Gladys Knight’s Chicken & Waffles
Welcome back to the Pot and Pan Handler’s nefarious blog edition; Gladys Knight’s Chicken & Waffles. When we took the midnight train to Georgia, our destination was Ted Turner’s whim, Atlanta. We jumped at the chance, because who knows when Mr. Turner will send Atlanta to the future. Or possibly will Atlanta to an alternate reality where people watch CNN willingly, instead of when forced to in airports. Does it get more Georgian than chicken & waffles? I don’t know, but I do know it doesn’t get more Georgian than Gladys Knight, so I had to go. http://gladysandron.net/
According to GPS coordinates our hotel is eight miles from Gladys Knight’s Chicken & Waffles. After an urban hike I’ll get there just in time to for a lunch of fried chicken & waffles. What the GPS failed to mention is this hike would be through a part of Atlanta where tourists probably rarely find themselves. Funny thing is I’ve walked near here before just a couple blocks away, the same walk is filled with gentrified developments containing fair trade coffee shops on every corner.
Just a few blocks from the hotel it began. First it was the friendly couple, dressed at the height of I own my own shopping cart fashion, they weave a tale of falling on hard times, can I spare some money? Of course I can. It was done. Word on the street is there is a white kid in the neighborhood and he’s got money. The next encounter was less pleasant.
I was in his sights immediately, desperately I try to avoid making eye contact, but his homeless voodoo made this impossible. Dressed in jeans and one of those jackets with patches on the elbows, like a college professor without tenure, forced to wander the streets of Atlanta, begging for money to fund his research, he begins to tell me his tale. Long story short, he has fallen on hard luck, could I spare some money? Not this time. I’ve got no time for this, I try to continue on, and realize suddenly that I’m now handing him a dollar. I’m no match for homeless voodoo.
He looks at me with profound disappointment as if I’ve wronged him greatly and he a gentleman will not resort to pointing out my rather vast shortcomings in public. He shakes his head and amazingly I feel guilty. Maybe he’s right. Perhaps I should be spending more time in Atlanta, start a homeless shelter for disenfranchised inner city youth, hey! How the hell did he do that? Anyway back to the streets.
ATTABOT! G’FIDGET! SATBOMB!
There is a disheveled man screaming at a section of concrete that has clearly wronged him. In a garbled guttural roar he registers his dissatisfaction “Flocking flagabbut ADAAA NOCKLESTEIN! He points an accusing finger at the guilty concrete and continues “NOOOTABOTITALL!” and stomps the offending concrete. He then fixes his gaze solidly on me, raises his finger like an accusatory 18th century judge and he yells “BILLIFY JAPALONAPAPACON!” He clears his throat “Harrumph.” He continued, “Ah excuse me, are you the white kid with money?” I made that last part up. He never saw me or anyone else for that matter.
A couple of blocks later I see a man sitting on the sidewalk. He’s dressed like a 70’s rock star and apparently no one ever told him that dudes in head scarves that aren’t Santana look weird. Should I be the first? His rigid posture is simultaneously relaxed, like an outdoor, orange bell bottomed, yoga instructor. His gaze falls upon me he seems to have been anticipating my arrival.
With great gravitas, like a philosopher patiently elucidating the meaning of life he seems about to impart sage wisdom. “Are you looking to find the crossroads, my young friend?” Huh? I think. What does that mean? Is this a soul selling situation? I’ve never thought about it before but if I was going to sell my soul it wouldn’t be to a Keith Richards look alike doing yoga on the sidewalk. I look into the depths of my mind for a suitable response and eloquently state “No.” He loses interest in me and goes back to looking weird in a head scarf. Oops I forgot to tell him no one but Santana can do that.
A couple blocks after the male prostitute in a sheer half shirt with a very wet cough starts following me, I realize I’m out of change. But I still have one $1 bill, a small victory of sorts. I can see the sign for Gladys Knight’s Chicken & Waffles just up ahead. I cross the street, I’m almost there. The recessed doorway looms just beyond the yellowed menu withering in the window. I turn to enter the doorway and stop short, there’s someone standing there. “Do you have any money you can spare?” He says. There goes that dollar.
Gladys Knight’s Chicken & Waffles.
I step inside a time warp. It’s almost decrepitly old inside Gladys Knight’s. Dark, like an old steak house or supper club, wood walls, and black ceilings with track lighting cast an eerie Trumpian orange glow on the brown diner booths. A friendly if slightly indifferent hostess seats me in a dark booth. That’s where I wait until a slightly friendly if indifferent server, takes my order for an iced tea and a Midnight Train. Billed on the menu as four southern fried chicken wings and one original waffle, the Midnight Train to Georgia is exactly what I’m looking for. Y’know, fried chicken and waffles.
Soon the aforementioned chicken and waffle plate is brusquely placed in front of me and I’m promptly forgotten about. The chicken looks artfully done, the waffle appears textbook served with plain whipped butter and caramel colored corn syrup, it’s time to get busy.
I start with the chicken. Golden brown, it’s exotic, crispy, juicy, salty, marinated chicken. Fast food wishes it could do chicken as good as this. The waffle is huge, but a fairly standard affair, similar to an institutional IHOP waffle with a standard whipped butter, lacking the fruit or jalapeno kick that sometimes accompany waffles in the south.
Would I go back? Look, although I appreciate the irony of paying that much for chicken and waffles in a restaurant with a homeless dude pan handling out front. Probably not, they only get away with charging that much because there’s a famous name on the sign. Although Gladys Knight’s chicken was pretty freakin’ good, $20 bucks for lunch, is kind of hefty.
I took a different route back to the hotel.
Coming soon: we continue to tour Ted Turner’s whim when we find Twin Smoker’s BBQ, it would be morally bankrupt to leave the ATL without checking out the Q. Until then, live & let dine- the Pot & Pan Handler.
Editor’s note: Pot & Pan Handler are escaped restaurant veterans and professional butchers of the English Language. No Ted Turners were harmed in the making of this post.