Kids and restaurants: It’s a contentious topic.
I confess that I myself moved from the “I’m not paying for a nice meal to listen to your heathens” perspective to the “I just want a nice meal, too” camp when I had my own children. Funny how that happens.
Bantam & Biddy’s chef-owner Shaun Doty, father of two, identified a need in Atlanta for a place to get a good family meal for under $50. Driving back and forth to work at Yeah Burger by way of Ansley, Doty realized that there was little in between McDonald’s and Empire State South in our dining landscape.
Inspired by the mom-and-pop Belgian bistros he grew to love while training in Europe, Doty set out to create such a place, a Southern bistro of sorts, with a menu, atmosphere and price point accessible to multiple generations, tastes and needs.
At Bantam & Biddy, Doty has succeeded, crafting what he calls “a steppingstone” between fast food and fine dining. The restaurant, located in Ansley Mall, sports a casual but comfy decor, appropriate for the couples and families scattered about or the businessmen anchored at the bar with a view of the open kitchen.
Doty calls Bantam & Biddy a work in progress, recently altering the 2-month-old fast-casual concept to include table service. The menu continues to evolve as he and brother-in-law Lance Gummere merge their styles, his more simple and Gummere’s baroque. The result is a homey pop-and-bro bistro with a little something for everyone.
Both chefs bring signature dishes from their former posts. From Shaun’s, Doty brings duck-fat fries ($3.25), which have deep, rich flavor and pair well with creamy cheese curds and heady chicken gravy in the poutine ($6). The crispy panko-crusted Niman Ranch pork schnitzel ($14), which needs seasoning, also traces its roots back to Shaun’s.
And then there are the deceptively heavy-looking doughnut holes ($5), reminiscent of the ricotta zeppoles at Shaun’s. Don’t be deceived. These browned fritters, made with Izzy’s Local Cheese curds, bloom into light, barely sweetened puffs that go oh, so well with the chocolaty smooth cappuccino sauce.
Gummere brings his chicken pot pie ($12), a dish that Doty says incites more vitriol than any other. Pot pie is one of those love-it-or-hate-it dishes. I happen to love Gummere’s take, a brothy, chicken-soup-esque dish topped with Bantam & Biddy’s signature crispy cheddar biscuits. The biscuits could use a flavor boost, but the thick pot pie full of chicken and chunky vegetables brings me right back to Sundays at my Granny’s house. The flavor and texture are dead ringers for the chicken and dumplings of my youth.
The pot pie became a menu staple as an alternate use for the abundance of chicken at the restaurant. Initially, Bantam & Biddy’s focus was on rotisserie chicken ($10 for 1/4 chicken, $14 for 1/2). Now, with a large menu, the restaurant sells a variety of entrees, becoming more the Southern bistro/meat-and-two-style joint that Doty hoped to emulate.
Yet, the moist Poulet Rouge chicken still takes prime spot at the top of the menu and is featured on the takeout family meal service Bantam & Biddy offers. Call ahead to order the meal ($42, serves three to five), which comes with a whole rotisserie chicken (or rotisserie pork or meatloaf), a salad, Alon’s jalapeño-cheddar bread, three “family-sized” sides and a half gallon of iced tea.
The meal makes the perfect healthy option for those lazy nights when no one feels like cooking. Yet, I question the portion size of sides in half-full 8-ounce containers.
Though a little skimpy to serve three to five people, they were the best part of the meal.
Sides include powerfully pickled beets tempered with goat cheese, garlicky sprigs of al dente Broccolini, roasted Brussels sprouts in a thick chickeny broth and cream-cooked speckled Anson Mills grits. The vegetable plate ($12 for four) is the way to go here.
Beyond chicken, there are Southern specialties like meatloaf ($12) made with White Oak Pastures grass-fed beef, thickened with potato flakes and given a little flavor from a sorghum and bourbon laced teriyaki sauce (“Kentuckyaki”). And it won’t just be your kids who dig the buttermilk-soaked fried chicken tenders ($12 adult), which have a thick crust and well-salted coating. In true diner style, many of the entrees come as sandwiches, on top of salads or for breakfast with a fried egg on top.
There are few places I can go to feed my family of four where a chef considers the sourcing, makes everything from scratch, offers healthy options — and all for less than $50. Throw in a cocktail or a Dogfish Head Tweason’ale ($5) and a casual vibe where the kiddos are welcome and happy, and you’ve met a need. Make it a place that would have appealed to me in my childless days as well, and you’ve scored twice.
Doty calls Bantam & Biddy “a labor of love” where “the paint’s still wet.” There’s a little tweaking to be done, but he’s on to something good.BANTAM & BIDDY