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Pooler residents enjoy an exclusive treat when it comes to Atlanta-based Ponko Chicken Restaurant. The American-Japanese chicken franchise opens its first location outside of the Atlanta area at 405 Pooler Pkwy., Where Tex-Mex restaurant Tijuana Flats was located between Starbucks and McAlister’s Deli.

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The opening date is set for November 8 and inside the building is a sign indicating what the site’s new owners, Steve Mills and Charlie Bruce, hope to bring to the site: happiness.

Mills and Bruce have been partners for seven years and jointly opened several Little Caesars stores, including one in Pooler 11 years ago. Bruce has the advantage of living in Pooler with a front-row seat to the city’s rapid growth. This allowed them to get to know the area, signaling that this was the perfect place to place the new restaurant.

“You can see how attractive it is, and we’re really excited to bring that to Pooler,” Mills said. “You will leave here feeling satisfied.” ”

For those unfamiliar with the restaurant, Mills describes it as a “healthy version of Chick-fil-A.” The menu includes popular dishes like their sticky rice sprinkled with sesame seeds and seaweed, ponko fries also available in sweet potato form, options for vegetarians and vegans such as tofu fillets and patties. vegans, and their American Japanese chicken fillets wrapped in panko. breadcrumbs and fried in rice bran oil.

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“We are one of the few restaurants to use it [rice bran oil]. They don’t use it because it’s so expensive, but it’s just a cost that makes sense in trying to keep fried foods healthy, ”Mills said.

You can also get tacos, salads, and even hot dogs. Each menu item can be spiced up or dipped in their three signature sauces: OG sauce, spicy sauce and barbecue sauce. Wine, beer, and their premium peach or green tea lemonade are drink options.

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Ponko Chicken will offer on-site catering, delivery, take-out and food services, with the latter being introduced in the next month. The restaurant will be open from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday to Thursday and from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays.

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Across the country, employers are scrambling to find workers as the labor shortage continues amid the Covid-19 pandemic, and Ponko Chicken is also affected. They started the hiring process a month ago, but were only able to hire 12 of the 20 employees they needed. Mills and Bruce have opened 30 restaurants in their careers and have said it may be the “most difficult” opening yet.

Long waits for material. To paint. Flooring. Refrigeration. Construction of the restaurant went from a five-week to three-month process. This is just another example of the global supply chain shortage happening right now. Added to this list of items is a shortage of chicken, which drives up the price of some menu items.

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But those setbacks haven’t stopped the anticipation that accompanies the opening of the Pooler location and the food that has been described as “eat meets west.”

“Were excited. It was an interesting trip for sure. It’s so different. You can’t duplicate that. When you try it you’ll be pleasantly surprised,” Mills promised.

Laura Nwogu is the Quality of Life reporter for Savannah Morning News. Contact her at [email protected] Twitter: @lauranwogu_


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