Atlanta-based rapper Chris “Ludacris” Bridges opened his new restaurant Chicken+Beer, named for his 2003 album, in Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport’s Concourse D, Gate 5 on Monday.
“The reason I named my album that, a long time ago, is because my diet pretty much consisted of chicken and beer like every damn day,” Bridges said. Acting roles—like the one in April’s Fast & Furious 8—mean that Bridges’s diet today consists of a lot more grilled than fried chicken. But he still enjoys a beer every now and again, so it was important to him that Chicken+Beer’s drink menu feature local breweries such as Second Self, Terrapin, Sweetwater, and Creature Comforts.
The location was chosen in part because of Bridges’s friendship with Daniel Halpern, CEO and co-founder of Jackmont Hospitality Inc. (The company, which is a partner in Chicken+Beer, also operates the airport’s One Flew South.) Also, “it was bidding time for the airport and, in my opinion, that’s the epitome of success, Bridges said. “When you’ve been in Atlanta and you have a name for yourself and you have a lot of integrity and you’re a good businessman . . . I hoped we would win the bid.”
He did, but the restaurant took about three years to open due to a mix of airport construction politics and his own perfectionism.
“I’m a Virgo, so sometimes I’m a little too hard on myself,” Bridges said, “but we were trying to perfect everything.” He was involved in everything from the “bright, warm” decor to the heavily taste-tested menu. While he “dibbles and dabbles” in cooking at home, he left Chicken+Beer’s recipe development—the boiled peanut hummus, the stout-braised beef cheeks, the buttermilk chocolate cake—to chef Andrew Tabb. It should be noted, though, that the idea to add whiskey to the syrup for Luda’s Chicken + Pecan Waffles was, in fact, all Luda.
As for Straits, his now-shuttered Singaporean restaurant in Midtown? That was always a real estate play, Bridges says. “I was happy that I had the restaurant for four to five years—those were some of the best years of my life—but I love just being a landlord.”
“This is my home,” Bridges says of Atlanta. “The Southern hospitality, the food, the women, the weather, the fact that it’s like the Motown of the south and there’s a lot of creative individuals that live here . . . it’s always been great, but it’s evolving very fast right now.”
Fans of Bridges’s music will be happy to hear that in addition to launching the restaurant, Bridges has been toiling away in the studio. “I don’t have a date set,” he says, “but hopefully next year people will get some new music from me.”