Exclusive: Ladybird founder will open two restaurants in H. Harper Station space

The Reynoldstown spot will open this spring as Golden Eagle, a workingman’s tavern, and Muchacho, a casual, West Coast-style hangout
Michael Lennox

Photograph by Andrew Thomas Lee

Jerry Slater’s beloved H. Harper Station closed in April 2016, leaving behind a prime location on Memorial Drive, just along the unpaved portion of the BeltLine Eastside Trail. But that vacancy is about to end. This spring, Michael Lennox, founder of the popular BeltLine hangout Ladybird Grove & Mess Hall, will revive the 904 Memorial Drive space as not one, but two restaurants.

The larger of the two—dubbed Golden Eagle—will be a “workingman’s tavern,” inspired by American Legion halls. It will seat 75 people inside and 100 on the patio, and serve dinner nightly, as well as weekend brunch. Boozy classic cocktails, beer, and wine will be available, as well as a full food menu.

The second spot will be more casual and focus on counter service. Named Muchacho, it will serve breakfast and lunch focused on lighter, healthier, West Coast-style fare such as tacos, grain bowls, toasts, and poke. There will be agua frescas, canned beer, and wine, too. The spots will share a wall, kitchen, and patio, but not menus.

“Our goal is for this to be the kind of all-day place where you can come in first thing in the morning to grab a bite and coffee on the way to work, or you can spend time catching up with a friend, or spend a few hours unwinding in the afternoon at Muchacho before coming back for dinner and drinks at Golden Eagle,” Lennox said.

He reveals more about his plans below.

Golden Eagle
Where did the name come from? I stumbled upon a soda bottle at a flea market a few years ago that had this really cool, almost hand-painted looking label that said “Golden Eagle.” I decided to buy it, thinking, at best, it would make a great restaurant name, and at worst, it’d just be a cool bottle to have around the house. I did a little research and found the soda company was from Erie, Pennsylvania, but went out of business in the ’70s. I thought it’d be cool to adjust the elements of the logo a bit and use it to build a story around what we are doing with the new restaurant.

What is the inspiration for the restaurant? Golden Eagle will be a workingman’s tavern in the spirit of mid-century lobby bars and American Legion halls. My grandparents are at the core of the inspiration behind the restaurant. My grandmother was from Pittsburgh, grew up during the Depression, worked in a steel mill, became a Spanish translator for the State Department during World War II, and was stationed abroad before she settled in Atlanta for a 30-year career as a high school Spanish teacher. My grandfather served as a pilot in the Navy and met my grandmother after the war, while he was a cab driver in D.C. He used to travel with this piece of luggage that would open into a mini bar, so he could make Old Fashioneds for himself and Johnny Walkers on the rocks for my grandmother wherever they went. They lived a very modest, almost stereotypical middle-class life. Both had these big personalities but had a scrappy, no-nonsense mentality. They were incredibly frugal and had simple tastes, but as a result, they managed to save well and ended up traveling all over the world during the last 20 years of their lives. So they combined this very humble, unassuming, down-to-earth manner with a kind of sharp, worldly perspective which I’ve always found compelling. I’ve been trying to channel what I imagine would be the kind of place they’d have frequented in their heyday, while also taking a bit of creative license to make some adjustments and updates so it’s approachable and relevant today.

What portions of the H. Harper space and décor are you renovating? We inherited a beautiful historic building with amazing bones and impressive architectural features that we’ll be respectfully preserving and highlighting. The building by design is long and narrow, like a bowling alley. We decided to do a number of things to open the space while also dividing it into two concepts, so that the entire building can have more intimate zones. As such, we’re basically taking the interior down to the brick walls and the exposed steel trusses, so the space should look completely different than what people may remember.

Tell me more about the design. It’ll have a dark, moody, glowing, atmosphere with vintage elements and subtle nostalgia. It’ll have a number of deep, amber glowing light features both indoors and outdoors, as well as a lot of upholstered items and a few different seating zones. One will be more living room-esque; one that’s more conventional banquette seating and one with more proper bar seating. It’ll have a dash of mid-century mixed with some pieces from different periods. There will be a reel-to-reel audio system playing lots of dusty and gritty soul, rock n’ roll, and funk tracks from the era. My favorite piece is an 18-foot, antique art deco back bar with a glass rod light feature. A 16-seat horseshoe shaped bar will anchor the space, and there will be a bohemian collection of varied, found, outdoor furniture styles on the patio overlooking the BeltLine. Both restaurants are being designed by Elizabeth Ingram Studio.

Will you be able to go from one restaurant to the other inside the space? Muchacho will initially open at 7 a.m. and close at 4 p.m., while Golden Eagle will open at 5 p.m. during the week. Guests at Muchacho will be able to use the patio all day, then the patio will flip to Golden Eagle in the evening. Golden Eagle will open at 11 a.m. for brunch on weekends, so they’ll both be open at the same time for a period on Saturdays and Sundays. The general idea is that they are separate restaurants with separate menus that happen to be under one roof. Golden Eagle will be full-service, while Muchacho will be counter service, so we will not be set up for guests to bring food and drink from one side to the other.

Where did the name come from? 
I had the contours of the concept nailed down in my head, but I was still trying to come up with a name when a song from the Phosphorescent album “Muchacho” came on in my car. I’d listened to the album a bunch at that point, but I looked down at the album name and for some reason, in that instant, it clicked that Muchacho would be the name of the restaurant. I’m certainly not fluent in Spanish by any stretch, but muchacho generally means young troublemaker. It’s something older folks can say with panache or a hint of consternation to a younger person who may be acting like a punk or doing something obnoxious while telling them to knock it off. More broadly, I thought the name perfectly captured the spirit of a 1970s or 1980s Venice Beach-style, daytime hangout.

How did you decide this concept made sense for the space and for Atlanta as a whole? I feel like there is a need in Atlanta for a type of “all-day, everyday” kind of place that not only offers a great coffee program, but also features a really tight, killer food menu that is equally suited for grab-and-go as for those looking to hang around for a while and enjoy a relaxing meal.

Can you give me some examples of the grain bowls, tacos, and toasts you envision? Chorizo, potato, and egg breakfast tacos; traditional tacos al pastor off the spit with grilled pineapple; and rotating toasts like one with whipped labneh (Middle Eastern yogurt cheese) and strawberry pink peppercorn preserves.

We’ll always have one sweet and one savory grain bowl and three different poke options.  We are also going to feature a pretty unique pastry program. Some items we’re playing around with are lemon-lime and matcha meringues, and condensed milk cake.

Tell me more about the design. What’s the color scheme? Materials used? It’ll be a light, bright space with some sharp color accents (green, orange, and blue). It will have a sort of West Coast bungalow-meets-funky camper-van feel.