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Q&A with Pano Karatassos

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ATL Food Chatter: October 12, 2009
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Last week, I sat down with Pano Karatassos, whom I consider the Renaissance man of Atlanta’s dining scene. We discussed his views on the current state of Buckhead’s dining scene and the ways his company, Buckhead Life Restaurant Group, is coping with the economic climate. It seemed particularly appropriate to check in with Karatassos this year, when he’s celebrating his company’s thirtieth year in business.

Q: Given the challenges of the economy, and the recent closings of Buckhead restaurants both at the highest and lowest levels, how would you describe the current state of Buckhead dining?

PK: Right now, it is at a stand still. And we are anticipating a very slow holiday season this year. We have to get projects like The Streets of Buckhead moving in order to regain the momentum here in Buckhead. But I still wouldn’t want to be anywhere else.

Q: In what ways is the challenging economy impacting decisions you’re making about the two new restaurants, Bistro Niko and Pano’s, you’ll soon be opening? 

PK: If we had opened Bistro Niko a year and a half ago, we would have failed by now. We feel that the timing is now right for a casual French bistro where all of our entrees are under $20 and the wine list prices for bottles are all under $35. With Pano’s, we felt that we have to take the time to do it right because of our relationship with the St. Regis Hotel. They have established a standard of excellence that we must adhere to. We are expecting to open mid-2010, instead of this fall as originally planned.

Q:
Because Buckhead is a more expensive demographic, do you expect it to return to its culinary glory as the economy recovers?

PK: Yes. When major projects come on line in the next few years, Buckhead will take off again.

Q: Tell us about the inspiration behind Bistro Niko—specifically, what inspired the French theme?

PK: We felt that there was a void in our restaurant group’s lineup and we felt that a regional French bistro would fill that void. We researched restaurants from New York to Paris and Lyon in order to get the concept we wanted. Our team—including [sons] Pano Jr. and Niko and executive chef Gary Donlick—ate four to five meals a day in several cities to get the look, menu, and feel of an authentic bistro.

When we looked around Buckhead we saw brasseries like Au Pied Cochon but no bistros which offer our brand’s level of quality and service. We think that Bistro Niko will be a great addition to Atlanta’s dining scene.

Q: Finally, can you give us some idea of the ways Pano’s will be different from Pano’s and Paul’s? And some of the ways in which it will be the same?

PK: First, we had outgrown the location of Pano’s and Paul’s in terms of how we could modernize the style because of its location in a strip shopping center. The St. Regis location allows us to add more cachet to the look and feel of our flagship restaurant.

My son, Pano, will be the executive chef at Pano’s and he is very excited to run a restaurant that will allow him to better incorporate some the experiences and skills he gained working at Le Bernardin and The French Laundry.

Pano’s will still be a “neighborhood restaurant” like Pano’s and Paul’s. We want to retain our long time loyal customers as well as attract new ones. Pano’s will be more sophisticated but not more expensive than Pano’s and Paul’s.

NEWS AND NOTES:

Congratulations to Creative Loafing’s Besha Rodell, who won the Association of Food Journalists’ first place award for Newspaper Food Features (publications under 250,000 in circulation) for her 2008 Food Issue, “My week on an all-Georgia diet.”

Buckhead.
Esquire magazine named Paces 88 among its “20 Best New Restaurants” for 2009.

Santé, a hospitality industry trade magazine, has named Kyma one of their regional 2009 Culinary Hospitality Award winners for their outstanding achievement in culinary service and hospitality.

Doraville. Blissful Glutton is reporting at Delicious Kabob, which made a splash earlier this year for its Northern Chinese specialties, has already closed.

Downtown. Downtown Gourmet Pita, Subs, Salads and Wraps has opened inside the Candler Building at 123 Peachtree Street.

My Potato Factory
, featuring a wide variety of baked potato dishes with toppings like shrimp gumbo, sausage and smoked pulled barbequed pork, has opened at 235 Mitchell Street.

Midtown
. Pacci was also named one of Esquire magazine’s “20 Best New Restaurants “for 2009.

Roswell. Andy Badgett, owner of Relish, is opening a gourmet market next store to the restaurant called Y’alls Wine and Gourmet Market.

Westside
. Elisa Gambino announced last Wednesday that she is closing her retail store, Via Elisa, and will discontinue her line of pastas effective October 17th. She will, however, continue to produce her wholesale pasta sauces.

Question of the Week: What intown restaurateurs have formed a restaurant industry-based Internet site designed to assist restaurants with their online marketing and public relations?

