Pies-N-Thighs, a neighborhood favorite for folks craving home sweet comfort in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, keeps serving delectable fare, pandemic or not. Their crispy, fried chicken and wildly decadent donuts and pies are just the thing that have been lifting spirits during lockdown.
From the beginning, when chef-partners Sarah Sanneh and Carolyn Bane decided to start Pies-N-Thighs, after meeting while working in the kitchen at another Williamsburg gem, Diner, they were charted for success, especially after the New York Times got wind of what they were creating and gave them a rave review. Accolades soon followed from New York Magazine for “Best Donut”, the New York Daily News awarded them “Best Biscuits in New York” and national surveys from Food & Wine and Bon Appetit declared their apple pie and fried chicken some of the country’s “Best”.
With demand climbing, in 2010 they moved out of the tiny kitchen they were renting in the back of a quiet, dive bar and into new digs on the corner of S. 4th Street, outfitted with a “real dining room, a real kitchen and storage space,” said Sanneh. “We’ve grown a lot with the neighborhood. When we first opened, we were cooking lunch for friends. As Williamsburg started to get flooded with more people coming in for dinner at night, we wanted to be able to offer our guests a place where they can sit down and enjoy a meal.”
Sanneh and Bane’s customer base also grew through the hum of national and international attention they were receiving through television appearances on the Martha Stewart show, features on the Food Network’s Diners, Drive-ins and Dives and Japanese press mentions. With that, they branched out even further with national catering, “which was a huge part of our business, but has been non-existent since the pandemic, offered Sanneh. We built a prep kitchen across the street, so to expand our walk-in coolers capacity.”
“When the pandemic hit, we made some physical changes to the space pretty quickly. We opened a pickup and takeout window and turned the front dining room into a big counter area for people to place and wait for their order in bad weather. We gave up on the idea in a couple of months people would be dining inside again and that freed us to think of ways to optimize the space. We got a big rotisserie and added rotisserie chicken to our menu, which has been a big hit.”
Besides adding a warm roasted chicken to their offerings, they also scaled down their larger meal formats, normally geared for catering, and repackaged them in sizes fit for families of four or for a few roommates hankering for some takeout.
“Our business model put us in a pretty good position when the pandemic hit, because we already had a thriving, reputable takeout and delivery business, which accounted for 30% of our profits and has increased during lockdown. But all told, we are still operating at a 40% loss. We wouldn’t have been able to make up the loss without getting a PPP loan,” continued Sanneh.
People can order takeout from their website, or from DoorDash and Postmates. Pies-N-Thighs raises the prices on their menu when customers order from those two platforms in order to absorb the cost of the commission, they’re charged to use them. Sanneh, explained: “We’re very upfront with our customers and let them know it’s cheaper for them if they order directly from our website.”
As we all know, the quality of the food starts with the quality of the ingredients and they’re pork, chicken and beef are all antibiotic and hormone free and are from humanely raised animals. “We buy big ticket items like our dairy, sugar and flour from Chefs’ Warehouse and other items we’ll source from small farmers like the one we buy our organic pecans from in Texas for our Bourbon pecan pies,” Sanneh said.
During the pandemic they’ve been able to keep kitchen staff employed, cooking and assembling meals they deliver to hospitals, senior centers and food insecure families with funds raised through friends, family and customer donations.
With indoor dining reopening in New York City last month, Sanneh outlined her vision for how Pies-N-Thighs will operate their business going forward: “Right now it’s hard to try and guess, but we’re not taking anything off the table.”
To learn more about Pies-N-Thighs, visit their website.