Shaquille O’Neal is opening what is ostensibly his sixth Big Chicken location inside Seattle’s Climate Pledge Arena, working in conjunction with the unfortunately named entertainment ground’s executive chef Molly De Mers. That is, if she is not eaten by Shaq first.
Molly’s specific role with Big Chicken’s first Seattle location remains a little unclear. Certainly, it involves staying out of the way (literally, out of Shaq’s physical way, lest she be launched 50 feet across the room by an accidental brush of Shaq’s Holstein cow-sized shoulder) and otherwise pretending this is a good idea, given she emphasizes “sustainability at a large scale” by offering more plant-based food options than any other arena in the country. Which we assume means plant-based, simulated-meat with appropriate “mouthfeel” (mouthfeel is just a terrible, terrible word) options since popcorn and pretzels are already plant-based. Well, stadium-based pretzels actually contain powder-ized chicken bones and boiled gizzards, but we don’t want to spoil this Sunday’s 60 Minutes lead story.
Plant-based meat has come a long way since we tried our first soy patty in college, proffered by a group of dreaded (in both ways) hacky-sack enthusiasts who championed its deliciousness despite the fact it tasted like caramelized asphalt. So Molly sort of backs up our new sports venue’s title as “The World’s First Zero-Carbon Arena,” as does the fact it was built with “clean” 2ndCentury BC technology – specifically elephants attached to elaborate lever systems utilizing giant boulders as counterweights and thousands of Egyptian slaves on rickety wooden scaffolding.
Additionally (when it comes to Molly locating supplies in an earth-friendly way), all food-related ingredients are sourced within a 300-mile radius and delivered over the course of several weeks by mule trains, which actually only cuts down on undesirable emissions by 50% due to the animals truly heroic amount of flatulence.
Ok, ok fine, the arena is powered by renewable energy (no fossil fuels excluding the oil Shaq’s stuff is fried in), the builders offset construction-induced emissions by planting forests that eat the equivalent of all the carbon the construction vehicles spewed out, Storm and Kraken tickets double as free public transit, there’s only compost and recycling bins on the concourses, and the hockey ice is basically recycled rainwater from an elaborate cistern which doubles as a dungeon/torcher chamber for conservatives, people who think homeless tent encampments in public spaces are dangerous, and any remaining Mom & Pop bookstores given Amazon bought the naming rights to the whole place.
But indeed Molly, the former head of Seattle Aquarium’s kitchen – and creator of its somewhat unnerving “Bottomless Fish, 365” fish ‘n chips policy – certainly can see the upside in selling fried chicken at her arena, particularly in sandwich form, to sports fans given their tendency to express their own competitiveness by tearing apart animal products like big fat lions on the Serengeti, growling and slobbering Nashville hot sauce all over their Kraken jersey’s and even biting any wayward fingers of fellow pride members lacking the necessary agility to deftly and swiftly steal a fry. Or onion ring. Oh man, we bet Climate Pledge makes really good sustainable onion rings.
Speaking of conflicts of interest, when we think “climate pledge,” we certainly think, “Shaquille O’Neal,” and he’s definitely no ham-fisted dummy. He ensures a seamless, loving, and most importantly open (yet somehow lacking the psychological damage) marriage with “the most progressive, responsible, and sustainable arena in the world,” – even accepting Molly’s plant-based protein stepchildren as his own – with a certain grace he never demonstrated while shooting free throws, as evidenced by the litmus test of all food & beverage enterprises’ moral compasses: The menu.
Big Chicken will serve not just crispy chicken sandwiches. Still, a virtual potpourri of other nutriments including banana pudding shakes, sliders served “SHAQ’S WAY (sliders normally have a two-inch diameter, these are 36.75 inches across), salads generously blanketed with fried chicken, sweet potato waffle fries, and boozy shakes. Oh, and sodas, we assume there’s soda in there, which we used to call “pop” until someone pointed out how in some regions people say “soda,” and others “pop,” so now we’re just super confused about what to call it, often awkwardly alternating between the two mid-sentence, and it’s kind of a head trip how stuff like that happens, kind of like how some people call a couch a divan or think leftover pizza doesn’t taste good cold, or how the supposed difference between “dinner” and “supper” is time of day when really there is no difference. Right?
It should be noted anything containing chicken at Big Chicken – which includes the signage, furniture, light fixtures, and employees – consists of NAKED TRUTH® preservative-free, humanely raised, cageless, hormone-less, and antibiotic-less chicken parts. Okay, fine, we assume Big Chicken only uses chicken breasts, although we’re still awaiting evidence of this as our undercover reporter went missing at the Big Chicken Vegas location (since everything “stays in Vegas,” we figured this is where to find any sensitive corporate documents with incriminating information about how NAKED TRUTH® chicken actually consists of farm-raised, Atlantic salmon…these docs are probably in a vault or something, maybe with lasers). Regardless, we assume he was either eaten by Shaq or maybe is on a hot streak at the craps table.
While it may sound incredibly risky to send a really good-looking undercover reporter with a gambling problem and a host of weird fetishes to Vegas for an assignment, Big Chicken’s other locations – Glendale CA, Rochester NY, and the Carnival Cruise Line/Floating MRSA Factory vessels “S.S. Mardis Gras” and “S.S. Radiance” – all have restraining orders against Ron (our mustachioed undercover reporter, we probably shouldn’t have divulged his name). Which makes one wonder exactly how much trouble one can get into in Rochester, NY? Glendale, sure, what a festering swamp, but Rochester? Cruise boats we totally get too. People get murdered on those things. Yikes.
