Bryan Ventura, Contributing Photographer

On Saturday, Haven Hot Chicken opened its doors to New Haven residents for the first time.

Haven Hot Chicken is a new restaurant dedicated to Nashville-style spicy chicken concepts –– offering a variety of chicken and vegetarian options, as well as numerous traditional Southern side dishes. Two Yale alumni, Etkin Tekin ’12 and Lou Ward ’14, serve as co-founder and co-manager, respectively, of Haven Hot Chicken.

“We had a line backed all the way up to the end of the street,” said Haven Hot Chicken co-founder Craig Sklar. “Seeing the turnout of our hard work was both mind blowing and exciting to see. Feeling the love from the community was awesome.”

Haven Hot Chicken was founded by Tekin, Jason Sobocinski, Sklar and Rob LaTronica, who is also Head Chef at the restaurant. Ward and Evan Fritsch are managers of Haven Hot Chicken.

Sklar and Etkin told the News that they saw their opening night as a success. The two said they were working “full speed” from the moment they opened at 11:30 a.m. to the time they closed at 9 p.m. LaTronica was in charge of all the food that went out on opening night and said he was proud to work such a robust opening. 

Sklar, Tekin, Sobocinski and LaTronica said they knew they were onto something with Haven Hot Chicken when they first began holding pop-ups around New Haven –– often collaborating with other restaurants, such as Sherkaan Indian Street Food and Ordinary, to serve food to residents. According to Tekin, their pop-up shops would run out of chicken in 90 minutes. Through these pop-ups, Haven Hot Chicken’s popularity grew significantly. 

Tekin said that when they created a social media account for Haven Hot Chicken, its following quickly grew to several thousand, even before the restaurant opened. He told the News they would constantly receive direct messages from members of the community asking about their opening plans.

New Haven residents and Yalies alike expressed excitement for Haven Hot Chicken’s opening.

“I’m from Los Angeles, and Nashville hot chicken is a huge trend there,” said Weston Kerekes ’24. “When a place like that opened here, it seemed too good to be true. Especially since I’m in Silliman and can easily walk here.”

Haven Hot Chicken is one of New England’s first restaurants fully dedicated to Nashville-style hot chicken. Their menu consists of chicken sandwiches, chicken tenders, sliders and more –– all with six different heat levels to choose from. The lineup consists of country, mild, medium, hot and haven. “Country” is the option with the least spice, and “haven” is the option with the most spice –– served to guests with caution.

Bryan Ventura, Contributing Photographer

The chicken and vegetarian offerings can all come alongside Haven Hot Chicken’s side dishes. The restaurant offers french fries, collard greens, seasonal veggies, cole slaw and banana pudding. They also offer family meal combos and kid’s meals.

Tekin and the other co-founders said they cannot wait to see what the future has in store for Haven Hot Chicken.

“It was great to see everything we worked on for the last couple of months come to fruition,” said Ward. “All the time spent and meetings held were worth it. It was great to see such a great turnout.”

Haven Hot Chicken is located on 21 Whitney Ave.

Bryan Ventura | bryan.ventura@yale.edu