Omnivore - Most charming man alive found working at airport Popeyes

If you read Grazing, my regular dining column, you know I took regular potshots at the Popeyes on Boulevard at Ponce de Leon Avenue for more than a year. It wasn't the food but the outrageously bad service that drove me nuts.

I should say that service there has improved enormously in the last few months. Not only do they get the orders right, but they serve you quickly and rarely say they're out of something. Several of the employees, mostly women, are quite funny.

It's only fair that I report that, but I'm also happy to print this letter from Hardy Wallace about the B terminal Popeyes at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport:

As a fellow Popeyes fan, some days nothing hits the spot like some Spicy Strips with a side of red beans and rice. I don't frequent your beloved Ponce location. Perhaps it's in part due to a fear of getting stabbed in the neck or gut. And you just never know when the nearby Taco Bell may spontaneously burst into flames, But, time permitting, I always try and go out of my way at the airport to eat at the B terminal Popeyes. Judging by receipts for expense reports, I seem to eat there three or four times a month.

At the B terminal Popeyes, there is a middle-aged, bald employee who is the antithesis of the former Ponce location's employees--or of almost any Atlanta fast food joint's staff. He might be the manager, owner or just someone who loves working at Popeyes. This person is contagiously friendly, engages everyone in line and always has a smile or a laugh for his customers, many of whom may never connect through B terminal again.

If you get one of the high bar-type seats that face the Popeyes line, you can watch him work the crowd sushi-bar style. The guy is so good that watching him leads my mind to wander and wonder if perhaps he studied under the great service masters of the independent Chinese-owned office building food-court chicken joints. If he did learn an ancient technique of fast food service, he brought it back home. With down-South charm and respect, he applied it to a place that you'd never expect to find any sort of service--the airport.

I wish I had one particular story of what makes this guy great--like maybe he saved a baby from choking on a jalapeno or that he high-fives everyone in line while saying, "Hot-dang!" Just the next time you are at the airport, build in a couple of extra minutes to check out this particular Popeyes. He seems to be there most weekdays during the day. He is one of those people who make Atlanta home.

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