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Dave’s Hot Chicken set up shop on 8th Avenue on Friday afternoon — and New Yorkers lined up to sample the “Reaper” hot food in the summer heat.

New Yorkers lined up to get into the new Dave’s Hot Chicken Store on 8th Avenue this afternoon. Photo: Phil O’Brien

Local anticipation to try the restaurant — which serves up chicken tender and slider combinations with spice levels ranging from “No Spice” to “Reaper” — was strong, as several New Yorkers celebrated the brand’s opening announcement on Instagram. “Every time I’m in LA I always make sure to go to Dave’s. Now we got one at home. Let’s goooooooo,” wrote one user, as another exclaimed, “I can’t wait to try the food,” and perhaps the most enthusiastic would-be customer posted: “THE CONCRETE JUNGLE WHERE DREAMS ARE MADE OF !!!!!!” in reaction to the news. Despite temperatures nearing 90 degrees on sweltering Midtown streets, at Friday’s grand opening there were already lines of enthusiastic patrons crawling out of the restaurant and spilling onto 8th Avenue.

The spicy, poultry-focused eatery taking the place of shuttered Ivy Bar between W56/57th Street is the brainchild of best friends Dave Kopushyan, Arman Oganesyan, and Tommy and Gary Rubenyan — who in 2017 decided to use Dave’s extensive culinary experience at Thomas Keller’s French Laundry to develop the perfect Nashville-style Hot Chicken recipe. After extensive research and testing, the friends put together $900 and set up shop from a small stand in an East Hollywood parking lot. 

Go grab a tray full of Dave’s Hot Chicken on 8th Avenue. Photo supplied

Before they knew it, their tiny-but-mighty shack was a veritable sensation, with both long lines and rave reviews from Eater LA, who declared that “East Hollywood’s Late Night Chicken Stand Might Blow Your Mind” and added: “if you aren’t sure what to order, look to the tiny sign advertising just one thing: Nashville-style hot chicken tenders, curly fries, and glory.” 

After establishing a more permanent location in California, Dave’s enjoyed such a level of viral success that they were able to expand nationwide, including franchises in Kentucky, Texas, Oregon, Indiana and Massachusetts. Now, the much-loved eatery makes its way to the Big Apple, opening a prominently branded storefront just below Columbus Circle.

The colorful murals of the 8th Avenue location of Dave’s Hot Chicken are also a draw. Photo supplied

Colorful murals are a product of DEMHQ founder and artist Haibert Sarkisian and Splatter Haus, a design firm responsible for other Dave’s locations as well bespoke bars and its own high-end barbershop. Arthur Akopyan, founder of Splatter Haus, told W42ST that the teams were particularly excited to add New York flavor to the location’s designs. “We were happy to visit and see the vibes of the city — to see how we could incorporate the character of the city into the artwork there,” he said.

The team “decked out the exterior from edge to edge” with popular bubble graffiti tag styles, said Akopyan, who added that several final elements — including homages to the Notorious BIG, the Yankees and New York catchphrase “Yeeerrr” — would be installed shortly.

The bubble graffiti with NYC references is a feature of the new Dave’s Hot Chicken store. Photo supplied

As for the future of Dave’s, the brand is rapidly growing with plans to open in locations as far afield as Dubai — having picked up major investors like Drake, Samuel L Jackson and Boston Red Sox Chairman Tom Werner. One market that Dave’s hasn’t yet breached? Nashville itself. Is the spicy chicken eatery really a recreation of the signature Tennessee dish? Will it obliterate its 8th Avenue next-door neighbor McDonald’s? You’ll have to get in line to find out…

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