or chicken-by-the-piece plates, all served with pickles and crinkle-cut fries. The menu also features kids’ meals, salads, chicken and waffles as well as sides like burnt brussels and mac and cheese. Then, to wash it all down, there are two house-made lemonades, strawberry or lavender, to choose from, both made from Subtle Tea special blends.

“Steve comes from fine dining, and though it’s not like it has never been done before, but he brings a quality and attention to detail to the fast-food setting,” Petro said, pleased with their choice in head chef.

The idea behind the place stemmed from managing the South Shore Dive (Petro) and the Cortland (Joe Esposito) during the recent COVID shutdown.

“It all came about during quarantine when we were forced to just do takeout,” said Petro, explaining that they wanted to open a space that focuses around quality fast-food and takeout.

And boy, did they find the location for that. The building measures at a modest 1,000 square feet and is outfitted with the piéce-de-résistance takeout window as, most likely, the only restaurant in the nearby area allowing for a drive-up pickup. The space seats about 16, but is currently limited to eight. Prices range from $8 to $12.

Petro, 34, hails from Blue Point as a Babylon native, and Joe Esposito, 29, is a longtime West Islip guy. The location was the first and only spot they visited; it was basically love at first sight. The duo has made almost all local hires and plans to run with about four at the front of the house and four in the back.

What’s their favorite menu item?

Joe Esposito said, hands down, the chicken sandwich.

“I feel like we haven’t stopped talking about the sandwich,” he said laughing. “I think I am eating a sandwich a day.”

And as for the name: Hot Chicken Mama. It stems from an inside joke about a co-worker at the Dive who would always order a lot of chicken. They would call her “chicken mama.” Then, referencing the multiple heat levels including homestyle, easy, medium, hot, loud and XL, they threw in the “hot” to accommodate.

“What’s nice about the heat levels is that everyone can be a part of it,” added Joe Esposito, admitting that even he isn’t as daring with the heat as Petro.

“It’s a place for the whole family,” added Petro. “We feel lucky to be able to open during this wild time. We are excited and willing to play by the rules to keep our customers and staff safe.”

Orders will be taken by phone and then a texting system will alert you when your order is ready. Once you receive the notification, you can go through the pickup window.

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