Double Chicken Please was arguably the greatest success story of The World’s 50 Best Bars 2022. It entered the list for the first time in No.6 position, earning it the title of the Disaronno Highest New Entry. Emma Janzen charts the owners’ fascinating story, from hawking drinks out the back of a VW minibus to creating a bar that the entire cocktail world is talking about
For Taiwanese transplants to the US Faye Chen and GN Chan, it took three years, 10,000 miles and countless cuisine-inspired cocktails to grow Double Chicken Please from the embryo of an idea to a world-leading, bricks-and-mortar cocktail bar. What began as a scrappy travelling pop-up in 2017 has not only taken New York City’s Lower East Side by storm, but the dynamic bar programme has also entered The World’s 50 Best Bars list for the first time at No.6, earning the accolade of this year’s Disaronno Highest New Entry Award.
Double Chicken Please officially opened in November 2020, in the middle of the pandemic, but the roots of the concept trace back to when Chan and Chen first met in the hospitality scene in Taiwan. The friends kept in touch while Chan worked at trailblazing NYC cocktail bar Angel’s Share and Chen helped open Shingo Gokan’s Speak Low in Shanghai. They reconnected when Chen moved to the US, and together they started looking for a place to open a bar of their own. “We weren’t having good luck,” Chen recalls. “We found a place and lost it, found a place and lost it – the whole process was giving us a hard time. It’s hard to survive in New York without income, so we had to get creative. GN said, ‘I have this van… we could do a road trip and introduce our drinks to the market and see how they react.’”
Owners Faye and GN initially struggled to open a new venue after reuniting in New York City
The bright yellow 1977 Volkswagen minibus took two tours around the country, visiting numerous cities with their creative cocktails in tow; each drink represented a famous dish reimagined in liquid form. Some, like the Red Eyed Gravy, Beet Salad and French Toast, are still on the menu today. “The idea is to do something fun, to make people laugh, and these drinks are a fun way to engage,” says Chan, who also has a background in industrial design. “The pop-up was a lifetime experience, one that was almost spiritual; we are planning to do the trip again in another year or two.”
The glowing reaction from thirsty patrons across the country gave the duo the confidence to return to New York and reignite the search for the right location, which they found in mid-2019 in the Lower East Side neighbourhood. Getting the place up and running was another story as construction came to halt when the pandemic hit. “Everything stopped for six months. We were paying rent, waiting for things to happen, and then two weeks after opening New York went into the second lockdown,” Chan says. “For 20 months at the beginning there was no revenue. We almost gave up. There were a lot of ups and downs.”
The perseverance paid off. Double Chicken Please – the name is a nod to Chan’s childhood nickname and originally the intended moniker for his design studio – is a large dual-concept bar where a diverse crowd lines up and down the block on weekends to get a taste of the fun inside. In the beginning, Chen says the space seemed too big to manage smoothly, but their solution to divide the floorplan into two different rooms with distinct designs, styles of service and drinks has made the entire space dynamic in ways the team didn’t originally imagine.
The bar is discreetly signposted by the its distinctive two chickens logo
Now, the ‘front room’ offers relaxed industrial chic vibes, cocktails on tap and chicken sandwiches with delicious twists like salted egg yolks and buttermilk-Thai basil. The cocktail ‘menu’ is presented as a series of stylised felt letter boards arranged on a gallery wall above the line of cocktail taps so guests can spy the options from anywhere in the room; each drink is listed by number, with the abv included to help folks make quick but informed decisions about what they want to order. The #2 for example, lands at 15% abv and offers reposado tequila, sweet vermouth, Earl Grey and grapefruit, while the #8 is 13% abv with an alluring mix of bourbon, amber vermouth, Campari, and lapsang souchong tea. “The idea is that it is very fast-casual in the front,” Chan adds.
The larger ‘back room’ space is a more luxurious, sit-down experience in chic mid-century environs. “It’s not fancy, but more crafty,” Chan explains. “The idea was to make it very warm, like you‘re coming to visit our home.” The cocktail menu there is where the heart and soul of the programme lies, with drinks like the Mango Sticky Rice (made with rum, mango, pu’er, wakame, cold-brew and coconut), and the Cold Pizza (with tequila blanco, Parmigiano Reggiano, burnt toast, tomato, basil, honey, and egg white) shining a spotlight on the inventive ways Chan and Chen have reimagined famous culinary dishes as liquid delights.
Cold Pizza: one of the bar's many drinks that blur the boundaries between mixology and gastronomy
The food menu for both the front and back rooms is created by Mark Chou, an alum of Eleven Madison Park, Blue Hill and Le Bernardin. His upscale bar bites match the frequency of the craft-forward cocktails. “Our chef is also Taiwanese-American, so he puts a lot of Asian elements into our food and drinks. Everything works together very well,” Chen says, adding that the rest of the staff also help bring a special je ne sais quoi to the programme as a whole. “We have a huge front of house team from different countries, different cultures; I am pretty proud that we built everything together and it’s all working out.”
The pulse of the place – from the eye-catching design to the warm service and invigorating food and drinks – beats with unbridled joy. “The bar is designed to make people happy,” Chan says. “That’s how we design everything – I love seeing people have fun, when they react to certain drinks because they resonate in flavour, that really means a lot to us.”
When asked about why she thinks the bar has connected with so many people in both New York City and beyond, Chen points to their ‘family-style’ vibes. “Finally, the world is coming back, it’s healing – we’ve all suffered for several years, so we deserve good times with friends and families,” she says, adding a friendly call-to-action for anyone reading. “Come have a good time with us.”
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The list of The World’s 50 Best Bars 2022, sponsored by Perrier, was announced on Tuesday, 4th October at a live awards ceremony in Barcelona, Catalonia, Spain. To stay up to date with all news and announcements, browse the website and follow us on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and YouTube.