By the time East Lake’s Poor Hendrix was recognized as a Michelin “recommended” restaurant on October 24, plans for an Avondale Estates sandwich shop by the same owners were already in the works. Husband-and-wife team Aaron and Jamie Russell recently announced that the Velvet Hippo in Avondale Estates by the end of the year. The 400-square-foot space will feature a concise menu of sandwiches, salads, and soups in the eclectic style the Russells are known for, along with cocktails, beer, and wine.
“We’re limited in the type of food we can serve by space constraints. Sandwiches have been around for years and years,” explains Aaron Russell, a three-time James Beard Award semifinalist. “Staffing has been the bane of every business, especially restaurants, so finding a way to have a viable business with minimal staff is helpful.”
Like the Banshee team, who opened gourmet sandwich spot Bona Fide Deluxe earlier this year, the Russells will serve a variety of sandwiches that can’t be pigeonholed into a genre.
“We’ll cook the kind of food we like to eat and what we feel like cooking that day, which is how we’ve handled our business at Poor Hendrix for the past seven years,” Russell says. Both hot and cold sandwiches will be offered. Options may include a beet wrap with paprika vinaigrette, vegan mayonnaise, and vegetables; a 5-ounce lamb merguez burger with Halal-style white sauce and pickles; and a fried catfish sandwich that riffs a fried trout dish at Poor Hendrix. Sides will include cole slaw, potato salad, and chips. Cocktails will change seasonally—think mulled wine or hot toddies in the winter—with spins on classics.
Since the space is so small, seating will be concentrated in the outdoor courtyard with ordering available via walk-up window. (Food runners will bring your food to your table.) Like Poor Hendrix, the Velvet Hippo will be open Thursday through Monday. It will serve lunch and dinner—and breakfast in the future. Also like Poor Hendrix, the Velvet Hippo is named after one of the Russells’ dogs.