PS.  The answer to last week’s QOTW—What famous bar chain known for its frozen drinks is slated to open their first Atlanta location this December in Lindbergh City Center?—is Wet Willies. (And from the comments answering that question last week, y’all seem mighty excited—B.A.)

Inman Park gets a gourmet grocery, plus closings, openings, and more

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ATL Food Chatter: October 5, 2009
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Alpharetta
. Chow Down Atlanta reported that V1 BBQ and Cafe, featuring barbequed duck, roast pork and chicken, has opened an offshoot of their Buford Highway restaurant inside the Super H Mart at 10820 Abbots Bridge Road.

Buckhead. Atlanta Business Chronicle broke the news last Friday that ESPN Zone has closed.

Chops/Lobster Bar is celebrating its 20th anniversary this month.

Downtown
. Look for a JR Crickets to open on Nelson Street in Castleberry Hill in December.

Thrillist is reporting that the former M bar at 257 Peters Street is now Fuse, a combination bar and restaurant serving eclectic cuisine.

East Atlanta. Following last week’s rumors, Besha Rodell now verifies that the owners of Wasabi have purchased the former Cantina La Casita building and are planning to open a Vietnamese Pho spot called So Ba by the end of the year.

Grant Park. Rumor has it that a restaurant named Painted Tables is going into the former Zocalo spot.

Inman Park. Reese Grocery and Deli will soon occupy the former Johnny’s Pizza on Elizabeth Street. Looks like its take-home foods will include plenty of vegetarian and vegan options.

Riccardo Ullio has hired Aaron Russell, formerly chef at Decatur’s Chocolate Bar, as pastry chef for all of his restaurants.

Southwest Atlanta. Wresting legend and Atlanta native Abdullah the Butcher is slated to open his second Atlanta restaurant on Oak Street this winter.

Question of the Week: What famous bar chain known for its frozen drinks is slated to open their first Atlanta location this December in Lindbergh City Center?

PS.  The answer to last week’s QOTW—What former Holeman & Finch chef has returned to his native New Orleans?—is Adam Biderman. He is now at Herbsaint.

Staplehouse: A restaurant idea in progress

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ATL Food Chatter: September 14, 2009
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NEWS AND NOTES:

A young Atlanta chef and his wife are courting Atlanta foodies by creatively using the Internet and tasting dinners to help create buzz about a neighborhood restaurant they plan to open, to be called Staplehouse. Ryan and Jen Hidinger’s marketing strategy, appropriately named “A Prelude to Staplehouse,” has been a series of intimate, supper club-style meals with limited seating held at the home of the two young Grant Park residents. In a spirit similar to Jeff Varasano’s tastings parties before he opened his eponymous pizza joint, it introduces Hidinger’s cooking style to diners and provides feedback for future menu planning.

An invitation to one of the affairs, which have been held monthly since January, can only be requested via e-mail. Each event has been chronicled on the project’s website and Facebook page, and pictures and comments from the participants have spread virally through the various social media outlets. Dinners, which typically cost between $45 to $60 per person, have started to sell out in advance, and waiting lists continue to grow.

Hidinger—a graduate of the culinary program at the Art Institute of Atlanta whose local resume includes Bacchanalia, Floataway Café and, currently, Muss & Turner’s—envisions Staplehouse as a casual, neighborhood focused restaurant featuring his spin on seasonal cooking. The credit crunch has slowed Hidinger’s timetable for opening his dream spot, though he still hopes to find a location and be in business by year’s end. In the meantime, he and his wife will continue to conduct a series of culinary events that will hopefully give their forthcoming restaurant a built-in audience.

NEWS AND NOTES:

The October 2009 edition of National Geographic Traveler, a magazine designed to serve as a resource for the active, curious traveler, proclaimed Atlanta as one of the “Fifty Places of a Lifetime” to visit. 

The article described Atlanta and its dining scene: “Though steeped in Civil War history and a devotion to Southern hospitality, Atlanta is also a hotbed of upscale shopping, creative cuisine, and an exploding arts scene. Locals are passionate about college and professional sports, but also about foie gras, collard greens, and pecan pie.”

Alpharetta. Yogen Früz, with more than 1,000 stores worldwide, has opened their first Georgia location in North Point Mall.

Buckhead. Rumor has it that Charlie and Nan Niyomkul’s new Thai restaurant in the space formerly occupied by Taurus will be called Tuk Tuk, rather than Vertigo. A tuk tuk is a three-wheeled cab popular in Southeast Asia—one is parked outside the Niyomkul’s Midtown restaurant, Tamarind Seed.

