Photo courtesy of Joe Niehaus, Hunny Bee’s.
Zoë Hill | News Editor
Since opening its doors in December, Dayton’s newest addition to the chicken scene has been a hit among the campus community. Hunny Bee’s Crispy Fried co-founder and general manager Joe Niehaus said the restaurant on Brown Street is filled with University of Dayton students, the Flyers basketball team and even the area construction workers.
Niehaus himself isn’t far removed from the college crowd that walks through the doors at Hunny Bee’s. After graduating from the University of Cincinnati in May 2021, he pivoted from a potential career in banking to joining forces with Stephan Harman, UD ’08 graduate and cofounder of the Columbus-based Sushi restaurant FUSIAN. Along with a few other FUSIAN owners and some of his family members, Hunny Bee’s went from concept to reality.
“Basically we were like ‘we can make this the perfect spot for students.’ UD students probably make up like half of our customers,” Niehaus said. “We wanted it to be a place where it’s just a treat where people can go. This isn’t healthy food by any means, but it’s kind of fun that way.”
The chicken joint has been hugely popular within just a few weeks of being open, according to Niehaus. The restaurant completely sold out of chicken on the Saturday that they opened, and lines in the following days went out onto the sidewalk.
“It was madness the first four days,” Niehaus said. “I think no one really got any sleep. Since then, It’s been awesome.”
Several chicken finger restaurants have been around for a while, but Hunny Bee’s is putting in the effort to stand out. Niehaus said the ingredients used for each of their menu items was meticulously selected and the Hunny Bee’s team spent all summer going over recipes for the restaurant.
The chicken is brined for a full day before being coated in a breading sourced from a 200-year-old mill. Hunny Bee’s offers multiple dipping sauces including two house-made sauces, Hot Honey and Hive Sauce. The milkshakes are also special, according to Niehaus, because they use real strawberries, Oreo cookie crumbles and a specially-selected chocolate sauce for each of their flavors.
The drive thru opened up after a few weeks in business, and the restaurant hopes to begin delivery to the Dayton area. Hunny Bee’s is working on perfecting their Brown Street operations, but Niehaus hopes to expand the chicken restaurant to other cities with the mission of serving “crispy, crispy foods.” The restaurateur is looking to place a Hunny Bee’s in Cincinnati, Northern Kentucky and Columbus in the future.
As for Niehaus’s favorite order, his go-to is the six finger combo with three sides of Hive Sauce, a Coke and two more sides of Hive sauce for good measure.