First Look: Bantam & Biddy (1)
Chef Shaun Doty raises the bar for fast-casual, farm-to-table dining in AtlantaWednesday November 28, 2012 04:00 am EST
Editor's note: Shortly after CL went to press with this story, Bantam & Biddy announced its shift from counter-service to table-service.
As Atlanta settles into an age of chef-driven, fast-casual concepts, former fine-dining chef Shaun Doty remains at the trend's forefront with his latest restaurant Bantam & Biddy. Enlisting the help of chef Lance Gummere (most recently of the Shed at Glenwood), Bantam & Biddy is a meat-and-three/chicken rotisserie hybrid featuring all-natural, pastured poultry and seasonal organic vegetables — regionally sourced whenever possible, of course. Most eco-speak can be used to describe the month-old Ansley Mall eatery: sustainable, local, organic, farm-to-table, free-range, and heirloom variety all apply. Nearly 20 items on the expansive menu of rotisserie options, starters, entrées, sides, salads, sandwiches, and desserts, are even gluten-free. But don't let the buzzwords fool you, Bantam & Biddy is a restaurant on a commendable mission, spotlighting Doty's commitment to mindful sourcing and healthy eating. Unfortunately, this type of progress, while generally tasty, isn't always cheap. Bantam & Biddy offers an accessible, counter-service concept with all the benefits of a chef-driven, farm-to-table restaurant.
Inside the 50-seat restaurant, white farmhouse panels, avocado green accent walls, and pumpkin-colored banquettes lend the space a fresh, harvest feel, while the floor's busy black and white diagonal stripes evoke the hustle and bustle of an urban shopping center. Pick up a menu stowed near the door on your way past the dessert case to the cashier. Once you order and pay, grab your table marker, and find a seat.
After a quick glance at the starters, the poutine ($6) seemed like a fine place to start. Crisp fries cooked in duck fat, sprinkled with melty cheese curds, and doused in a light chicken gravy were soggy and crunchy in all the right places. A plate of three deviled eggs ($4), infused with grainy mustard, were a shade on the salty side, but tasty just the same.
Choices from Bantam & Biddy's featured rotisserie include a quarter ($10) or half ($14) chicken and a six-ounce pork loin ($10), served with your choice of two sides. While juicy and tender on the inside, the chicken's skin was disappointingly chewy and beige rather than crisp and caramel colored. Thick slices of pork loin, perhaps left unattended too long on the spit, were remarkably dry.
As for the sides ($3.25 each), the sautéed broccolini is cooked perfectly. With a firm snap and punch of garlic, it exemplifies what may very well be Bantam & Biddy's strongest draw: quality ingredients simply showcased in their best light.
Despite hints of great promise, the aged cheddar mac and cheese is in need of some attention. On my first visit, I was pleased to find sharp and creamy cheddar cheese coating al dente elbow macaroni. On my second and third visits, however, the side dish was more oily and bland. Loaded mashed potatoes are of the super smooth, institutional variety. One dangerously dry version came speckled with chives. Another, topped with shredded cheddar cheese, was chive-less, but equally drab.
A selection of sandwiches — all but two made with chicken — are $10 each and include the choice of one side. The fried chicken sandwich is served on soft French bread with lettuce, tomato, and mayonnaise. (Though listed on the menu, pickles were absent from my sandwich.) The fried chicken is breaded using a gluten-free flour. The resulting tenders are light, crispy, and relatively grease-free. Piled high, the contents of the sandwich burst out of the bun. Although a bit tricky to maneuver from hand to mouth, the reward is fresh and airy, and far more nourishing than your average deep fried gut bomb.
On the sweet side, several tart-like mini pies are sourced from Alon's Bakery — the puckery lemon meringue is exemplary. But if the homemade Banoffee pie ($4) is an indicator of what's to come on Bantam & Biddy's homemade pastry front, the outlook is promising. Sticky toffee filling over a slice of banana and buttery crust nailed the rich, sweet, and salty trifecta. A second helping, destined for a late-night encore, almost immediately found its way into a to-go box on our table.
A few draught beers and homemade cocktails are a welcome addition given the restaurant's casual, counter-service atmosphere — especially the $5 glass of red sangria. Laced with a throat-prickling red pepper simple syrup, the drink's heat fades into a splash of black walnut and rhubarb bitters, all over crushed ice.
About a month in, and even with a few kinks, Bantam & Biddy is a promising and progressive addition Atlanta's food scene. With a manageable price point and casual atmosphere, Bantam & Biddy creates access to a style of eating usually reserved for high-end, full-service restaurants. With strong culinary backgrounds at work in the kitchen, quality control and consistency issues should improve over time. It will be interesting to see if Atlantans, who have come to embrace the farm-to-table philosophy through the city's farmers markets and full-service restaurants, will also embrace a counter-service style restaurant of the same persuasion.