Kevin Rathbun recently took some time from planning for his airport project, an American diner called The Atlantan; preparing for the Inman Park Restaurant Week, scheduled for September 19 to 25; and wrapping up a guest judging appearance on a Food Network show to talk about how he got to Inman Park, the next hot intown neighborhood, and where he is looking for future projects.
Q: What influenced your decision to open in Inman Park seven years ago?
KR: My decision to open in Inman Park was purely luck. I’d been looking for restaurant space for about five years. Driving around, I kept ending up in the area—it reminded me a little of the time I spent in New Orleans, a no-zoning bad area next to good area, intown neighborhood. I spent some time in the Virginia Highlands and everyone kept saying they didn’t go to Buckhead and that they were underserved. Financially I needed something I could afford, Virginia’s had just closed and I took the space. Everyone I knew thought I’d lost my mind—including my wife. I guess the story goes: “I stepped in shit and came out smelling like a rose.”
Q: How do you feel about the influx of restaurants into neighborhoods such as Inman Park, Old 4th Ward and the Westside? Is it a positive trend?
KR: Bring them on—the more the merrier, the more restaurants that are in the[se] area[s] only attract more guests. A city this size needs smaller markets with chef-driven restaurants. Atlanta has been put on the map nationally due to the emerging markets and the soul of creativity.
Q: Where, in your opinion, will the next hot ’hood be ?
KR: I think the next areas that [will] have movement are Decatur, Brookhaven, Downtown, and the Edgewood corridor. Most of these areas have ample parking and easy access, which is vital, but also residential density is very important: Win the crowd and you’ll win the freedom. People are much more interested in finding new gems than they were before. With the emergence of food TV and celebrity chefs, people will try just about anywhere.
Q: Anything new on the Rathbun team front—expansion/new locations?
KR: We are continually looking for spots to purchase. I have many ideas that I would like to try, depending on the area and the space (which drives the concept). Rest assured we are not settling. We are currently really interested in Brookhaven.
NEWS AND NOTES:
Opentable’s 2011 Best Late Night Find listing includes Atlanta’s Cafe Circa, Hobnob, Loca Luna, and Shout among the spots were voted on by a national competition.
Canoe wine and beverage director Matt Bradford passed the Court of Master Sommelier’s Advanced Examination on Friday, August 12.
Sonya Jones, who wowed Bill Clinton with her sweet potato cheesecake, has a forthcoming cookbook titled Sweet Auburn Desserts: The Little Bakery that Could. Eater Atlanta notes that the owner of the Sweet Auburn Bakery’s book will debut on September 30th.
Alpharetta. Bite, featuring New American cuisine, has opened at 11500 Webb Bridge Road. Chef/owner Leif Johnson, who operated a successful catering business in Dunwoody with the same name, pulls flavors from different profiles including Asian and Latin to create a value-priced menu.
Decatur. Sapori di Napoli, featuring Neapolitan style pizza, opened August 29 at 314 Church Street.
Maddy’s BBQ has closed.
Downtown. Thrillist is reporting that The Hot Dog Boutique, featuring regular and gourmet hot dogs including a hamburger shaped like a hot dog, has opened at 233 Mitchell Street in the former Cake Hag space.
Southwest Atlanta. Thrillist reports that Amnesia Bar and Grill, featuring a Mexican themed menu , live music and a swank interior design, has opened at 3220 Butner Road.
Westside. Creative Loafing’s Besha Rodell is reporting that Mark Nanna, the opening chef of Flip Burger Boutique, has left the restaurant.
Midtown Patch reports that Mike Blum is opening his casual dim sum resto, Yum Bunz, this winter near the Brickworks on Marietta Street.
What Now Atlanta reports that Social House has closed.
Question of the Week: What New York–based BBQ chain is looking at Atlanta as one of its first ten markets for expansion plans?
P.S. The answer to last week’s QOTW—What Kirkwood restaurant is now offering a weekly Supper Club?—is Sun in My Belly’s Thursday Night Supper Club, according to Urban Daddy.