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A look ahead at Atlanta restaurants opening in 2010

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ATL Food Chatter: December 21, 2009
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As the New Year and the “teens” approach, there are at least five new spots slated to open in 2010 that should create some anticipation and optimism among Atlanta’s food fans. These restaurants promise to bring both good tidings and good food with a variety of price points and cuisines that should set the stage for a new decade of culinary excellence in Atlanta:

Pano’s. With its Buckhead Life Restaurant Group pedigree, St. Regis location, and Johnson Studio design, Pano’s has the potential to become the Le Cirque of the South. Look for a late spring opening.

Jasmine’s. Marc Erhler, a AAA Five Diamond-winning chef, will be at the helm of the signature restaurant in the forthcoming Loews Atlanta hotel in Midtown. Details are still vague—the ubiquitous “innovative cuisine featuring local flavors” tagline is all we’ve heard so far. But the dining scene could be gaining a new star. UPDATE: Katharine Lowe at the Reynolds Group just wrote to let us know that Erhler will NOT be moving to Atlanta after all. Who will helm Jasmine’s kitchen? It remains shrouded in secrecy. We’ll keep you posted. Lowe does give us a tad more about the direction of the food: “Southern classics in a Mediterranean style preparation.” Interesting fusion potential there.—B.A.

Empire State South. The addition of heralded Athens chef Hugh Acheson to Midtown Atlanta’s culinary landscape brings a moderately priced, modern version of the southern meat-and-three staple. This one has the Georgia Organics crowd atwitter with anticipation. Let’s hope the April opening date stays firm

Shaun Doty’s Burger project. Doty’s Westside burger joint will feature high quality product in a fast casual environment, adding another destination spot to the hippest dining hood in Atlanta.

Tomo. Nobu Matsuhisa protégé Tomohiro “Tomo” Naito is moving his Japanese restaurant to the posh Ritz-Carlton Residences in Buckhead. Will the move diminish the neighborhood appeal of his former Vinings location, or might Buckhead finally have the replacement for Soto it’s been lacking several years? Time will tell.

In addition to these restaurants, a few other projects—most still in the rumor category—offer a glimpse into 2010 dining potential. Kevin Gullespie is hinting that he and his partners will open another venture. Flip is scouting for a Buckhead spot. And, amid much hope and talk and alleged bureaucratic red tape, mobile food trucks may soon debut in Atlanta. Another we’re hearing about: the folks at North Georgia’s Magnolia Bakery are planning a food truck featuring their baked goods and organic lunch fare. [Editor’s note: On top of my wish list is a potential bakery from the Cakes and Ale folks—B.A.]

NEWS AND NOTES:

Kevin Rathbun was named 2009 Chef of the Year by Chef’s Magazine.

Ansley Park
. Brett Ring, formerly sous chef at Stats, will be the top toque at Hobnob Neighborhood Tavern, the new spot from the owners of Gilbert’s Mediterranean Cafe we mentioned a couple weeks back that will open in January in the former Caribou Coffee spot.

Buckhead
. Thrillist called out the opening of Carisoul Cuisine, featuring Caribbean fare like curry goat and meat patties for under $ 10, has opened inside the Darlington Apartments at 2025 Peachtree Road.

DowntownCreative Loafing is reporting that the folks at Top Flr have leased some second floor space at the corner of Boulevard and Edgewood Avenue.

Midtown. Highland Bakery sent out a press release announcing the opening an 1,100-square-foot location at 1180 Peachtree Street this spring. (Looks like it’s website is currently being updated.)

Tin Lizzy’s Cantina is slated to open its third location in the former Fuego Spanish Grill location by the first quarter of 2010.


Old Fourth Ward
Serpas Restaurant was named one of America’s 10 best New Restaurants by GQ magazine’s January issue.

Westside.
West Egg Cafe will open its new 3,669-square-foot location in mid-January, 2010, in the White Provision Residences building and will introduce its first dinner menu and bar in the new restaurant space. (From Reynolds Group press release.)

Speaking of White Provision, Ormsby’s opened over the weekend, and the menu—boiled peanuts and ambitious sandwiches—looks like a fresh, smart take on tavern food.

Question of the Week:  What Westide chef is rumored to be planning a Mexican restaurant for his next venture?

 PS. The answer to last week’s QOTW—What prodigal Atlanta chef is looking to open a restaurant downtown called “Black Market?”—is Paul Luna. (Correct, Broderick.) He’s baaaaaaack.

