At the end of last February, Jamal’s Buffalo Wings quietly closed after a 23-year run in a gas station parking lot at the corner of Northside Drive and Martin Luther King Jr. Drive, across from what is now Mercedes-Benz Stadium. The Atlanta mainstay was started by Marion Hargett in 1994. She named it after her son, Jamal Watkins, who at the time had recently graduated from college and was playing basketball abroad. Watkins, now 35 and an educator by day, took over the business from his mom in 2011 but says she is still a partner.
When I lived in Castleberry Hill, a stop by Jamal’s for lemon pepper and hot wings was a weekly ritual. The wings were crisp, sized just right, and well-seasoned without being overly salty, as some lemon pepper wings can be. For many Atlantans (myself included), as long as Jamal’s was open, it held the Atlanta wing crown. Thankfully, its closure proved temporary. Since Watkins decided to keep Jamal’s on Martin Luther King Jr. Drive, the restaurant was eligible for grants offered to nearby businesses relocated from the stadium construction. Jamal’s will stay be in the same neighborhood, but now it will be in a building with other businesses and will become a sit-down restaurant with table service. The menu will have an emphasis on their signature wings (with an expanded sauce menu) and other items such as french fries, fried fish, and buffalo shrimp. Watkins hired a Marriott chef to help him develop a breakfast menu and offer other new items such as garlic crab legs for special “seafood bar” nights.
Watkins hopes to open the new Jamal’s on August 26, just in time for the first Falcons preseason game at Mercedes-Benz. If you want to keep up with the progress of the restaurant, you can follow along on its Facebook page. 2001 Martin Luther King Jr. Drive, 404-221-0088