Hatching a Concept

Atomic Chicken’s ‘chef-driven fast food’ idea comes home to roost in Clawson
Photographs by Matthew Lavere

The odd little structure with the three-dimensional rooster perched on the roof has been a Clawson landmark since 1959. It was home to Faym-Us Chicken until it closed last year. That left the chicken forlornly perched on a great location: Main Street just north of 14 Mile Road.

The eye-catching ornament now tops Atomic Chicken, opened in late April by three food professionals who plan more than one outpost. They may not be able to find a fiberglass fowl for each prospective location, but look for their chef-driven concept to shake up the local quick-serve chicken market.

Chef Matthew Baldridge (pictured above), who devised the creative menu that elevates the humble chicken dish to a pretty lofty roost, and partners Greg Reyner, chef/proprietor of Café Muse, and Scott Moloney of the ice cream emporium Treat Dreams and the nearby Woodpile BBQ, got together almost accidentally.

Baldridge and Moloney had their eye on the Clawson space when they learned that Reyner was looking at a New Center location for a similar concept. They realized it made sense to combine forces, and Atomic Chicken was hatched.

Baldridge — formerly of Cliff Bell’s and whose Dinner Club venture has twice been Hour Detroit readers’ choice for “Best Pop-up Dining Experience” — found his grandmother’s drop biscuits and gravy, plus a couple of desserts: butterscotch and banana puddings. Grandma might not recognize the chicken treatments, however. Baldridge teams the fresh boneless, skinless thighs and breasts with such embellishments as ginger, garlic, and cilantro, or pickled onions and blue cheese — all eaten with biodegradable utensils and served in sandwiches or with waffles.

Mac and cheese is made with orecchiette pasta and a mix of Gorgonzola and white cheddar because Baldridge likes the way the “little ears” form pockets for the cheeses. Gorgonzola gives the dish what he calls “a bite.” Other sides have a southern twist, including black-eyed peas, sweet potatoes, and cinnamon apples.

While Atomic Chicken is basically a carryout spot, it certainly isn’t typical fast food. There are four tables on the patio in the rear with plans to add more.

A New Center spot at 6500 Woodward Ave. will be next. Baldridge says he is “writing the book” of systems and procedures to make sure the food is consistent at both places — and at the others the dynamic trio hope to add in the future.

331 N. Main St., Clawson; 248-268-3282. Open daily, from 11 a.m.-8 p.m. weekdays and Sun., 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Fri.-Sat.