On a trip to China over two years ago, Yas Chicken owner Jun Zhang fell in love — with the McDonald’s chicken sandwich. “I ate them almost consistently every day,” he said. “It was that bad.”
But upon returning to the U.S., Zhang was dissatisfied with the American fried chicken game. To him, none of the options quite matched the endless flavors he had grown accustomed to in China.
Inspired by his dad’s own success as the owner of multiple local Chinese restaurants, Zhang set out to create his own fried chicken restaurant. After developing recipes, Zhang and his partners opened the first Yas Chicken in Lynn, Massachusetts, in December 2021. Shortly after, they opened a second location in Lawrence, Massachusetts, in March 2022. Now, after seven months of leasing and renovations, a third Yas Chicken will open on Thayer Street on Feb. 20.
The new location — which will tentatively be open from 11 a.m. to 9 or 10 p.m. on weekdays and 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. on weekends — is located above bb.q Chicken + Soban Korean Eatery and across the street from Chinatown on Thayer in the former location of Tropical Smoothie Cafe. Yas Chicken will primarily operate as a fast-food restaurant with limited indoor seating.
According to Zhang, the opening has been “pretty smooth” thus far. While its debut was originally slated for Feb. 6, an issue with the placement of the restaurant’s countertops delayed the opening until Feb. 20. Zhang added that though they already have most of their staff, Yas Chicken is still hiring.
The Thayer location will serve almost all of the restaurant’s popular dishes, from fried chicken sandwiches to chicken tenders and other Asian-fusion items. Zhang expects that Yas Chicken’s Korean corn dogs and wonton-wrapped mozzarella sticks will be particularly popular among University students.
In addition to bb.q chicken, Den Den Korean Fried Chicken is also near Thayer, but Zhang doesn’t foresee much competition. Aside from serving different items, Zhang believes that “the difference between (Yas Chicken) and other chicken places” is that Yas Chicken offers the same high-quality food as fine-dining restaurants but for cheaper prices.
“Prices (at Yas Chicken) won’t be outrageous for a singular meal,” Zhang said. According to their online menu, Yas Chicken’s sandwiches range from $6.49 to $9.99.
Thayer is a coveted location for restaurants, as it attracts many University students as well as local customers. Zhang hopes that Yas Chicken’s “outside-of-the-box food” will help support the business and give customers “a different choice.”
“I want the people here to be able to experience food outside their usual taste range,” Zhang said, pointing towards Yas Chicken’s three homemade sauces. “You will not find a similar tasting sauce within a 50-mile radius.”
Students are looking forward to the shop’s opening and having a different option on Thayer.
Yas Chicken “is certainly very different from what’s already out there,” said Alex Guo ’23. “I think some people might enjoy that diversity of food,” he added.
For Tyra Shepherd ’25, fried chicken is a “comfort food” that her dad would make often. Although Shepherd rarely eats on Thayer because of the high prices, she is excited by Yas Chicken’s arrival.
Zhang’s emphasis on low prices is largely due to his own college experience, he said. “Back in college, there were certain stores like McDonald’s that I’d go to a lot because I didn’t have much money,” Zhang added. “I want to provide the same thing that McDonald’s provided for me.”