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King + Duke restaurant review, plus 3 more things you should know

Candied lamb belly (credit: Becky Stein)

Candied lamb belly (credit: Becky Stein)

In tomorrow’s AJC, you’ll find my review of King + Duke, the latest restaurant in Ford Fry’s growing empire. I assigned it 3 stars, but there’s still room for improvement.

The restaurant, built around a 24-foot fire-fueled open hearth, makes quite a show of its cooking techniques. The open-hearth cooking imparts deep wood flavors into the majority of the dishes, many with savory success. But here’s the catch: As much as this cooking style distinguishes King + Duke from most other Atlanta eateries, it also can limit both creativity and execution.

Fry was at the top of his game when he opened the Optimist. The restaurant received an initial fanfare of praise and continues to improve. With each success Fry raises the bar for himself, making it a risky proposition to follow that success with yet another new concept.

When you go, try the dish that best expresses the cooking style — the candied lamb belly ($11). It’s a create-your-own-flatbread dish with feta, marinated cucumber and grilled triangles of housemade curry naan. Load them up with the slick orange-pepper cured lamb brushed with a sherry gastrique. Sweet, smoky and tender.

I expected dessert to be best in show with pastry chef Chrysta Poulos (formerly of Woodfire Grill and 4th & Swift) at the piping bag. Yet, I long for the more composed Poulos-style desserts from the days of yore. Many are overwrought with multiple components.

You can read the full review on

3 more things you should know:

Often there are tidbits that we would like to include in a review and can’t for lack of space. Here are three extras for those of you on the Food & More blog.

1. Chicken = Cat

If you’re considering the shareable whole roasted chicken, your server may tell you (as did ours) that to gauge the size of a three-pound chicken, you should imagine a medium-size cat. That’s the mental image you want to conjure when salivating over the menu, right?

2. Service is slow when Fry’s in house

One of my three-course dinners at King + Duke took almost three hours. Why? Fry was hosting a dinner in the private room off the main dining room. From our table we could see no less than four waiters standing outside the door at the ready at all times. Our waiter confessed his long absences were spent serving the party.

3. Baked goods made over an open hearth come charred, too

Some of the items, like the pre-meal popovers are made in the smoke boxes above the open hearth. These items were consistently overcooked with an exterior char that overtook the intended flavors. The cornbread, which was extremely unusual and tasted like corn tortillas, also bore the same blackening.

–by Jenny Turknett, Food and More blog

11 comments Add your comment


August 1st, 2013
4:15 pm

doesn’t sound very appealing at all.


August 1st, 2013
6:00 pm

Don’t believe this place will receive any stars.


August 2nd, 2013
5:57 am

I guess you have to subscribe to the AJC to hear much that is positive. I think only the third paragraph is positive. The rest is either straight up negative or is slightly positive but ends negatively.

If I am this restaurant, I am not happy that the non-subscriber version of the review is horrible.


August 2nd, 2013
5:58 am

Sorry, 4th paragraph is positive.


August 2nd, 2013
8:18 am

Number 2 of ‘3 more things’ is unbelievable, and unforgiveable.


August 2nd, 2013
10:28 am

I have been several times for a number of reasons.
I like Fry’s restaurants – a lot.
I love the space. The patio bar is great. The location is terrific. The decor is stylish, etc.
Normally if I am unimpressed with food and/or service I just don’t go back to a place – since ATL has so many options. So, admittedly, having multiple negative experiences, probably reflects as much on me as it does the restaurant. Who keeps going back to a place and complaining every time? Apparently I do. But I don’t complain to the server or manager or my dinner mates. I come here and ramble instead.

The food is just okay. Don’t expect the flavor and clever charm of Optimist. Diners say “have the wings – they’re great.” But really, wings? Is that what you’re hanging your hat on? At the corner of P’tree and W. Paces?

My real issue with this place is the service – and again – I never complain while I am at a restaurant. It is awkward and rude to your guests. I do it here anonymously (yes, even cowardly if you insist).
Of course, this is not scientific. It’s totally anecdotal since I’ve been about a half dozen times.
The first time one of my dinner mates had a bug in his drink, politely (almost apologetically) sent it back – only to have the exact same drink (with the same bug) brought back to him.
Another time I was with a group of eight and the server seemed annoyed with us and was completely unfriendly. You can read about that on the Yelp review by my friend. She uses the moniker “M’Ninja.”
Her review may shed some light on why the servers seem so miserable – the clientele, at least for now while it’s still new-ish, are a horrible bunch of reality show train wreck looking weirdos. They are all over the bar area, just standing around, probably not spending much money and smelling like the mall and hormone injections.
I’ll go back toward the end of the year when things have hopefully cooled down and the menu works out the kinks.

Dumpy The Dwarf

August 2nd, 2013
5:48 pm

Shut up Grandview.


August 3rd, 2013
11:11 am

It sounds like this is yet another place where the “must be seen here” status takes precedence over the food/service. I’ll pass.


August 5th, 2013
4:52 pm

Thanks for the balanced review Grandview. Quite honestly, that was the most evenhanded blog comment that I have ever read on the AJC.

DTD, either contribute something of substance or leave the grown-ups alone to talk.

I recently browsed K+D’s menu online and thought it looked fantastic. Thanks to John Kessler and Grandview I think I will give this place a bit longer to settle in before handing over a bill for dinner.


August 5th, 2013
9:18 pm

Went there on a Sunday evening. Found nothing to complain about. The popovers were perfect.
Staff gracious and with spot on service despite eating at the bar. It may well be that when they are busy they can’t handle the load. However, when a bit slower, they shine. The bar service is very good and apparently not tried on Ms. Turknett’s visit. I might add that this is not a place to go to for fusion type cuisine.

Joe's Right

August 7th, 2013
9:30 am

Chicken = Cat. Waitaminute, I didn’t know King and Duke was on Buford Highway.