After Jarrett Stieber launched his beloved pop-up Eat Me Speak Me at Gato in 2014, many considered him Atlanta’s unofficial pop-up king. Stieber recently moved Eat Me Speak Me to S.O.S Tiki Bar in Decatur, and the new incarnation is more restaurant than pop-up, according to the chef. In fact, he doesn’t consider Eat Me Speak Me a pop-up at all.
“To me, a pop-up is just like . . . a guy shows up and serves food at a strange place for this one-off type thing. Or [a couple of nights]. But when it’s every weekend at the same place for three years, I don’t really think of that as a pop-up anymore,” says Stieber.
Why the move to S.O.S? While Gato was a great location in a lot of ways, Stieber says, he felt “tapped out.”
“There were only four hours of service, three days a week, and the lack of refrigerated storage space made it really impossible to do any more nights of service if we wanted to,” Stieber says. At S.O.S, Eat Me Speak Me will now be open for five hours of service, five days a week.
“I was kind of stuck in this rut of doing all the prep work by myself every week, and the accounting and the secretarial work and all the other stuff that goes along with [running a pop-up], but I could only really pay my guys to show up and work service. If I’m gonna be working five, six, seven days a week, I might as well try and have a full schedule of services. It just seemed like a good time for us to take this opportunity.”
Stieber, who got his culinary start working in restaurants like Abattoir and Empire State South, made a name for himself over the past few years as a talented cook with his tongue firmly planted in his cheek. That attitude is reflected in Eat Me Speak Me’s dishes, which remain largely unchanged at the new location. The trope of a “chef who doesn’t take himself so seriously” can feel tiresome, but Stieber is the real deal. While he and his staff jokingly call EMSM’s food “local-vore satirical gastronomica,” he says that really is what they do.
“Everything is locally sourced aside from some pantry items, and we are very committed offering the type of ingredients you’d see at fancy restaurants, but serving them in a way that’s not expensive and not over-wrought with the style of service.” His current favorite–menu items change based on what he gets from local markets and farmers–is a steak tartare dish simply called “raw beef” that is served with Tostitos Scoops chips. (He considers the chip the perfect vessel for the tartare.) Instead of just calling his omakase an “omakase,” Stieber says lauded designer du jour Alvin Diec (who crafts all the funky menus for EMSM) came up with a, ahem, playful subtitle: “Just fuck me up, fam.”
Another perk of the new location is that diners can enjoy S.O.S’s tiki cocktails with their food—and said cocktails are also inspiring Stieber’s cuisine. “Every week we’ll have a dressing that uses some local products in it, but it will also by inspired by a tiki drink, such as an oregano piña colada vinaigrette,” Stieber says.
Eat Me Speak Me is open Wednesday through Saturday from 6 p.m. to 11 p.m. and Sunday from 12:30 p.m. to 6 p.m. Seating is first-come first serve. 340 Church Street, Decatur, 404-377-9308