ATL Food Chatter will return the first week of January. Happy Holidays to everyone!

Sex on wheels: A food truck coming to Atlanta?

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Food trucks were one of 2009’s hottest food trends—in other cities. Ventures such as Korean taco sensation Kogi barbecue in Los Angeles and Washington DC’s Sweetflow frozen-yogurt-stand-on-wheels have captured fans and dollars. If local entrepreneur Andrew Capron can secure a license, Atlanta may see his barbecue truck with a racy name on the streets by mid-spring 2010.

Boners BBQ
—with the tagline, “Put a little South in your mouth”—is “not meant to offend as much as humor,” says Capron. With a Hooters-style wink, female staffers in 40s/50s style outfits will serve singled priced items such as baby back riblets with homemade sauces, pulled pork and pulled chicken sliders with Asian slaw on sweet buns, and baked beans with “smoked crack,” aka the charred barbecue ends. Capron is still working on the desserts, which will fall under the category of, ahem, “happy endings.”

While Capron works through the regulatory issues of getting a food truck permitted for Atlanta’s roads, he’s serving his barbecue on Monday nights at Tongue and Groove nightclub. He’s also working on a partnership with a certain chef who would find this concept appealing. (See the Question of the Week below.) Since barbecue could be regarded as Southern “street food,” this might be the concept that kicks off a robust food truck culture in Atlanta. We can always dream.

NEWS AND NOTES:
Beer Connoisseur, a locally produced publication featuring all aspects of the rapidly growing beer culture, released their inaugural issue last week.

Top Chef news from other blogs: Robbed finalist Kevin Gillespie said in an interview with Kessler that “I can’t talk about our plans yet, by me and my partners have some restaurant projects in the works.” And Besha Rodell got the scoop that Eli Kirshtein is leaving Eno by Zaza.

Buckhead. Foodie Buddha heard the news that the folks behind Holeman and Finch are planning to open a liquor store named Bottleneck next year.

Thrillist is reporting that Just Loaf’n, the New Orleans dinner plate and po boy restaurant, has opened its second location at 3173 Roswell Road.

Downtown. Look for a JR Crickets opening at 309 Nelson Street this winter.
 
East Atlanta. Kessler reported that Calavino Donati has returned to Atlanta’s dining scene with Urban Cannibals Bottega and Bites at 477 Flat Shoals Road.

Midtown
. An April opening is projected for Hugh Acheson’s Empire State South, the most anticipated restaurant thus far of 2010.

Westside. Look for West Midtown’s Corner Tavern to open at 1133-A Huff Road this winter.

Question of the Week
: What prodigal Atlanta chef is looking to open a restaurant downtown called “Black Market?”

PS.  The answer to last week’s QOTW—What Atlanta restaurant was cited as the example of a 2010 menu trend by Restaurants & Institutions Magazine on their 20 Menu Trends for 2010 list?—is Max’s Coal Oven Pizzeria, for coal-burning pizza ovens. (Jimmy called that one pronto.)

Early details on Doty’s Westside burger project

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ATL Food Chatter: December 7, 2009
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Shaun Doty’s
announcement that he is opening a burger joint on the Westside has created interested chatter in local food circles. Doty—formerly of Mumbo Jumbo and MidCity Cuisine and currently of Shaun’s in Inman Park—is aiming to open his burger spot in April in the White Provision development’s former condo sales office, next to the current location of West Egg. (This is a different White Provision space than where Anne Quantrano was considering a pizza restaurant; that space is apparently still available.)

Doty is still brainstorming with his team on a name that they can trademark, but he says that he has visited burger joints in New York, Chicago—where he really liked Epic Burger—Austin, Texas, and LA in order to develop his concept. Doty notes that, with so many burger concepts these days, what differentiates each restaurant in the key to success. He’s keeping those details under wraps for now, but says that the focus will be on quality of product and price, and that his goal is to bring a “higher level of expertise” to the fast-casual market.

Doty also says he wants to attract everyone from burger lovers to soccer moms with the 2,400 square-foot space being designed by Seiber Designs. He feels that his location is accessible from all parts of town and will become part of the Westside’s exciting growth, which he likens to the energy of Manhattan’s Meatpacking district earlier in the decade. And rather than just being competitors, he believes that his new joint and Richard Blais’ Flip Burger Boutique will create more synergy in the neighborhood.

