Atlanta Orders In: Fire Hen’s rotisserie chicken is done right, served until midnight

This takeout order from Fire Hen includes a whole chicken with French bread, dipping sauces, and sides (mashed potatoes, fondu mac and cheese and mixed green salad). Wendell Brock for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
This takeout order from Fire Hen includes a whole chicken with French bread, dipping sauces, and sides (mashed potatoes, fondu mac and cheese and mixed green salad). Wendell Brock for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Credit: Wendell Brock

Credit: Wendell Brock

The South has staked a claim to fried chicken, but, in truth, cultures all over the globe can boast some kind of fried bird. Steve Beason — a cosmopolitan, Southern California-born gaming industry executive who has lived in Australia, Asia and Europe — thinks the same can be said of rotisserie chicken.

While Atlanta has no shortage of chicken shacks of all genres (Southern fried, Korean, Nashville hot, wings, chicken and waffles), chicken-on-a-spit spots aren’t exactly ubiquitous. In November, Beason and his business partner, Khalid Raji, perched their fast-casual Fire Hen on Buckhead’s Irby Avenue. Already famous for its nightlife, this strip now has a rotisserie shop that slings chicken till midnight every night.

In a phone interview, I told Beason how I love the raucous joints in the heart of Barcelona’s Gothic Quarter, where plates of rotisserie chicken, fries and crusty bread for sopping up the juices are offered with a glass of beer or cava. At Fire Hen, one can dine like a Spaniard — almost. Fries and crusty bread are on the menu; beer and wine will come later. For now, the owners are finessing the concept and maintaining an alcohol-free zone.

You can smell the char before you get in the front door. Behind the counter, you’ll spy a bank of new stainless-steel ovens, imported from Peru. That’s where the magic happens. “It’s all charcoal,” Beason said. “You start a fire. You put your chicken in there, and you spin the birds around.” Peruvians love their pollo a la brasa (grilled chicken); he thinks they’ve mastered it.

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One of the two ways Fire Hen serves its rotisserie chicken is this whole bird marinated with garlic, herbs and chile peppers. Wendell Brock for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
One of the two ways Fire Hen serves its rotisserie chicken is this whole bird marinated with garlic, herbs and chile peppers. Wendell Brock for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Credit: Wendell Brock

Credit: Wendell Brock

Beason, 59, has worked on the technology side of the gaming industry for decades. An Atlantan for the past 15 years, he’s enjoyed a side career in restaurants, specifically as a partner with Singha 99 Thai Street Foods in Dunwoody and Spice 55 Thai & Sushi in Helen. Currently, he’s the group chief technology officer for Inspired Entertainment, a position that, before the pandemic, required him to split his time between Atlanta and the United Kingdom.

In London, he took a shine to Nando’s, a South Africa chain that serves grilled, peri-peri-style chicken. Beason thought he could do better. “Let’s just make the best, juiciest, crispy brown rotisserie chicken with some flavors,” he said, “and then give it a whole bunch of different sauces to fancy it up.”

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Fire Hen serves sweet and savory pastries as well as chicken. Shown here are the strawberry and cream pound cake, caramelized apple tart, and a savory hand pie stuffed with lamb and dried plum and served with a cinnamon plum dipping sauce and salad greens. Wendell Brock for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Fire Hen serves sweet and savory pastries as well as chicken. Shown here are the strawberry and cream pound cake, caramelized apple tart, and a savory hand pie stuffed with lamb and dried plum and served with a cinnamon plum dipping sauce and salad greens. Wendell Brock for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Credit: Wendell Brock

Credit: Wendell Brock

Fire Hen’s chicken is seasoned with garlic, herbs, citrus and chile peppers. There also are sauces, some inspired by Raji’s native Morocco: roasted jalapeño-mint; spicy barbecue, which comes across like harissa ketchup; ranch; chimichurri; and maple-butter cream. I tried both styles of chicken, and prefer the plainer style over the spicy — by just a smidge. Either way, it’s terrific, and part of the fun lies in the condiments. Sometimes, it’s fun to mix them together.

Eating rotisserie chicken can get messy. Outside the restrooms, you’ll find a wall of sinks for communal hand-washing. In my case, there were moist towelettes in my takeout bag. For people on the go, there are $7 hand pies (curry chicken; lamb and dried plum; roasted veggies and herbs; spiced beef and veggies), served with dipping sauces and a small salad.

Fire Hen, a new fast-casual restaurant specializing in rotisserie chicken, opened in Buckhead in November. Wendell Brock for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Fire Hen, a new fast-casual restaurant specializing in rotisserie chicken, opened in Buckhead in November. Wendell Brock for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Credit: Wendell Brock

Credit: Wendell Brock

Overall, I’m impressed by the uncommon care that goes into the food. I do have a caveat or two. The fries were a little limp, but the mashed potatoes were luscious. The so-called Thanksgiving sandwich had a bit of fresh strawberry whipped into a chicken salad buttered with Parmesan — where’s the cranberry sauce and stuffing? — but, it worked.

And, did I mention that there’s wonderful pound cake with vanilla whipped cream and fresh strawberries, and apple tart with heavenly caramel sauce? Fire Hen obviously was developed with an eye toward expanding. I would not be mad if it laid an egg in my ’hood.

Is there a restaurant you want to see featured? Send your suggestions to ligaya.figueras@ajc.com.

Khalid Raji and Steve Beason are the owners of Fire Hen in Buckhead. Wendell Brock for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Khalid Raji and Steve Beason are the owners of Fire Hen in Buckhead. Wendell Brock for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Credit: Wendell Brock

Credit: Wendell Brock

FIRE HEN

Menu: rotisserie chicken and sides

Alcohol: no

What I ordered: half-chicken with French bread, fries, chimichurri and spicy barbecue sauce; whole (spicy) chicken with green salad, mashed potatoes, jalapeño-mint sauce and maple butter; lamb and dried plum hand pie; Thanksgiving sandwich; side of mac and cheese; apple tart; pound cake with strawberries and cream. I rarely was disappointed.

Service options: dine-in; takeout and delivery via Grubhub, DoorDash, Uber Eats and Postmates

Outdoor dining: a small patio is in the works

Mask policy: yes, for employees; requested of guests, though not strictly enforced

Address, phone: 47 Irby Ave. NW, Atlanta; 470-347-3436

Hours: 11 a.m.-midnight daily

Website: firehen.com

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