It’s a typical Atlanta summer night. My windows are ajar, the shades open, and the late night sun has finally dipped beneath the event horizon. However, I’m not on my porch puffing a cigar nor in my media room kicked back and taking in the comedic barbs of Jon Stewart. No, I find myself curled up in bed, lights off and prostrate to the world. I’m suffering from one of the most intense food hangovers I’ve wrestled with since I began this online journal. Such is the result of my meal at LeRoy’s Fried Chicken, a Westside take-out food stand that has opened with a thud.
Recently fried (aka opened Wednesday) on the Westside, chef Julia LeRoy, Clay Harper and Mike Nelson have introduced LFC in the spirit of a culinary rage. Fine dining is out whereas food trucks, fast casual grub, and playful rifts on the traditionally simple seem effervescent. LeRoy’s finds itself somewhere in the middle of this world. Save for the slightly edgy fried chicken liver sandwich, this is a traditional and no frills soul food endeavor. As LeRoy’s espouses the use of locally raised, ethos conscious chickens, this is simplicity for simplicity’s sake in all of its glory.
The back story is short, sweet, and mentioned everywhere. Ms. (or perhaps Mrs.) LeRoy is one of the more notable chefs in an ever shrinking and under appreciated demographic. [The highly capable chef Katie Birmingham shuttered the delicious Noon Midtown during the early part of the year and my unapologetic swoon of a food crush (one Keira Moritz), suffered from the shackles of hotel life and now finds herself back in South Georgia] But I digress …
Chef LeRoy has popped up in several spots around town. Best known for her work at The Book House Pub, a mention of her time at Seeger’s is never far behind. She’s young, she’s energetic, and at least one of our town’s most respected critics loved what she did at TBH.
So all this brings us to the precipice of LeRoy’s Fried Chicken. A grandiose word, “precipice” seems appropriate given the buzz behind this place. Harper and Nelson (who back La Fonda and Fellini’s) have teamed up with chef Leroy before. LFC is a rekindling of that relationship, which started with the gourmet yogurt shop Three on the Tree, a place I’ve very much enjoyed to date.
That being the case, it is no surprise that you’ll find LFC standing at the corner of Howell Mill and 11th, right next to a La Fonda outpost. As I mentioned, simplicity is the name of the game. From the throwback sign to the big board menu, LeRoy’s Fried Chicken is the type of place those from the Mad Men generation will speak fondly of.
A trip up the wheelchair friendly ramp should fare better than a fowl-mouthed [sic] adventure on The Line Ride (slightly NSFW). Upon successful navigation of said trip, you’ll find yourself amongst four cocktail tables on the large porch. The menu, off to the right and absent of any confusion, leaves you to choose between fried chicken (and desired number of pieces), a chicken liver salad sandwich, or a fried chicken salad. Each of the five sides are $2.95, a biscuit runs $.75, and the two-tiered beverage plan lets you on board for $1.75 or $2.50. Expect the cash register to ring up at roughly $10/person, quite the price for a little roadside stand.
During both of my visits (inside of 24-hours to the restaurant’s defense), me and my buddy du jour were informed that white meat was no longer on the premises. I’m a wing and drummies dude, so despite my interest in a well-balanced sampling, I had no problem forcibly forgoing the “healthier” parts of the bird.
Running out of a staple menu item begs the question: “Is it better to lose money when you turn a customer away or is it better to lose money if you’re stuck with excess product?” I’ll let you decide which side of that debate I fall on. Ah, but digression is the name of the game.
So both times, I ended up with a leg and a thigh and during my second soiree, I also grabbed a biscuit, some mac, and a Cheerwine (a specialty soda reminiscent of cherry coke). Towards the tail end of the ordering process is when trouble started to percolate, eventually leading to a tsunami of bad.
It suffices to say that despite the highly streamlined menu, something is terribly wrong with the fulfillment system. I’ll spare you the details but leave you with this: I’d be far more forgiving of their performance (especially sooooooo early into Act I) if the menu wasn’t so damn simple, if LFC’s sister restaurants weren’t so geared toward the fast casual, and if the people at the top of the chain weren’t so experienced.
It all came screeching to a halt with the food. In a place so wonderfully devoid of interference and frills, my face, almost without my insistence, grimaced when I opened that big box of dark meat. Anyone at any level of the cooking could and should notice that this chicken was beyond overdone. A peek into the biscuit box (picture time) and my mind went to “fuck that doesn’t look good.” That was but a fleeting thought as I peered into the mac container and held on to faint hope.
Let’s get the sides out of the way. I’m no doubt a biscuit purist. I want them fluffy and flaky and buttery. Still, a well executed biscuit of alternative characteristics is to be appreciated. This was no such biscuit. This was stiff and not noteworthy. I’d elaborate on its faults, but to be honest, it was the last thing I sampled and thus had some high hurdles to jump over. The mac, definitely homemade, congealed in a puddle of grease, lacked pronounced flavor, and was robbed of something due to the lack of crunch in the top layer. This place will neither sink nor swim on its sides.
The TNT keg in this episode was the fried chicken (cooked in lard not oil). It is incredibly difficult to evaluate the nuances of fried chicken when burned grease takes the skin from crispy to crunchy. A foodie who dined there independent of me emailed me with the quote “brine much?” In both instances, the bird was incredibly wet (aka greasy) and dominated by salt worthy of the Dead Sea.
To come across a bouncing baby restaurant that brines it’s bird for too long isn’t a shock. That’s a forgivable, albeit fairly lame, mistake. What was beyond ridiculous was the cook time. The skin just slipped off the already greasy meat faster than a whale tale on a stripper. MAKE IT RAIN!!! The under seasoned flour, against the burned grease, was just gross. That might sound harsh, but my partners in crime were both far more caustic than I was.
The two saving graces to date are the source of said chickens (courtesy of Springer Mountain Farms) and the size. Seriously – if these things didn’t come from Springer Mountain, I’d say they were pumped bigger than Charlie Sheen trying to throw an 85 mph fastball.
No matter how early in the game, I have some serious reservations when a one trick pony can’t so much as expedite or handle blatantly obvious errors. While others might have experienced a far better first date with LFC than I did, it’s hard to have high hopes. For now, proceed with caution and hope for a miracle.
Atlanta Foodies on LeRoy’s Fried Chicken
LeRoy’s Fried Chicken Stand Address & Information
*note* – at this time, there is no known website for LeRoy’s Fried Chicken. However, LeRoy’s facebook page seems to serve as an unofficial information source