Hot chicken pop-up moving into brick-and-mortar location in Winter Park

JAM Hot Chicken provides an authentic experience with Nashville’s native dish

The future home of JAM Hot Chicken, 400 W. New England Ave. in Winter Park
The future home of JAM Hot Chicken, 400 W. New England Ave. in Winter Park (Copyright 2021 by WKMG ClickOrlando - All rights reserved.)

WINTER PARK, Fla. – After more than a year of pop-ups, JAM Hot Chicken is making the jump into a permanent, brick-and-mortar location in Winter Park.

“It’s a big risk, but I just didn’t want to live with (the) regret of not trying to do it at a bigger scale than the pop-up,” Andrew Scala, the owner of JAM said.

The new location sits at 400 W. New England Ave. in Winter Park’s Hannibal Square, which used to house a restaurant called the Sausage Shack.

Prior to this big move, the 29-year-old had been pedaling his spicy fried chicken around the Orlando area since 2019 when he held his first pop-up at Pizza Bruno, where he was working at the time, but JAM didn’t start out as a business.

“It really started as just an Instagram page that my brother created back in 2016, and it was really just kind of somewhere to post photos of of the dish (hot chicken),” Scala said. “We would kind of cook it for fun and whatnot and just being fascinated by it, but by no means were trying to sell it or anything like that at that time. It was just somewhere for us to post what we were cooking.”

The fascination began for the brothers in 2016. Scala said his brother was living in Los Angeles at the time and he went for a visit. While in the City of Angels, the brothers went to a restaurant called Howlin Rays, which has gained a reputation as the premier hot chicken spot in L.A.

“Just the experience I had when I first had it kind of really set the tone moving forward,” Scala said.

After three years of obsessing over the dish, Scala decided to form an LLC in 2019 and “made it legit.”

Before starting the pop-ups, Scala had worked in and around the food service industry for several years, mostly in a front-of-the-house role. However, he said he’s always been in love with food.

“I was blessed to grow up and (be) raised in a home where food is just number one,” Scala said. “My dad was born and raised in Italy and my mom is almost 100% Lebanese so I grew up with just watching my dad make Sunday sauce and everything from that to watching my mom roll grape leaves and make kibbeh from scratch.”

Cooking remains something of a family affair, with Scala’s brother helping him with some of his pop-ups. The name, JAM, is actually an acronym of Scala and brother’s names — Justin, Andrew and Michael.

Although Scala has been working on his JAM pop-ups for more than a year, he is not ready to reveal the menu for the brick-and-mortar spot.

“I don’t even know what tomorrow looks like. so it’s hard to answer this question — though I have an idea and vision for the menu for sure,” he said.

Right now, there is no set opening date for JAM Hot Chicken in Winter Park, but Scala would like to have it up and running by the end of the summer. While the menu is not set quite yet, Scala did promise that people can expect an authentic Nashville hot chicken experience — and that means a lot of spice.

“I’m looking to push the limits 100%. I’m looking (for people) to get the hiccups. I’m talking heat challenges,” Scala said. “We’re gonna crank it up.”


About the Author:

Thomas Mates is a digital storyteller for News 6 and ClickOrlando.com. He also produces the podcast Florida Foodie. Thomas is originally from Northeastern Pennsylvania and worked in Portland, Oregon before moving to Central Florida in August 2018. He graduated from Temple University with a degree in Journalism in 2010.