Nobu is finally coming to Atlanta—and our film industry is partially why

The Japanese fusion restaurant and adjoining Nobu Hotel will open at Phipps Plaza in Buckhead
Nobu Atlanta Phipps Plaza
A rendering of Nobu restaurant at Phipps Plaza

Rendering courtesy of Simon Property Group

At long last, the famous Japanese fusion restaurant Nobu is coming to Atlanta.

At a Simon Property Group press conference this morning, Nobu CEO Trevor Horwell announced that Nobu Atlanta Restaurant and a 150-room Nobu Hotel may open as soon as late 2019, part of a major new mixed-use development at Simon-owned Phipps Plaza that will begin opening in spring 2020.

The high-profile hospitality brand, founded by chef Nobu Matsuhisa, Robert De Niro, and Meir Teper, has expanded in recent years—opening 40 restaurants and 16 hotels around the world. However, Horwell says, “We don’t want to be in every single city in the U.S. We want to be in very selective cities. It has to be a city that fits with the Nobu customer.”

Atlanta’s burgeoning film industry is part of that attraction. Horwell calls the city a “4M market”—music, movie, models/retail, and media. “On the airplane [coming here], basically 90 percent of the people in first class were reading scripts,” he said. Apparently, De Niro is also a fan, and Atlantans can now expect spot him around here more often.

Nobu Atlanta Phipps Plaza
Rendering of the Phipps Plaza overhaul

Rendering courtesy of Simon Property Group

But Nobu is counting on locals, not Hollywood, to embrace the new location as a sort of “living room”—generating the energy needed to turn it into a destination. Key to that appeal will be an adjoining open-air plaza and food hall. “You have to create a sense of place,” said John Rulli, Simon’s president of malls and chief administrative officer. “You can’t just create a green space and say, ‘Here’s a park.’ You’ve got to make it a special environment.” He compared the project to Simon’s mixed-use complex in Austin, Texas, the Domain, which has evolved into a popular spot for everything from outdoor yoga to concerts.

In addition to the 10,000 square-foot-restaurant, the new development will include 12-story Class A office building, other dining options, and a 90,000-square-foot Life Time Athletic facility. David Rockwell, who designed the restaurant’s original location in Tribeca as well as its brand new spot on Broadway, is also creating the Atlanta space. No word on the Atlanta chef for now.

Buckhead Coalition president Sam Massell praised Simon for taking the lead in re-imagining what is often a tired mall concept. The company has continually invested in its properties, Massell noted, including maintaining the largest public safety budget in Georgia outside the City of Atlanta. Ever the promoter, he says, “This adds to our mission of branding Buckhead as the address of choice.”

Nobu Atlanta Phipps Plaza
Rendering of the new development at Phipps Plaza

Rendering courtesy of Simon Property Group