3T’s Chicken and Shakes is fast food from 50 years ago, according to manager Travis Leonard.
New to Burlington, 3T’s opened on Nov. 8 and has been serving up simple, home-cooked, “terrific tasting tenders” ever since. After his success with local restaurant Delancy’s, owner Michael Thomas decided it was time to give this new concept a shot.
“I wanted something that was easy, simple and that had a limited menu, but also something that was growing in popularity,” Thomas said. “I started developing a very simple menu and a very simple concept.”
This simplicity is reflected in the crisp, clean look 3T’s has adopted. Nestled right next to the Food Lion, the open-concept restaurant has embraced a new-age feel with glossy wooden tables and a rustic wooden bar that runs the length of the room. Thomas says everything from the look, to the touch screen Coca Cola machine, to the menu, was designed to appeal to 3T’s target audience — millennials.
Chicken as a protein has become very popular among millennials, Thomas said. This trend is what led to the development of 3T’s menu that consists of a few sandwich and salad options that can either be made with hand-breaded fried or grilled chicken.
So far, said Thomas, the BBQ sandwich with fried chicken breast, cheddar cheese, sautéed onions, bacon and BBQ sauce has been the most popular menu item. But Thomas’ go-to is the avocado sandwich with grilled chicken, bacon and house-made ranch.
The fried chicken is all hand-battered and breaded, the fries fresh-cut and the onions rings hand-sliced and breaded.
The three T’s, Michael Thomas and his wife and daughter, pride themselves in making real food with high-quality ingredients.
“We’re trying to be as hands-on as possible,” Thomas said.
Thomas has been in the business of home-cooking all his life.
His parents started catering in 1996, then opened Delancy’s in the early 2000s; Thomas became heavily involved in the business after college.
Delancy’s, and now 3T’s, have always been and will always be family-owned and run, said Thomas.
“After 20 years, I have quite a few long-time employees that I feel a lot of obligation to take care of,” Thomas said. “My employees are making this their home, and I don’t want to cash out and leave them hanging. I always want to give them a place to work and a home to come to.”
Manager and lifelong friend of Thomas, Leonard said, “sentiment is reflected in the atmosphere of 3T’s.”
“We offer something that’s a little different,” Leonard said. “Once people dine here, they’ll realize that we’re not true fast food. Everything is cooked to order, and the place just feels like home.”
Thomas said 3T’s is a quiet, relaxed and peaceful place to come sit down and chill. But, at first, it was a little too quiet for Thomas’ liking.
“I had forgotten how slowly the wheels can start turning,” Thomas said. “It has been a slow, soft-start, but things have really picked up this week.”
Despite the slow start, 3T’s has been getting a lot of positive feedback both from customers and staff members. One of the most rewarding things Thomas has experienced throughout the process of starting up 3T’s is seeing his staff get excited about customers coming in and being a part of something new.
If this excitement continues, Thomas hopes to grow the business and expand into other parts of North Carolina. He also sees a deal with Elon on the horizon and said students can expect to be able to use Phoenix Cash at 3T’s in fall 2018.