Fresh off nine years in Miami, acclaimed Mexican chef Santiago Gomez is opening an upscale Westside restaurant (955 West Marietta Street) where wood- and charcoal-grilled dishes will be the stars. Called Palo Santo for the wood used to purify ambiance and create good vibes, it combines Mexican inspirations with some local ingredients. (Corn, chocolate, beans, and chiles notably will be sourced from Mexican farmers.) Slated to open in August, Palo Santo will have chef’s table and omakase-inspired counter, too. (Editor’s note: The restaurant is set to open Friday, September 23.)
“In Miami, I had two Mexican restaurants and was doing some dinners at my house with everything made on wood or charcoal,” Santiago says. “I love Atlanta, and the history and art around King Plow [near where Palo Santo will be located] is just amazing. I’m proud to be able to bring both cultures to the restaurant.”
Palo Santo’s menu will be limited to about 20 items, designed to be shared. Options include mushroom tetela (corn masa, peach mole, pink oyster mushrooms, and flor de calabaza), cured hamachi tostada (charred serrano-citric mayo, burnt avocado, dry miso, uni, and heirloom corn tostada), and wood-fired ora king salmon al pastor (adobo, pineapple-vanilla sauce, pickled kohlrabi). Plus, expect familiar options like guacamole and potatoes bravas. Larger plates include masa fried chicken and poblano rice with scallops.
A 10-seat chef’s table will be used for multi-course, reservation-only, family-style meals. Here, the chef will take charge, creating a unique menu of his choosing. Likewise, four kitchen counter-side seats offer an omakase-style experience—think 10-12 smaller tastes paired with wine.
“It allows us to play with different ingredients and cuisines,” Santiago says. “The idea is no rules.”
Formerly Do pizza, the Palo Santo space divided into two sections. Downstairs, there’s the main dining room with dark wood furniture, an open kitchen, Mexican lamps, and white pendant lights. A copper bar will be focused on mezcal and tequila. Approximately 15 cocktails will be offered, as well as 10 natural wines by the glass and 30 by the bottle. Mexican and local beer will be available, too.
Up a grand staircase, the atmosphere becomes more playful. There are light wood tables, floor-to-ceiling windows, and a pink couch. A large terrace offers sweeping city views, and a DJ will play on weekends.
Here, Gomez uses experience he gained working at Nobu to create a Japanese-meets-Mexican menu with “easy-to-eat, bite-sized” items—think nori tacos, crudos, and oysters. The beverage list will adjust accordingly, featuring sake in addition to agave-based cocktails.
Looking for something more casual? Gomez plans to launch a traditional taqueria called El Santo Gallo in Westside Paper by the end of the year. With 50 seats, Mexican tiles, and “flashy” lights, it will serve Mexican staples like carne asada and al pastor tacos.