Repeat Atlanta noted that Roy’s, the upscale Hawaiian fusion spot, has closed.

Downtown. CCS, the San Francisco-based firm who designed W Atlanta Downtown’s BLT Steak and Drinkshop, is working on “re-creating” the three lobby restaurants (as well as the lobby itself) in the Hyatt Regency.

East Atlanta
. The rumor is that a Vietnamese pho spot will open in the former Cantinia Casita location by the end of October.

Little Five Points
. Aurora Coffee is now serving Morelli’s Gourmet Ice Cream—not only by itself but also incorporated into some of their coffee drinks.

Vinings
. Mulberry Street Pizza, a fifty-seat parlor, has opened at 4355 Cobb Pkwy.

Question of the Week:
What former Holeman & Finch chef has returned to his native New Orleans?

PS.  The answer to last week’s QOTW—what former Dining Room chef is rumored to be planning a restaurant in London with famed pastry chef Pierre Herme?—is Joël Antunes, according to Shaun Doty.

The state of fine dining in Atlanta

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ATL Food Chatter: September 21, 2009
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Some observers of the local dining scene have opined that the October 1 closing of the Dining Room at The Ritz-Carlton Buckhead, Atlanta’s last Mobil five-star restaurant, marks the end of fine dining in the city. Two Dining Room alumni argue, though, that while the closing will have some negative impacts, its demise only marks the end of that particular type of fine dining and that Atlanta’s chefs will create a new format for fine dining.

Shaun Doty, one of the several Dining Room alumni who have gone on to helm Atlanta restaurants, believes in this new era, “five-star dining” must be re-engineered to meet the economic and demographic challenge of the times. He cites Restaurant Eugene as a prime example of the new fine dining paradigm: chef-owner Linton Hopkins recently adapted his menu to an ingredient-driven collection of small plates.

Doty also points out another factor that may have played a part in the Dining Room’s demise: executive chef Arnaud Berthelier was not a highly visible figure in the community during his tenure.

Todd Ginsberg, who worked under Joel Antunes at the Dining Room, says that the days of the “$100+ per person” prix fixe menus are fading fast if not gone completely. But he feels that there will still be “white tablecloths and great wine lists,” albeit in more approachable settings. Ginsberg also notes perhaps the most difficult aspect of the closing for the city: It eliminates the pipeline of world-class chefs that the Dining Room brought to Atlanta, many of whom stayed and opened highly lauded restaurants that greatly enhanced our dining scene.

Atlanta (and other cities its size around the country) find its culinary evolution at a moment where the “finest dining” experiences are now mostly offered in more casual settings by skilled chefs who have local roots or who have been cooking in Atlanta for years and understand the audience. When the economy rebounds, will new high-dollar, formal temples of gastronomy emerge? Who knows—maybe one day a local chef-led operation will occupy a space at the Buckhead Ritz.

NEWS AND NOTES:

Buckhead. Lenox Square Grill—a full service restaurant anchored in the mall and offering breakfast, lunch and dinner daily—is slated to open October 15.

Decatur
. Decatur Metro reports that Tastings Wine Bar has closed.

Downtown. The Sun Dial is scheduled to close after dinner on Sunday, October 4 and re-open in late December, pending weather, while The Westin Peachtree Plaza embarks on the largest window replacement project in the Western Hemisphere.

Repeat Atlanta is reporting that Checkers is opening a unit in the former Kentucky Fried Chicken space on Broad Street this month.

East Atlanta. Creative Loafing’s Besha Rodell reports that Cantina La Casita has closed.

Midtown
. Drew Van Leuvan, who was slated to be the top toque at the re-concepted Trois before it was decided not to pursue the project—has been named executive chef at One Midtown Kitchen. Tom Harvey, the former executive chef, will assume that role at Murphy’s.

Fuze Burger is slated to open this month in the former Thai Palace space at 265 Ponce de Leon Avenue.

Old Fourth Ward
. Croaker’s Spot, a “seafood and nouveau soul food” restaurant out of Richmond, is scheduled to open a location at the corner of Edgewood Avenue and Boulevard next month.

Vinings. Yoforia, the locally based frozen yogurt chain, will open their fourth metro area location this fall at 4338 Paces Ferry Road.

Virginia Highland
. D.B.A. Barbecue has a new chef, Drew Kirkland, who has worked at Rathbun’s and Rathbun Steak.

