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Room Envy: A butler’s pantry gets a pretty—and practical—makeover

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Room Envy“The homeowner has a large family and likes to entertain,” says interior designer Grace Brackman of Maggie Griffin Design, “but there isn’t a whole lot of storage in the kitchen.” This butler’s pantry got a makeover that is pretty and practical.

Bathed in blue
This house in charming Griffin isn’t historic—it was built in the ’90s—but Brackman played off its colonial style with a traditional wallpaper from Schumacher called “Hydrangea Drape.” Benjamin Moore “Van Courtland Blue” coats cabinets and trim.

Fine function
“This space needed to function for a family as well as look nice,” says Brackman. A quartz countertop provides durability, while a deep farmhouse sink can hide dishes and pans during a party.

Luxe layering
A vintage Persian rug, classic chandelier by Circa Lighting, and collected accessories elevate the room.

Winsome windows
Roman shades in linen have a trim that mimics the wallpaper’s vertical stripe.

Designer tip: Make maximum use of vertical space. “We took advantage of the 10-foot ceilings and ran cabinetry all the way to the ceiling on one wall,” says Brackman, who also stacked a trio of open shelves on either side of the window.

This article appears in our November 2020 issue.

After construction mishap, fate of former Sound Table building is up in the air

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Sound Table wall collapses
The damage at the building formally known as Sound Table, which also destroyed the “Black Futures Matter” mural that was painted this past summer.

Photograph by Sean Keenan

Grant Henry and Eric Goldstein saw it coming. Co-owners of a retail and office space at 489 Edgewood Avenue, in Old Fourth Ward, the two men watched on Tuesday as decades-old bricks began to shift at the building’s corner unit, which, until October, had housed the iconic Sound Table music venue. Heavy machinery at construction sites next door, at the intersection of Edgewood Avenue and Boulevard, seemed to be shaking loose the side of the former concert hall. Then, on Wednesday afternoon, the western wall at the circa-1909 building collapsed.

“I would have thought a bus had gone by. That’s what it sounded like,” says Goldstein, who was working in a design studio at their spot when the unit down the block began to crumble. “But we knew because we had been watching the building. We knew how volatile that corner was.”

Sound Table wall collapses
Another view of the damage

Photograph by Sean Keenan

Now, the fate of the unit best known for Sound Table is uncertain, according to Tim Keane, the City of Atlanta’s planning department chief. A construction crew had just begun site work for a four-story mixed-use complex that promised restaurants, retail, and residences that would replace the former parking where Edgewood meets Boulevard. But as soon as Keane got the call about an aging building that appeared to be on the cusp of cracking open, his office issued a stop-work order for the corner site, as well as the plot to the south where larger mixed-use project Waldo’s Old Fourth Ward is coming together.

It’s not entirely clear who’s at fault for the collapse. The crew working for Charlotte-based developer the Whitaker Group was chewing up the corner parcel with a backhoe, and the team working on Waldo’s, Henry says, was hammering away at their site with some sort of heavy drill. But Keane says the Whitaker Group’s contractor leapt to remedy the issue, and is working on a plan to secure the building that could be ready as soon as Thursday. “We are compelling the contractor to as quickly as humanly possible get us a plan to make this situation safe,” he says.

In fact, Keane adds, the crew working at the corner site was well-underway with a plan to shore up the building soon after the wall began to crack and shift. The collapse forced them to change course. Now, Keane says, it’s “too soon to say” if the old Sound Table building will remain standing or need to be razed, although his department hopes it can be saved. As for who might have to pay for repairs, Keane says, “Who’s on the hook for it is between [the building owner and the contractor].”

Henry, who also owns Sister Louisa’s Church of the Living Room and Ping-Pong Emporium, catty-corner to the carnage, said much of the Edgewood Avenue bar strip’s success is owed to Sound Table, which opened in 2010, when the nightlife was far from what it is today.

Henry was bartending at the Local, he says, when a friend told him that he should open up a bar near Sound Table. “The kids want to be on Edgewood; they don’t want to be on Ponce [de Leon] anymore,” the friend told him. Now, the street is dotted with nightlife attractions.

Sound Table wall collapses
Edgewood Avenue was closed to traffic near the site of the collapse.

Photograph by Sean Keenan

The construction mishap isn’t just a blow to the community’s nightlife legacy; it also sets back the plans for the opening of a new bar and restaurant called Edgewood Dynasty, which was slated to debut in the old Sound Table location this week, Eater Atlanta reported.

Some other neighboring businesses, such as Edgewood Pizza and the new Slutty Vegan, have been forced to shutter while crews work to remedy the issue, and city officials expect to have a clearer picture of when Edgewood Avenue could be back to normal later this week.

Georgia’s Republican election officials earn plenty of attention for their anger over baseless voter fraud claims, but little action from those they criticize

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Gabriel Sterling Georgia election
Gabriel Sterling during a November 6 press conference at the Gold Dome

Photograph by Jessica McGowan/Getty Images

It started with a heavy sigh. Gabriel Sterling, the state’s voting system implementation manager, pulled off his mask as he approached the podium in the Gold Dome on Tuesday morning, his frustration visible as he set down his water bottle and notes, pursing his lips. “I’m gonna do my best to keep it together, because,” he paused for about five seconds, then looked up directly at the news cameras. “It has all. Gone. Too. Far. All of it.”

From there, Sterling’s visible anger intensified as he described examples of the threats and harassment election officials and workers have endured as the state continues to re-count ballots—for the second time—from the November 3 presidential election. Sterling said that, for him, “the straw that broke the camel’s back” was news that a 20-year-old Dominion voting machine tech “has death threats and a noose put out saying he should be hung for treason because he was transferring a report on batches from an EMS to a county computer so he could read it.” He also mentioned a comment from a lawyer on President Donald Trump’s re-election team that implied a cybersecurity official should be “shot” and described “caravans” of protestors outside Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger’s home. He went on to describe how Raffensperger’s wife had received text messages with sexual threats.

Raffensperger, Sterling’s boss, has been vocal about his confidence in Georgia’s election system and his disappointment in Trump’s unwillingness to accept defeat. The Republican, who was endorsed by President Donald Trump in his 2018 election to replace now-Governor Brian Kemp, has been criticized by the president for accepting the 2020 election results (the president went so far as to call him an “enemy of the people“) and received calls to resign from Republican Senators Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue. He immediately dismissed those calls, saying, “the voters of Georgia hired me, and the voters will be the one to fire me.”

But Sterling, who is also a Republican, expressed more outrage over the threats sent to the 20-year-old tech than to any government officials. “I’ve got police protection outside my house, fine. I took a higher-profile job,” Sterling said. “Secretary ran for office, his wife knew that, too. This kid took a job. He just took a job, and it’s just wrong.”

Sterling called on “senators”—presumably Loeffler and Perdue, who are running in the high-profile January runoff that will determine control of the Senate—to denounce the violence and threats (“If you’re gonna take a position of leadership, show some,” he said), but most of his criticism was toward Trump, who, despite a lack of evidence, continues to suggest on social media and in interviews that there has been massive voter fraud in Georgia. Sterling called on Trump to “be the bigger man” and focus instead on re-election.

“Mr. President, it looks like you likely lost the state of Georgia. We’re investigating. There’s always a possibility, I get it, and you have the rights to go through the courts,” Sterling said. “What you don’t have the ability to do, and you need to step up and say this, is stop inspiring people to commit potential acts of violence. Someone’s going to get hurt. Someone’s going to get shot. Someone’s going to get killed. And it’s not right.”

Sterling’s passionate speech immediately gained national traction, earning headlines in The New York Times, CNN, the Guardian, the Wall Street Journal, and others. Tweets with video of the speech were shared over and over—this one from a British journalist has more than 44,000 shares. The story was the centerpiece of today’s AJC front page.

But the people that Sterling called out—Loeffler, Perdue, and Trump—didn’t exactly snap into action in response to Sterling’s revelation. Perdue and Loeffler’s teams issued statements that made the candidates sound offended rather than troubled by the possibility of their remarks inciting violence.

“Senator Perdue condemns violence of any kind, against anybody. Period. We won’t apologize for addressing the obvious issues with the way our state conducts its elections. Georgians deserve accountability and improvements to that process—and we’re fighting to make sure the January 5 election is safe, transparent, and accurate,” said Perdue spokesperson Casey Black in a statement.

“Like many officials, as someone who has been the subject of threats, of course Senator Loeffler condemns violence of any kind. How ridiculous to even suggest otherwise. We also condemn inaction and lack of accountability in our election system process—and won’t apologize for calling it out. Senator Loeffler will continue fighting to ensure we have a fair, trusted, and accurate election because the future of our country is at stake,” said Loeffler spokesperson Stephen Lawson.

