In 1986, Bill Greenwood didn’t want you to eat his fried chicken.
His Roswell restaurant, Greenwood’s on Green Street, had only been open a few months, and Greenwood, a classically
trained chef from Maryland, was working the line by himself. At the time, he served a run-of-the-mill white-meat fried chicken, and as the lone man spinning plates in the kitchen, the 30-minute cooking time routinely put him in the weeds and frustrated the more impatient customers.
Despite his desire to get out of the fried chicken game, members of his staff vehemently opposed pulling it off the menu. So he hatched plans to make a fried chicken his customers would never order.
First? Double the portions to a half bird. Then remove the skin entirely before frying and coat the breading in hot pepper vinegar and honey. Finally, charge customers a then-staggering $4.25 a serving. Once customers rejected his
bizarre chicken, the problem would take care of itself.
But after his customers got their first taste of his unique chicken, they were hooked. The thick batter comes off in chunks — perfect for midmeal snacking — and the juxtaposing sweetness of the honey against the coarse black pepper and vinegar makes for a fried chicken ($14.95) that bucks tradition and can’t be found anywhere else in town. Greenwood had an accidental hit on his hands, and it hasn’t changed or left the menu for 26 years.
Since then, Greenwood’s grew into a staple for Southern-inspired comfort food for the residents of Roswell and the rest of metro Atlanta. Over the years, the converted bungalow expanded, adding a transplanted log cabin preserved from the 1790s and installed intact in the dining room, where you will still see Greenwood making the rounds. Outside, you enter through a funky garden courtyard, lush and borderline unkempt; it evokes the slightly wild yard your old hippie neighbor won’t keep in check, complete with a peace sign greeting you on the curb.
While the fried chicken gets the most attention, ask longtime patrons which dish keeps bringing them back, and you’ll find that Greenwood isn’t a one-trick pony in the kitchen.
Perhaps it is the hearty brown gravy or the heap of grilled onions that makes the thick slab of grilled meatloaf ($15.95) another veteran of 20-plus years on the menu, but Greenwood attributes its success to the fact that it is actually made in the style of a denser, meatier country pate. And I can’t remember a more belly-warming bowl of chicken pot pie ($13.95), honed over the years to just the right amount of seasoning — not too bland and not too salty. Buttery boneless pork chops drenched in sage butter ($15.95) are a frequent object of order envy.
Though Greenwood’s only has nine staple entrees, you can expect as many specials scrawled on the marker board as you enter. This is where you will find most of the fish, as Greenwood vigilantly holds to sourcing his seafood like catfish and North Georgia rainbow trout when they are at their freshest, so they come and go frequently. But if anything on the board comes topped with the lemon chive butter, rest easy that you’ll probably enjoy it.
Fried green tomatoes ($6.95), thick sliced and breaded with a crunchy panko crust and tomato basil sauce, are
another fixture on the board and a great way to start a meal. That is, assuming you manage to restrain yourself from wolfing down the complimentary corn bread muffins as soon as you sit down. You may occasionally spot servers from Greenwood’s barbecue restaurant, Swallow at the Hollow, snagging a few baskets of the sweet muffins to bring back across the street to sweet-talking regulars there.
Every entree comes with your choice of two sides — often the show-stealers of a meal — and Greenwood doesn’t mess much with tradition here. The rich and cheesy broccoli casserole, really more casserole than broccoli, won’t leave you dieters feeling guiltless, but you won’t care. You can’t go wrong with a choice of the four veggie plate ($8.75) for your meal, and if you must have a leafy green, make sure to include an order of collard greens to balance the mashed sweet potatoes and brown rice and gravy.
Though you probably won’t, try to save room for a slice of one of the enormous homemade pies ($20 whole/$5.95 slice). An easy six inches from pan to peak, each slice is a whopping quarter of a pie, and usually plenty to share amongst the table.
If you want a taste of a Southern classic, you’ll likely leave Greenwood’s happy. If for nothing else, you definitely won’t leave hungry.
Greenwood’s on Green Street — Roswell Food: Southern-inspired classics Service: Sweet, Southern charm Best dishes: Fried chicken, pork chop, meatloaf and pie Vegetarian selections: a dozen veggie sides Price range: $-$$ Credit cards: Visa, Mastercard, Discover Hours: 11:30 a.m.-9 p.m. Wednesdays-Thursdays, 11:30 a.m.-10 p.m. Fridays-Saturdays, 11:30 a.m.-9 p.m. Sundays, closed Mondays and Tuesdays Children: welcome Parking: pretty tight Reservations: for parties of 10 or more Wheelchair access: yes Smoking: no Noise level: moderate Patio: three outdoor seating areas Takeout: yes