Westside. As of Tuesday, September 15, Abattoir opened for lunch Tuesday through Saturday in addition to their regular dinner hours.

Question of the Week: What former Dining Room chef is rumored to be planning a restaurant in London with famed pastry chef Pierre Herme?

PS. The answer to last week’s QOTW—What Atlanta restaurant group is opening a bakery/coffee shop/ sandwich shop in Brookhaven?— is Metrotainment Cafes. They are opening Sugar Shack this fall in the Brookhaven Shopping Center.

Todd Ginsberg heads west(side) for Bocado

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ATL Food Chatter: September 14, 2009
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At first glance, Todd Ginsberg, an honors graduate of the Culinary Institute of America, would seem to be an unlikely candidate for the executive chef position at a start-up casual restaurant in a quickly evolving Atlanta neighborhood. The talented and passionate culinarian has worked at Michelin three-star restaurants Alain Ducasse in New York and Lucas Carton in Paris and, most recently, helmed the kitchen at Trois. But a unique venture enticed him to turn down a job in New York to take on a new culinary challenge at Bocado, opening this fall in Atlanta’s westside.

Ginsberg said that he decided to take the job at Bocado because he was excited about working with owner Brian Lewis to create a restaurant that reflected their shared vision on the use of quality local ingredients and attention to detail. When it opens in October at 887 Howell Mill Road, the restaurant’s focus will be on offering a “contemporary approach to American fare, emphasizing a homegrown-inspired menu featuring small plates, sandwiches and salads.”  

Pushing the envelope on the use of local products, Ginsberg will feature an “open door” policy for local farmers: Whatever they bring him, if the products meet his standards, he will incorporate into the menu. And to provide additional firepower to Bocado’s menu, he has hired a pastry chef Jennifer von Schlichten, who is returning to her hometown after a stint at Chicago’s acclaimed Blackbird.

Ginsberg believes there are many people in Atlanta who want excellence and sophistication in their dining experience without pomp. His goal at Bocado is to “create innovative foods that satisfy the tastes of those seeking simple plates with big flavor.” First peak at the small plates lineup includes sauteed squid with celery, mint, and chili flakes as well as roasted baby beets with Valbreso (French feta cheese), olives, capers and balsamic vinegar. Bocado promises to be yet another compelling reason to head to the westside to dine this fall.

NEWS AND NOTES:

Austell. Thrillist is reporting that Sweet Tea’s Catfish & Blues Co., featuring Delta Blues and food like Delta hot tamales, farm raised catfish and sweet potato souffle, has opened at 3961 Floyd Road.

Buckhead
. Wolfgang Puck Express has closed after 6 years in operation at 1745 Peachtree Street.

Eros Tapas Bar has closed. [Editors addition: The restaurant is now called  Ixtlan Ultra Lounge and continues to serve tapas. The website, for now, remains the same.]

Joël Brasserie has had its liquor license restored.

Downtown
. A branch of Baja Fresh Express is under construction in the former Starbucks space at 250 Centennial Park West.

Decatur. Nectar, a raw juice, smoothie and healthy fare restaurant, has opened its second location at 1365 Clairmont Road. 

Midtown. Meridith Ford Goodman is reporting that Riccardo Ullio will open a Mexican taqueria, La Lupe, in Cuerno’s space by mid-October. Darvelio Palma, former Sotto Sotto chef de cuisine and Acapulco native, will helm La Lupe’s kitchen. Entrees will range from $12 to $15, with lots of taco plates and appetizers.

Z Pizza in the Spire condominiums has closed.

Roswell. Red Salt, the long time downtown pub with a beyond-bar-food menu, has changed its name to Salt Factory due to legal and other considerations.

Question of the Week:
What Atlanta restaurant group is opening a bakery/coffee shop/ sandwich shop in Brookhaven?

PS.  The answer to last week’s QOTW—What Decatur hotspot is rumored to be opening a branch in Grant Park this fall?—is Brickstore Pub. (Broderick called that one in the comments last week.)

MF Buckhead Makes “Room” for Growth

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ATL Food Chatter: September 8, 2009
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In a time when many restaurateurs are lowering their prices and ambitions, Alex Kinjo is augmenting his Japanese glamour palace, MF Buckhead, this October with the unveiling of an upscale lounge that he calls the MF Room.

