First look inside Shaq's Big Chicken opening today at Austin Landing

·3 min read

Aug. 11—A fast-casual chicken restaurant founded by NBA Hall of Famer Shaquille O'Neal is opening today at Austin Landing.

Not only is the restaurant its first location in Ohio, but it is the brand's first location in the Midwest and its first franchise.

"We're cooking up a lot of firsts right now," Big Chicken CEO Josh Halpern said."We've been signing franchise deals all over the United States. We've started getting a lot of international interest. This is the first unit of almost 200 that have been signed. It's a major milestone, but things are going to start happening really quickly for us."

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The restaurant offers crispy chicken sandwiches, popcorn chicken, chicken tenders, salads and "sidekick" side dishes, including Lucille's Mac 'n' Cheese with a Cheez-It crust. They also have ice cream sandwiches and shakes.

Steve Christensen, managing partner of the franchise group, said must-try items include the Big & Sloppy Crispy Chicken Sandwich featuring mac & cheese, crispy fried onions and roasted garlic bbq aioli and the Crispy Chicken Grilled Cheese featuring three cheeses, chipotle bbq sauce and rustic Italian bread. He added that you can't go wrong with trying the Pineapple Cream Soda, which is Shaq's favorite.

The entire menu was built by two chefs who were friends with Shaq, Halpern said. From a culinary standpoint, it's really well done, he said.

Big Chicken will replace another chicken restaurant, Mike's Nashville Hot, which closed in December with no notice after five years in business.

"We know what Mike's Nashville Hot did here before and how busy it was, how well-known it was, and to bring another high quality chicken place in this place, we're really excited," Christensen said.

The new restaurant is looking at opening additional locations in Beavercreek and West Chester Twp. in 2023 and 2024, respectively. Christensen said they are finalizing plans for the Beavercreek location in the next week.

"The quality of the food is second to none," Christensen said. "It's great that Shaq is the founder of this business and everything, but I've always told everyone I would have never gotten involved just because of Shaq's name."

"We really believe in our food. We really believe in the experience we're able to give guests and the ability to open doors in a new place," Halpern added.

If you were wondering whether or not Shaq could make an appearance at the restaurant, Halpern said, "He has so much love for Big Chicken. He has love for the chefs. Some of the recipes are based on his childhood recipes. He has so much love for this place. If he's in Ohio, he's coming here."

He added that if guests are interested in finding out more about Shaq's connection to Big Chicken, there are several videos throughout the restaurant's website.

Big Chicken, at 10655 Innovation Drive in Miami Twp., is open from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Sunday.

Founded in 2018, Big Chicken is backed by O'Neal, along with multinational, multi-billion-dollar brand development, marketing and entertainment company Authentic Brands (ABG) and events and catering company JRS Hospitality.

For more information about Big Chicken, visit www.bigchicken.com or the restaurant's Facebook page.