AJC EXCLUSIVE: Iconic restaurant Busy Bee to open a second Atlanta location

Small cocktail menu, menu additions are planned

The fried chicken at Busy Bee Café has been keeping customers coming back for 70 years. CONTRIBUTED BY WYATT WILLIAMS

Do you love Busy Bee Cafe’s famous fried chicken but hate the sometimes multiple hour wait for a table?

Then you’re in luck — the iconic Atlanta restaurant is slated to open a second location early next year.

Located at 111 Trinity Ave. in downtown Atlanta, the second Busy Bee's menu will offer all of the favorites from the original, including mac and cheese, collard greens, candied yams and that crispy golden chicken — but with some new additions.

Look for “different infusions” of classic dishes in the form of new appetizers, according to Jennifer Smash, the chief operations manager for the restaurants. One new dish will take the menu’s cornbread dressing and prepare it similar to hashbrowns and topped with gravy and cranberry juice.

Other differences? Whereas the original location is only open for lunch and dinner Sunday through Friday, the new restaurant will be open for breakfast, lunch and dinner daily, with the inclusion of new breakfast items including chicken and waffles.

The downtown location will also feature a small cocktail menu with options including spiked lemonade, jubilee and moonshine, “Southern favorites that will complement the food,” Smash said.

One of the most noticeable differences, however, will be the sheer size of the new eatery — with close to 200 seats, a patio, mezzanine and counter, the new eatery will more than triple the footprint of the 49-seat original.

“We know how special this place is to people, and we try to accommodate people as much as we can, but right now we’re so small,” Smash said. “The new place will allow people not to have to wait three hours to get a table.”

The original Busy Bee, opened by Lucy Jackson in 1947 at 810 Martin Luther King Drive, was a favorite with civil rights leaders including Martin Luther King Jr. In recent years, it has attracted famous customers including former president Barack Obama, Killer Mike and Bernie Sanders, as well as people from across the globe. Most recently, it was featured on an episode of the popular Netflix show "Ugly Delicious."

While the addition of a new space after more than 70 years is a big deal, Smash said owner Tracy Gates — who took over in the 90s after her father bought the restaurant in the 80s and trained with many of the restaurant’s original cooks — has cooking for the masses down to a science.

“She’s a perfectionist,” Smash said. “We’ve been looking at opening a new location since 2015, and she’s been training to make the move consistent.” She said the restaurant cooks on a large scale often when it caters events, so Gates is ready to serve bigger crowds.

And for those who are nervous that the opening of a new location means bad news for the original, Smash said there’s no reason to worry.

“We’re keeping the original location,” she said. “We’re going to continue to run it the same way.”

<<AJC readers rate the best fried chicken in Atlanta

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