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Posted at 12:00 PM ET, 09/24/2010

Move over, Double Down: The Luther has landed

By Justin Rude

Why yes, that is fried chicken and bacon on a maple-chicken jus doughnut. (Justin Rude)

A sweet, new surprise awaits at ChurchKey on Friday and Saturday nights, but a more intimidating creation can be conquered if you make it to the 14th Street establishment for football this Sunday.

The superlative beer bar's new kickoff-to-close tailgate menu includes brisket chili on fresh cornbread, Red Apron half-smokes with house-made soft pretzels and the debut of a monster called The Luther.

You might already be familiar with the concept: The creation features Birch & Barley's buttermilk fried chicken and strips of applewood smoked bacon, sandwiched between two halves of a horizontally-split brioche doughnut, glazed in maple-chicken jus and dappled with oven-baked pecan pieces.

It sounds like the brainchild of a mad scientist or a stoner, but ChurchKey's version of the sandwich was inspired by hungry and adventurous diners. "We had some customers in for brunch who ordered the chicken and waffles and doughnuts," Tiffany MacIsaac, the restaurant's pastry guru,said. "They made a sandwich out of it as a joke, but it tasted so good they ordered another round." Later that day, the kitchen staff tried out the concoction and they have been looking for an excuse to put in on their menu ever since.

The sandwich itself ends up striking a surprising balance between the moderate sweetness of the maple-glazed doughnut and the saltiness of the bacon, with the chicken providing body and some needed texture. I was surprised by how much I liked it, though it's certainly a meal for splurges only.

MacIsaac agrees: "Its pretty ridiculously indulgent," she says with a laugh.

MacIsaac is now the pastry manager for the entire Neighborhood Restaurant Group, but while the likes of Tallula, the Evening Star Cafe and Rustico benefit from her master's touch with sweets, one gets the sense that her heart still belongs to Birch & Barley and ChurchKey, the duplex dining spot she originally moved to the area to help run

For evidence, look no further than the establishment's new late-night cookies. Starting last weekend, the Birch & Barley ovens began churning out hot, moist and delicious chocolate chip cookies, which are carried upstairs to bar around midnight on Friday and Saturday and sold for $1 each. "This is an idea I wanted to do since we opened," MacIsaac says, "but we got so busy that it got put on the back-burner."

There were peanut butter cookies the first weekend, and a ginger molasses variety might be on the horizon, but the main focus will always be chocolate chip, which MacIsaac makes using bittersweet rather than semi-sweet chocolate: "I think when people are a little tipsy on Friday or Saturday night, what they really want is good old-fashioned chocolate chip," she said.

-- Justin Rude

By Justin Rude  | September 24, 2010; 12:00 PM ET
Categories:  Restaurants  | Tags:  Birch & Barley, ChurchKey, Tiffany MacIsaac, cookies, doughnut sandwich  
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Dear Churchkey, that is NOT a Luther. You made a fried chicken sandwich, congrat's!

A proper Luther is made with 2 Krispy Kreme glazed donuts, 2 1/4lb beef patties, onions sauteed in butter, slices of cheese, and 6 strips of bacon. Chicken simply does not have a place on this amazing creation.

Posted by: KPM171 | September 24, 2010 1:38 PM | Report abuse

I agree with KPM171. The Luther is an established sandwich that I first ran into at Mulligan's in Atlanta. Churchkey needs to a) get it right and b) give credit where credit is due.

Posted by: dsa2 | September 24, 2010 5:55 PM | Report abuse

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