Food & DrinkGrub Notes

Brick-and-Mortar Pop-Up Combo and More Food News

Wing Kingh

WING KINGH (810 Hawthorne Ave., 706-850-1360): When I got a tip that Southern Culture Fish and Grits was lending out its kitchen as a sort of pop-up for weekday lunch from a man known as the Wing Kingh, it occurred to me that that was a very smart business model. Historically, brick-and-mortar restaurants have viewed food trucks and other comparable small, nimble businesses without a building to maintain as competition and attempted to lobby against new laws that would make it easier for the little guy to succeed. But what if they instead pooled their resources to work together for the betterment of one another? If Southern Culture Fish and Grits wasn’t doing particularly well at lunch but still had a whole kitchen (equipped with a deep fryer well suited to making wings, as evidenced by the previous tenant of the building, J.R. Crickets) and dining room sitting there, why not let someone else use the space? I approve heartily. 

Sherman Gartrell, who owns Wing Kingh, also does custom printing, graphic design and tax prep, as you’ll see on his website. Despite a 15-year break, his wing-frying and -saucing skills don’t appear to have been affected. KINGH isn’t just SEO-based, but an acronym for “Keep It iN God’s Hands.” Wing Kingh does not have a complicated menu: wings, chicken tenders, hot dogs and sausage dogs, fried fish and slices of cake. I approve of that, too. The wings are good. They’re pretty meaty. They’re well fried. If you want a lot of sauce, the kitchen will do that, but the default is a drier wing that shows off all its crisp nooks and crannies. The list of sauces isn’t huge either, but it has the classics, including “plain,” which should always be an option. The hot is pretty hot. Looking for something special? “Wet ranch lemon pepper” might sound like too much going on, but it’s delicious, full of tang and has an overall effect that resembles the lip-numbing qualities of Szechuan pepper. The chicken tenders can be sauced, but that makes them pretty goopy and unremarkable. The fries really aren’t anything special at all—surprising for a kitchen that generally seems to know its way around a fryer. On the other hand, the hot dogs and sausage dogs, which both come deep fried because why not, are a tasty mess, topped with ketchup, mustard, relish, onions and slaw. I’d advise you to go for all of it and make use of the wad of napkins that come with it. Second best, right behind the wings, is the fried fish, available as a sandwich, with fries or as a “dinner” (two pieces of fish, bread and your choice of fries, coleslaw, onion rings or fried okra as a side). Select from flounder, tilapia, whiting or catfish, the latter at a slight upcharge. Then await some hot, beautiful pieces of fish, not over-breaded, neither over- nor underseasoned, with a crisp cornmeal-crusted exterior and a soft but not mushy interior. Cake, delivered by a local baker, comes in fat slices and brilliant colors. Wing Kingh is open at Southern Culture weekdays from 11 a.m.–2 p.m. and has a food truck that can be booked for events.

BITTY & BEAU’S COFFEE (1540 S Lumpkin St., 678-361-8184): Opened last fall, around the beginning of football season, this coffee shop employs people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, which is what sets it apart from the thousand other coffee shops in town. The Athens location is in the new/renovated development that also houses ZZ & Simone’s, across from Grindhouse Killer Burgers. Although there is visitor parking in the back, you can only turn right out of the parking lot, making the whole development better suited for pedestrians, cyclists and mass-transit riders than for car drivers (not a complaint, just some information). The space is cheery and pleasant, with lots of outlets to charge your devices. The coffee is roasted elsewhere—the franchise comes from Wilmington, NC—but it’s totally fine, available by the bag of beans as well as brewed. There is the usual range of lattes and suchlike, as well as muffins and prepackaged gluten-free cookies from WOW Baking Company. The folks behind the counter are unfailingly warm and helpful, handing you a laminated playing card to retrieve your order rather than misspelling your name on the cup a la Starbucks. Bitty & Beau’s is open slightly shorter hours than many other coffee shops, from 7 a.m.–5 p.m. daily.