And while the Trump campaign issued a response saying, “the campaign is focused on ensuring that all legal votes are counted and all illegal votes are not. No one should engage in threats or violence, and if that has happened, we condemn that fully,” Trump himself retweeted a clip of the Sterling speech and doubled-down on his fraud message: “Rigged Election. Show signatures and envelopes. Expose the massive voter fraud in Georgia. What is Secretary of State and [Kemp] afraid of. They know what we’ll find!!!” The tweet is flagged on Twitter as containing disputed claims.

Raffensperger, meanwhile, is continuing to ask the president to stop claiming fraud, especially in light of Attorney General William Barr declaring there has been no widespread evidence of voter fraud. “They have had multiple investigations, like us. And our investigators have seen no widespread fraud, either,” Raffensperger said in a press conference this morning, also noting that the results of the second re-count of Georgia’s ballots, which should wrap up today, will likely not change the outcome of the election. Trump, meanwhile, is still planning to campaign for Loeffler and Perdue in Valdosta on Saturday.

An ode to the Atlanta restaurants and bars we lost during the pandemic

Don Quixote Atlanta closed
Allen Suh outside Donquixote on Buford Highway, shortly before he closed the restaurant for good.

Photograph by Andrew Thomas Lee

Restaurants open and close all the time. With few exceptions, I don’t pine for those that have run their course for more or less standard reasons. Some are the victims of greedy landlords squeezing the life out of tenants who may not be able to find an equally advantageous location. Others fail to adapt to a fast-evolving city or lose a chef essential to the restaurant. Most peter out in a way we barely notice.

That was then. Since the beginning of the pandemic, many places and their skeleton crews have been hanging onto whatever semblance of normalcy they can. Rather than mass extinction, ours is now the age of moribund restaurants, ghostly places where we line up or idle at the curb to collect food that reminds us of better times.

This is a year when too many beloved spots had to shut down for reasons that transcend the standard ones (and for reasons that, at this time last year, would have been unimaginable), and I fear many more will follow. Business closures are human tragedies, leaving behind bereft owners and empty-pocketed employees. What has affected me disproportionately this year is the vanishing of young restaurants that seemed so promising.

Cardinal and its companion market, Third Street Goods, were a fascinating combo of cocktail den and Southern grocer powered by female energy; they have left us way too soon. No more nesting among artists and low-key hipsters clutching CBD aperitifs and grazing on simple yet clever noshes. I had high hopes, too, for Hazel Jane’s. (I never even got to publish the column I wrote about the place; the virus was that swift.) The menu played second fiddle to the natural wines that are the owners’ true passion, but the pandemic dinners to-go were similarly top-notch.

When the couple who opened La Calavera, a Latin-inflected bakery originally located in Decatur, had to shutter their business shortly after a move to Kirkwood, I felt sorry for them and myself. No more rough loaves studded with healthy grains, no more perfect bolillos on this side of town. I didn’t even have the time to revisit Donquixote, a long-lived and ever eccentric Korean restaurant on Buford Highway, after it had been taken over by hipster chef Allen Suh, whose career I have followed with rapt interest for years. Suh’s decision to close the decades-old institution only months after he took it over was heartbreaking.

The bad news kept coming. I am sadder about the loss of Krog Bar, the first and last of the true tapas bars, opened by force-of-nature Kevin Rathbun in a minuscule space across from Krog Street Market (back when KSM was an empty husk of a warehouse), than I am about the closure of the chef’s eponymous restaurant. I’ve long considered Rathbun’s to be a lovable haunt of the Inman Park gentry with a dated kitchen. All the same, I will miss them both.

The last location of Octane, started on the Westside by an enterprising couple who were ahead of the coffee trends, devolved over the years into barely more than a study hall (it was purchased by Birmingham-based Revelator in 2017), but its impact on the neighborhood can’t be stressed enough, and I will always cherish the memories of cultural events there fueled by caffeine. Someone asked me recently where to buy a box of special chocolates as a gift, and I could only think of Cacao, the ultrarefined bean-to-bar chocolatier, uncomfortably aware that its jewel box of a store had closed in Virginia Highland.

It’s a travesty, and not just for Georgia Tech, that the Canteen, the charming micro–food hall from the owners of the General Muir, is no longer around to offer good bagels, fat burgers, and inexpensive cocktails under one roof.

A few blocks north of the Canteen, Shaun Doty’s the Federal functioned like a secret French restaurant, a sexy Midtown room almost untouched by the light of day, where steak frites and game dishes could be a romantic indulgence. Aix, splashier and more obviously ambitious, didn’t nail as many of its “elevated” Provençal dishes as I’d hoped, but what a great spot it was to hang out with a big wine glass full of Champagne at the bar. And what a shame to have two fewer French restaurants in a town already low on them.

