Huey Magoo’s opens first Northeast Florida restaurant in Jacksonville Beach, more to come

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Huey Magoo’s opens first Northeast Florida restaurant in Jacksonville Beach, more to come

​​​​​Jacksonville-area chicken tender fans got something to cluck about this week.

Huey Magoo’s — known for its fresh, cooked-to-order grilled, hand-breaded or “sauced” premium chicken tenders — is debuting in Northeast Florida in Jacksonville Beach. 

The restaurant is the first of as many as 10 planned for the area over the next few years, Andy Howard, president and chief executive officer of Huey Magoo’s, told the Times-Union on Tuesday.

The restaurant opened Wednesday at 3952 3rd St. S. in South Beach Regional shopping center, home to Home Depot, Ross Dress for Less, Ulta cosmetics and others.

“Jacksonville has been on our radar for five years and we’re excited to be here. … We’ve got close to nine or 10 total stores for the greater Jacksonville market,” said Howard, who has 35 years of experience in the chicken business, including leading Huey Magoo’s for six years.

The Jacksonville Beach restaurant is the 19th restaurant for the Central Florida-based chain that has sold at least 200 franchises in eight other states. A restaurant in St. Augustine is projected to open in March. 

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“It’s exciting times for our little brand. We’re finally getting the first store in Jacksonville open,” noted Howard, who bought the company six years ago from its founders, who remain involved in the business.

From the beginning, Jacksonville was the major market — after starting in Orlando — where they wanted to open a Huey Magoo’s. 

The Jacksonville Beach restaurant is the first of a half-dozen Huey Magoo’s that franchise owner Michael Phillips is opening in Duval County.

“We also have sites selected for the Mandarin and Arlington markets,” said Phillips, a veteran restaurateur who formerly owned multiple Little Caesars pizza and Jersey Mike’s Subs sandwich shops. 

Because Jacksonville Beach is his home, Phillips said he wanted the inaugural Huey Magoo’s in the region to be there.

” … There is a lot of buzz surrounding this first unit to the Jacksonville market,” Phillips said.

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Huey Magoo’s offers premium chicken tenders, “farm-fresh” salads, sandwiches and wraps.

The tenders are made to order, served hand-breaded then fried or grilled after being marinated in a secret blend of spices for 24 hours. 

“It’s not just any old chicken tender. It’s pretty special,” Howard said. Huey Magoo’s only serves chicken tenders that are all-natural and have no antibiotics, no hormones, no steroids and no preservatives.

Among the restaurant’s popular offerings are meals with three, five or seven tenders plus french fries, coleslaw and Texas toast. Sandwiches and wraps come in a choice of regular or Buffalo-style. 

“A chicken tender used to be just a kids menu item and now it has such universal appeal that it really caters to men, women and whole families,” Howard said.

The COVID-19 pandemic has sent poultry prices soaring. It’s also disrupted the supply chain to many other restaurants nationwide.

Howard said the chain has been fortunate and hasn’t experienced the problems that have hampered other restaurants nationwide.

Huey Magoo’s had locked in price contracts with its major poultry suppliers prior to the pandemic.

“We’re in good shape between now and the rest of the year. And we’ve already signed at least two contracts moving forward for 2022 with our two major suppliers and we will probably be bringing in a third and a fourth supplier to keep up with the growth of Huey Magoo’s,” Howard said.

Founded in 2004 by Matt Armstrong and Thad Hudgens, the Central Florida chicken tender chain has been expanding rapidly via franchises throughout the Southeastern United States, its website shows.

Huey Magoo’s has multiple locations in Central and South Florida, Georgia, Mississippi and has others slated to open soon in Jacksonville, Tampa, Tennessee, South Carolina, North Carolina and Alabama.

Howard said they continue to be interested in more sites in Northeast Florida for future restaurants.

Huey Magoo’s is open 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily.