Empire State South - Best of Atlanta 2013 - Atlanta Magazine
 
 

Empire State South

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999 Peachtree Street Atlanta, GA 30309 404-541-1105
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Chef-owner Hugh Acheson, who runs two restaurants (including renowned Five and Ten) and a wine shop in Athens, unleashed his brand of individualism on Atlanta in 2010. Acheson and executive chef Ryan Smith constantly tinker with their expansive vision of Southern food. Sometimes they evoke a moment or mood in a dish: A soft-poached egg surrounded by crisped rice, sweetly spiced sausage, and fresh corn nibs suggests a Lowcountry breakfast on a slow summer morning.

Themes run through the menu. A recent favorite acknowledges the tradition of "putting up" fruits in the summertime: Acheson and Smith pair red snapper with tomato jam, smoked duck with blackberry conserve, wild plum jelly with striped bass, and, extending the concept, bacon marmalade with pimento cheese on a snack tray of jarred spreads.
 
Beyond serving breakfast, brunch, and lunch, the restaurant offers a Southern variation on the tiffin, the tiered Indian lunch pail, that customers can call and order daily by 10:30 a.m. to pick up by noon. (Check the website for the weekly changing menu.) The coffee counter pulls some of the most balanced espresso shots in town. A table full of baked goods in the bar area features creations by pastry chef Cynthia Wong, whose dessert menu includes lilting, seasonal creations like buttermilk tres leches gilded with blueberries and crowned with buttercrunch streusel.
 
From Best of Atlanta 2014 (winner, Best Wine List):
Wine director Stephen Grubbs writes the rare list that sparks dialogue. When we read about a Sauvignon Blanc that's "freaky fresh" or a Beaujolais that's "buxom but dainty," we want more details—and then we want to imbibe. Grubbs and his staff have mastered the delicate dance between education and conversation: They'll happily proffer lessons in history, geography, and science around any given varietal, but they're equally happy to simply pop the cork and let the wine speak for itself.