One-Michelin-starred Lazy Betty starts serving in its new Midtown digs on March 16

Tasting menu restaurant moves into the former Empire State South space and launches an a la carte bar menu

Roasted beet salad

Photo by Andrew Thomas Lee

One of only five Atlanta restaurants to earn a Michelin star, Lazy Betty is moving to its new home March 16. The acclaimed tasting menu spot opened in the former Radial Cafe space in Candler Park in 2019. Five years later, it’s taking over from Hugh Acheson’s esteemed Empire State South, which shuttered last year due to financial fallout from the pandemic. Located in the heart of Midtown near 10th and Peachtree Streets, the new space is nearly 2,000 square feet larger than the old, allowing owners Ron Hsu and Aaron Phillips to grow the bar program, add an a la carte menu, and expand the group private dining options.

The duo, who also own the more casual Humble Pie in the Interlock, will continue to serve the seven course, $205-per-person tasting menus Lazy Betty is known for. It will keep charging a 20 percent service fee (included in the $205) to pay workers a livable wage. Lazy Betty will also continue to offer wine, beer, and spirits from small producer for which sustainability is top-of-mind. Wines include options from family-owned and minority-led biodynamic wineries. Lazy Betty also features rare spirits and a large bourbon portfolio, including Pappy Van Winkle, the Clase Azul Collection, and Buffalo Trace Antique Collection. New cocktails and zero-proof options (including pairings) will be available. “We have a few [beverage] surprises for the city,” Phillips says. However, Lazy Betty has not procured its new liquor license yet, so for now, BYOB is welcome, and usual the corkage fee will be waived.

Chilled split pea

Photo by Andrew Thomas Lee

Corn dessert

Photo by Andrew Thomas Lee

Designed by Blue Lantern Studios, the space features earth tones and organic materials: pine floors, a stone-topped bar, and a wine display made with a repurposed steel and glass window. The bar/lounge is decorated with greenery, brass and wood accents, and a hand-crafted bird sculpture. In the dining room, expect teal velvet banquettes and terracotta plaster walls. Velvet curtains separate it from the private dining areas. Like the original Lazy Betty location, this space is Sensory Inclusive to provide a more comfortable experience for those with autism, PTSD, and more. “We’re very inclusive. It’s just fell in line with our core values,” Hsu explains.

We spoke to him and Phillips about their plans for the new space—particularly the a la carte menu available only to walk-ins at the bar.

Grilled Maine lobster

Photo by Andrew Thomas Lee

Why did you decide to move?

Hsu: We outgrew our old space and couldn’t improve our product there. The new one gives us the opportunity to create a more extensive beverage and wine program. We also had a lot of issues in the building itself. It was a converted garage—not the type of building you’d want for a tasting menu concept.

Phillips: This space is more reflective of the product we already produce through service, beverage creation and pairings, and food. We’ll be able to better serve our clientele through two dedicated private dining rooms and accommodate larger-format functions.

How is the look and feel similar and/or different?

Hsu: We didn’t want to lose the feel of the original space. We are a little less industrial with a lot of the same design elements and color schemes. We made it more contemporary and refined.

We want to be more environmentally friendly, so we repurposed furniture by reupholstering and adding cushions. We’re bringing over light fixtures and refurbishing them.

Phillips: I think we achieved an elevated reimagination of what we were already known for and what people had come to expect. It’s a bridge between the old and the new. We still have an exposed ceiling but now we have a hardwood floor—I always wanted one. It’s beautiful, and I’m very happy.

How do you feel moving into such an esteemed space?

Hsu: I’ve been eating at Empire State South for 11 or 12 years—since they first opened. We did a popup there with chef Josh Hopkins before moving into the brick and mortar. It’s like coming full circle. We view it as passing the torch from one great restaurant to another.

Tell me about the new a la carte menu offered at the bar.

Hsu: At the old space, the bar was really the chef counter. This space allows us to show off a bar program, and with that, we want to have food. It’s about accessibility, too. The tasting menu is a three-hour time commitment. At the bar, you can get a dish that will be indicative of who we are.

One dish is causa. It’s been on our tasting menu the longest and goes well with a glass of champagne or white wine or with a cocktail. It’s a layered hot/cold dish that’s just five to six bites. It’s Royal Red shrimp with lime aioli, cilantro, and fermented chili paste, then a layer of avocado puree, followed by warm, aerated potato foam, and topped with red pepper relish. We’ll have six to eight items with one or two of them changing monthly. We like food that’s fun and has an element of comfortability. We have three chef-y donuts: with foie gras mousse and seasonal jelly, lemon and caviar, and truffle.

Phillips: In this building, there are a lot of people in large business firms. After work, they may not be able to commit to a tasting menu experience, but they could stop by for happy hour and enjoy an elevated bite or two. They’re still experiencing the flavors and specialness of what we do.

Roasted dry aged duck

Do you feel more pressure now that you have a Michelin star?

Hsu: We worked at Le Bernadin. Every time we’d maintain our 3 stars, there would be a rash of negative reviews because expectations are sky high. It is added pressure. We’re fortunate to have success in such a tough industry.

Phillips: Much of our team has been with us since we opened. They’ve experienced the steppingstones to success with us. They’ve been conditioned for this and are excited and ready.

What’s happening with Juniper Cafe?

Hsu: I have one brain and it’s on Lazy Betty right now. Aaron is very busy with three kids and being a husband. Lazy Betty will always be our flagship and our baby. Juniper Cafe is still selling wholesale to other businesses, but other plans are on hold.

Onion tart