The Truth About Ludacris' Chicken + Beer Restaurant

Hanging out in the busiest airport in the world (via Simple Flying) does not sound like anyone's idea of fun. But if you happen to be on an extended layover at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, then actor/hip-hop legend Ludacris hopes you'll find his little oasis of good food and good times in concourse D.

Chicken + Beer opened in 2016, after a long wait (via Eater Atlanta). Ludacris, using all caps, was excited to announce the new restaurant on Twitter all the way back in 2012: "WE'RE TALKING ABOUT THE BUSIEST AIRPORT ON THE PLANET!! THIS IS HISTORY!!" It took almost five years for history to finally be made with the opening of Luda's Southern-comfort restaurant, but there weren't necessarily any delays. In January 2012, the city of Atlanta approved a plan to bring 150 new eateries to the sprawling airport over the next 10 years, as Eater Atlanta said at the time.

With Ludacris' name attached, the Chicken + Beer announcement attracted a lot of attention. The restaurant is named after the rapper's double-platinum album from 2003 (via RIAA). In addition to selling more than 15 million albums in his long career, Chris "Ludacris" Bridges is also known as a movie and TV actor, most notably for his recurring role as Tej in the Fast and Furious movie franchise.

Chicken + Beer's menu is much more than chicken and beer

Ludacris wasn't new to the restaurant game when he opened Chicken + Beer. He and chef Chris Yeo had success with the Singaporean restaurant Straits Atlanta over its five-year existence (via Black Enterprise). He only closed it to focus on Chicken + Beer. "Straits was a great segue into the industry, and with Chicken + Beer I can create my own concept. I look forward to expanding my creativity and driving to a much higher plane," Ludacris said in 2012 (via What Now Atlanta).

While the name of Ludacris' very own restaurant gives a nod to one of his biggest albums, it doesn't come close to describing the menu. Sure, the Chicken + Beer menu features Luda's chicken and waffles, and a $13.99 fried chicken sandwich that's sure to blow anything from Chick-fil-A or Popeyes out of the water. But you'll also find catfish, collard greens, and salmon croquette sliders. And when we say catfish, we don't mean simply throwing a bottom feeder with whiskers into a deep fryer. The dish is prepared with corn edamame succotash and parsnip purée. The beer menu relies heavily on local craft brewers you may not have heard of, including Atlanta's Monday Night Brewing and Creature Comforts from Athens, Georgia.

Chicken + Beer benefits from the talents of two acclaimed chefs

Chicken + Beer most definitely rises above typical airport fare, which generally earns its reputation for being low-quality (via View from the Wing). But Ludacris' restaurant has far surpassed that low bar. In 2019, Atlanta magazine named Chicken + Beer one of the 75 best restaurants in the city. The chicken wings, in particular, are as good as any in Atlanta, which the magazine called the world's wing capital.

To be honest, the credit for all this goodness doesn't immediately go to Ludacris. "I absolutely love food and have always appreciated the art of cooking, but I can't lie — I have no idea what I'm doing in the kitchen," he told ET. All the accolades belong to the two chefs Ludacris and his partner Jackmont Hospitality brought to Chicken + Beer: culinary director Todd Richards and chef de cuisine Gary Caldwell. 

Richards competed on Iron Chef: America, got two James Beard nominations, and wrote a well-received cookbook and memoir titled Soul (via The Washington Post). Caldwell posted on Black Chef's Network that he has worked with Emeril Lagasse and Mario Batali. Shortly after taking over Chicken + Beer's kitchen, Caldwell walked away from the Taste of Hartsfield-Jackson with two awards (via Facebook). And yes, the event was a celebration of airport food, but you have to figure some of the hundreds of dining options at Atlanta's airport are going to be good.

Chicken + Beer is a success story in the Black business community

Above all, Chicken + Beer is a success story among Black-owned businesses. Sure, a prominent Black hip-hop artist gave his name and his creativity to the brand. But the real work is being done by two acclaimed Black chefs and Jackmont Hospitality.

One reason Richards, the culinary director, and a partner opened a barbecue place outside Atlanta in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic was to show Black youths a rewarding career option (via The Washington Post). Jackmont Hospitality was founded by Maynard Jackson, Atlanta's first Black mayor (via National Park Service). As part of Jackmont's mission, it donates its time and some of its profits to support civil rights and youth education. The late Mayor Jackson had promoted the idea that black equality would come, in part, through business ownership.

For his part, Ludacris has been focused on improving those weak cooking skills. He appeared Feb. 25 in the TV special Luda Can't Cook. During the one-hour show, Ludacris will learn how to cook Indian food from an expert — accomplished chef Meherwan Irani. You'll find the show on the new discovery+ streaming platform, where you'll also find a number of other Food Network shows.