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Design Shines At Honey Butter Fried Chicken

By Anthony Todd in Food on Nov 4, 2013 8:30PM

For weeks, everyone has been buzzing about the chicken at Honey Butter Fried Chicken. Is it ruined by being boneless? Is the crust too thick? Is it a little bit odd to be able to bite through an entire chicken piece without stopping? (No. No. and yes, but it's also awesome.) One part of the enterprise has been somewhat overlooked: the wonderful design elements of HBFC, largely the work of partners Chris Jennings and Jen Mayer.

"I think it's because we're designers," explained Mayer. "I don't know if a lot of restaurants open with two designers basically on staff." Mayer is right. While restaurant design is often over the top, it's not usually particularly unified. A designer is hired for a specific task, like creating a menu or selecting furniture. Their contract is fulfilled and they go on their way. For HBFC, Mayer and Jennings have been full partners since the beginning and it shows. The logo is integrated into posters and stickers all over the restaurant, adorable signage directs diners throughout and the dining room is dominated by a huge mural of the Chicago skyline, complete with chicken.

Why is the design so coherent? Partly because they've been working on it for a long, long time. "We were looking for so long, but we did all those events all the time," explained Mayer. "We had a chance to design a ticket for the Soul Summit event, create signage at Dose Market—we had all these opportunities to get visuals and branding out there before we even addressed the space down below. We had a chance to slowly build a brand rather than creating it in a vacuum."

The logo itself was inspired by a visit to a museum in Wisconsin. "It was influenced by a place called the Hamilton Wood Type Museum. It's all about the history of wood type and letterpress printing," said Mayer. "That was the inspiration for the texture of the logo. We wanted to carry that through the whole design and experience of the restaurant. Letter press printing is so intense and time consuming and hand crafted, and that's like the style of Sunday Dinner's food—painstakingly hand crafted."

The chefs agree. "People ask all the time why it took it took so long to open. It's because we really thought about everything," explained chef Christine Cikowski. "Even the way people walk in, the way people sit, how they get to where they need to go - it was all thought out from both a chef and a design perspective. It doesn't just start and end with the food. We're very lucky to have each other."