NBA Hall of Famer Shaquille O'Neal is causing some waves throughout the City of Sin by opening his Big Chicken restaurant, right as fried chicken is having a moment in the food world.
With five restaurants already sprinkled around Las Vegas, Shaq decided to open another, this one with a little more hooplah surrounding it, thanks to his collaboration with Facebook.
The NBA legend's Big Chicken restaurant opened off the strip this October, and the "Big Aristotle" built an entire Facebook Watch show around the process, from the ideation period all the way to the celeb-driven grand opening.
While Shaq told Foodbeast he didn't really plan on expanding the chicken restaurant, his mind changed a few weeks later, as Carnival Cruise announced that the big man would be setting up his Big Chicken shack aboard the brand new Carnival Radiance in 2020.
With the emergence of cult chicken shops such as Howlin' Ray's in Los Angeles or quickly-expanding chains such as Raising Cane's, fried chicken is being sought after more than ever.
Shaq is now entering this competitive arena, not just putting his name on a building, but carefully constructing it from the ground up, as has been documented on his Big Chicken Shaq show.
"I don't really like doing cash grabs in my life," O'Neal said. "Everybody loves fried chicken, and I just wanted to do it differently."
From the textures in the design, with his footprints on the floors, to using his mama's secret recipe on top of giant "antibiotic-free" chicken breasts, Shaq made a point to have say in the restaurant's entire makeup.
As far as the chicken itself, Mama O'Neal sure knew what she was doing.
Being at the soft opening, and being asked to be brutally honest by Shaq himself, I can honestly say that he has a game-winning free throw here.
The spice-filled batter is delicious, with the chicken fried to order being a nice touch. The flavor combinations work, and having fresh guacamole on deck is always a plus.
If this was going to work for Shaq, in a city that is already rife with great food options, this chicken was going to have to be top notch, and at least in the opening, it was.
It's still early, but the reception on Yelp seems to be good, as well. Aside from some wrong orders being sent out —which was also a problem during the soft opening—customers are digging the food and friendly service.
While Shaq might not have intended Big Chicken to be a chain, it's quickly looking like it might end up in that direction.
With the "Big Diesel" working closely on this passion project, he could shake up the fried chicken scene the way he shook the basket with every monstrous dunk.