Marvin Woods—a chef with twenty-five years of experience including Café Beulah in New York and the now-defunct Spice in Atlanta—is opening a “coastal soul” restaurant in the Luckie-Marietta district of downtown Atlanta on November 10. Called Asante, which means “gratitude” in Swahili, the restaurant combines influences from the Caribbean, South America, Central America, Africa and the southern states.
“Asante sana means ‘thank you very much’—that’s the state of mind I’m in,” Woods says. “With the restaurant, we’re bringing old-school hospitality back to the industry.”
He’s referring to the idea of amuse bouche, snacks at the bar, and servers carrying drinks for diners.
The food itself will reflect how cultures blended and ideas traveled through the African diaspora. “Pigeon peas, black-eyed peas. Empanadas, meat patties, maggot pie. It’s all connected by one lineage with different geographic locations,” Woods explains.
While Asante’s menu is still in development, Woods promises conch fritters made with fresh conch, a crispy Puerto Rican dish called chicharron de pollo, sea scallops dusted in a West Indian curry-like spice, and Caribbean coconut seafood gumbo. Nigerian prawns grilled on pimento wood Jamaica will be prepared with piri piri African pepper spice. Jared Hall, who worked as a sous chef at One Flew South, will be chef de cuisine.
The restaurant, located in the old Peasant Bistro space at 250 Park Avenue West, has attracted staff from all over—including Andre Mack, a sommelier and winemaker who use to work at Per Se. Mack and Lonn Coward will lead the beverage program, offering wines from South America and Africa as well as Portland and California. Mixed drinks will focus on rum, pisco, and cachaça.
“The cocktails will definitely be original. Lon makes everything—diabetic-friendly cocktails, he uses fresh juices like carrot and beet, and coconut is integral,” Woods says. “You won’t find Bud Light or Heineken or a hamburger here. That’s not what we’re doing.”
When Asante opens, it will only serve dinner, but by the end of November, Woods hopes to offer brunch and lunch as well. At 7,200 square feet, there should be plenty of space to do it all. There’s two stories of wood floors, an eight-hundred-bottle glass wine cellar, and a patio. Most rooms are white and gray, but one, called the Ocean Room, is blue.