It’s like a Broadway musical being brought to life by overnight success. Somebody has such a great idea or invention or TikTok that the world can’t help but stand and applaud. More accolades and, most importantly, riches follow. It’s a lot of fun in one act, and it almost always misses the big picture.
Chef Eric Huang’s Pecking HouseHe described’movable feast’ as a hybrid between American and Taiwanese chicken fried chicken. Headlines flew about the then takeout and delivery-only spot’s weeks-long waitlist. Pop-ups These are the next steps Huang’s success running the operation out of his family’s decommissioned Queens restaurant and, with a little more of a brick-and-mortar PresenceHowever, TemporaryPecking House was one. Time Out New York’s Best new restaurants in 2021. Now Huang and his business partner Maya Ferrante are poised to open Pecking House’s first permanent location this month. It all took between a few hours and a lifetime to accomplish.
“I grew up in a Chinese American restaurant, and spent a great deal of my childhood there. And so I always kind of loved being in restaurants,” Huang says.
“And [Pecking House] was obviously not the intention of the journey. My mother immigrated here. And the whole point was for me to go to college and become a doctor or something like that. Or a musician; I was a cellist. And then I went to college, and I didn’t really enjoy anything I was studying in particular, and I didn’t know what I was doing with my life for a long time. And I wanted to get back into restaurants.”
To get back, he had to cook in his college town near Chicago. Then he went to culinary school and was eventually promoted to sous chef at Eleven Madison Park. Disgrace. Huang left that post in early 2020 without plans to become NYC’s most popular fried chicken purveyor.
“It feels like an accident that we have come to love,” Huang says. “This was never really what I intended to happen. I was just kind of hoping to help my family out and, you know, bring in a little bit of sales to pay the rent or something like that. Obviously, people really embraced it and really seem to love it. And it’s been a journey for me to kind of come to this point where, you know, I think my original mindset was always like, oh, we’ll do this for now, it’s fun. That still might be the case, but I’ve come to a point where I really, really enjoy this.”
“Especially with the current state of the world, I think bringing this kind of comfort to people, through food and fun experiences is really, really valuable. And I didn’t expect that. For better or worse, fine dining is a lot more self, ego-oriented. It’s a lot about, you know, expressing yourself as a chef and showing people your vision. This is a lot more relaxed. And, you know, if I may say, a bit humble, to just be like, hey, this is some really good food, we want to offer it to you in a fun atmosphere at an affordable price, and we hope you really enjoy it.”
In the next few days, Pecking house will be opening on Flatbush Avenue near St. Marks. This is where Prospect Heights and Park Slope meet. The famous fried fowl will be back, but the counter service restaurant will now offer beer, wine (in disposable cups or cans) and batched cocktails. Huang and Ferrante have the opportunity to create the destination they haven’t yet quite had.
“It feels more real by the day,” Huang says. “Every day, we kind of walk in and see the progress being made, we’re making the decisions on how things are built et cetera. So it is starting to feel pretty cool and exciting. Having been a vagabond restaurant for almost two years now, I don’t recommend that. It’s not a terribly easy or smooth experience to be moving from place to place and opening a restaurant all over the place.”
“But, you know, we forged onward as best we could. And yeah, we’re super excited to finally build our own home. It feels like we can finally start doing what we really want to be doing.”
Without having to bop all over the city, negotiate space and storage in various locales and calibrate for novel equipment that sometimes meant having to 86 some menu items, all while, Huang says, somewhat confusing the consumer, he and Ferrante are able to establish the concrete business that’s been a bit of an abstraction for the last couple of years. Both Ferrante and Huang are grateful for the previous opportunities, as well as this new opportunity for Pecking House.
“The first thing was just, you know, getting the space, as boring as it sounds, into a good condition. It was pretty old and not well maintained and we wanted to make sure the bones of the place were well taken care of and refreshed. We wanted three deep friars because we have been working with two small ones forever and ever. It’s pretty challenging when you’re a fried chicken restaurant, doing that. And we wanted woks, we had really missed working with woks, cooking with woks is something that’s really important to me; it’s really embedded in all the flavors and the way we cook at Pecking House.”
The tools and the space and the singular place will allow the restaurant to consistently supply what it’s known for and continue to grow.
“I think the fun thing about Pecking House is this really fascinating intersection of American Southern food and Chinese cuisine. Even exploring it through the lens of Pecking House, I didn’t realize how much crossover there was, how many similarities there were. How much they share is both kind of like based around surviving and making do with what you have. So I think there’s going to be a lot more fascinating and fun ways to explore that. It will always be based in that kind of canon of exploring my identity, of understanding American cuisine and Southern cuisine through the lens of growing up here Chinese American. But we do plan on expanding menu with sides and different styles of fried chicken and other great Southern classics that have our interpretation.”
The space outside the kitchen should be fun, inviting, casual, and picnic-like. There is room for 45 people. This is a convenient spot for pop-ups. And, although this is intentionally on the opposite end of the spectrum of Huang’s fine-dining background, sparkling water on tap, a favorite for the chef, is one somewhat fancy touch. Huang said that he would love the opportunity to host other hospitality professionals, just as he has hosted them before.
Pecking House has been a part of many lives. The next step could not have been further from where it began. As a newcomer, Pecking House provided hospitality and a break to people who were still eating in their own homes or with only a few of their family members. Now it’s a restaurant. To go to.
“People will sit down together and enjoy this really nice food,” Huang says. “Fried chicken is the best thing to share.”