When restaurateur Fabrice Vergez closed Downtown’s French American Brasserie (F.A.B.) last year, plans for a smaller locale were already underway. F&B opened this past summer, a “rustic neighborhood bistro” that holds plenty of charm and allure for its predominantly Buckhead-based clientele.
But Vergez’s downshift wasn’t just for size. He and his partner Cindy Brown were trying to adjust. F.A.B. was a huge space, relying mostly on corporate events and catering. When the economy plummeted, corporate clients became practically nonexistent, Vergez recalls. Downtown Atlanta lacked the built-in residential business that might have helped the restaurant sustain itself. Lesson learned—that would not be the case with F&B.
Sharing coveted real estate on Peachtree Road alongside Tomo Japanese Restaurant, numerous offices, and the Ritz Carlton Residences, Vergez has unfettered access to the customer he always hoped to attract. And with the change of address came a change in approach.
“We didn’t call it F.A.B. because we didn’t want to be confined to classic French dishes,” Vergez says. “Even though we do keep to some tradition, we wanted to go a little lighter, with more Mediterranean flavors.”
The F&B menu includes white bean soup, moules marinière, salad Niçoise, duck confit, and of course, steak frites. But Vergez says that chef Chris McCord and recent sous chef hire Brandon West, hope to consider their restaurant’s roots while keeping things fresh and interesting. Diners will find items like arctic char served with eggplant puree and quinoa tapenade, hazelnut-crusted loup de mer, and a lamb sandwich so tender you might have to close your eyes while chewing.
And should you be the kind of patron who can only take so much fancy, rest easy. F&B has a warm and inviting décor that encourages conversation and pays homage to the kitchen. “What you see on the shelf beyond the kitchen is not just for decoration,” Vergez says. “We use those jars of preserved lemons, preserved pickles, the infused olive oil, rosemary, basil, and sage.”
At night, Vergez goes on, the F&B bar feels more like a communal table. Residents come downstairs to grab dinner and a few drinks. People linger after work. The lighting is soft. Folks know and chat each other. It’s a nice shift from the big brasserie.
Last week F&B featured a new dessert that might make a regular appearance on the menu, a play on the new and the old. It was a chocolate pot de crème infused with smoked sea salt and caramel, served alongside a homemade biscuit with pistachio and cranberry, and sweet potato churros (akin to the fried pâte à choux we know from profiteroles).
The dish was a lot of work, Vergez says, “but we went ahead and did it because it was so good.”