Joella's Hot Chicken Chicken and Waffles, Jumbo Tenders, Kale Crunch salad, Wedge salad, and Pie-In-A-Jar. Photo credit- Mia Yakel.

Take a first look at Joella’s Hot Chicken, now open in metro Atlanta

The second location of the Louisville, Kentucky-based fast-casual concept is set to open on Ernest W. Barrett Parkway in Kennesaw on Wednesday, with Woodstock and Newnan coming soon.

The menu features multiple iterations of hot chicken, including Joella’s Jumbo Tenders, Big Wings, quarter white, quarter dark or half bird, chicken and waffles, big chicken “sammies,” and even soy-based vegan “chicken.”

The six heat levels range from no heat Southern, through medium heat Tweener, and at the top of the capsaicin scale, Fire-In Da-Hole, which is described as an “inferno” and requires a signed waiver to consume.

Joella's Hot Chicken Cumberland. Photo credit- Mia Yakel.

Beyond chicken, you’ll find an array of “dippin’ sauces,” fresh salads, and Southern sides, including fan favorites Creamy Mac and Cheese, Parm Garlic Fries, and Kale Crunch Salad. Desserts range from classic banana pudding to Pie-in-a-Jar, and “you keep the jar.”

Self-serve drinks include lemonade, iced tea, and Boylan Sodas, which are made with cane sugar and are gluten-free, vegan-friendly, non-GMO and kosher certified.

Joella’s currently has locations in Florida, Kentucky, Indiana and Ohio. But other than branding and decor, none of the stores adhere to a strict design.

In Georgia, that changed a bit when the company was able to acquire several former Pollo Tropical locations around metro Atlanta. In addition to similar buildings and floor plans, the Atlanta-area stores will all have drive-thrus in addition to counter service.

Last week, Christina Happel, regional vice president of operations, talked about Joella’s move to the Georgia market, and revisited a bit of the history of the company.

“We were founded in 2015 in Louisville, Kentucky,” Happel said. “Our first restaurant actually opened in a suburb of Louisville called St. Mathews. We based our entire concept on Southern hospitality, making fried chicken with that little bit of spice and heat that everyone has grown to love. We are making everything from scratch, whether it’s the Creamy Mac and Cheese, or our green beans, or our Kale Crunch Salad, which is made and tossed to order.

“We want everyone to come to our restaurants and feel like they’re having a dinner at home, almost. We have a menu that’s broad enough that it can be inclusive of everyone in your family. Whether you are a vegan, or you have gluten allergies or nut allergies, our menu is extremely inclusive.”

Asked about the growth of the company, which is part of the Schulte Restaurant Group, Happel said the current expansion will be rapid and ongoing.

“When we talk about our growth, we are opening four restaurants in Georgia this year,” she said. “We will open three in Florida, one of which is open in Largo now. And then we will open our second location in Ohio and our fourth location in Indiana. Beyond that, we are continuing to evaluate sites in several different states.

Joella's Hot Chicken Cumberland order counter and dining room. Photo credit- Mia Yakel.

“Our first store, many years ago, was a gas station. We have no stores that are new builds. They’re all in existing, refurbished buildings. Earlier this year, we opened in Bloomington (in Indiana) in an 80-year-old building that used to be a bakery and has a lot of history in the community. We like that. With Pollo Tropical, we were excited to get that presence in these markets. The kitchens were laid out so beautifully for what our brand needed. We don’t have drive-thrus in all of our restaurants. But all seven of those Pollo sites do have drive-thrus, so that’s been a new challenge for us.”

Asked about Joella’s place in the current fried chicken scene, especially in light of the press around the Popeyes chicken sandwich rollout, Happel’s first answer was a laugh.

“We’ve had a little bit of fun internally, for sure,” she said. “With the chicken sandwich debacle, and certainly KFC’s recent vegan chicken announcement. We’ve been serving vegan chicken since 2015, and we always will, so we’re not late to the game on any of those things. Opening these new stores, we are selling so many chicken sandwiches.

“But our chicken sandwiches have so much personality. We have a homemade pimento cheese chicken sandwich, which is just beautiful, and our Dixie-style chicken sandwich with sweet vinegar slaw and garlic aioli is great, too. They’ve got a lot of character, so our fans on social media have had a lot of fun bantering back and forth about that. It’s been fun, but we certainly don’t have the national presence that those other brands do.”

2955 Cobb Parkway, No. 910, Atlanta. 770-956-0919, joellas.com.

Scroll down for more images from a First look at Joella's Hot Chicken on Cobb Parkway in Cumberland

Joella's Chicken and Waffles with maple syrup and spiked honey. Photo credit- Mia Yakel.
Joella's Hot Chicken Jumbo Tenders with Creamy Mac and Cheese and Collard Greens. Photo credit- Mia Yakel.
The Wedge salad with fried tenders, peppadews, cheddar, bacon, and red onion. Photo credit- Mia Yakel.
Kale Crunch salad with vegan chicken, toasted almonds, currants, and lemon zest dressing. Photo credit- Mia Yakel.
Joella's Hot Chicken Pie-In-A-Jar desserts. Photo credit- Mia Yakel.

RELATED:

More first looks at metro Atlanta restaurants

Cobb County dining news

Read the AJC Spring Dining Guide: The Atlanta barbecue issue

Read more stories like this by liking Atlanta Restaurant Scene on Facebook, following @ATLDiningNews on Twitterand @ajcdining on Instagram.

Support real journalism. Support local journalism. Subscribe to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution today. See offers.

Your subscription to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution funds in-depth reporting and investigations that keep you informed. Thank you for supporting real journalism.

About the Author

X