HoneyBunny Chicken and Biscuits is the first concept chosen by the James Beard Foundation (JBF) to operate out of its fast-casual incubator inside New York City’s Market 57.
Chef Jared Howard, creator of the Maryland-style chicken and seafood concept, won the opportunity after submitting a proposal and business plan to the Foundation. Kris Moon, president and COO of JBF, said that about 30 applications came in.
Howard first came up with the idea and menu during the pandemic, running popups all around New York City to try it out and offer meals for pickup. “I’m from Baltimore and wanted to present food that tasted like home,” said Howard. “I came up with the Maryland Fried Chicken Biscuit.”
Originally, his idea was to spotlight Chesapeake Bay seafood at the pop-ups, but there was not much seafood available during the pandemic, he said. To create an authentic Chesapeake flavor profile on the chicken, he incorporates Old Bay seasoning into the breading. “Maryland fried chicken always comes with a bechamel sauce too, so I make one with shiitake mushrooms,” Howard said.
But operating in Market 57 gives Howard the chance to expand his menu beyond what he offered at the popups. He now includes a Chesapeake Seafood Burger, which layers a crab-shrimp patty with his signature sauce on a toasted potato roll. It goes for $18.
Also in the lineup are Maryland-style fried chicken tenders, baked Maryland crab dip, kale Caesar salad, sweet potato salad, collards and mac ‘n cheese. Rounding out the menu are desserts including banana pudding and pear hand pies. The flavors of Appalachia and the American South come into play on the menu along with Chesapeake Bay.
HoneyBunny will operate out of the Good to Go space for six months, through March 1, when another winning concept will rotate in.
The Foundation and its partner, Great Performances, supports Howard throughout the cycle of his involvement—refining the menu, reviewing projected profits and losses, sourcing food and supplies, paying the kitchen team and providing guidance on branding and communications. “They take care of staffing and execution, so I can focus on marketing and refining the concept,” said Howard.
Although he’s currently employed in the IT field, Howard has always cooked part-time, working in such revered restaurant kitchens as Per Se and Gotham Bar and Grill. Now his goal is to turn the concept—named after his daughter, whom he nicknamed HoneyBunny—into a brick-and-mortar fast casual.
“When I won the first residency, I thought it was a joke at first. Then I was in shock, followed by two minutes of dread,” said Howard. “Now I have to live up to it, but that’s what I’m going to push for until HoneyBunny becomes a reality.”