In July, we reported that Jeb Aldrich—formerly of Noble Fin and 4th and Swift—would be the executive chef at the Hotel Clermont’s forthcoming restaurant. That restaurant now has a name: Tiny Lou’s.
“She was a dancer at the hotel’s Gypsy Room, which was there before the Clermont Lounge, in the 1950s,” says Aldrich. “According to Atlanta folklore, she was notorious for being ‘the girl who refused to dance with Hitler.’” Tiny Lou became a headline act, and her defiance to Hitler became how she was billed on promotional posters. “They say that Screamin’ Jay Hawkins saw her perform one time, and she had a skull on her pole. He got that idea from Tiny Lou, apparently.” Aldrich is so into the narrative, he got Tiny Lou tattooed on his left forearm.
Aldrich will work in partnership with Nick Hassiotis, who has been named the hotel’s “director of restaurants,” to build the menus for Tiny Lou’s as well as for the property’s rooftop bar, the lobby lounge, and for room service. (Their employer is technically, Charleston-based Indigo Road Hospitality Group, which got the account to oversee food and beverage earlier this year.)
Tiny Lou wasn’t French, but the food in the restaurant will be. “A casual French-style brasserie suits the property,” says Aldrich, adding that escargots, Blue Ridge trout Almondine, and steak frites will all be on the menu. Just like the famous Le Relais de l’Entrecôte in Paris, the steak frites will be topped with a sauce made from a mixture of chicken livers, thyme, Dijon mustard, and cream. Aldrich is calling his version of Entrecôte sauce “Sauce de L’Clermont.” Looks-wise, the 100-seat restaurant will be pretty splashy; New York-based Reunion Goods & Services plans to dress it up in marble tile, pink velvet banquettes, and patterned wallpaper.
A little history lesson, for those who don’t know: The Hotel Clermont was originally built in the 1920s in Poncey-Highland and, according to Aldrich, was a hangout for musicians in its heyday. After turning pretty shabby around the turn of the century, the health department shuttered it in 2009, while the Clermont Lounge, a strip club in its basement, continued to stay alive and kicking (and crushing beer cans). In 2012, the hotel was purchased by Oliver Hospitality to be turned into a boutique hotel, and when ground was finally broken for renovations last January, the dancers were forced to take some time off. The Lounge reopened in September and the hotel is getting close to following suit—although not as close as was originally thought. The opening date has been pushed from January to, loosely, spring 2018.
“These past couple years, Atlanta has felt like a more confident city,” says Alan Rae, who will be the general manager of the hotel. “This is all part of Atlanta’s evolution to truly becoming a global city. We’re now confident to tell our story, and the Clermont is part of that story.” (Originally from Manchester, Rae has lived in Atlanta, where he worked at the W Hotel downtown and the Intercontinental in Buckhead, for 16 years.)
The hotel’s 94 rooms will be split into three suites, 76 standard rooms, and 15 bunk rooms that can each house four guests. Few other details have been hammered out at this point, but Rae knows he wants residents of the surrounding neighborhood to be a part of the process. “Lots of times, when projects like this develop, people who have been in the neighborhood for many years feel excluded and pushed out,” he says. Rae has been taking locals on hard hard tours so they can see how construction is progressing, and he plans to give them special color-coded keys to the hotel.
“I want there to be guest key fobs, VIP guest key fobs, and local resident key fobs,” he says. “That way, let’s say they have family visiting and they want to take photographs from a nice viewpoint, they can all swipe up to the rooftop and feel it’s a space they can utilize.”