Kinjo is reconfiguring 1,500 square feet of space in the back of the restaurant that will serve not only as a lounge area but also as a venue that can be personalized and reconfigured for special events. When it isn’t hosting an event, MF Room will be open for late-night dining with a menu created by chef-partner (and Alex’s brother) Chris Kinjo, which will incorporate signature items from MF Buckhead but with smaller portions and lower price points.

Kinjo says he was not motivated by the economy but rather his passion to give Buckhead the nightlife destination that he feels it deserves. MF Room will seat between 50 to100 people, depending on the space configuration. In addition to the regular dining hours, 9 p.m. until 2 a.m., a monthly cabaret will feature performing artists to create a supper club atmosphere. The redesign is inspired by the clubs Kinjo frequents in cities like Tokyo, which he hopes will “cater to a discerning audience that seeks a sophisticated but welcoming experience.”

NEWS AND NOTES:

Alpharetta. Slice Cafe in downtown Alpharetta has closed.

Buckhead. Arnaud Berthelier has given his resignation as executive chef of the Dining Room at the Ritz-Carlton Buckhead. Berthelier succeeded Bruno Menard as the Dining Room chef in late 2005. His last day will apparently be around October 1. More details emerging. (—B.A.)

Downtown
. The inaugural Atlanta BBQ Festival will take place from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. this Saturday, September 12 in the green lot in front of Turner Field. The winner of the cookoff will win $1,500 and get to sell their barbecue at one Braves home game in 2010.

Shaun Doty
is the headliner at the first Atlanta Gourmet Market, featuring “The Best of Atlanta Awards” featuring categories such as candy, beverage, snack, and soup. The event will be held September 12 at AmericasMart Atlanta.

Druid Hills
. Repeat Atlanta reports that Zaya Mediterranean Cafe has opened their second Atlanta location on Emory University’s campus, at 662 Asbury Circle. 404-727-1879.

Midtown. Citing the economy and landlord issues, Concentrics Restaurants has announced that they have permanently closed Trois and will concentrate on existing and planned projects.

Publik—rumored to be an English-style pub with quick, theatre-friendly eats—is slated to open in the former Bazzaar space next to the Fox at the end of the month.

Roswell
. Thumbs Up Diner is opening their fourth Atlanta location at 1140 Alpharetta Street this month.

Smyrna. A reader last week asked if The New Orleans Connection was closed. Looks like it—though the web site is still up, the number is disconnected.

Question of the Week:
What Decatur hotspot is planning to open a branch in Grant Park this fall?

P.S. The answer to last week’s QOTW—What Buckhead Italian spot has closed for dinner and is now only open for “private events”—is Vita. (Commenter Jimmy correctly named that one last week.)

Fall Preview: Five Promising Restaurants

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ATL Food Chatter: August 31, 2009
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After a slow summer for restaurant openings, and in defiance of the economic times, Atlanta’s entrepreneurs continue to press forward with plans for a surprising number of restaurant projects. This fall there are five new restaurants coming on line that stand out from the crowd: They promise to not only add some great new options to our dining scene but also generate some national attention as well with their kitchen talent and visionary design.  

In alphabetical order, here are my five upcoming favorites for the fall. (And note: there is not one hotel restaurant on the list.)

BAKESHOP. Super star pastry chef Jonathan Hilaire’s thirty-five seat Midtown artisanal bakery will use organic and locally sourced product to tempt us with goodies such as a signature vanilla-bourbon cake, tarts with red wine, and croissants, ice creams and sorbets made with a touch of molecular gastronomy.

BISTRO NIKO. When Pano Karatassos—a nationally acclaimed restaurateur who has seemingly had more hits than Berry Gordy—does a project, he does it right. The next project for his Buckhead Life Restaurant Group promises to be a classic French bistro done beautifully. With head chef Gary Donlick (from Pano’s and Paul’s); a sous chef, Jeff Pfeiffer, from the Miami outpost of New York’s famed bistro, La Goulue; and son Niko Karatassos as general manager, he has assembled a solid team to run the posh Buckhead spot. Karatassos recently returned from scouting all of the top bistros in Paris for inspiration. The Johnson Studio was hired create a design that architect Bill Johnson says “is like nothing I’ve ever done before.”

BOCADO
. Brian Lewis garnered strong reviews for his Birmingham restaurant, Table, which he recently closed. Now he’s turning his attention to Atlanta with a westside small-plates-and-sandwich spot that focuses on incorporating local products into the menu. Bocado will also feature a sustainable garden on site. Todd Ginsberg, formerly of Trois and whose CV includes a stint with Alain Ducasse, will be the top toque. The space takes eco-consciousness seriously with lighting and decor elements constructed from recycled materials integrated throughout the space.

