Mystery Diner in Geneva: Atlas Chicken Shack elevates ‘tender’ art

Atlas Chicken Shack in Geneva serves up comfort food favorites among its from-scratch specialties, and this winter shares a popular outdoor bar with its sister establishment, Preservation.

Atlas is at home in a wee 100-year-old building on South Third Street, half a block north of the parking garage and train station. It focuses on chicken tenders, wings, sandwiches and gluten-free bowls with interesting flavor profiles, prepared with hormone- and antibiotic-free chicken that’s brined overnight. The limited menu extends beyond chicken.

We decided to try a variety of items to get a fuller picture and ended up with a carryout feast we enjoyed at home. Ordering is a cinch, either online or by phone. We called ours in and opted to prepay. On the southern exterior of Atlas are walk-up customer service windows, one for ordering and paying and the second for picking up the food. The helpful staffer on the phone directed us to the second window.

Set farther back out of the wind is what’s dubbed the Social Bar Winter Experience, according to Facebook. Patrons are invited to enjoy their food in the heated bar area or dine at one of the picnic tables lining the alley under strings of lights.

We started with a side of fried rice balls made with Chihuahua cheese. And while the menu also mentions poblano peppers as an ingredient, ours arrived with a crispy crust and delicious melted cheese and rice interior, but no hint of spiciness.

A highlight were the chicken tenders, which come with a choice of eight house-made sauces that follow a heat meter, starting with a mild citrus paprika mayo and escalating to sriracha habanero. The crust was crisp and flavorful enclosing tender, juicy chicken.

The sea-salt-brined fries were hot and tasty. They were the choice of my dining companion who ordered the Atlas cheeseburger. It featured a third-pound patty grilled to meaty, smoky perfection on a nice brioche bun.

I picked one of the three bowl options, available with or without the choice of grilled or fried chicken. I went with the citrus Brussels sprout and jicama salad, bursting with chunks of grilled chicken, along with rice and beans. The Brussels sprouts and jicama were served as a refreshing slaw and the generously portioned dish was very good.

The bowl’s slaw has a light citrus dressing that I enjoyed on its own, but the dish is meant to be eaten with one of the house-made sauces. The other two bowl bases are tangy cabbage and carrot, or spicy kale and broccoli.

We ended on a sweet note with a crunchy, triple chocolate brownie, discovering that Atlas Chicken Shack keeps it simple, homemade and delicious.

• The Mystery Diner is a newsroom employee at the Kane County Chronicle. The diner’s identity is not revealed to restaurant staff when ordering or picking up the food. If the Mystery Diner cannot recommend the establishment, we will not publish a review.


WHAT: Atlas Chicken Shack

WHERE: 511 S. Third St., Geneva

WHEN: 11 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. daily

INFORMATION: 331-248-0592,