The title does not lie.
I wrote this restaurant review for a class assignment, but I fell so in love with the chicken being served at Bantam + Biddy in Atlanta that I had to share, especially for other people with Celiac disease.
On November 3, 2018, I had a spiritual experience with fried chicken tenders.
Let me break this down for you: I’ve been gluten-free since 2003, when my mother, sister, brother, and I were diagnosed with Celiac disease. Those were the dark ages. Celebrities hadn’t endorsed the gluten-free lifestyle for all the wrong reasons. Restaurants and companies hadn’t recreated all the foods I knew and loved in a “safe” way. Before that day in May, I had religiously eaten Mr. Kenny’s Chicken. My father, the Boar’s Head distributor for the area, was friendly with all the employee’s in the deli section at our local Publix. The man behind the counter, who my young brain equated with fried chicken, was Mr. Kenny. (The chicken was simply Publix-brand chicken fingers, but I still refer to it fondly as Mr. Kenny’s Chicken.) These strips were hot, had a hint of black pepper, were unbelievably crispy, and were simply delicious.
My parents, sister, and I went to Bantam + Biddy in Atlanta, a self-proclaimed Southern diner, that they had all been to before but was new to me. Located in a strip mall and ironically next to an LA Fitness sits this chicken haven. I was ready to place my order, a yummy-sounding salad (my go-to when eating out), when I noticed that they had a Fried Chicken Po’Boy. As a person who watches The Food Network with a cult-like admiration for “Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives” as well as “Chopped,” I’ve dreamed of eating a po’boy since I saw a chef in New Orleans prepare the dish for Guy Fieri. Traditionally, this sandwich is French bread loaded with a mountain of golden-brown fried shrimp, blanketed in delicate pieces of lettuce and thick slices of tomato, all covered in a Cajon-inspired sauce.
Bantam + Biddy’s sandwich was slightly different in a few important ways: fried chicken tenders, gluten-free bread (upon request and with an $1.50 extra charge), and a Creole mayo that was addictive (and left me asking what that secret, spicy note was—my taste buds so innocent to the flavors of Creole cuisine).
Dear Lord. This sandwich arrived with a pickle on top and chicken fingers splayed out the sides. The bread was white with golden flecks, evident of a short stint in the toaster; it was also the largest slice of gluten-free bread I’ve ever seen, as they’re typically half the size of “normal” bread. My mouth-watered as I watched our waitress place everyone’s dishes on the table. (I was in love with her by the end of our meal for her quick ability to grab us a bundle of napkins, because one simply wouldn’t do; for her patience as we continually asked for more chicken fingers and jalapeño corn muffins; and for answering my 1,000 questions about ingredients and the cooking process because I’m a bit of a crazy Celiac chick when eating out.)
That first burn-your-mouth bite was heaven, despite the taste buds I lost to my lack of patience. Those chicken fingers rivaled Mr. Kenny’s chicken. Not only were they the first pieces of fried chicken I’ve eaten at a restaurant and that weren’t my mom’s, since 2003, but they also brought me back watching Mr. Kenny pile chicken tenders into a Publix container. They tasted the same, and I think I ate 6 (or 8). I asked for another three pieces after I’d eaten the sandwich, to which my dad said, “I’m honestly surprised by how much you’re eating right now.”
It was the crunch, from a tapioca flour-based coating. It was the subtle hint of black pepper and some secret spice that warmed the back of my throat. And, of course, it was that addictive Creole mayo as a partner.
As a Celiac, finding a restaurant that caters so profoundly to gluten-free individuals is a struggle. This restaurant’s fryer is 100% gluten-free because their batter is – that’s huge. Often times, the item may be gluten-free (such as fries), but if other gluten-containing items are also cooked in the same oil, then we can’t eat the fries. They also serve breakfast almost all day long; my sister toyed with getting breakfast, but chose fried chicken tenders instead (the better choice, if you ask me). Not all of their dishes are gluten-free, but you’ll find the small green “GF” symbol next to the majority of the items on the menu. My mom got fried shrimp and sweet potato fries; she ate the side sampler last time she went (an option that lets you pick three sides, such as grits and quinoa salad). My dad got a thick slab of meatloaf, broccoli jalapeño slaw, and a tea-cup (that’s how small it was) of side salad. Although all I cared about was the fried chicken tenders, Bantam + Biddy does offer a robust menu, complete with gluten-free desserts (which is a rarity; I’m looking at you, decadent chocolate cheesecake that greeted me as I walked in the door).
Bantam + Biddy, I’ll be back. Start prepping the fryers.