Goodbye, Chicago-style deep dish pizza. Hello, chicken tenders. The former Gino’s East pizza place on East Sixth Street has transformed into Happy Chicks, a chicken-tender restaurant and bar. The soft opening of Happy Chicks took place last week, with the grand opening set for September 28.
Gino’s East shut down in late July. The Austin pizza joint, a franchise of the famed Gino’s East chain, opened in June 2015 at 214 E. Sixth St., about two blocks west of I-35. Parish and Bikini’s Sports Bar & Grill share space at that address.
When Gino’s East closed this summer, the reason given was that the restaurant was being remodeled. Now, Doug Guller, who owned the Gino’s East franchise and owns Happy Chicks, says he merely was keeping the chicken-tender concept under wraps “until we knew exactly what our offering was going to be and how it would look.”
Guller says the switch in dining formats was driven by customer demand.
“Our guests coming into Gino’s were asking for something that didn’t take long to cook,” Guller tells CultureMap, “and since deep dish pizza takes an hour to cook, we thought this was a better way to go from a long-term perspective.”
Why the jump from pizza to chicken? Guller explains that he’d been perfecting a chicken-tender recipe for a while and thought it was finally ready for prime time. Plus, he says, East Sixth Street lacked a chicken-focused eatery.
Guller says Happy Chicks features a “very simple” menu: chicken tenders, bacon mac and cheese, jalapeño cheddar cornbread, fries, and 15 dipping sauces. Hours are 11 am to midnight Sunday through Wednesday and 11 am to 2 am Thursday through Saturday.
“This is not a franchise, but we plan to add many more locations starting in late 2018,” Guller says. “We plan to grow this concept nationwide.”