NEWS AND NOTES:

Anne Quatrano and Clifford Harrison have been invited to participate in “Cookin’ in the Bluegrass: A Celebrity Chef Dinner Series” in conjunction with the Alltech FEI 2010 World Equestrian Games and sponsored by the James Beard Foundation. The dinner series will be held on-site at the Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington during the World Equestrian Games, September 25-October 10, 2010.

Alpharetta. Jacksonville-based Woody’s Bar-B-Que is slated to open their first Georgia store at 2500 North Point Court this spring.

Buckhead. Last Monday, press releases went out to Atlanta’s major media outlets announcing Prohibition, a “1920s underground speakeasy” serving serious cocktails and offering a cigar humidor at 56 East Andrews Drive. The on-the-down-low admittance process met with some online skepticism, comparing it to played-out trends on either coast. We’ll see if the concept flies here.

Decatur. HealthyWay Cafe, a Florida-based all-natural fast-casual concept, is slated to open its first Georgia franchise in Decatur in the first half of 2010.

Johns Creek. Garrison’s Broiler & Tap has closed after five years of operation.

Midtown. Hobnob, a beer and casual bites tavern reportedly from the Gilbert’s Cafe team, is slated to open in the former Caribou Cafe spot this January 2010.

Teela Italiano, sibling to the recently opened Teela Taqueria, is slated to open in the former Mambo Italiano space at 227 Sandy Springs Place this winter.

Westside. Abattoir’s lamb liver fritters were named one of the “10 Best Restaurant Dishes $12 and Under” by Food & Wine Magazine.

Question of the Week: What Atlanta restaurant was cited as the example of a 2010 menu trend by Restaurants & Institutions Magazine on their 20 Menu Trends for 2010 list?

P.S.  The answer to last week’s QOTW—What Buckhead Italian spot is rumored to converting to Mexican cuisine this spring?—is Lola. The rumor is that will become Cantina  this spring

New chef, new menu at One Midtown Kitchen

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ATL Food Chatter: November 30, 2009
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Last month, One Midtown Kitchen, an early hit in Concentrics Hospitality’s stable of restaurants, unveiled a new chef, a new menu, and a new direction that it hopes will restore some of the luster it enjoyed as one of Atlanta’s busiest dining destinations. The new chef is Drew Van Leuvan, a veteran of several Concentrics’ restaurants. He and his revamped menu were unveiled at a recent media dinner where he wowed the crowd with his culinary art. (The menu, by the way, has been further revamped since Kessler weighed in for his “30 Restaurants in 30 Days” peregrinations.)

One’s offerings now focus on New American cuisine featuring local products and Van Leuvan’s hand crafted pastas such as the sweet and savory chestnut and mascarpone tortellini. It also includes house cured and aged meats as well as wood oven-roasted seafood. The “Nightly Roasts” are a smart piece of the freshened approach, with dishes such as pork rack, duck for two, lemon sole on the bone, breast of veal, and leg of lamb (all roasted) in weekly rotations as specials. (The media dinner attendees tried the pork rack; we all gave it the thumbs-up).

Will realignments such as affordable entrees (lots of entrees between $19 and $23, and a $10 burger that’s half brisket and half top round) and lots of organic and local produce draw the crowds? Post a comment below if you’ve been lately or if you check it out soon.

NEWS AND NOTES:

Buckhead. Bobby G’s Chicago eatery, featuring Chicago style pizza, hot dogs and Italian Beef, will open their third location at Lindberg City Center in the former My Panini location in January 2010.  

Quentin Donnaud
, formerly of Craft, is the new top toque at Home.

Johns Creek. Por Fin, featuring “creative coastal Mexican cuisine” has opened at 2100 Ray Moss Connector.

Midtown. Bakeshop has opened and features rustic decor and a menu that includes both sweet and savory treats.

Sandy Springs
. As reported by Bob Townsend in the AJC, the Taco Mac at the Prado has unveiled a private beer “speakeasy” type spot called The Fred, named after Taco Mac’s beverage director, Fred Crudder.

Virginia Highland. Genki Noodles & Sushi is slated to open a store in Vi-Hi this spring.

Westside. Anne Quatrano has shelved the rumored pizza project at White Provisions.

Question of the Week
: What Buckhead Italian spot is rumored to converting to Mexican cuisine this spring?

P.S. The answer to last week’s QOTW—What West Coast frozen yogurt trendsetter will move into the Atlanta market next year?—is Pinkberry. (Thanks, Broderick, for mentioning in a comment last week that Pinkberry competitor Red Mango is also entering the ATL market next year.)

