Happy Chickenzz

pattern stories
Written by:
Ed Domain

I am not kidding- the Laos Cluckin Hot wings are delicious. Like, REALLY. 

Born in Laos and raised in Albuquerque, restauranter Tony Chaleunphonh combined flavors of Laos with chicken wings, and the result? Soooo good!

Tony was a corporate worker for 13 years before he decided he was ready to try something new. I asked him about the name for his restaurant, ‘Happy Chickenzz.’

“I’ll say this,” I said, in between chewing on a meaty wing with the signature ‘Laos Cluckin’ Hot’ dry rub, “I’ll give you this…these wings are spicy, and delicious. But really…the name. Are the chickens happy? We’re eating them.” Then I laughed, and thought myself very clever.

While I was making a joke, Tony smiled and had a better answer. “You know when someone is scared to do something, people call that person a chicken? Well, making chicken makes me happy. Sure, I was scared to launch a new business after the safety of the corporate world, but now I’m happy, our customers love us, which makes them happy, and then I get happier. Happy Chickenzz.” (He isn’t exaggerating- check out their reviews)

Tony was hustling, because everyone gets happy at Happy Chickenzz

Tony got started with a food truck in 2016, which he still owns and uses from time to time. “La Cumbre Brewing Co loves us,” said Tony. “They don’t have a kitchen, so they love us bringing our food truck over so their customers can have wings with their beer.”

After two years of just the food truck, Happy Chickenzz grew into its location in El Vado’s courtyard.


Nothing but blue skies at Happy Chickenzz

Being an entrepreneur myself, and still new in New Mexico and Albuquerque, I had questions for him- what were his opinions on running a business here? What about racism? Is Albuquerque an accepting place? Does he feel supported by the community as well as the business community?

“Sure, I was scared to launch a new business after the safety of the corporate world, but now I’m happy, our customers love us, which makes them happy, and then I get happier.”

I had my suspicions, and was pleased to hear Tony confirm them, as he has been here more than 30 years.

“Albuquerque is a great DIY town, where you can fail and start over….except I haven’t failed yet,” he said and started laughing. “Mayor Keller did our ribbon cutting, and as a minority business owner, I have had nothing but great experiences and no problems with racism here at all. Albuquerque welcomes everyone, and I couldn’t be happier to be here. In fact,” he nodded behind him, “my partner and I will be opening a Sushi and Tempura restaurant here in September, and we’re really excited.”

High Five If You Followed Your Heart & It Led You Here

Happy Chickenzz in located in the courtyard of the historic El Vado Motel, which, as a newcomer, I was surprised to find out is a happening social spot for locals. On weekends there is live music, and along with Happy Chickenzz, there are numerous other vendors and restaurants available, and beer.

The trick is the pandemic. They have spaced out the tables, and we all practiced social distancing. When we weren’t eating or drinking, masks were on. (We took them off for the photo).

I am going back to El Vado for more wings soon- and I want to go on a Saturday when live music is playing- everything I saw there made me feel safe- all the restaurants’ staff are in masks, and even though seating is limited as a result, it felt great to be out, and…… the wings. Oh, the wings. Happy Chickenzz has got the wings- but if you happen to be in the mood for something different, they’ve got you covered. You can view their menu here.

Tony, yours truly, and Ryan from the ‘What’s Up ABQ?’ podcast

Now I want to hear from you, New Mexico: Have you been to Happy Chickenzz? I’ve only had the Laos wings so far- what should my next flavor be? 
Where the West’s most famous outlaw rests

Where the West’s most famous outlaw rests

There are few legends from the American West as notorious as the story of one Henry McCarty aka William H. Bonney aka Billy the Kid. 141 years after being shot and killed, people remain interested in stories of the legendary outlaw. Now a town of a little under 900...

Kidwind REcharge Academy Brings Educators to New Mexico

Kidwind REcharge Academy Brings Educators to New Mexico

The 2022 Class of REcharge Educators from across the U.S.KidWind hosted its 16th annual REcharge Academy at Santa Fe Community College on July 18-21. KidWind was founded by sixth-grade teacher Michael Arquin in 2003 when he became frustrated with the lack of quality...

Clines Corners Travel Center

Clines Corners Travel Center

In case you didn’t see all the highway signs, here’s the entranceIf you live in New Mexico, chances are you’ve made a stop at Clines Corners Travel Center on Route 66. Clines Corners is a gas station, an RV Park, and like the sign says, has been serving travelers...

A letter from us to you, just a little something in your inbox to brighten your day.

Keep us close through our social media accounts.

Hello New Mexico, tell us your story.

We want to tell your story to the world! New Mexico is filled with amazing and talented people and an incredible history. We are looking forward to hearing from you. Contact us at: [email protected]