ROCKAWAY TOWNSHIP - As menu concepts go, "chicken and custard" stands out in a crowded restaurant market.
Make that the "premium, upgraded fast-casual concept" restaurant market, according to Super Chix Vice-President of Operations Kyle Hardy.
"Our brand is a premium brand in all ways," said Hardy as he prepared to open the second Super Chix in Morris County on Monday in a strip of shops near the main entrance of the Rockaway Townsquare mall shopping complex. "Everything here is fresh, never frozen, and freshly prepared."
Similar in concept to Chick-fil-A, a press release announcing the opening boasts of one key difference between Super Chix and its notable competitor: "We're open seven days a week, even on Sunday!"
On Friday, the Rockaway crew staged a full-menu dress rehearsal during an invitation-only lunch event.
Chicken sandwiches can be ordered either fresh-grilled or fresh-breaded and deep-fried. The french fries are similarly hand-cut and cooked to order. Varieties range from the standard "Simple" sandwich with pickles to Cheesy BBQ, Buffalo Ranch and more.
Seven sauces - available in pumps at a condiment stand - allow diners to customize their order. Fixings range from standard condiments like ketchup and mustard to ranch, Nashville Hot, Korean barbecue, Buffalo and a tangy signature sauce Hardy says is a "smoky twist on honey mustard and honey barbecue."
Other chicken choices include tenders, sliders and several salads. Sides include hand-cut fries, cole slaw and fried pickle chips.
Among the invited guests to the Friday dry run were Morris Catholic High School President Father Peter Clarke and Principal Debra Ostrowski. A fan of Korean barbecue, Clarke said the Super Chix Korean BBQ sandwich was "authentic" and "outrageously good."
Ostrowski got the Southwest Salad with jalapeno ranch dressing. "Excellent," she said. "Very fresh."Deborah Foran of Denville got the chicken tenders and loaded fries. She and her husband, Larry, ordered up front and a server brought the order to their table a few minutes later.
"Crispy fries, fantastic chicken, and very hot," she said. "Sometimes you don't get hot food. The service, everything was excellent."
The shake machine wasn't available for the Friday event, but cups of the custard were served, smooth and creamy but dense enough that you could lift the whole cup with the dug-in spoon.
The growing franchise, located mainly in the south and western United States, is bringing the curious chicken and custard combo to the Northeast, starting in Morris County. Veteran New Jersey restauranteurs Tom Graziano, and his son, Matthew, opened their first Super Chix in East Hanover in September of 2022.
Matthew Graziano said the family franchise business includes about a dozen franchise banners, including Charleys Cheese Steaks, Qdoba, Haagen Daz, Dairy Queen and a Nathan's Hot Dog truck. Super Chix is their newest venture, with a contract to open as many as 23 locations in the New Jersey territory.
"We're actively trying to open store three," Graziano said, naming Clifton, the Willowbrook Mall in Wayne and Woodbridge as possible locations. "We absolutely love the quality of the franchise. Chicken sandwiches have been huge. Cheeseburgers are all over. There are so many brands now, it's hard to stand out."
The Graziano family business also includes two Capital Craft full-service restaurants in East Hanover and Green Brook.
The next-closest of 25 current Super Chix locations is in North Carolina, giving Morris County a Super Chix exclusive for the near future. CEO Darryl Neider is planning more than 200 more openings nationwide.
The one question remaining was, chicken and custard?
"Our founder saw the growing 'better burger' space, and burritos, where they were doing a fresh, never-frozen product with fresh-cut produce, and he thought, let's do a premium dessert with it," Hardy explained. "He wanted to layer that in, so chicken and custard and Super Chix were born."