A familiar restaurant group is right on the cusp of bringing a little bit of southern heat to Warwick, as Daisy Jo’s Hot Chicken and Biscuits is primed to open this month on Airport Road.
With picnic tables inside seating 30 and an additional two tables outside along the walkway, and adorned inside with a homey, yellow and white checker patterned wallpaper reminiscent of grandma’s kitchen – Daisy Jo’s looks to provide hungry passersby of one of the state’s busiest corridors with authentic Nashville hot chicken, homemade biscuits and other comfort foods well familiar to those with southern roots or just those with southern-loving taste buds.
The entrepreneurial restaurateurs responsible for the newest endeavor to open in the building that was most recently occupied by the unique square donut/barbeque venture 4Corners Donuts and Pink Pig BBQ is Jeff Quinlan, Ed Brady, Jared Melei and Justin Erickson – partners who have become known for the Thirsty Beaver gastropubs and Milk Money in Providence, as well as being the creators of the aforementioned 4Corners.
The ownership team, known as Dig In Dining, is looking to build upon what worked at 4Corners and revise what didn’t, which contributed to the donut joint closing down last year around Thanksgiving. Those decisions include things like keeping the smoker that served up well-received barbeque items from Pink Pig to be used in items at Daisy Jo’s, and keeping breakfast sandwich options on the menu for the morning rush.
Quinlan mentioned that he and his fellow owners learned from 4Corners that they needed to re-evaluate their price point – and that customers made it clear that, although the food served up at the establishment was well liked, they simply weren’t willing to pay the higher price point that attributed it.
“We think we were a little overconfident,” Quinlan said about the prices at 4Corners. “We’ve definitely learned from that about what our customers’ expectations are…We want to make sure we’re appealing to everyone – not just those with foodie pockets.”
But foodies should be excited to put the new menu to the taste test. Executive Chef Andrea Leonardo talked about the hot chicken sandwiches first and foremost – and how they will come in four spicy varieties (from “straight southern” with no sauce to “Howlin’ Hot) to appeal to all levels of tolerance. The hottest will incorporate a fiery ghost pepper seasoning.
“People eating it will definitely start to sweat a little bit,” Leonardo said of the hot chicken, which incorporates spicy butter and oils to seal hotness right into the meat.
As part of the 6-month planning process for opening the new restaurant, which included taking input from customers and members of the public via social media, the team also spent time in Nashville learning from originators about how to best prepare their signature dish.
Of course, no truly southern meal is complete without some sides, and Leonardo mentioned specialty pimento mac & cheese, pickles and biscuits and some tantalizing dessert options – she was particularly excited about the banana pudding – all made in house and fresh. Other staples like coleslaw, beans and collard greens will also be featured on the menu.
The menu items range in price, from quick-grab lunch items like the mini fried chicken sandwich on a biscuit with a side and fountain soda for $5.99, to a 24-piece party-size meal of full wings (both the flats and drums) for $45.99.
Brady mentioned that the restaurant had another trick up their sleeve to offer, as they just received their license to serve beer and wine. There was mention of a low-priced beer option, as well as potential partnerships with Warwick breweries such as Proclamation, Apponaug and Buttonwoods to bring fresh cans of their artisanal brews to Daisy Jo’s.
By incorporating the good from their previous shot at the spot on Airport Road – which has been a notoriously difficult spot for businesses to keep the lights on – and cranking up the heat with a growingly popular menu item that is not exactly overly common in Rhode Island, Brady said the group was optimistic that the new venture will succeed.
“The secret to any successful restaurant is great food and quality service,” he said. “We’re excited. We’re reinvesting in this space and in this city. We’re looking forward to showcasing our product.”
Elsewhere in Warwick, Quinlan gave a project update on Huck’s Filling Station, the restaurant group’s other venture that sits as the last property on the Warwick/East Greenwich line. He said there was still work to be done, but was targeting a late spring opening. The group was just approved for a full liquor license at that establishment, which is converting a former service station into an open-air concept with a range of “New American” cuisine, including everything from a raw bar to charred steaks.
As is the case with Huck’s – named after his son, Huckleberry – Daisy Jo’s was named in honor of his 8-month-old daughter, Daisy.