Believe it — Unreal Kitchen is the real deal

Famous Homemade Nachos

Story and Photo By Deborah Lynch

Unreal Kitchen
Address: 2805A Market St. Road, Harrisburg
Phone: 717-412-7161
Open: Monday-Sunday, 3-10 p.m.
Delivery and curbside pickup only
Covid-19 Updates: All proper safety protocols in place 
Years in service: Soft opening late February
Busiest Times: 5 – 8 p.m.
Chef: Michael DiSante
Most popular dishes: Korean Chili Burger, Nashville Hot Chicken Sandwich
Price range: $3-$15
No alcohol
Owner: Michael DiSante

Ghosts do much more than jump out and yell “boo” in today’s online pandemic world. People can be ghosted, cut off from communication — either virtual or in person — without any warning, and products can appear from seemingly nowhere. Michael DiSante hopes to exploit the far-from-scary latter concept with Unreal Kitchen, which opened in late February in the kitchen of a catering business on Market St. Road near Harrisburg High’s John Harris campus.

He’s jumping on a trend that took off in 2020 — crafting delivery-only restaurant concepts that are created in one commercial kitchen. According to Eater online magazine, virtual brands, ghost kitchens, and delivery-only concepts have skyrocketed since the start of Covid-19, and could become $1 trillion businesses by 2030. Restaurants are copying the model that’s been successful with other companies — the direct-to-consumer model used by mattress companies like Saatva and Casper, toothbrush fulfillment companies like Quip, and even meal kit plans.

DiSante, a Lewisberry native who now lives in Lancaster, grew up working for the caterer at his new Penbrook location, but he has been in the restaurant franchise business for a while. He owns Philly Pretzel Factory franchises (Camp Hill, Lititz, and Clipper Magazine Stadium in Lancaster) as well as a SoBol, a bowl/smoothie/soup franchise that he opened in Lancaster. Through SoBol, he met Angelina Perry from Long Island, who is partnering with him on Unreal Kitchen.

UnReal Kitchen will be the umbrella company for separate restaurant concepts. The first two are up and running — Unreal Chicken and Bubba’s Burger Bar. Next on the list is Home Dogz Hot Dogs and a Chicago deep-dish pizza restaurant to be called Dō Bros. DiSante said he hopes to have as many as 10 different concepts through Unreal Kitchen. All of the businesses are his — he creates the concept, the menu, and all the recipes for each one. All can be ordered through the Unreal Kitchen website, and the best part, according to DiSante, is that customers can mix and match foods from different concept menus in one order.

“We did create all concepts from scratch,” he said. “We worked with chefs from US Foods in order to perfect our menu ideas and create certain sauces and such that we wanted.”

US Foods also helped him to recognize that the chicken sandwich craze at fast food restaurants didn’t really have good local competition. “There was a void, for sure,” he said. “There was not a lot of chicken in Harrisburg, in terms of Nashville hot.” Enter Unreal Chicken.

“I would love to go head-to-head with anything like that,” DiSante said. “Everyone has their own twist on chicken sandwiches, but I don’t think anyone is doing what we’re doing, so with the ordering and delivery I don’t think anyone can stand up to us.”

UnReal Kitchen will only ever be a delivery-based and curbside pickup restaurant. Right now, DiSante is using established delivery services like GrubHub, Uber Eats and soon Door Dash, but he hopes to partner with more local delivery services in the future. 

He also is continuing the catering part of the business with Strictly Catering, which he bought along with the commercial kitchen. Previous owner Chris Raptapolus continues to work together with DiSante in the catering business, which he says they are refreshing to focus more on individual meals, boxed lunches, and some of the menu from the ghost kitchen concepts, all Covid safe for employee meetings and appreciation.

Harrisburg Magazine staff reviews of Unreal Kitchen

“I was pleasantly surprised at how much the meatless chicken (plant-based) tasted like real chicken. It was very tasty. I wouldn’t have known the difference if it hadn’t been labeled. Being Catholic, this will help me survive Fridays.” — Mike Jurosky, Director of Sales and Marketing 

“The Nashville Hot Chicken Sandwich was crispy, fiery, and so full of flavor and textures. The Korean chicken sandwich flavors meshed so well, even the pickled veggies, which I have to admit I was a bit afraid to try since I don’t like pickles. Everyone could find something unique that fits their tastes here.” — Deborah Lynch, Editor

“I had never heard of fried pickle chips before. The breading really cuts down the tartness of the pickle and gives it a crunchy texture. The Korean Chicken Sandwich was my favorite. The combination of sweet and spicy sauce was a nice surprise. The most interesting nachos I’ve ever had — the roasted corn, onion, and pepper medley was a surprising change from ordinary nacho topping and then add in the Korean sweet chili sauce and you have a flavor surprise. I would definitely call this casual dining with a flair.” — Christina Heintzelman, Director of Operations

“The buffalo cauliflower was a nice spicy treat. I enjoyed the classic burger and fries as well as the fried pickle chips and buffalo cauliflower. Unreal Kitchen is a great concept and I think it will do very well.” — Darwin Oordt, President/CEO

“The flavors of Uncle Clucker’s Unreal Chicken Sammy combined together with the cole slaw and chicken was delicious. The chicken had a nice crisp to it and the coleslaw was a mix of juicy mayo with fresh vegetables. Unreal Kitchen offers something for everyone, especially since they offered us some vegetarian options.” — Laura Reich, Graphic Designer

“The nachos with vegetables and cheese were spicy and delicious. I loved the mixtures of vegetables mixed in. The fried pickles were zesty. The classic chicken sandwich was breaded perfectly and was very tasty.” — Jo Ann Shover, Account Executive

Could a homemade chicken sandwich get in on the action?

By Deborah Lynch

Michael DiSante offers readers the chance to compete not only with one of his Unreal Chicken specialties, the Nashville Hot Chicken Sandwich, but maybe even those getting all the press from Chick-fil-A, Wendy’s, McDonald’s, and Popeyes. Although he’s willing to share the basic recipe, the clincher is his secret sauce. Home chefs will either have to come up with their own sauce, find a substitute, or buy the sauce from him, which he said he will gladly sell them.

Nashville Hot Chicken Sandwich
Boneless, skinless chicken thigh
Bread crumbs or panko, etc. to taste 
Beaten egg for dipping
Vegetable oil for deep frying
Nashville hot sauce
Cole slaw
Dill pickle chips
Brioche bun
First, bread the chicken thigh. Dip each thigh into flour, shaking off excess. Dip thigh thoroughly in beaten egg to coat it lightly (let excess drip into bowl). Then, lay each thigh in the bread crumbs, turn it over, and press into the breading to coat. Deep fry breaded chicken thighs to perfection. Dip the thigh in hot sauce. Place on a buttered brioche bun. Add mayonnaise, then a generous scoop of homemade slaw. Top with dill pickle chips.