Photograph by Drew Podo
Eats hasn’t changed much since opening on Ponce de Leon Avenue in 1993. The walls are lined with license plates donated by employees and customers, the booths are painted plywood, and the menu sports old favorites. “I always joke that we change something or add something about every ten years,” says owner Bob Hatcher. Even with new, trendy restaurants opening at Ponce City Market across the street, Hatcher says the restaurant is as popular as it has ever been. The increase in traffic has brought in new customers, and the most ordered dish is always the jerk chicken.
The recipe, created by Hatcher’s former business partner and Tortillas owner Charles Kerns, has been on the menu since the restaurant opened. The dish is simple—half a chicken rubbed in jerk spice and baked until golden brown—but when the restaurant opened, it was an oddity. “In ’93, jerk chicken was our little, esoteric thing to have,” Hatcher says. “Pasta was the common denominator. We knew that everybody liked pasta.” Now, he estimates that the restaurant serves more than 2,000 orders of jerk chicken every week.
Despite the restaurant’s popularity, Hatcher is just thankful that Eats is still open. “We were fortunate that we were able to buy the property in the late 90s,” he says. “If we hadn’t, I don’t think we could still be here.” He wants Eats to remain a gathering place for the community, especially in the rapidly changing neighborhood. “We’ve served everybody from homeless people that have just enough for a meal to celebrities,” he says. “It’s just a cross section of humanity.”