Courtesy of Michael Lennox
In our car-centric city, the Atlanta BeltLine has been a game changer, and restaurant owners know that more than anyone. On Thursday, chef Kevin Rathbun (Kevin Rathbun Steak, Rathbun’s, Krog Bar, and KR Steakbar), Michael Lennox (Ladybird Grove & Mess Hall), and BeltLine designer Ryan Gravel of Perkins Will will lead a discussion about the impact of urban development on restaurant design at a sold-out event called Dining + Design.
“We would not be opening Ladybird were it not for the BeltLine,” Lennox says. “We wanted to do something that would tie into the BeltLine and help it continue to grow, giving people another fun thing to do on it.”
Ladybird, which is scheduled to open in August, will offer corn hole, bocce, shuffleboard table, and Ping-Pong, and have a prominent patio.
“If you’re coming in off the BeltLine on a whim, the majority of people are dressed pretty casually—they may be in workout clothes, may be on their bike. Having affordable laid-back options is a huge focus,” he added.
Most menu items will cost less than $12, and the beverage menu will focus on beer and refreshing, simple cocktails.
For Rathbun, whose restaurants are all in the BeltLine projectory, the path is bringing in new customers.
“The exposure has been fantastic,” he says. “I’d sit out there [on the Kevin Rathbun Steak patio] in the afternoon and people would ask, ‘What is that?’ I’d tell them, ‘That’s Kevin Rathbun Steak!’”
He says his decision to improve the steakhouse patio is in direct response to BeltLine traffic. “Now we have drink rails, a fireplace; we’re picking out a couple of couches and barstools. Bartenders are making the rounds, and we have a lot of shareable appetizers.”
He’s considering making Rathbun’s more casual, too.
And it’s not just Rathbun and Lennox who are taking advantage of the BeltLine. John Bencich, founding principal of Square Feet Studio and founder of the Dining + Design committee, says he’s seen “incredible growth” in requests to look at food concepts on or near the BeltLine.
With the opening of Krog Street Market, the BeltLine will soon bring even more competition to the area, but Rathbun says it’s worth it. “It puts you on your game and makes you do much better. Plus, it’ll make the area safer.”