The Atlanta Dining Outlook: A Designer’s Forecast

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ATL Food Chatter: November 23, 2009
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I chatted recently with Ed Seiber, president of Seiber Design, Inc., about his perspective on the future of Atlanta’s dining scene. Seiber, the designer of Atlanta icons such as Restaurant Eugene, New York Prime and Spice, is a veteran of over 20 years in the Atlanta market. He designed Truva, the Downtown Mediterranean restaurant that officially opens today. He’s currently working on a fast-casual burger concept for Shaun Doty, slated for the White Provisions development on the Westside.

The urbane Seiber, who has received national and international recognition for his restaurant designs, is also a food fanatic of the first order. Here are some of his thoughts:

Q: What is your outlook for Atlanta’s dining scene over the next two to three years?

ES: We see the continued growth of the fast-casual segment, but we already sense adult value meals alone can’t carry us for the next two or three years. Diners will still seek a quality dining experience in which value is measured in many ways: quality ingredients, (many locally-sourced), artfully prepared and hospitably presented in simpler yet evocative settings.

Q: What sectors do you see flourishing and which will not and why?

ES: Smaller, chef-driven neighborhood restaurants, gastropubs, artisanal food and drink offerings in many forms will remain a strong segment. While Atlanta may well continue to see a few out-of-state high-end restaurants open in Buckhead, Midtown and Downtown, our local entrepreneurs will continue to define what makes our dining culture unique. We don’t see the glitzy indulgence sector returning anytime soon. For those who do want to splurge occasionally, they’ll be looking less to a Las Vegas and more to a sophisticated, casual downtown vibe.

Q:
What design features are becoming more pronounced in this market (as opposed to, say, New York)?

ES: New York restaurant and bar concepts will continue to influence Atlanta’s, but going forward we see this coming less from midtown and uptown Manhattan and more from Brooklyn, Queens, and the neighborhoods of lower Manhattan. Design features tend to travel from region to region, city to city, so we don’t expect unique features here as opposed to New York. The features are driven more by the specific dining concept and the budget. What we do see for the next couple of years are simpler, more understated designs with more monochromatic color palettes highlighted by pops of color and texture.

Q: What are some of the characteristics of the simpler design aesthetic?

ES: Recycled and reclaimed materials, energy efficiency, long-term durability, and when possible, locally sourced materials will be important. Due to constrained budgets, we’re likely to also see a variety of less expensive decorative components used to accessorize the dining rooms, similar to stage set design. We see a greater emphasis on comfort and more intimate spaces and less emphasis on bling and ostentation.

New York architect Deborah Berke wrote about “austerity aesthetics” recently, in which “beauty must be a function of simplicity, composition, and quality rather than expensive materials or structural gymnastics. Architects must do more with less.” Perhaps we can call it the New Resourcefulness.

Q:
Last question: where would you take visitors from Paris to eat here in Atlanta?

ES:
We would definitely take them to our unique, chef-driven restaurants, especially those that reinterpret southern cuisine, or reflect artful approaches to cooking. To name a few—Shaun’s, Repast, Restaurant Eugene, Pura Vida, Cakes & Ale. I hope our Parisian friends have some time and are hungry.

NEWS AND NOTES:

Buckhead. Shula’s 347 (named for the number of NFL victories for the Hall of Fame coach), a 260-seat steakhouse/sports bar, has opened in the Buckhead Marriott at 3405 Lennox Road.  

College Park. Michon’s Loft—serving smoked meats and seafood and featuring live entertainment—has reopened and relocated to 1583 Virginia Avenue.

Cumming. Chow Down Atlanta penned a great report on new fried-fantasy shop Dutch Monkey Doughnuts. Among the specials are everyone’s favorite doughnut toppings of the moment: maple-bacon.

Decatur. Community BBQ opened for business last Thursday. (If you go, let us know how it was: We’ve heard great early reports.)

Downtown. Creative Loafing notes that Pizzeria Vesuvius—from a team comprised of owners of Noni’s, Grant Central, Thumbs up and others—was slated to open on November 20 in the former Bureau location at 327 Edgewood Avenue.

Druid Hills. The Atlanta Business Chronicle is reporting that a Twisted Taco is locating in the former Emory bookstore location by spring 2010.


Dunwoody
. The Atlanta Business Chronicle also reports that Sage Woodfire Tavern is opening a second location in Park Place shopping center at 4505 Ashford-Dunwoody Road.


Forest Park
. Thrillist is reporting that Piggy City Bar-B-Que, serving Memphis style barbecue, has opened in the former Frank’s Bar-B-Que location at 1134 Main Street.

