Nine reasons to rekindle your chicken love

Most restaurants offer a token chicken dish on their menus to satisfy the less adventuresome diner. Boring, right?

When I review restaurants, my dining partners often ask what I need them to order. I groan inwardly when a friend or family member goes rogue and orders the lone chicken dish. I’m not going to write about the chicken. So not helpful.

Not so fast. Recently I’ve noticed that our beloved Atlanta chefs are upping their chicken game. I’ve had some surprisingly great bird. Perhaps the long-maligned chicken is no longer the red-headed stepchild it once was. That distinction may be shifting quickly to the now dreadfully standard braised short rib.

Here are nine spots to find some fine fowl. …

Classic

Classically trained chef Marla Adams has a way with chicken. At her restaurant, Babette’s Cafe, try the pan-roasted chicken with artichokes. This elegant dish exhibits a masterful layering of flavors, combining silky white wine-butter sauce with a tarragon reduction and finishing with a melty mound of creme fraiche. Here’s a dish that just may be last-supper worthy.

Babette’s Cafe, 573 N. Highland Ave. N.E., Atlanta. 404-523-9121, babettescafe.com.

Rustic

Devoted entirely to chicken, Gio’s Chicken Amalfitano has some of the most soul-warming dishes around. Large pieces of bone-in chicken come in brothy bowls with roasted potato wedges. The bird itself is moist and tender, but you’ll find the magic in the pools of broth swirling with ribbons of oil. While you can’t go wrong with any of the selections, my favorite bowl here is the Scarpariello, a peppy mixture of sausage, spicy charred red peppers, cipollini onions and red wine vinegar.

Gio’s Chicken Amalfitano, 1099 Hemphill Ave. N.W., Atlanta. 404-347-3874, littleitalia.com.

Healthy

Chicken paired with farro and arugula seems inherently healthy. And, at Vine & Tap, it’s also divinely delectable. Here, the brined and sage-seasoned airline chicken breasts are scented with grilled Meyer lemons and a spattering of citrus jus. They top farro studded with toasted Marcona almonds, warmed red grapes and vibrantly green, just-wilted arugula. Who says healthy can’t be tasty?

Vine & Tap, 2770 Lenox Road, N.E., Atlanta. 404-600-5820, vineandtapatl.com.

Smoky

Foundation Social Eatery’s kitchen boasts a wood-burning oven, the smoky scent of which you can enjoy from the restaurant’s rear patio. The wood smoke is used to boost the flavor of multiple menu items, but none so much as the roasted chicken. The tender, lemony chicken absorbs the heady wood fragrance, making it one of Foundation’s best entree offerings.

Foundation Social Eatery, 1570 Holcomb Bridge Road, Roswell. 770-641-8877, foundationatl.com.

Rotisserie

You can get rotisserie chickens at your local supermarket, but they won’t be nearly as mouthwatering as those coming from Las Brasas in Decatur. Here, the Peruvian-style roasted chickens are rich in color and flavor. The well-salted, cumin-rubbed skin achieves a delicious char that will have you wishing for a side order of skin. The meat is so moist that it doesn’t need the pale green aji pepper and huacatay sauce, but you’ll discover just how perfect they are for each other.

Las Brasas, 310 E. Howard Ave., Decatur. 404-377-9121, lasbrasasdecatur.com.

Salad

My mom is something of a chicken salad connoisseur, ordering it every time she sees it on a menu. We agree that the Rotisserie Shop’s version is deliciously unique. While I do enjoy a good, slightly sweet fruited chicken salad, this chunky version made from the restaurant’s own rotisserie chicken stays firmly on the savory path. Acidic sliced tomato, toasted sourdough and crisped Nueske’s bacon offset the thick creaminess of the basil Caesar binding.

The Rotisserie Shop, 2615 George Busbee Parkway, Kennesaw. 678-540-8244, therotisserieshop.com.

Wings

Ditch the Buffalo sauce and go upscale with a more sophisticated wing at King + Duke. These little guys have a sweet bite to balance the bold, smoky smack infused by the open hearth cooking. You’ll still get your hands dirty, but you’ll also get rolled, steamy towels to return you to your genteel state. Time to rethink the Super Bowl party standard?

King + Duke, 3060 Peachtree Road N.W., Atlanta. 404-477-3500, kinganddukeatl.com.

Fried

I’m sure at one point or another we’ve all entered into a heated debate about this town’s best fried chicken. Let me present another top contender, one that’s a striking departure from the Southern-style bird. Behold, the oversized nugget-like chicken pakoras at Chai Pani in Decatur. Breaded in curried chickpea flour, the Ashley Farms chicken comes with a sweet, cooling yogurt sauce and a thin green mango chutney. It’s definitely not Grandma’s, but maybe that’s a good thing.

Chai Pani, 406 W. Ponce de Leon Ave., Decatur. 404-378-4030, chaipanidecatur.com.

From a truck

If you thought our food truck frenzy was on the decline, think again. Crowds at a recent OTP food truck event I attended suggested otherwise. Get your chicken fix from Ibiza Bites, the truck that cooks up a blend of Southern and Latin American flavors. Go for the quick comfort fix with Lola’s coco fried chicken. The crisp, shredded-coconut breading lends a gentle sweetness that plays nicely with the mango-chile glaze drizzled across the fingers of chicken. With street snacks like these, perhaps those trucks are here to stay after all.

Ibiza Bites, 404-857-9308, ibizabites.com.

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