Ford Fry debuts his latest restaurant, the chicken al carbon-slinging Little Rey, Monday, May 27 (Memorial Day) in Piedmont Heights. And after a nearly $2 million renovation, Little Rey leaves no trace of the building’s previous occupant, the gritty Anchor Bar and Tattoo Studio at the corner of Piedmont and Cheshire Bridge roads.
Atlanta design firm Smith Hanes transformed the former bank and its Parthenon-style front facade into an easy, breezy restaurant where breakfast tacos can be ordered by the dozen and whole, wood- and charcoal-roasted yardbirds with a side of corn tortillas await pick-up for dinner.
This is Fry’s most casual restaurant to date. A place, he says, one can stroll in wearing cut-off shorts and a tank top for chicken al carbon and a beer or grab a slew of tacos to-go before heading poolside.
“I love going to Austin where you can get tacos all the time and breakfast tacos all day,” the Texas-native explains. “I wanted to throw all of that into Little Rey with an outdoor patio, humor in the art on the walls, neon — just not taking it all so seriously.”
A jumble of live plants hanging above two communal tables punctuates the room with mustard-colored stools anchored to the floor. Turquoise and black metal chairs surrounding minimal blonde and white wood tabletops and an L-shaped banquette stick to Fry’s vision to keep the space easygoing and simple.
Orders are placed at the register and then called out old-school via a microphone for pick up at the front counter. Local and Mexican beers are found in a reach-in cooler near the front door, located off the back parking lot. Once done ordering, it’s simply seat-yourself-service.
Extra drinks like agua frescas and fresh or frozen margaritas on tap as well as soft serve ice cream can be ordered from a window at a satellite bar. A separate window opens to the outside to place and pick up food to-go.
Little Rey seats around 90 to 100 people between its dining room and front patio facing busy Piedmont Road. Fry says he was “excited to transform” what had become an “eyesore” property into something the neighborhood and passersby could enjoy.
The easygoing theme flowing throughout Little Rey continues on the menu with its signature dish: chicken al carbon. Fry, who named the restaurant for the Mexican border city of Reynosa south of McAllen, Texas, speaks of the simplicity and fresh flavors of the spatchcock chickens roasting over coals in-between cinderblocks set up throughout the town.
Chickens at Little Rey are cooked prior to opening each day and kept warm and moist in a steam-injected warming oven. Each bird takes about an hour and half to cook over the coals mixed with mesquite and hickory woods.
Chicken al carbon comes by the quarter, half, or whole bird with a choice of corn or flour tortillas or as tacos wrapped in flour tortillas.
The menu includes four oversized street tacos cradled in fresh corn tortillas stuffed with meats, then dressed simply with chopped onions and cilantro, and breakfast tacos filled with migas, twice-fried, beans, and cheese.
A station beside the front counter holds mild to spicy sauces for the tacos.
Fry says Little Rey is a “twist” off of his popular in-town Tex-Mex restaurant Superica. The menu takes a slightly more health-conscious approach to food than the “straight-up, gutbuster” dishes found on the menu at Superica.
Little Rey includes a selection of salads and sides like cilantro rice and fingerling sweet potatoes but, still provides craveable snacks such as chile con queso, chips and salsa, and smoked wings.
1878 Piedmont Avenue NE Atlanta.