The iconic restaurant is a Long Island fixture
Today, Zorn’s of Bethpage is practically synonymous with fried chicken on Long Island, but its rich history is much more multifaceted. The iconic family-owned restaurant got its start as one the region’s largest growers of eggs, chickens and turkeys prior to opening the doors to its first retail location in 1940. The concept was the brainchild of Peter Zorn, whose vision was to offer wholesome, made from scratch meals using the freshest ingredients that busy families could take home with them, creating one of New York’s first take-out services.
In the 1930s, prior to the retail business in Bethpage, the Zorn’s family owned seven poultry farms on Long Island selling chickens and turkeys to wholesalers in Queens and the Bronx. Zorn opened the humble retail store in Bethpage in 1940, selling fresh turkeys and other grocery staples. Zorn’s vision was taken to the next level in 1949, when he became the first to offer rotisserie chickens cooked over an open flame. A pioneer in retail take-out food, he blended his own spices and created original recipes to expand his menu to include fresh homemade salads, stuffing and gravy to compliment his rotisserie chicken. A short time after, he added his soon to be famous southern fried chicken and barbecue spare ribs. This turned into a thriving take out business. His menu kept growing as he met his customers’ needs.
Zorn’s of Bethpage is still family-owned and operated by Merrill S. Zorn, Peter Zorn’s only granddaughter. Merrill, who grew up working all aspects of the family business, is preserving family tradition while propelling the 80-year-old brand into the future.
In 2019, Merrill Zorn took on a massive undertaking by moving the entire business into a brand new 8,000-square-foot store at the same address in Bethpage. She designed the new building by listening to customers ideas and suggestions for the space. The new building pays tribute to the history of Zorn’s with historic photos and memorabilia used as decor.
“We use the same recipes and cooking methods as my grandfather. Some of our traditions are looked upon as old fashioned by today’s standards, but this is how we maintain our high quality and consistency,” she said. “There is always a Zorn in the kitchen making sure that the original recipes passed down from my grandparents are still prepared with the same quality and pride that they were 80 years ago.”
Zorn’s of Bethpage is located at 4321 Hempstead Turnpike, Bethpage.