I’m not too bothered by the demise of Horseradish Grill near Chastain Park, knowing that its closure does not spell the end of this historic location (once known as the Red Barn Inn and decorated with horse blankets). A multimillion-dollar investment will transform it into the Chastain, helmed by Christopher Grossman, who ran Atlas in Buckhead with such aplomb. At least fine-dining isn’t totally dead. That said, it is down one of its most remarkable innovators: Staplehouse has transitioned from a trailblazing, tasting-menu restaurant to a market offering impeccably crafted pantry staples, beer and wine, and to-go meals, snacks, and cocktails. I support whatever needs to happen to keep Staplehouse afloat—and I hope that, one day soon, it can pivot back to its (unstuffy) fine-dining roots.

A few doors down from Staplehouse, there’s now a notable and regrettable void. I am in mourning for the loss of the wonderful DJ booth of the Sound Table and the presence of king-of-the-hipsters Karl Injex wearing his signature Kangol and introducing everyone to his talented bartenders. (I can only hope that there will remain at that site a regular rotation of the murals like the ones that have famously graced the Sound Table’s massive exterior wall.) In a different vein, the closing of the Tavern at Phipps after 28 years is a significant blow to a more old-fashioned milieu of wealthy, clean-cut singles who appreciated the loud music on the terrace.

I’d like to end this elegy to restaurants we have lost by honoring a family in Suwanee that has kept its kitchen running through the crisis despite the tragic death of their matriarch and chief tamale maker. Long live La Mixteca, and may Rosa Hernandez Lopez, a victim of the long-range toll on the body of Covid-19, rest in peace in the love of her daughters and her many fans.

This article appears in our December 2020 issue.

My Style: Makeup artist Erica Bogart

Erica Bogart
Moto jacket by Marrakech, pants by Good American, shoes by Kenneth Cole.

Photograph by Ben Rollins

A love of art, people, and working with her hands drew Erica Bogart to the makeup industry. Her business, Bogart Beauty, is known for working with all skin tones for bridal, fashion, and film. On Instagram, the “skinfluencer” shares a mix of beauty, wellness, and travel tips.

Neighborhood Buckhead

Famous faces Chloë Grace Moretz, Zoe Saldana, Shaquille O’Neal, Lauren Cohan, Christian Serratos

Trending Korean beauty brands Laneige, NeoGen, Sulwhasoo, Hanacure

Following @nudieglow, @revolvebeauty, @nicoleisaacs

Quarantine Self-care I drink MUD\WTR—a mushroom, chai, turmeric blend—instead of coffee and swear by the hair-repair conditioner by Save Me From.

Go-to beauty brands Patrick Ta, KOSAS

Desert island must-haves Lip conditioner by Laneige, Supergoop sunscreen, a good blush that works overtime on lips and eyelids

This article appears in our November 2020 issue.

A new Atlanta restaurant delivers chicken any way you want it

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Chicken OutLess than two months after opening Nick’s Westside (where Aix and Tin Tin used to be), owner/chef Nick Leahy is launching another business. Chicken Out is a delivery-only concept serving the eponymous bird in nearly every variety you can think of: fried, roasted, wings, and shawarma. Starting today, Atlantans can order their favorite chicken dinner Tuesday through Saturday via UberEats, Grubhub, DoorDash, and Postmates.

“I’ve been playing around with a version of this for a while,” Leahy says. “Initially, it was [going to be] a brick-and-mortar concept, but as we went through this year, we realized it’s not the ideal time for that. More and more people are choosing to dine by delivery.”

Chicken OutChicken Out uses Springer Mountain Farms chicken and vegetables sourced locally. The biscuits (which come with the fried chicken) and the potato bread (used for sandwiches) are baked in house.

“It’s a concept that’s really approachable,” Leahy says. “The food is simple. Most people love to eat chicken. We wanted to offer something in the delivery arena that’s made with the quality ingredients we use at [Nick’s Westside].”

The fried chicken—served in four- and eight-piece meals—is brined for 48 hours with thyme, garlic, and coriander. The breading is seasoned as well, making for a “moist, flavorful chicken,” Leahy says.

Chicken OutChicken OutThe wings are brined and smoked on the Big Green Egg at a low temperature for two hours before being crisped to order. Thirteen dry-rub options include tandoori, everything bagel, and Korean barbecue. There are also sauced options like green curry and garlic and chili butter. Additional menu items include chicken shawarma, rotisserie chicken, and a crispy chicken sandwich. There’s coleslaw, potato salad, mac ‘n’ cheese, and fries, as well as cinnamon sugar donut holes.