Hartsfield. Cafe Intermezzo is opening its third location on Concourse B by the end of the year.

Midtown. Rumor has it that Spice Market at the W Midtown is no longer under Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s Culinary Concepts umbrella.

Roswell. INC. Street Food, featuring an eclectic menu of Latin American street food from the owners and chef of Little Alley and The Salt Factory, will open at 946 Canton Street in the historic Roswell Square this December.


Vinings
. After ten weeks of renovations and rebuilding, Canoe will reopen its doors on Monday, November 23. During the first week Canoe will be open for dinner only and will offer a three-course prix-fixe menu at $55 per person on Thanksgiving Day.


Westside
. The Daily Beast singled out Miller Union as one of the country’s hottest new restaurants.

Question of the Week
: What West Coast frozen yogurt trendsetter will move into the Atlanta market next year?

PS.  The answer to last week’s QOTW—What new Metro Atlanta-based sports restaurant group is planning a Buckhead store in 2010?—is Duluth’s Arena Tavern 

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

Downtown Dining: Not Just for Tourists

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ATL Food Chatter: November 16, 2009
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Downtown has generally been regarded as Atlanta’s less inspired dining destinations—an area where only tourists or event attendees dine. However, in spite of the economic malaise that has sharply curtailed the tourist and convention trade and left lingering perceptions about safety and crime, and despite notable recent closings such as City Grill and Dailey’s downtown Atlanta’s dining scene continues to grow.

Downtown’s Sweet Auburn Historic District has seen some of the most activity lately, with the opening of Sweet Auburn Bistro, serving “New Southern” cuisine, and the immensely popular Grindhouse Burgers in the Sweet Auburn Curb Market. Other new additions include Terrace at Peachtree restaurant in the Ellis hotel, and a forthcoming location of Marlow’s Tavern.

One force driving Downtown restaurant growth is the marketing group, Central Atlanta Progress (CAP), which sponsors Downtown Dining Week. According to Wilma Sothern, VP of Marketing for CAP, the goal of the organization’s current marketing campaign, The Downtown District, is to brand downtown Atlanta as a dining destination for metro Atlanta. As an example of the program’s success, she points out that in 2009, Downtown Dining Week, the program’s primary initiative, was extended an additional week because of the overwhelming demand at participating restaurants.

Sothern and her team are planning to work with some of the new attractions like the College Football Hall of Fame that are being planned for downtown. CAP wants to integrate the proposed attractions’ marketing plans into the Downtown Dining District’s plans.

And for those of you who enjoyed 2009’s Downtown Dining Week, the dates have been set for 2010: July 26 to August 5.

NEWS AND NOTES:

Restaurant Eugene, Park 75, Bacchanalia and MF Buckhead were all named one of Georgia Trend magazine’s Top 10 dining destinations.

For the first time in 20 years, there are no AAA Five Diamond restaurants in Atlanta. In fact, the 2010 awards list has no Georgia restaurants.

Bacchanalia, Park 75 and Quinones Room at Bacchanalia are the Atlanta 2010 Forbes Travel Guide’s (formerly Mobil) Four-Star awardees.
 
Buckhead. The Blissful Glutton is reporting that Sheik Burritos & Kabob, serving fusion concoctions, has opened at 1877 Piedmont Avenue.  
 
Decatur. As first reported in Decatur Metro, a 100 percent locally raised, organic beef burger joint called Farm Burger, is hoping to open in the former Voila space on West Ponce de Leon Avenue, next to Watershed.
 
Downtown. Grindhouse Burgers won 1st place in the 2009 Cabbagetown Chomp and Stomp chili cook off and Festival contest with a classic chili recipe. Judges this year included Kevin Gillespie; Shaun Doty; Kevin Rathbun; Scott Serpas; and Joe Truex
 
Johns Creek. Gladys Knight and Ron Winan’s Bistro in that area has closed.  
 
Midtown. The Waffle House slated for the former American Apparel location in Tech Square will feature a decidedly Georgia Tech appeal, including gold and white striped chairs, a series of Tech themed murals, and a statue of the school’s mascot, Buzz.
 
Poncey Highland. The Majestic Diner has been named one of the top ten late night diners by Playboy magazine.
 
Question of the Week: What new Metro Atlanta based sports restaurant group is planning a Buckhead store in 2010?
 
PS.  The answer to last week’s QOTW—What former ATL bad boy chef is rumored to have returned to town?—is Paul Luna.

