Between Ford Fry’s Tex-Mex joint El Felix and Giovanni di Palma’s Antico Pizza outpost, big names have generated a great deal of buzz around the new Avalon mixed-use development in Alpharetta.
All of the restaurants announced thus far will be full service—except for one. Bantu Noodles is a fast-casual Asian spot by chef Ciaran Duffy, whose resume includes fine dining restaurants like the now-defunct Rainwater in Alpharetta and Tristan in Charleston. He's partnered with Philip Roness and Ian Macken of Meehan's Public House, although they will not be involved in the day-to-day operations. Scheduled to open in October at 4100 Avalon Boulevard, Bantu will serve lunch and dinner in a “high-energy” atmosphere. Duffy divulges his plans below.
Why Asian food?
I love Asia. I visit frequently. My brother lives there. I go to Beijing and Shanghai. I love the culture and the food. The second reason is it’s a very profitable business. Plus, it’s a challenge. It’s fast-casual, counter service. I want to breakaway from my roots of fine dining and make this something that has roots to grow.
Are you looking to expand already?
We’re looking at some other locations in Decatur, West Midtown, and Buckhead. This is the flagship, though. A lot of the places we’re looking at haven’t even been built yet.
What’s on the menu?
The appetizers are street food-style—bold flavors, heat where you want it—and stuff that can be shared. We’ll have entree salads, sandwiches, and noodle bowls. It's not [just] Chinese, it’s Asian, so we’re doing pho, ramen, and udon, plus some stir-fries.
One of the appetizers is a sticky pork rib with dark beer sauce. We’re doing kushiyaki—the Japanese version of yakitori—with pork sausage and a lot of spicy mustard. There’s a Chinese meatball—braised pork with sweet and spicy sauce—pork and beef banh mi, and steamed buns.
[Other items include seafood ramen with shrimp, salmon, cauliflower, peas, and a fish cake; and chicken tom yum udon with coconut lemongrass broth, mushroom, spring onion, coriander, and mint.]
Are you making the buns in house?
No, we don’t have the space. I’m not sure where we will be sourcing them from yet.
Will Bantu have a bar?
We’re serving beer, sake, and wine, as well as soft drinks and iced tea.
What will the atmosphere be like?
Very clean, high-energy with loud-ish music. It’ll have a counter and bar stools on one side. We can fit sixty-five people inside, plus the covered patio. Avalon’s a really nice place. We’re really happy and privileged to be there.
What attracted you to Avalon?
They’ve [essentially] built Atlantic Station in Alpharetta. It fits. Everybody there is doing full service; we’re doing fast casual. Both Avalon and Bantu are very family friendly—young crowd kind of places. It’s a good pairing.
Last question: Where does the name Bantu come from?
The name comes from a specific breed of pig. I thought it was a good name for a noodle joint.
Anything else we should know?
We are really conscientious about what people are eating today and how we can impact what they eat. So we are serving local and humanly raised pork and fowl, as well as all grass-fed beef. These bowls are packed with vegetables, broth, noodles and meat, all prepared fresh and to order.
Being that the rice flour noodles are so dominant on our menu, the ingredients [in our food] will be gluten free—with the exception of the bahn mi bread.
Bone broths or stocks are starting to make a rise in healthy eating as they are a source of nutrients that have been identified to have healing and growth abilities that are found in marrow bones (LA Lakers Diet). We will be using a lot of those as we make our stocks.