Though Chicken Out is based out of the Nick’s Westside kitchen, Chicken Out menu items will not be served at Nick’s, nor will they be available for pickup.

Mystery and Beauty: Messages from Jekyll Island’s Driftwood Beach

I stumbled onto Jekyll Island’s Driftwood Beach for the first time nearly a decade ago. This was, not coincidentally, the same week that a spider wrote me a note.

My husband and I were seeking a pristine, untroubled place to clear our heads before immersing ourselves in deadlines and obligations. I’d been touring with my memoir, a story of family trouble. Mickey was drafting a novel about a dystopian society. Need I say we were deep in darkness? In a torrential rain, we left Atlanta for a rented Jekyll Island beach house on a street named for paradise. When we arrived, the sun shone.

We rented bikes and rode north along the main thoroughfare, heading for the tourist standards—the pier and a historic cemetery. Pedaling the wooden bike path across a marsh, I glimpsed a deserted beach and an expanse of open water. This, I thought. Here is what we’d come for. I called out to Mickey, biking ahead of me, for a detour. We circled back and crossed sand and scrub on foot.

What we found on the beach was a weird kind of vision, the final resting place of what seemed to be scores of sea-washed trees, some entirely horizontal to the sand, others arched, their limbs reaching skyward. Each trunk and branch shone as glossy silver-gray as an oyster’s flesh, each as smooth to the touch as sun-warmed skin.

My bike map identified this as Driftwood Beach and marked the spot with a cluster of cartoony purple trees. Driftwood to me meant sticks to toss on a campfire. Here, we walked among massive relics, a story of time and tide.

Some people see shapes in clouds. I saw shapes in the drift-trees: a sheep’s head bowed for petting, a fallen column from an architectural ruin. Some trunks were wider around than my embrace, others longer than my husband is tall—we measured them with our swimsuited bodies. Deep ripples imprinted the trees like messages in an alphabet gone extinct. The St. Simons lighthouse sparkled across the sound, but we were rooted in time.

Every morning, we wrote in the house on the street named for paradise. Each afternoon, we biked the two miles up-island to walk among downed oak and pine. With colored pencils, I tried and failed to capture their tales. This cemetery of trees, I learned later, was evidence of erosion: Soil washes away, trees fall.

I was hanging our wet towels and swimsuits on the clothesline when I saw the yellow and black spider. She had built her web between two spiky yucca plants. A zigzag of thick white silk disrupted the symmetry of her delicate spokes. Surely this golden orb weaver, the writer-spider, had crafted a message for me.

Listen for the world’s quiet, was what I read in her web. There are mysterious, beautiful stories here, if only you stop to find them.


Jessica Handler is the author of the novel The Magnetic Girl, winner of the 2020 Southern Book Prize, a Wall Street Journal Spring 2019 pick, and a Bitter Southerner Summer 2019 selection. Her other books include Invisible Sisters: A Memoir and Braving the Fire: A Guide to Writing About Grief and Loss. Her nonfiction has appeared on NPR and in Newsweek and the Washington Post. She teaches creative writing at Oglethorpe University in Atlanta and lectures internationally on writing.

This article appears in the Fall/Winter 2020 issue of Southbound.

This Atlanta company can help you throw a picture-perfect picnic

Gather picnicWhen married couple Emily and Drew Hecht dreamed up their entertaining company late last year, they had no idea that small outdoor gatherings would be all but the rule for seeing friends in 2020. The pair of Atlanta natives moved back to the city from L.A. just as the pandemic began and launched Gather Picnic Company in the dog days of summer, setting up highly styled picnic settings for small groups and mini-parties. Turns out the timing was just right, as friends were hungry for new experiences and creative ways to safely spend time together.

Here’s how it works: Pick your outdoor location (it can be a public park or just your backyard), and choose from Gather’s travel-inspired themes for staycation vibes—the boho chic of Venice, California; the blues and whites of Milos, Greece; and, coming soon, the Southwestern cool of Santa Fe. Arrive at the designated time and find party-ready linens, cutlery, glassware, and florals decking the tables, along with Bluetooth speakers, umbrellas for shade, and blankets to cozy up in. (Tables and pillows can be arranged for safe distancing.) Food is not included in the setup, but Gather partners with Graze Atlanta for charcuterie boards and can help source and orchestrate other deliveries.

Gather picnicThe Hechts had baby showers and birthday celebrations in mind when they developed Gather, but it works just as well for a fancy dinner date en plein air. From $350, gatherpicnicco.com

This article appears in our November 2020 issue.

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