Rather than waiting for Ron (who’ll probably show up with yet another wife and lots of apologies next spring), we can certainly relay some relevant information obtained via The Freedom of Information Act, a.k.a. Google, about what to get at Shaq’s restaurant at Climate Pledge Arena while watching the Kraken and Storm, who hopefully one day will each play their own specific sport on the other’s surface, kind of as a combination self-promotion/empathy exercise. Some of Big Chicken’s most enticing secretly salmon-based foodstuffs appear to include:
- The “Big Aristotle” (real name): Fried chicken breast, muenster cheese, crispy fried onions, oh my God this sounds so good, sweet & smokey Memphis by-way-of-a-Scottsdale-industrial-park BBQ sauce, plus the possibility to add bacon.
- “Dirty Fries” (also the name of Ron’s favorite Vegas-based prostitute): Cheese, bacon, pork belly, banana peppers, and BBQ ranch.
- “Shaq Diesel” (in commemoration of his October 26, 1993 hip-hop debut album which plays on an infinite loop at all Big Chicken locations): This elevated milkshake comes with Oreo cookies, vanilla ice cream, and whipped cream, which actually doesn’t sound very elevated so never mind.
In teeny-tiny print on the menu, there’s a statement from Shaq’s lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, stating, “Consuming the above menu items in this exact sequence literally shaves one year off every restaurant-goer’s lifespan, but maybe that’s okay since your life is likely pretty boring, unlike mine.” Wow, that guy has really lost his marbles.
We do appreciate the voice of this blossoming chicken empire as represented on its website, especially the championing of overconsumption as suggested by various descriptors and calls-to-action for hungry sports fans, including the puns (everyone loves puns why does everyone love puns?) and phraseology that is alarmingly at odds with sustainability, which is sort of the theme of this article if you haven’t been paying attention, including:
- “Eat Life To The Fullest”
- “Big flavor. Big food. Big fun.”
- “Bok Bok! Big Chicken is serving up some of best chicken sandwiches with the biggest flavor…”
…oh my God, sorry, we can’t stop laughing at that “Bok Bok!” line.
Especially imagining ardent fans of all things progressive, responsible, and sustainable – i.e., the true spirit behind Climate Pledge Arena – reading “Bok Bok!” with a look of stunned, open-mouthed horror upon the realization that, alas, movements based on new ideas, findings, opportunities, and interesting solutions – including those focused on fixing the planet we’re breaking, or as corporations like to call it, ”the climate crisis,” – require accepting what one otherwise finds abhorrent (or at least at odds with one’s belief system, sometimes simply because it’s what the ‘other side’ thinks): the economic driver of private enterprise, or as Shaq likes to call it, Big Capitalism.
Bok Bok! Chop! Chop! Gorge! Gorge! Cash! Cash! Molly must be having a conniption.
Okay, fine, our editor is giving us that panicked “cut-cut” across the neck sign with her hand out of fear of this getting too heavy, so we have to stop. The point is our differences, and sharp edges are much more effective at changing the world than homogenization.
What’s pretty cool is Big Chicken is making use of Amazon’s “Just Walk Out, You Will Not Be Accosted By Security, and Please Don’t Feel Awkwardly Guilty For Doing Something That Feels Like Shoplifting” technology, allowing Kraken and Storm fans to forgo classically long concession lines. Think of this as “Amazon Go,” but instead of walking out with a bag of pork rinds and a sad packaged salad, you can stroll back to your seat with a piping-hot crispy chicken sandwich and a signature dish, specifically “Lucille’s Mac ‘n’ Cheese – just the way mom made it, but with a crispy Cheez-It® crust” (and referral to a cardiologist).
All you have to do is (a.) have an Amazon account and swear allegiance to it in front of a flag of Jeff Bezos’ forehead (b.) scan your “free” Amazon Shopping App to enter – or a credit card linked to your Amazon account – or your palm (not making this up) (c.) grab your stuff, and everyone’s favorite part, (d.) leave.
The tagline for this Orwellian enterprise is, “No Lines, No Check Outs, No Registers, No Humans,” behind which, in invisible ink, is written, “Please use the palm thing so we can continue to erode any notion that you are anything but a product, and don’t watch any more science fiction movies depicting a future of corporate totalitarianism.”
Big Chicken, and Shaq himself, are obviously about entertainment and general fun. We like this kind of food, to the point we have to limit our consumption of it, so we don’t constantly have to buy larger pants. And we like Shaq; he seems like a genuinely funny guy who’d be super chill and cool to hang out with. So we wish the enterprise the best. Certainly, the restaurant adds some lightheartedness to the world’s potentially stuffiest, uptight-iest, unfun-iest, climate-supporting arena, which, in our opinion, will help people want to make changes that help save our planet, instead of being alienated by a bunch of judge-y preaching, as “net zero” enthusiasts have a wont to do. But it cuts both ways; it will be interesting to see how this place toes the line.
Molly seems pretty cool too. Our sources tell us she’s even lobbying to change the sport and entertainment facilities’ name to something a little more normal.
Enjoy the opening week (next week) – there’s lots of cool stuff happening. And tell Shaq we said “hi.”