Blue Plate Special: Kali B’s Wings & Things, a family favorite
Dan Chapdelaine grills chicken tenders for Pop's Salad at Kali B's in Turners Falls.
( Recorder/Paul Franz) Purchase photo reprints »
Pop's Salad is a mix of greens, cherry tomatoes, cucumbers, crumbled Gorgonzola, Crasins, candied pecans and the choice of grilled or crispy chicken. (Recorder/Paul Franz) Purchase photo reprints »
The chicken is sliced before Dan Chapdelaine puts it on Pop's Salad at Kali B's in Turners Falls.
(Recorder/Paul Franz) Purchase photo reprints »
Special to The Recorder
Kali B’s Wings & Things has undergone a massive trans- formation since arriving on the Franklin County food scene a little over a year ago. In June of 2013, owners Jim and Laurie Ellis of Gill started at food-truck business in Greenfield. It specialized in chicken wings, chicken tenders, hot dogs and hamburgers.
“The business just blossomed,” recalled Dan Chapdelaine of Greenfield, who was hired to cook at the truck and soon contributed ideas as well as labor to its menu. When the food truck closed for the season last October, the Ellises began to search for a permanent location.
“The response to the wings was so unbelievable that we decided we had to build a restaurant,” Jim Ellis told me when I visited Kali B’s earlier this month.
He and his wife ended up purchasing a moderate-sized restaurant space — the former Ristorante DiPaolo — on Avenue A in Turners Falls and set to work renovating it. The new, expanded Kali B’s opened its doors in early February.
In addition to owning Kali B’s the Ellises run a bustling energy-conservation company. “That’s why I brought in the pros,” said Jim Ellis. Those pros are Chapdelaine, who runs the kitchen, and Debbie Kais, who supervises the front of the restaurant and the small, but well-stocked bar.
Ellis noted that he is open to ideas from anyone in the restaurant ... when a dishwasher turned out to have a bent for concocting soups, he was turned into a soup chef.
The ambiance at Kali B’s is informal yet streamlined. Flat television screens line much of the wall space so customers can keep up with their favorite sporting events ... the staff was preparing to turn on the World Cup when I stopped in.
“I built (Kali B’s) as an everyman’s tavern,” Ellis told me. “Everybody comes in this place.” In the course of a Friday evening, he explained, the restaurant may welcome senior citizens, professionals, high-school students, and entire families.
The children’s menu is small but serviceable; the most popular item is the chicken tenders. The tenders are also popular with grownups, as are salads, chicken wings, and a dish called “Clucks and Pucks.” This sweet-and-sour plate combines a Belgian waffle, chicken tenders, and syrup.
Nibbles like fried pickle chips and potato skins also appeal to many customers.
Debbie Kais, who has been a waitress and bartender for many years, enjoys the balance Kali B’s customers strike between eating and drinking.
“Right now ... customers can get white sangria made with seasonal fruits and a variety of margaritas,” she said. “And there’s always a seasonal beer on tap.”
The salad Dan Chapdelaine prepared for photographer Paul Franz and me was fresh and tasty, with a nice mingling of flavors and textures. It’s called “Pop’s Salad” because Jim Ellis, whose daughter provided the restaurant with its name, invented it.
“I’m Pop,” Ellis said proudly as he watched Chapdelaine assemble the plate.
Despite the tastiness of the food, Kali B’s greatest strength is probably the relaxed atmosphere that radiates from Jim and Laurie Ellis down to the prep cooks — and the friendliness of the entire staff.
Asked what he liked best about his job, Dan Chapdelaine smiled. “I love cooking. I love everybody that’s here. It’s family.”
Serves 1 to 2, depending on appetite.
½ pound chicken tenders
3 cups field greens
8 slices cucumber
4 cherry tomatoes, halved
2 ounces Gorgonzola cheese
¼ cup sweetened pecans, roughly crumbled
¼ cup dried cranberries
spices to taste (Dan Chapdelaine uses a mixture of garlic powder, onion powder, and black pepper)
Quickly grill the pieces of chicken over medium-high heat, sprinkling both sides with spices as you cook them. Remove the chicken pieces from the pan, and julienne them — that is, slice them into thin strips. Set the chicken aside.
Spread the greens on a round or oval plate. Place the cucumber slices around the edges, evenly spaced apart. Place a half cherry tomato on each slice of cucumber.
Crumble the Gorgonzola over the top of the greens, followed by the pecans and the cranberries. Lay the chicken slices on top.
Serve with your favorite dressing, homemade or commercial.
Tinky Weisblat of Hawley is the author of “The Pudding Hollow Cookbook” and “Pulling Taffy.” If you have a suggestion for a future Blue Plate Special, please email Tinky at Tinky@TinkyCooks.com. For more information about Tinky, visit her website, www.TinkyCooks.com.