Sometimes it seems like Atlanta’s marquee chefs (Ford Fry, Hugh Acheson, Linton Hopkins) get all the love. But I’m here to praise the groundswell of upstart restaurateurs—the ones who open shop in converted fast-food joints or hidden spaces, where relatively low overheads give them the chance to take risks in the kitchen and behind the bar. Buddies or a couple meet while working at other, bigger restaurants, and the experience inspires them to set out on their own. They’re young, and so are their Twitter- and Instagram-addicted clienteles. Collaboration, rather than one towering personality, ignites the spark plugs behind these four new ventures.
340 Church Street, Decatur, 404-377-9308, the-paper-plane.com
The idea: A tiny Decatur bar-within-a-bar that mixes some of the city’s best cocktails.
The look: Midcentury swank, with dim lights and five roomy booths surrounding a fourteen-seat bar.
The team: Gifted barkeep Paul Calvert already had an idea for opening a small restaurant with dazzling cocktails when he started hanging out at Victory Sandwich Bar in Inman Park after his shifts at now-closed Pura Vida. He became friends with owners Ian Jones and Caleb Wheelus, helping his future partners train their bar staff. When Jones and Wheelus decided to relocate Victory to Decatur, Calvert opened Paper Plane with them in the back of the space.
Eat this: Small plates like a lamb chop over fettuccine with kale and pistachios.
Drink this: It’s hard to go wrong. Consult a server or bartender; tell them your choice of spirit and trust you’ll be wowed.
1788 Clairmont Road, Decatur, 678-705-4233, sobban.com
The idea: Korean recipes using locally sourced ingredients in a diner format.
The look: An Arby’s built in 1969 (with the original “chuck wagon” roof); it most recently lodged Kitsch’n 155.
The team: Cody Taylor and Jiyeon Lee connected while working at bygone Repast. Taylor is from Texas and Tennessee; Lee hails from Korea. They first fused their backgrounds at thriving Heirloom Market BBQ, where you’ll find sides like kimchi coleslaw and vinegary cucumber salad alongside smoked brisket. Sobban pushes the couple’s synthesis of styles further.
Eat this: Kimchi deviled eggs; beef bulgogi roll.
Drink this: Ask a server to help you navigate a small but nicely edited selection of sake and soju.
VILLAINS WICKED HEROES
903 Peachtree Street, 404-347-3335, villainswickedheroes.com
The idea: Brainy sandwiches named after pop culture antiheroes.
The look: Evil lair meets the Starship Enterprise, with a curving bar, mad-scientist scrawls on a chalkboard wall, and a beckoning patio next door to Midtown’s Metropolis building.
The team: Jared Pyles met Jason McClure when the two worked at Buckhead’s Flip Burger Boutique. Pyles (who, at the time, had left Flip to open hot dog haven HD1) met Alex Brounstein of Grindhouse Killer Burgers at a Replacements concert in 2012. They hit it off, and the trio hatched their business plan during a meeting soon after.
Eat this: Mumm-Ra sandwich with lamb belly and mint yogurt; pea, radish, and mint pesto salad.
Drink this: Prohibited at Turner Field (made with Mexican Coca-Cola and peanut-infused bourbon).
303 East Howard Avenue, Decatur, 404-378-3502, kimball-house.com
The idea: An homage to grand hotel dining, featuring oysters and spirits galore.
The look: Housed in a former train depot, the room has been given an old-school makeover with tufted leather banquettes.
The team: Bartenders Miles MacQuarrie and Jesse Smith and front-of-house specialists Bryan Rackley and Matthew Christison were all employed at Brick Store Pub or Leon’s Full Service. The foursome intended to open a restaurant in Grant Park, but when the deal fell through, Brick Store/Leon’s owners Tom Moore, David Blanchard, and Michael Gallagher stepped in to help with funding; all seven share equity in the business.
Eat this: Mixed platter of raw oysters; potato dumplings; charred black cod.
Drink this: Mexican Razor Blade (tequila, sherry, lime, coconut, cinnamon, and a dash of cayenne); Sazerac; Absinthe Brevans.