Move Over, Negroni Sbagliato — One Deli’s Chicken Salad Is the New TikTok Star

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Oct. 31 2022, Published 7:02 p.m. ET

What are the ingredients for TikTok fame? “Chicken, pickles, banana peppers, bell peppers, tomatoes, onions…”

Yes, if you’ve laughed over any one of the many “It’s a chicken saladTikTok videos, you have Tanisha Godfrey and her salad order at East 81st Deli in Cleveland, Ohio, to thank.

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“Y’all better come up here and get one of these,” Tanisha says in the video, gesticulating to her salad with a plastic fork.

“What’s that?” says Wael Herbawi, the deli’s owner, from offscreen.

“It’s a chicken salad,” Tanisha says.

“From where?” Wael asks.

“81st Deli [on] Superior.”

“What’s on it?”

“I got chicken, pickles, banana peppers, bell peppers, tomatoes, onions…”

Wael posted the video to his @81stdeli TikTok account on Aug. 28, and 17 million views later, it’s a phenomenon…

The meme started with an after-work food order.

Wael Herbawi and Tanisha Godfrey
Source: News 5 Cleveland

Wael Herbawi and Tanisha Godfrey

Tanisha told TODAY Food recently that the video documented her first time trying a salad at the deli.

“I had got off work,” she said. “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? … 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.”

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She also said the video shows how she “naturally talk[s]” and that it’s “unbelievable, actually” that she’s a viral star. “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.

Now she’s paying her internet fame forward and spotlighting other local businesses.

“I want to just go to different restaurants in Cleveland, around my neighborhood,” she said. “I did one yesterday, Momo’s on 185th, and went live and was tasting the food, and it was awesome. I had like 30,000 people watching.”

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East 81st Deli has gone from making 30 salads a day to making nearly 1,000.

Wael revealed to News 5 Cleveland recently that he has gotten legions of fans since the video went viral — as well as customers from “Chicago, Atlanta, California, Las Vegas, New York, all over and all over Ohio.”

“They say that my voice is comforting, like ‘Oh my gosh, I love you,’ ‘I can’t stop watching this video,’” he went on. “People are making songs out of this video. It’s so funny.”

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A lot of TikTok users are making funny videos with the audio. Lizzo, for instance, posted a video of her lip-syncing to Tanisha’s voice while eating a fried-chicken waffle sandwich.

“That’s when the followers and views really started coming through, when Lizzo did it,” Wael said.

And in an interview with Bon Appetit, Wael said that he’s been making the salad for about two years. “But before the video, I was selling maybe 30 a day,” he added. “Yesterday, I sold almost 1,000 chicken salads — about 980. … I’m making triple the amount of money that I usually make.”

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