Gladys Knight and son Shanga Hankerson are set to open the third location of their iconic restaurant, Gladys Knight Signature Chicken and Waffles on Cascade Road in Atlanta. To prepare for the big occasion, they opened their doors to some of Atlanta’s writers and media professionals on September 4 at their Peachtree eatery. Established in 1997, the restaurant has stayed true to its roots for the last 16 years to expand its brand and become a major Atlanta attraction. I was so excited to be invited to the event and meet the graceful star and her son. When you walk in, you immediately get the presence of family. The cherry wood walls are aligned with framed pictures and gold records. Below are red cushion leather lounges and tables. The ambiance gives a sense of warmth and comfort. The menu is clearly an extension of both Gladys’ passion and musical background and Shanga’s love and vision.
The diverse menu is comprised of “Opening Acts”, for the appetizers to “Headliners” for their breakfast menu, to “Grammy Winners” for their main entrees. As I took my seat next to other journalists and media mavens my excitement started to take over. The staff was very hospitable, with bright smiles and inviting personalities. As we waited for lunch, I perused the menu of what I wanted to order. I went with the ever popular “Midnight Train” which consisted of four golden fried chicken wings and a choice of either a banana, pecan, buckwheat or the original waffle. I went with the banana waffle and a side of macaroni and cheese. My editor Lindsey dined on baked chicken with two side shows of black-eyed peas and collard greens. The food was amazing. Towards the end of our lunch, I began to anticipate my one-on-one conversation with Gladys.
She was inviting, a very down to earth woman, and our conversation began with laughter. I wanted to understand why the Cascade Road location was chosen. The first thing she said with a huge smile is “well I think we should be everywhere, for one thing. I am a native of Atlanta and I’ve lived in that area for a while”. So when Shanga told her about the available space, they both knew it was going to be a winner. “I go wherever they call me to go. That’s why we came to Cascade and it felt like coming home.” Not one to take all the credit, she explains how she couldn’t achieve this without her son by her side. “Shanga has an instinct. He’s grown up all over the world, all of this is his dream, and this is his baby. He thinks outside the box, he has that energy, I support him in it because I’m passionate about it. I love to cook. I’ve been cooking all my life so it’s been a part of us.”
A great humanitarian, it is her love for people that inspired she and Shanga to implement the program Food For Thought. The program will offer free breakfast to children 12 and under before school. Parents will have to purchase the breakfast bag, which helps to support the program, and will also have the option to purchase breakfast from the regular menu at the new location. “We thought this was a worthwhile program. We want to help the children in our community. They need a leg up. That’s what sparked this little program”.
With the signature location doing famously, the Stonecrest location thriving, and the Cascade location now open I marveled at what inspires her brand and motivates her to continue to do all the amazing work that she does. “It’s really not about being famous, or being in the spotlight. I would rather make a difference and allow people to see my God light than anything else. If I can inspire somebody like that, that’s what I would prefer to do. As far as my brand is concerned, I would like people to feel like it’s loving, and it’s respectful. I want people to know that I love them and that it’s not a catchphrase or rhetoric, it’s genuine. You can feel the love she has for people. It radiates from her. She speaks to everyone as if they are lifelong friends. I had the great pleasure of speaking with this legendary musician, restaurateur, and philanthropist and gain insight into who she is as business savvy entrepreneur, a foodie, and a woman living out her purpose.