Many believe chicken & waffles to be a Southern thing, but actually, the modern concept of the dish started in Harlem, New York in the 1930’s. The delightful combination of arguably the two best breakfast and dinner foods eventually grew popular and spread around the country, reaching Los Angeles in the 1970’s.
But it’s the 2010’s now, and Atlanta is doing chicken & waffles exceptionally well at Gladys Knight & Ron’s Chicken & Waffles.
“Empress of Soul” Gladys Knight and gospel singer Ron Winans co-founded the restaurant chain, which is currently own by Knight’s son, Shanga Hankerson. The chain’s success has made the chicken & waffles concept a developmental factor to Atlanta’s culinary identity, stemming from the homey Southern spin placed on the original chicken & waffles idea.
The restaurant is dimly lit, but the dozens of pictures of famous celebrities stopping in for a bite still stand out. Families and couples were enjoying generous portions of foods ranging from the renowned chicken & waffles dish to tilapia to turkey wings.
We opted for buffalo chicken spring rolls ($7.99) for our Spring Roll Sampler appetizer. The piping hot rolls came sliced on the diagonal and served with a creamy and cooling ranch dipping sauce. They were pretty spicy (for my taste), though not overbearing. While the spring rolls were delicious however, in the end I deemed them not worth the price.
After a 10-15 minute wait, our entrées arrived. The Midnight Train ($13.50), one of the most popular dishes on the menu), consisted of four southern fried jumbo chicken wings and one original waffle. I doused the plate with hot sauce and syrup and took a bite. Holy crap, the chicken was perfectly fried and crispy. It was a little tough to eat both the chicken and the waffle at the same time, so we ditched the silverware and dove in with our fingers. There were moments of silence where Saul and I were just eating.
The waffle definitely needed the syrup and/or hot sauce to spruce it up, and it grew soggy towards the end of the meal, but I still finished it. The dish came with a slice of orange thoughtfully placed on the side to clean your palate and to provide a bit of freshness amidst all the fried food.
While I wish the meal came with some sort of vegetable, I found that this restaurant is great for indulging. In fact, this would be a perfect late night joint, because this restaurant doesn’t shut down for the evening until 4AM on the weekends. If you’re looking for high-quality “drunchies” and are willing to pay a bit more than what you’re used to, then head here for a special meal.
I can’t even imagine what weekends are like for this joint, if they have a waiting list on weekdays. But there has to be a reason people fill it up every day.
My advice? Ditch the distractions and focus on the star dish of the restaurant, the chicken & waffles. The food here is generally a bit overpriced for the portion size and quality, with the exception of the chicken.
The rest of the menu features cleverly-named menu sections like “Opening Act” appetizers like garlic shrimp, fried green tomatoes and deep-fried catfish, as well as “Headliner” entrées like omelets, shrimp & grits, signature waffles and more. Their “Grammy Winners” advertise smothered chicken, BBQ turkey wings and braised oxtails, as well as a la carte items called “Solo Acts”.
Our meal came to be $20 each, tip not included. I was happy to pay because the restaurant did a genuinely great job with the chicken & waffles, and the atmosphere was warm and inviting. Gladys Knight could be a quintessential soul food stop in Atlanta if you know what to order.
529 Peachtree St NE Atlanta, GA 30308