BLOOMINGTON - I normally believe in separation of church and restaurant, but at the new place in west Bloomington I'm willing to make an exception.
Thank you, Lord, for the honey biscuits. You can imagine you hear the choir from Mount Pisgah Baptist Church, just down the street, as you behold them.
And the chicken wings? Righteous. I'll need to return to sample the fish.
Atlanta's Wings & A Prayer #2 is at 912 W. Market St. in a little commercial center.
Atlanta refers to Georgia, where part-owner Tremayne Branch worked for his restaurateur father; wings is the main dish. Prayer means these are Christian owners; #2 means second for Branch, who opened his first in Peoria.
His partners in his expansion are Lois and Richard Herrod, husband and wife, who he knew from getting his hair cut in Peoria. The Herrods have a barbershop and hair salon.
What's important to remember about the new place is the phone number: 820-PRAY (7729).
You can eat in; there are 10 chairs along two counters. The former occupant, Harold's Chicken Shack, which moved to uptown Normal, had a couple of booths.
Like Harold's, though, Atlanta's Wings & A Prayer is geared for carryout.
I waited 15 minutes on a recent evening, and I was later told by one of the owners, Lois Herrod, to expect that on any day. The company there was good, so I didn't mind, and I could see that the seating counters are the place for friendships.
Had I been in a hurry, though, it would have been aggravating. Ask yourself whether waiting is more aggravating than eating food that's been sitting under a heat lamp. And call ahead if you don't have a little time to spare.
Back home, I unfolded the meal, starting with the biscuits. The food was still plenty hot.
The biscuits filled a foam container commonly used for hamburgers. These five biscuits had been made from scratch, deep fried and then covered with honey.
They reminded me of doughnuts, and I concluded that these biscuits are as much a dessert as a side order.
The wings come in nine sauce flavors: mild, hot, teriyaki, lemon pepper, sweet and tangy, seasoned, Cajun, ranch and "suicide."
I stayed away from the suicide. I don't think my stomach ever recovered from the "wall" wings at Wings Etc., so I now refuse wings labeled "nuclear" "wild" "psychotic," "toxic waste" or "insane in the membrane."
My mistake, in this case.
When I talked to Mrs. Harrod a few days later, she explained that the "suicide" refers to the mixing of multiple sauces, just as a suicide drink means a mix of different soda flavors. That also explains why the suicide wings cost 50 cents more - more sauces cost more.
Trying the suicide version is on my list of unfinished business, along with trying the fish at Atlanta's Wings & A Prayer. I can vouch for sweet and tangy, lemon pepper and hot.
The menu is about as stripped-down as a menu gets:
Main dishes are wings, Alaskan walleye, catfish and chicken tenders. The wings are abnormally small but you get a lot of them - 10 for $6.25, 15 for $8.30 and so on; 100 costs $38.50. Walleye runs $4.50 for two pieces; 10 pieces are $16.50. Catfish orders start at $6.25 for the two piece; it's $18.25 for 10.
My wings were crispier than at other places in town and a friend noticed this, too. But this was achieved without them becoming dried out.
Fries, onion rings and honey biscuits. A $1.50 order of fries is ample, but a large tray for $4.75 fits an order for multiple people. Onion rings are $2 for a single order and $5.75 for the tray.
Honey biscuits run $2.50 per order. You should try them at least once in your lifetime.
Celery comes with wings, and the celery is good. But let's just say this isn't the healthiest dining option in town. It is economical.
Pepsi products, plus pink lemonade and raspberry tea.
11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Thursday; 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday. Closed on Sunday.