A recent trip to Athens, GA for a Framily wedding put us through the Atlanta airport. After a weekend of incredible eats and a lot of drinking i was actually ready to head home on Sunday and start back in to a workout and clean eating regimen for the next week. I was a little disappointed the hotel breakfast had closed down before i was able to grab a quick bite and head to the airport but, we decided that we 1) probably weren’t going to starve to death on the two hour drive to the airport and 2) there was likely a restaurant or two we could choose from at the airport.
Upon arrival to the airport we were greeted with the longest travel lines we had seen since Covid started and i was a little worried we would not have time for a bite. I then remembered the string of texts i had began to receive the night before warning us to get to the Atlanta airport 3-hours early because of the “long wait times”. I guess i should have paid attention instead of going to the open bar at the reception again?
Thankfully, we subscribe to Clear and they have their own line and TSA checkpoint at Atlanta. Even though that line was also the longest i have ever seen, it was only a 30-minute wait. The non-clear lines were a minimum of 1.5 to 2 hours!! Finally through the lines we headed to the transport train to our gate. A cool element on the transport trains here is they clearly revere food and drink. There is a feature next to the electronic board that shows you the gates you are approaching and that also details the food and drink options. As my eyes scrolled through, i locked in to Chicken + Beer. Hard to go wrong with those two things together and they were located next to our D-gate. Perfect!!
We arrived at the D-gates and there was a waiting line. The seating attendant said it would be 20-minutes before we could be seated which included the bar. I reluctantly added our name to the list and began to scan the area for other options. Not that i was worried or anything. After about a three minute wait, she smiled and said our table was ready! Already exceeding expectations here, Love it.
We ordered “Emergency Drinking beer”, which is a German style Pilsner made. Georgia with 4.0% alcohol. It was very light, no bitterness. Maybe a smidge of sweet, but not overpowering. Very drinkable and paired perfectly with our heavy fried food. Looking for a classic Pilsner? This is it.
Fried green tomatoes: the breading or cornmeal is delightfully textured. Not too thick and perfectly fried. The first bite brought a smile to our faces as the piping hot, slightly tart flavors mingle with the cornmeal and salt. Finished very well with beer. Served with an aioli type sauce.
It was while enjoying these tasty bites that my husband noted this was owned by Ludacris. He had seen him on squawk box talking about his restaurants. I noted that i have some “Luda”, in my workout playlists and i thought we were jamming to him last night on the party bus back to the hotel.. but that’s another story!
Shrimp and red rice:
First of all, i thought that grits were the king of the South? Well if grits are King, rice is certainly the Queen of the South. Now I’m from the “south” (i thought Texas was South) but I’ve never heard of “red” rice. I mean, we have Mexican or Spanish red rice but this was different. Not too spicy, but with a very balanced amount of stewed tomatoes to make the rice red. Also, it was just the right amount of sticky. To be “perfect” rice, your fork must stand up and salute when you stick it in the rice!! At least, that’s my definition. Y’all know what I’m talkin’ ‘bout!
The shrimp should have been called colossal because they were HUGE. I think the batter was a beer batter but with a bit of cornmeal mixed in? It had a very pleasant crunch and mouthfeel that usually is accomplished through cornmeal or a Japanese style tempura, and this was no tempura. These shrimp were so succulent and juicy, i wasn’t sure how my dish could possibly top that! Oh and then the rosemary tots. God’s gift to the potato. Rosemary can be overwhelming if used too much, but this was a hint of the spice and maybe a bit of truffle spice? I might need to phone a friend here and see if someone knows what is in that seasoning because it’s awesome.
Oh damn! My plate just showed up and my first thought was “uh-oh, what the heck have i done?” I’m not gonna lie, a bit of panic immediately pulsed through me. I looked up at my husband and he just shook his head and said i was “crazy”. I continued to nibble off his plate as I contemplated my strategy and admired the mammoth portion. It was literally ludicrous. What the hell were they feeding the chickens that produced these oversized thighs?! One of these thighs could feed two people, easy. And then the waffles?? I think i need another one of those rosemary tots to properly think through this.
First, i removed one of the thighs to a smaller plate (actual size of a normal dinner plate) then moved a couple of the waffles over to said plate. Then i cut the remaining thigh in half. Piping hot, just the way i like it! I heard the snapping crunch of the perfectly fried batter give way, the juices slowly peaked out at me. Beckoning me to take a bite. I lingered another second longer to fully appreciate it and then took my first bite. Ummmmmm, a little thigh juice on my chin… i didn’t even attempt to wipe it. You know when something is so good, you don’t even care if it drops on you? It was THAT good. I bit of guilt started to creep in. Is this a heart attack waiting to happen? Could i feed the family of kids staring at me as they wait in line for a seat? Should i be eating like this when i probably need to lose a few after that European food fest? Yes, yes, and yes… but (to quote my favorite movie line…bonus points if you know the movie) “sometimes you have to say what the f*#!”. Right? So, those thighs. Not only are they juicy (how do they get them this way?!) the flavor has a bit of spice to them and a whole lot of brine. I am a huge advocate of brined chicken, which might be my southern raising. But this is off the hook fabulous!
The waffles are a basic Belgium waffle that brought me back to my days working at Haggan Daz ice cream. We used to make Belgium waffles fresh on Sundays and these had the exact same flavor. This place had their own spin with house made syrup spiked with bourbon. Totally over the top, and also very much appreciated by this bourbon lover!! The last little add-on that needs to be mentioned is the collard greens. They had a really balanced salt (which is key to great tasting greens). A hint of vinegar and spice with just the right amount of juice. I actually picked the serving dish up and slurped in the remaining collard “gravy”. Don’t be afraid to drink it all in my friends!
This is exactly why i love the experience of food so much. It brings you back to a memory and helps you to make new ones. They just kind of lock in to your brain with a scent or a flavor.
A thought started to occur to me that i might actually come back to Atlanta just to come to the airport and eat here again. Maybe my husband is right and i am crazy? Either way, take it from a “crazy” food lover Chicken + Beer is a joint you do not want to miss if you are flying through Atlanta. This is a uniquely American fare spot that will have you wanting to come back again. Cheers and happy travels!