Bistro Niko’s preview party: A gallic gala

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ATL Food Chatter: November 9, 2009
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Atlanta’s food fanatics and trendsetters were feted in grand fashion at the Buckhead Life Restaurant Group’s soigné affair last Tuesday evening celebrating the opening of Bistro Niko, their first new restaurant since Kyma in 2001. The preview party, which featured bites, bottles, and bonhomie, festively set the stage for the highly anticipated French bistro. Guests noshed on caviar, champagne, and assorted menu items such as gruyere cheese puffs, moules “gilbert,” and crevettes en pate de brique (white shrimp crisped in thin pastry).

Bistro Niko will offer a seasonal menu created by Chef Gary Donlick. It features regional French comfort cuisine that seeks to strike a balance between sophistication and comfort. For the past six months, the BLRG, the Johnson Studio, and a veritable host of contactors and artists have been working feverishly to transform 8,000 square feet of raw space on the first floor of the dramatic 3344 Peachtree building. The Johnson Studio’s design imparts a timeless elegance to the space with antique fixtures, a scalloped ceiling, the clock set above the zinc bar and the wall art that evoked the grand brasseries of Paris.

Pano Karatassos and his group hope to attract not only the Buckhead crowd but destination diners from across the Metro area as well.  And based upon the oohs and ahhs from those in attendance, they may royally succeed.

NEWS AND NOTES:

Brookhaven. Sugar Shack, the retail bake goods and sandwich shop from Atlanta-based Metrotainment Cafes (Hudson’s Grill, Einstein’s) is slated to open next month at 4046 Peachtree Road.

Buckhead. As first reported by Kessler, look for chic sushi spot Tomo to relocate from Vinings to Buckhead’s Ritz-Carlton Residences.


Downtown
. Truva (Turkish for the city of Troy), featuring Mediterranean cuisine, is slated to open this fall in the former Steak & Ale spot on International Boulevard.


Grant Park
. Painted Table Cafe—featuring color-splashed chairs and vegetarian-friendly breakfast and lunch options in an art-lined gallery space—has opened in the former Zocalo space at 465 Boulevard.


Inman Park
. Pure Taqueria has opened (reportedly to immediate popularity) in the former Grape location at 300 N Highland.

Midtown
. Atlanta’s fourth Hudson’s Grille opened over the weekend at 942 Peachtree Street.

Question of the Week: What former ATL bad boy chef has—for now—returned to town?

PS. The answer to last week’s QOTW—What local pizza place was named number one in Atlanta by the 2009 Zagut survey?—is Camelli’s.

“Five Diamond” Chef Marc Ehrler Coming To Atlanta

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ATL Food Chatter: November 2, 2009
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According to Associated Luxury Hotels International (ALHI), a chef with an impressive, international pedigree is headed to our town to helm the restaurant at the forthcoming Loews Atlanta hotel.

ALHI’s web page for the under-construction Loews, the anchor business for mixed-use project 12th & Midtown, lists Marc Ehrler as the opening chef of the hotel’s signature restaurant, Jasmine’s. According to the bio on his website, Ehrler is a native of Antibes, on the French Riviera, who trained with decorated French chefs such as Alain Ducasse, Jacques Maximin, Andre Daguin, and Alain Barale. His cooking style is a blend of southern France and Caribbean influences.

Ehrler holds the distinction of being the first chef to receive the AAA Five Diamond ranking in two restaurants at the same hotel, during his time at the Ritz-Carlton Cancun. He began his career with his current employers at the Loews Miami Beach Hotel, and then lead the kitchen at the Ventana Room at the Loews Ventana Canyon Resort in Tucson. That restaurant closed this past July, and Ehrler is working with the company in San Diego until Jasmine’s opens in spring 2010. Ehler was a semifinalist for the James Beard awards this past year for his work in Tucson.

Given the dearth of fine dining options currently in Atlanta, could Erhler’s background in high-end hotel restaurants signal the return of foie gras-laced tasting menus to the city?
 
NEWS AND NOTES:
 
Brookhaven. Sushi Yoshino has opened at 2150 Johnson Ferry Road.
 
Buckhead. Atlanta Journal-Constitution dining critic Merideth Ford Goldman has named Restaurant Eugene the paper’s 2009 Restaurant of the Year.
 
Chamblee. Blissful Glutton reports that two Cuban restaurants are aiming to open under the name Havana, confusing folks as to which spot is connected with the still-missed Havana Sandwich Shop that burned to the ground last year.

