Goodbye Grub: Bay Bay’s Chicken & Waffles’ original location closes in West Palm Beach

Standing proudly on Okeechobee Boulevard in a coat of ketchup red and mustard yellow, the squat, free-standing chicken joint took on the patina of a longstanding community favorite. 

But Bay Bay’s Chicken & Waffles’ original location has closed after barely five years in business. Owner Israel Johnson says the place has accomplished its goal: to serve as a template for his planned franchise operation. 

“We’re graduating. We’re happy about it,” Johnson told The Post. “We’ve got the franchise manual. We’re ready now.” 

Johnson, who took inspiration from his Georgia grandmother’s spicy, crispy fried chicken recipe to build a local following – and The Post’s 2016 “Readers’ Choice” favorite – says he hopes to open a Bay Bay’s restaurant in Miami in the next six months. He says he’s eyeing locations in Wynwood and North Miami Beach, near FIU, where he attended hospitality school. 

But the July 31 closing of Bay Bay’s original location comes at a time when his small local chain is in flux. The year-old Boynton Beach location has been closed temporarily since June for mold removal. (He estimates that location will reopen within the first half of September.) 

Bay Bay’s third location, which debuted on Palm Beach Lakes Boulevard, near the Palm Beach Outlets mall in June 2014, is the only shop open at the moment. And it’s busy, he says. 

“It was designed as a kind of overflow space for our Okeechobee location. Now we’re getting more business than we can handle,” says Johnson. 

But that location, too, is in flux. Johnson says he is selling part of the business to his longtime executive chef, friend and former FIU classmate, Albert Bullock. Johnson considers that – and any future Palm Beach County location – as a “family store.” 

Outside of Palm Beach County, he says he is focusing on Miami, Port St. Lucie and Orlando as potential franchise territories. 

Meanwhile, back at 2400 Okeechobee Blvd., he knows folks will miss the original Bay Bay’s. It was the no-frills spot that brought the chicken-and-waffles-joint concept to foodie-era Palm Beach County in September 2012. Not only could one find legit, buttermilk-marinated fried chicken, but one could pair it with a red velvet-pecan waffle (or an apple-smoked bacon waffle or a “hot doughnut” waffle). And one could meander through a menu of Southern classics – all still available at the Palm Beach Lakes Boulevard location. 

“People are in disbelief that we closed that store,” Johnson says. “Okeechobee was good to us.” 

Bay Bay’s Chicken & Waffles 

  • In West Palm Beach, at 1558 Palm Beach Lakes Blvd., 561-360-3591 
  • In Boynton Beach (reopening by mid-September), at 326 Congress Ave., 561-364-1187

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