THE IBERIAN PIG. A signature item of this restaurant on Decatur’s downtown square will be acorn-fed Iberico ham sliced in the center of the dining room at a carving station and served with a toasted baguette and espresso aioli. The menu—a mix of Spanish and American dishes—will include pan con tomate; a full list of Spanish cheeses; and slow-roasted goat with chittara pasta tossed in carbonara sauce. The restaurant is the brainchild of the Castellucci family, who’ve had success with their Mediterranean-themed Sugo restaurants. All dishes will be made in house and there will be a strong focus on the use of local and organic ingredients. The Chef, Chad Crete, who is also a sommelier, comes from Las Vegas, where he worked for China Grill Management.

MILLER UNION
. Considered by some to be one of two most anticipated restaurants of the year (Abattoir was the other), chef Steven Satterfield (Watershed) and front-of-the-house man Neal McCarthy (Sotto Sotto and Fritti) have partnered to create a southern cuisine version of Chez Panisse. Their Westside spot is “dedicated to seasonal harvest, (using) local ingredients with a fresh, simple approach.” The rustic modern design has transformed the former Miller Union stockyard building into a sophisticated environment that will add further panache to the burgeoning westside dining scene.

A few other spots deserve mention: Ormsby’s, another venture in westside’s White Provision complex from veteran restaurateur Warren Bruno has an October opening scheduled. Vertigo, a Thai barbecue spot from Nan and Charlie Niyomkul, is slated to open this fall in the former Taurus space. Sauced, Ria Pell (Ria’s Bluebird Dinner) Inman Park dinner only restaurant, is prepping for a fall opening. It will feature local produce prepared with a variety of innovative sauces.

NEWS AND NOTES:

Alpharetta. Jerusalem Bakery, featuring pita and challah breads; meat and spinach pies, has opened their second location in Alpharetta at 4150 Old Milton Parkway.

Buckhead. Thrillist is reporting that London Bistro, a British themed ultra-lounge and pub, has opened at 1950 Howell Mill Road in the former Mistro location.

Decatur. Relics & Rarities Ice Cream Parlor, serving old fashion ice cream treats like hot fudge sundaes inside of a 5,000 square foot Americana museum, opened today at noon at 409 N. McDonough Street. The Decatur Metro blog has been following its progress.

Downtown. Grind House Killer Burgers is slated to open Tuesday, September 8 in the Sweet Auburn Curb Market. Foodie Buddha has more of the scoop.

Inman Park. The first annual Inman Park Restaurant Week will be held September 21-27, 2009. Prix fixe dinners will be offered at different participating restaurants in three price tiers: $15, $25, $35.

Midtown. More details on Hugh Acheson’s upcoming Atlanta restaurant. Hillary Brown of the Athen’s Flagpole noted that the restaurant, to be called Empire State South, will open at Tenth and Peachtree (We erroneously reported Tenth and Piedmont last week.) An article from the Atlanta Business Chronicle states that the 90-seat spot is slated to open Spring 2010, featuring ingredients and produce from within 100 miles of metro Atlanta in a southern themed “meat and three” menu.

Question of the Week: What Buckhead Italian spot has closed for dinner and is now only open for “private events”?

P.S. The answer to last week’s QOTW—What intown ’hood is slated to get their first gourmet grocery store this fall?—is Inman Park. Savvy Urban Market, a 3,500 square foot store is scheduled to open on Elizabeth Street this fall. (Commenter Darin was the first to call it right last week.)

Farm-To-Bagel: Bakeshop to open in Midtown

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ATL Food Chatter: August 24, 2009
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Jonathan St. Hilaire, one of Atlanta’s foremost pastry chefs, is emerging from behind the scenes at Concentrics Restaurants to open a Midtown restaurant this fall called Bakeshop. Hilaire describes it as a “local, neighborhood bakery shop” that will feature an array of pastries, sandwiches, soups and salads made with organic and locally sourced ingredients. In addition to offering an exciting menu, the ai3-designed space will feature an open kitchen that will allow patrons and passers by to observe the chefs and bakers as they work.

Classically trained at the French Culinary Institute, St. Hilaire honed his pastry skills in some of New York City’s finest restaurants, including Payard’s Patisserie and Bistro, Eleven Madison Park (which recently earned four stars from Frank Bruni before he stepped down from his Times critic gig), and Bouley Bakery. Here in Atlanta, he has worked in some of Atlanta’s award-winning kitchens such as Canoe, Spice, The Four Seasons Hotel, and Woodfire Grill before becoming corporate executive pastry chef for Concentrics Restaurants.