Decatur. The Pharm House—featuring “American food with a 21st century twist” and some dishes with wacky, literature-inspired names—has opened on Decatur Square in the former Birdi’s and Caribbean Harry’s locations.

Downtown. Cafe Campesino, a corner cafe from Maria Moore Riggs of the Little Red Hen Bakery that features some of her goodies such as whole grain apple bran muffins, opens this week at the Sweet Auburn Curb Market.
 
Marietta. Italy’s Finest Grill & Seafood has opened in the former Fazzino’s Sports Bar & Grill spot at 3920 Canton Road.

Midtown. According to Thrillist, Aurum Lounge, an eighty-three-seat luxe bar and lounge featuring “meze” plates and Italian dishes such as roasted chicken with pesto and spicy salami with tomato sauce and mozzarella, is opening this week at 915 Peachtree Street in the Metropolis condominiums.
 
Park 75 at The Four Seasons hotel is shifting its menu focus and giving diners an experience in southern hospitality and southern cuisine with what chef Robert Gerstenecker calls “Southern Steak Redefined,” beginning the last week in October.

South Dekalb. Look for a unit of California-based Golden Bird Chicken to open on Glenwood Road this spring. 
 
Vinings. Mulberry Street Pizza has opened at 4355 Cobb Parkway.  
 
Westside. LIT Kitchen has been renamed as 433 Bishop (the private function and culinary arts facility’s address) and Sheri Davis—formerly of the late, lamented Dish—has taken over as top toque.
 
Question of the Week: What local pizza place was named number one in Atlanta by the 2009 Zagut survey?
 
P.S. The answer to last week’s QOTW—What intown coffee shop has partnered with an organic farm to offer
their customers the opportunity to purchase farm fresh organic produce
and free range eggs?—is Danneman’s Coffeehouse. They have partnered with Fresh Roots farm.

Lupe: A First Impression

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ATL Food Chatter: October 26, 2009
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“Keeping up with the times” is how Riccardo Ullio described his decision to convert his former Spanish-themed Cuerno space into Lupe, a ninety-seat Midtown Mexican taqueria, at a friends and family event last week. He explained how economic circumstances prompted the move from “a destination restaurant to a neighborhood place.”

Lupe, named after Our Lady of Guadalupe, “the symbol of Mexican identity, history and culture,” according to Ullio, offers a menu that is smaller and less expensive than its predecessor and is geared more to the growing Midtown neighborhood where it is located.

What I noticed first upon entering the reconfigured-but-still-sexy space was that the signature Cuerno bull statue was gone. Ullio said that it is in an art gallery, waiting to be auctioned. The rest of the decor has not changed too dramatically: There is a mural of Guadalupe, red cowhide banquettes, colonial chandeliers decked with handcrafted Mayan-style pendants, and a polished stone bar.

The second thing I noticed was the new menu is relatively compact. The price points are lower than Rosa Mexicano but higher than Taqueria Del Sol. Expect an assortment of tacos priced at 3 for $9 (no mix-n-match options, which irked Cliff Bostock), quesadillas from $7 to $12 and platos or small plates from $13 to $22. The highest price item was a $22 whole roasted red snapper. The beverage menu places an emphasis on tequilas (there are fifty-three).

Lupe has promise: The bar looks as if it could be a destination spot like its next-door sibling, Beleza, and with time, the kinks can be worked out with some of the menu items that we sampled. The location, at 8th and Juniper, is still the biggest unknown in the equation: If the community embraces Lupe like Inman Park has embraced Fritti, then it could be a noteworthy addition to Atlanta’s dining scene.

 NEWS AND NOTES:

Buckhead. A Meal to Remember, a benefit for the meals on wheels for senior citizens, will be held Friday, November 6th at the St. Regis Hotel. For details, visit www.scsatl.org.

The Atlanta Business Chronicle is reporting that Saskatoon—a Greenville, S.C. based restaurant featuring wild game, steaks and seafood—has signed a lease to operate a 6,800 square-foot oupost at 366 Pharr Road.

Chamblee. 57th Fighter Group restaurant, closed since 2007, has reopened at 3929 Clairmont Road.

Downtown. Repeat Atlanta is reporting that Parish Market Cajun Kitchen, a combination Cajun eatery and neighborhood grocery store, has opened on Luckie Street.

The Hard Rock Cafe has replaced the iconic Cadillac perched on its roof with a thirty-foot guitar.

Midtown. The Cook’s Warehouse is slated to open its new expanded location inside Ansley Mall November 13.

