The chicken has landed. | Chik-Fil-A comes to Chicago

It’s just a chicken sandwich. A tasty one, sure—tender all-white-meat breasts pressure-cooked in peanut oil, served on a buttered, toasted bun with two pickles (never forget the pickles.) Tasty and fresh, yes, and served with a smile, but really just a sandwich.

Don’t tell that to the hundreds of fanatics and curious who waited in block-long lines yesterday for the grand opening of downtown’s first Chick-Fil-A restaurant at 30 E Chicago Avenue on Loyola U's Water Tower campus.

“We had a line out the door and around the corner, and we were still clearing it in about 8 minutes,” said marketing intern Gary Barnes, here from Atlanta for the opening. “People have been waiting for Chick-Fil-A, and that waiting draws attention.”

That much was clear. Blog Chicagoist called Chick's arrival with only some irony “the hottest restaurant opening since Next and the Aviary.” With accumulated buzz from years of rumor and speculation, the opening provided a fix for transplants from other Chick-Fil-A conquered regions. A chance at winning a year of free meals drew a crowd of over 100 by 6pm Wednesday and many stayed overnight to be some of the first served at the 6am opening on Thursday. Seriously.

“We had a huge party Wednesday night, ice cream and music and everything,” said Barnes. “Even the president of the company stayed up all night.”

The chain has been eyeing the Chicago metro area for about two years, and plans to open 15 to 20 more restaurants in Chicago in the next three to five years. Even with 1,560 restaurants in 36 states, this is the chain's first urban restaurant, and will serve as a key factor in planning other markets. 

Melanie, a fan of the chain from Ohio, proudly sported a Chick-Fil-A logo shirt at the opening and testified to the chain’s allure. “I posted this on my Facebook. In Ohio, I could not start a day without getting Chick-Fil-A even when I was working on the other side of the mall. I had to have my Chick-Fil-A iced tea.”

Soon enough, we’re sure thousands of Chicago natives will be saying the same thing.

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Laura Baginski, Editor (@TimeOutChicago)