Bakeshop—a partnership between St. Hilaire, Bob Amick and Todd Rushing that will operate under the Concentrics corporate umbrella—will be located at 903 Peachtree Street, the site of the former Goldstar Cafe and Bakery. In addition to its retail operation, Bakeshop will also provide baked goods for all of Concentrics Restaurants’ ventures, as well as several upscale hotels and restaurants. St. Hilaire has hired Abigail Swain (Craft) as his sous chef and Susan Rex (H& F Bread Company) to manage the baking operations.

Initially, Bakeshop will operate from 6:30 am until 6:30 pm and focus on providing the Midtown community with bakery items such as croissants and bagels made from flour sourced from a North Carolina farm; two to four salads and soups that will change daily; gourmet coffees from Martinez Coffee; and ice cream and sorbets made in house.

However, by the end of this year St. Hilaire plans to expand Bakeshop’s menu and hours of operation to include offering a full dessert menu with wine and beer pairings that would be available for theater patrons, residents or people who are passionate about dessert. The dessert bar will be modeled after Chikalicious, a Manhattan hotspot operated by two former Atlantans whose three-course prix fixe menu solely features creative desserts along with wine pairings. 

Bakeshop’s targeted opening date is October 1.

NEWS and NOTES: 

Buckhead. Tavern 99, from the owners of McCray’s Tavern West Village, has opened at 128 East Andrews Drive.

Decatur. Avellino’s Pizza, featuring a square pie, has opened at 902 West Collage Street.

Downtown. Repeat Atlanta is reporting that a Juicy Green yogurt shop will replace the former Thai Gourmet on Broad Street this fall and that a Waffle House will open in the Parker H. Petit Science Center of Georgia State University on the corner of Piedmont Avenue and Decatur Street this spring.

Inman Park. Meridith Ford Goldman posts that chef Jose Rego returns to Sotto Sotto as sous chef the first week of September.

Midtown. The fourth annual Midtown Restaurant Week will run from Saturday, August 29 until Sunday, September 6 with more than thirty restaurants participating in the $25 prix fixe dinner program.

Hugh Acheson, owner of acclaimed Five and Ten and The National in Athens, will open his version of a meat-and-three near Tenth and Piedmont in spring 2010. Details emerging.

As reported by a number of sources, Atlanta Hawks star ZaZa Pachulia has purchased restaurant and wine bar Eno, where current Top Chef competitor Eli Kirshtein helms the kitchen.

Old Fourth Ward
. Chrysta Umberger, formerly of Restaurant Eugene, is the new pastry chef at 4th & Swift.

Question of the Week: What intown ’hood is slated to get their first gourmet grocery store this fall?

PS. The answer to last week’s QOTW—What intown coffee hangout has hired ai3 architects to design their new stores as the company expands?—is Octane Coffee Bar and Lounge

Empty chairs at empty tables …

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ATL Food Chatter August 17, 2009
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Summer is always a slow time for restaurant openings, particularly for ambitious, independent projects. But this year—no surprise—feels particularly slow. And, in another sign that the economy of our dining scene remains sluggish, spaces vacated by prominent restaurants don’t seem to have fast takers moving in.

An exception is Amuse, a new restaurant from the owners of Anis and Carpe Diem that is moving into the space previously occupied by Allegro on Dutch Valley Road in Midtown. It’s a gamble on an out-of-the-way street—though it does have some established traffic due to One Midtown Kitchen.

But the spaces that long housed City Grill and Dailey’s downtown: Who might come up with restaurants grand enough and enticing enough to attract office workers during the day and tourists and locals alike at night? And there were some rumors a while back that Riccardo Ullio might replace closed Cuerno with another Fritti, but we’ve heard nothing definite.

Tellingly, the hottest stretch of town for restaurant openings is the westside, perhaps because the area is still developing—making for lower rent and higher cool factor.
 
Which high-traffic empty restaurant space do you hope to see reoccupied most quickly?

NEWS and NOTES:

Alpharetta. Madras Chettinaad, featuring southern Indian cuisine in a 220 seat diner, has opened at 4305 State Bridge Road.

Grant Park. Repeat Atlanta is reporting that the former location of recently closed Redfish will soon be occupied by El Toro, a local Mexican chain with locations in Chamblee, Atlanta and Sandy Springs.

