Federalist Pig pit master Rob Sonderman is turning his talent from barbecue to fried deliciousness at Honeymoon Chicken, an all-day restaurant opening in Petworth on Wednesday, January 12. The laidback spot takes over Slim’s Diner space and will eventually seat around 60 between the retro-chic dining area, a 15-seat bar, and large outdoor patio come spring—plus a takeout window for grabbing pickle-brined fried chicken on the go.
Sonderman opened the first Honeymoon as a quick-grab spot in Bethesda’s virtual food hall Ensemble Kitchen with business partner Steve Salis. Chicken buckets, sides, and sandwiches are all available to go from the new location, though in Petworth diners can relax with a spicy honey-spiked mango margarita, or match their fried chicken with a split of Veuve Clicquot.
Regardless of what’s in your glass, chicken is the star of the menu (though there are options for vegetarians and pescatarians, too). Sonderman bathes the birds in a pickle brine for 48 hours before crisping them in what’s considered the KFC-approved Cadillac of chicken fryers: a Henny Penny pressure cooker, which delivers extra crunch. Diners can design their own combos with bone-in drums, thighs, breasts, wings, and boneless crispy chicken bites. “Being from DC, I want to make sure we also have the ubiquitous fried jumbo wings that are in every carryout,” says Sonderman. All are sprinkled with “honey dust”—a sweet-hot mix of honey powder, garlic powder, smoked paprika, and other spices—plus an optional drizzle of habanero-laced hot honey.
Given the boom of fried chicken sandwich businesses in DC, Sonderman wants to emphasize the whole bird—though his creative touch is here in items like a honey-garlic fried chicken banh mi, crispy shrimp po’ boys, or a fried oyster mushroom sandwich with cilantro-lime slaw and creamy remoulade. There’s also a kid’s menu with similar eats, and comforting desserts like moon pies and loaded sundaes.
Federalist Pig also built a reputation on tasty sauces and sides. At Honeymoon, dunking options include honey mustard (“When I go to McDonald’s that’s my favorite,” says Sonderman), an herby ranch, Louisiana-style comeback sauce, and Sonderman’s take on mumbo that pays homage to the sauce’s origins in Chinese takeouts with fried garlic and candied ginger for extra tang.
Side dishes are design to check all the boxes—mac n’ cheese, mashed potatoes, slaw—but “dialed up” to a cheffy level. The creamy mac is kicked up with gruyere, fontina, parmesan, and sharp cheddar, while potatoes get a garlic-buttermilk smash and homemade gravy.
Though Honeymoon takes some cues from Southern fried chicken joints, Sonderman says there’s no one particular theme.
“It’s the same with Fed Pig—we pull a lot of inspiration from a lot of different places and turn it on with our own touches. If there’s a style, it’s the good style.”
Honeymoon Chicken. 4201 Georgia Ave., NW. Open daily from 11 AM to 9 PM.