Celebrated NYC chef Jonathan Waxman is opening an Italian restaurant in Ponce City Market this fall

“Majority” of the food hall on track to open middle September and October, says Jamestown president Michael Phillips

Courtesy of the Reynolds Group

Celebrity chef (and Top Chef: Masters alum) Jonathan Waxman is opening his first Atlanta restaurant in Ponce City Market’s food hall this fall. Waxman grew up in Berkeley, California, and worked alongside Alice Waters at her legendary restaurant Chez Panisse, widely considered the birthplace of California cuisine and a pioneering force behind today’s local food movement. The yet-to-be-named restaurant will “boast strong Italian and New American influences,” similar to Waxman’s restaurant Barbuto in New York City and Adele’s in Nashville. We spoke with Jamestown president Michael Phillips to learn more about the new restaurant and how the rest of the Ponce City Market is coming along.

Did you seek out Jonathan or did he come to you?
We were looking for someone to do a project that was adjacent to and somewhat embedded in the Williams-Sonoma store. He is uniquely qualified for that because he’s from the Bay area, from Oakland, and came up through the ranks of Chez Panisse. He came to be the right fit.

How will the store and the restaurant fit together?
There will be a sliding steel and glass partition between [them]. It [will be] as if you’re dining in the middle of the store. We’re using Williams-Sonoma cookware and tabletops and creating a synergy between their culinary aesthetic and his.

Price point wise, what are we looking at? Will it be on par with the other restaurants in the hall like Minero, Jia, and Fish Camp?
I would call it upper-middle. Appetizers around $7 to $15, Entrees $18 to $25. It’s bistro pricing.

Waxman is opening restaurants across the country right now—in Toronto, Nashville, San Francisco. How involved will he be in Atlanta?
I think very involved on an ongoing basis. We’re going to have a chef de cuisine locally, which I think is the best way to go. Atlanta doesn’t typically do New York restaurants very well. We want to be very careful to do it in a way that has a local focus. That chef has yet to be named but has been identified.

Stepping back, how has development and construction gone for Ponce City Market? Last we spoke, you had rather optimistic opening dates.
Were we optimistic? Of course. Anyone would have to be to undertake a project like this. Is it an inordinately long delay? I would say no. We really started construction in 2013. The reality is that we spent 2012 doing remediation and cleaning up the site and demolition, which was a big piece of it. The demo piece took longer than we thought. It was two-and-a-half years of construction.

The hardest part was that the office leased so fast, which was surprising to us. [It] created a shift in the priorities. The ground plan got delayed so that the office could get delivered early enough [for] those tenants.

And landing 56 or so different restaurants and retailers [at once] is nearly impossible. Delivering their doors open and dealing with infrastructure issues—we’re probably a year delayed on the early schedule and six months delayed on the realistic schedule. It’s turning out to be something that the city can be really proud of.

A majority of the vendors in the food hall are listed to open in 2015 on the website. Are we still on track for that?
I think it’s all opening middle September to middle October, a majority of it. There might be some stragglers that go into November, but I think it’s all on track.

Looking at the lineup, you’ve got Indian, Italian, burgers, olive oil, ramen, vegetarian, Sichuan, coffee, ice cream and gelato, Mexican, and Latin. What’s left?
I guess a steakhouse is the only thing we don’t have, right?

Is that in the works? I’m counting 20 vendors right now. How many more do you have up your sleeve?
I really want to do a concept on the roof that’s meat-centric, but I haven’t figured out what it is exactly. Something like Le relais de l’entrecote in Paris. You know, fast-casual steak.