Inman Park. Son’s Place, the popular fried chicken and soul food spot, closed on July 31.
 
Marietta. Thrillest notes that G-Rock African Caribbean Restaurant & Bar has opened at 723 Sandtown Road.
 
Midtown. Piola, the authentic Italian wood-fired pizza parlor slated to open this fall in the restaurant row in the 1010 condo development, is being delayed because of issues related to the location of their exhaust chimney within the site.

Westside. Todd Ginsberg (Trois) is slated to be the opening chef at Bocado.

Question of the Week:  What intown coffee hangout has hired ai3 architects to design their new stores as the company expands?
 
PS. The answer to last week’s QOTW—What long time Atlanta bold name chef is opening a burger spot this fall?—is Paul Albrecht, who is opening the Burger Lounge in the Vinings Jubilee Shopping Center. (Foodie Buddha broke the news last week.)

ai3 brings a fresh design eye to restaurants

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ATL Food Chatter: August 10, 2009
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The days of the gilded palace, big-box restaurant with menus replete with international ingredients are on the wane in Atlanta. A new era of smaller, locally focused restaurants is emerging in its place, and local design firm ai3 is at the vanguard of this movement. Their visionary and award-winning work has become the new gold standard for the hip, neighborhood-based restaurants popping up around town.

From upscale burger joints to sophisticated chef-driven hot spots, five-year-old ai3 has designed projects such as Flip, Holeman & Finch, 4th & Swift, and the forthcoming Miller Union. According to Lucy Aiken-Johnson, ai3’s managing principal, some of their success can be attributed to the fact they are entrepreneurs themselves and can empathize with an owner operator’s perspective. (The name reflects the three families who formed the firm.) Another factor that she noted was that they take their clients through a conceptual process called a “vision sharing session” at the beginning of the relationship. This hands-on interaction helps to clearly establish what it is the client wants to achieve and how the firm and client can best achieve it together—whether it is going to New York to experience culinary ideas as they did with the 4th & Swift team, or identifying design preferences (the Flip team loved Philippe Starck) and incorporating them into the project’s final design.

As the restaurants they designed gain national recognition, the firm’s projects are starting to take their brand beyond Atlanta. Flip is slated to open their second store in Birmingham this fall, with projects in Washington D.C., Nashville, and Buckhead to follow. The new owner of The Grape wine bar franchise has hired them to reengineer the concept for a regional roll-out. The firm also has some new Atlanta projects in the works, including a restaurant for Birmingham-based restaurateur Brian Lewis, whose contemporary American spot, Table, was one of that city’s top ten. Lewis has hired them to design his first Atlanta project, the Westside small plate and sandwich concept, Bocado, slated to open this fall.

NEWS and NOTES:

Ansley Park. The original Cook’s Warehouse location in Amsterdam Walk will relocate to the 6,500 square foot former Piccadilly’s space in Ansley Mall this fall. The move will allow a significant expansion of their program space.

Buckhead. The Hungry Peach Cafe, a private gourmet cafe operated by certified chef Susan Vizathann, owner of The Hungry Peach personal chef service, has opened in the Atlanta Decorator’s Arts Center (ADAC),  offering breakfast and lunch five days a week.

Decatur
. Chef Dave Roberts, formerly of Sam & Dave’s BBQ1 and BBQ2, is slated to open his own barbecue spot in the former Epicurean space on Clairmont Avenue in September.

Aaron Russell, one of the opening chefs, has left The Chocolate Bar.

Midtown. According to sources and his Facebook postings, Drew Van Leuvan will be the opening chef for the Concentrics’ restaurant replacing Trois, which is scheduled opening date is the week after Labor Day.

Omnivore is reporting that Lenny Robinson of Anise will be the opening chef at Amuse, the restaurant in the former Allegro space developed by the owners of Anise and Carpe Diem.

Vinings. Chef Andreas Montobbio has left Taverna Fiorentina.
 
Westside. West Egg Cafe, the popular breakfast/sandwich/bake goods spot will be moving to the White Provisions residential building in October.

Question of the Week: What long-time Atlanta fine dining chef is opening an almost-OTP burger spot this fall?

PS.  The answer to last week’s QOTW—What classic Atlanta speakeasy will be celebrating its fifty-third anniversary in August?—is Manuel’s Tavern. It opened on August 8. Happy birthday, old timer! (And kudos to Jimmy for correctly identifying it the answer on last week’s post.)

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