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Hector Santiago talks Big Sky Buckhead, H. Santiago Burritos for mid-2014

Super Pan-inspired restaurant to open in late January/early February

Abattoir's Hector Santiago, formerly of Pura Vida and Super Pan, has joined forces with Adam Berlin and Juan Calle to open a new fast-casual restaurant in Buckhead. Big Sky will focus on food inspired by Santiago’s Latin background, but also encompass other cultures and ingredients. This 130-plus-seat space with multiple patios is set to open the last week in January or first week in February. We spoke with Santiago, who shared more details about his upcoming project.

Why did you decide to get involved in this restaurant?
The founders approached me in May last year. They used to be customers at Super Pan. We wanted to be able to attract more people for lunch. We started talking and this is the flavorful, cultural, Latin-inspired food we came up with.

What exactly is the concept?
It’s a restaurant with lively nightlife. We’ll show games on big TVs. It’s a very communal type place for a younger clientele.

Why is it called Big Sky?
We really wanted to go with the feel of the Montana-like lodge. From the ceiling, you can see the Buckhead skyline—it feels so big.

Tell me about the food.
It’s a version of Super Pan. We took the most popular items from Super Pan and Pura Vida and added some flavors. We’ll have pork belly buns. We’re doing a chicken one and a Cuban-style sandwich style. It will be on the lighter side.

The menu is fast, easy to eat food, full of flavors. We’ll use fresh ingredients, as much local produce as possible, hormone-free meats—the same mantra as Pura Vida.

You can also replace [your bun] with a rice-and-bean bowl. Or you can make it a veg bowl—a salad loaded with vegetables and topped with pork belly. It’s not about diet; it’s just about having something without bread or gluten.

For brunch we’ll have a brunch bowl: two eggs with French toast or Costa Rican rice and beans.

We’re not trying to make it a Latin place, but it will have those flavors.

Big Sky sounds pretty different from Abattoir. Why the change?
Abattoir kind of came after this, so I was really working on this first. I can’t really make Abattoir into a Latin place. It’s completely different. I’m planning on getting back into my Latin concept. I’m trying to find a spot for Pura Pollo, but I’m calling it H. Santiago Burritos, and eventually go back to a full-fledged Latin restaurant. We’re looking inside of the Perimeter mostly. We had looked in Dunwoody, and are looking at the Westside and Poncey-Highland. By mid 2014, we should have a place.

Since you’re staying at Abattoir, how involved will you actually be at Big Sky?
Pedro [Matos] from Super Pan will be taking care of the restaurant. Eventually he’ll do more breads and muffins—more baking. He cooks Costa Rican food so he understands my flavors very well. We’ll work together to do specials and stuff. I’ll be there at times. I designed the initial menu, but he’ll do specials and such under my direction, but also for himself. That’s the way we did it at Super Pan. He ran the shift for the last eight months at Super Pan.

Will Big Sky be open every day?
We’ll have lunch Monday through Friday, Saturday and Sunday we’ll add some brunch items, like adding an egg to the rice and bean bowl. Dinner will be the same menu; eventually we’ll have more dinner-like specials, like maybe a chef dinner on a Monday (on slower days).

What kind of beverages will be served? We’ll have a full bar, with a lot of craft beers, and eventually some craft cocktails.

What’s the price point?
The coconut buns are $6, a rice and bean plate is in the $12 range. Dinner can go up into the $20 range for specials and such. We’ll also have a large section of stuff to pick up like nachos, chicken wings, tortilla with black bean hummus, guacamole, and wasabi, chicken fingers, and chicken tips. [Those will cost] from $4 to $12.

And how about the atmosphere?
It’s two levels. It feels very lodge-y. It’s meant to be like a mountain lodge almost. There’s a huge foyer when you walk in with very high ceilings. There’s a big bar in the middle. Lunchtime we’ll just be open downstairs for counter service, like at Farm Burger. Of course you have the option to sit at the bar, and we’ll have a patio. Dinner is sit-down with waitresses and the sort.

The upstairs is mostly for weekends. There’s a great patio up there. It’s a great place to hang out.