A 2013 James Beard Awards semifinalist for Best Chef Southeast, Todd Richards has a long fine dining resume, including stints at the Atlanta Four Seasons Hotel and Ritz-Carlton Buckhead.
More recently, Richards was chef/partner at the Shed in Glenwood Park and the Pig & the Pearl at Atlantic Station, before taking over as executive chef at White Oak Kitchen in downtown Atlanta.
Now comes Richards’ Southern Fried, a quick-service fried chicken restaurant at Krog Street Market. It’s the first project from Southern Food Traditions LLC — “a company dedicated to the creation of concepts and products that represent the cultural milieu of the South.”
The fried chicken is offered in several combos, with a choice of sides and three heat levels, classic, spicy and Richards’ hot. There’s also a hot chicken sandwich served on a soft potato roll with pimento cheese and chow chow.
Last week, Richards, who lives in nearby Old Fourth Ward, was still settling in at Southern Fried — which is surprisingly glitzy for a food stall, with a retro diner look that features glowing signage and rows of light bulbs that resemble a theater marquee.
Asked about his journey from fine dining to fried chicken, Richards smiled for a second, then explained the method to the madness.
“I still take a fine dining approach,” he said. “I mean, who’s crazy enough to open a chicken stand in 400 square feet and still brine your chicken for 28 hours? That is a fine dining chef’s mentality.
“I enjoy the casualness of the environment, but the preparation is still the same. We’re making everything here. We’re making cornbread and chow chow and all the sides, pretty much the same way we’d do at White Oak.”
As far as the blend of spices or other specifics of his fried chicken recipe, Richards has some secrets, along with some philosophy.
“Our chicken is really for the community,” he said. “I really say that wholeheartedly, because we found what was best in everyone’s community of fried chicken recipes. You look at the South and buttermilk and cider vinegar. You look at the Spanish influence with chile peppers. You look at the Latino influence with cumin.
“We took all these things and made it into our brand. We wanted something that defined the South in a modern way. When you get to the Richards’ hot, you find all these interesting flavors. We wanted people to be able to identify their own heritage in each bite of chicken.”
Another aspect of Richards’ Southern Fried that reflects its Southern heritage is the menu of daily specials. It ranges from red beans and rice on Mondays and Tuesdays and hot chicken mac-and-cheese on Wednesdays and Thursdays to a hot catfish sandwich on Fridays and chicken and waffles on Saturdays and Sundays.
“The red beans and rice are my dad’s, and we’re already selling plenty of them,” Richards said. “Chicken mac-and-cheese is topped with chopped hot chicken thighs, so it’s really a whole meal in one dish. The Friday hot catfish sandwich just speaks to fried chicken culture. And I don’t think you can have a chicken place without chicken and waffles.”
99 Krog St., Atlanta. 678-732-9594.
Here are more images from a First Look at Richards’ Southern Fried.