Smyrna. The Vinings Grill has closed.

Vinings. The Burger Club is slated to open November 4 for lunch at 11:30 p.m.

Question of the Week: What intown coffee shop has partnered with an organic farm to offer their customers the opportunity to purchase farm fresh organic produce and free range eggs?

P.S.  The answer to last week’s QOTW—who was the opening chef at the Dining Room at the Ritz Carlton Buckhead?—is Chef Jean-Pierre Maharibatcha. The French Vietnamese chef is now in Hawaii.

Hot November Openings: An Update

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ATL Food Chatter: October 19, 2009
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Here is the latest on three new spots whose arrival next month should warm up Atlanta’s dining scene with some rustic Southern fare, “farm-to-bagel” goodies, and Southeast Asian comfort food:

Miller Union. Executive chef Steven Satterfield says that the first week in November is now the target opening date for this long anticipated Westsider. With additional inspiration from his recent stages (unpaid apprenticeships) at La Bernadin and Chez Panisse, his Southern-tinged menu will be based on the dairy, meats, cheeses, herbs and produce of local farmers. A newly decided-upon feature is a family-style dinner that Satterfield will host each Tuesday. Sample menu items may include simple fresh salads, farm egg baked in celery cream with rustic bread, roast guinea hen with autumn squash, and local greens and Georgia apple tart with burnt honey ice cream.

Bakeshop
. Jonathan St. Hillarie is also shooting for a first week of November to open his Midtown patisserie. The brand new high-tech baking ovens are installed, and he is working on perfecting some savory baguettes including one that features bacon. [Editor’s note: New York Times reporter Kim Severson’s pronouncement that bacon is the new sun-dried tomato becomes more true every day.] The team is also working on getting their website up and running very soon.

Tuk Tuk Thai Food Loft
. A sneak peek at the former Taurus reveals that the fixtures and furniture are in place, with some dramtic lighting elements in the three-story lobby. Early to mid-November will see the launch of this Thai barbecue and street food spot, the third Atlanta restaurant from Charlie and Nan Niyomkul, who also own Tamarind Seed and Nan Thai Fine dining.

NEWS AND NOTES:

Primal Atlanta—Atlanta’s first annual, outdoor gathering of local butchers and chefs—will feature demonstrations of heritage meats from Gum Creek Farms prepared over hardwood fires. The event will be held on Saturday, November 21 from 6 to 10 p.m. at Sweetwater Brewing Co. The chef and butcher lineup includes Todd Mussman of Muss & Turner’s, Todd Richards of Rolling Bones BBQ, Gary Mennie of Livingston, Duane Nutter and Reggie Washington of One Flew South, Tony Seichrist of Holeman & Finch, Tommy Searcy of Gum Creek Farms, and Alex Friedman of P’Cheen. Visit artofthebutcher.com or call 404-849-3569 for additional information and tickets.
 
Decatur. Several websites have reported that ex-Sam and Dave’s pitmaster Dave Roberts’ anticipated ’cue spot has a name: Community BBQ. The opening date remains uncertain.

Duluth. Kurt’s & Vrenny’s has been named one of the top 10 German restaurants in America in the first annual Best German Restaurants competition.

Inman Park. Rumor has it that yet another market/deli is opening in Inman Park—this one is slated to go next store to Across the Street on Highland Avenue.

Midtown. Amuse! will open tonight, October 19, featuring a French-inspired menu by Lenny Robinson. The restaurant, which formerly housed Allegro, will be open for lunch, dinner, and weekend brunch.

Lupe, Riccardo Ullio’s Mexican taqueria, is slated to open tomorrow, October 20, in the former Cuerno space.

Roswell. Ragamuffin Ice Cream Parlor & Coffeehouse has opened inside Ragamuffin Music.

Sandy Springs. Creative Loafing is reporting that Fishmongers Seafood & Steaks has closed.

Westside. Thrillist was the first to report that Hankook Taqueria, serving inexpensive Korean BBQ tacos, quesadillas, and burritos in a spare, fifty-seat space, has opened at 1341 Collier Road. Tomas Lee, former executive chef at Buckhead Diner, is the owner.

Question of the Week: You know who the Dining Room at the Ritz Carlton Buckhead’s top toque was when it closed—but who was its opening chef?

PS. The answer to last week’s QOTW—What intown restaurateurs have formed a restaurant industry-based Internet site designed to assist restaurants with their online marketing and public relations—is Cliff Bramble and Kirk Parks of Rathbun’s. They created The RestaurantSection.com

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