Four years after opening his first restaurant, The Licking, in Miami, his hometown, hip-hop artist, producer and living marketing meme DJ Khaled has, to channel his unique parlance, “another one” and it’s not where you’d initially think.
The sixth branch of his burgeoning restaurant chain is … a mile from the Oak Park border, in neighboring Austin. The restaurant, which opened last month at 5045 W. Madison St., is the first Licking outside of Florida.
Benda World, the Licking Chicago’s marketing director, recently told Power 92 why the ownership team decided to bring the chain’s Miami-esque southern fare — which includes dishes like fried lobster, red velvet chicken and waffles, and collard greens — to the West Side.
“When they did the Licking [in Miami] they put it in the hood,” he said. “They wanted to bring that element to the hood — the food, the family, the vibe, the tourists, the love. I feel like Hyde Park has a bunch of offerings and so does the South Side, so we wanted to bring jobs and create those things for that sector that didn’t have it.”
The Austin restaurant is an outgrowth of Khaled’s rambunctious, viral personality — the walls yell at you in all caps (“MAC & CHEESE,” “CHICKEN,” “STEAK”), the seating is bright red and the menu, not satisfied with simply announcing the dishes, also reminds patrons that Khaled just released another studio album, “Father of Asahd.”
Last month, Eater Chicago reported waits “as long as 45 minutes for a table for four.” During a lunch hour trip last week, patrons cycled through the establishment’s takeout area, which is just off Madison Street. There was no wait to dine-in (enter just off the parking lot), but the volume of visitors picked up over the course of an hour-long stay.
Ray Brown and Gayle McDonald were visiting from Miami on business.
“I usually get the Finger Licking wings, because they’re safe, and I love the turkey wings,” Brown said. “The collard greens? Must have.”
“The lobster tail dinner is good, too,” said McDonald.
When music executive and songwriter DJ Khaled opened The Licking in Austin, we knew it would cause a stir in the West Side Chicago neighborhood and beyond. The food-loving team at Oak Park Eats adores exploring new restaurants in the western city and suburbs and we eagerly examined the menu at the latest from the Miami-influenced soul food hotspot.
The Licking Chicago is the first Midwestern restaurant opened by the Florida restaurant chain. The soul-food establishment offers a chicken- and seafood-heavy menu with grilled, fried and baked options as well as a bevy of interchangeable side dishes. The fried shrimp dinner features a half-dozen generously fried shrimp and choice of two sides. The shrimp, coated in an herb-flecked batter, were perfectly cooked and pleasantly crisp. We especially enjoyed the collard greens among the side dishes.
Our first entrée was so good we just had to try another one. Khaled’s chain also offers a creative riff on chicken and waffles featuring five (yep, five) fried chicken wings and four red velvet waffle quarters dusted with powdered sugar and served with maple syrup.
The Licking also offers assorted appetizers, steak and lobster entrees, pasta Alfredo dishes, as well as vegetarian options. Mix-and-match menu options will keep the pickiest eaters happy, while “mystery drinks” will satisfy a serious sweet tooth.
As with all recently opened restaurants, any potential patron should expect to wait for a table; folks are coming out in droves to support the new establishment. Wait times in excess of an hour for a dine-in table have been reported. Additionally, service is laid back and notably friendly. The Licking is not a fast-casual or fast-food restaurant and menu items are cooked to order. Expect to wait for your meal as you would in any full-service establishment.