‘It’s a chicken salad’: Viral video makes Cleveland deli famous overnight

food, ‘it’s a chicken salad’: viral video makes cleveland deli famous overnight

‘It’s a chicken salad’: Viral video makes Cleveland deli famous overnight

“It’s a chicken salad.”

Those four words has TikTok in an uproar (almost as much as “Negroni Sbagliato with prosecco”) and has people traveling across the country to try the dish at East 81st St. Deli in Cleveland, Ohio.

In the video, Cleveland native Tanisha Godfrey has a chicken salad in front of her and says, “Y’all better come up here and get one of these.” Someone off camera asks her what it is, and she responds, “It’s a chicken salad,” then shares where she got it from (“81st Deli … superior”) and what’s in it.

“I got chicken, pickles, banana peppers, bell peppers, tomatoes, onions …,” she lists before the video cuts off.

The video was posted on TikTok on Aug. 28 but only started going viral mid-October. Since then, it’s racked up nearly 17 million views, and Lizzo, Tia Mowry and folks across the country have made their own iterations of the viral video featuring Godfrey.

The social media attention has increased sales, too. Wael Herbawi, owner of East 81st St. Deli, told Bon Appetit that he usually sells 30 chicken salads a day, but hit 980 in one day since the video went viral. And he’s been posting dozens of TikToks of people coming in and trying the salad for themselves.

Godfrey, who says she has known Herbawi since she was 14, told TODAY Food, “We did not expect that at all.” Herbawi told Bon Appetit his dad has been helping him grocery shop to keep up with the sudden uptick in demand.

Godfrey said the video wasn’t planned — it was an in-the-moment type of thing — as it was her first time trying the deli’s chicken salad.

“I had got off work. Because it was hot, I was like, I don’t want anything heavy. So I stopped at the store like I normally do. And I was like, ‘Hey, you guys make salad now, right? And (Herbawi) was like, ‘Yes.’ So I was like, ‘Can I get a chicken salad?’ and I gave him the extra things to put in. And once he was done, it was a beautiful salad. So he said, ‘Hey, let’s make a TikTok.’ And that’s where it started.”

Other than the ingredients Godfrey listed in the video, Herbawi shared the salad’s complete list of components with Bon Appetit:

“It’s a spring mix, so lettuce and spinach and kale and all the good stuff. Then I add cucumbers, cherry tomatoes, green peppers, a mixture of shredded mozzarella and cheddar, croutons, banana peppers, and jalapenos. Obviously, there’s grilled chicken. My secret sauce goes on top. My mom taught me the sauce, so only me and her know about it.”

Godfrey told TODAY she thinks the video is so popular because “people fell in love with my personality” and specifically how she pronounced “chicken salad” in the video.

“That’s how I naturally talk,” she said. “It wasn’t like I was like, ‘Oh, it’s a chicken salad.’ No, it’s the way that I talk naturally.”

Godfrey said it’s “unbelievable, actually” to be such a trendsetter.

“Like, it’s me. Wow, it’s me. So I’m still in a moment of surreal. It’s weird. I can’t really explain it. It’s just the whole world knows my name now,” she said.

“I’m going to try to go to other Cleveland restaurants and go live and review the food and hopefully I can gain them some more customers also,” she told TODAY.

Professionally, Godfrey helps transition people with mental illnesses from institutions to living on their own, but said she is open to doing voiceovers for people and other TikTok-related work.

In the meantime, she said she has a new video coming out Nov. 5, so “stay tuned.”

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