Q&A with Barcelona Wine Bar’s Sasa Mahr-Batuz


ATL Food Chatter: December 20, 2011

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Sasa (pronounced sa-sha) Mahr-Batuz is the creative mind behind the 16-year-old, Connecticut-based Barcelona Wine Bar restaurant group, which he co-founded with restaurant veteran Andy Pforzheimer. Their first location in the Southeast, on North Highland Avenue in Inman Park, has created much buzz in Atlanta’s dining scene with its Spanish themed tapas, outside-the-box wine program, and rustic-chic energy.

Q: The Barcelona Wine Bar concept has been a success financially and from an industry recognition standpoint. What has been your philosophy in creating the concept?
SMB: The success of Barcelona Restaurant & Wine Bar is based on a team effort. My partner, Andy Pforzheimer, and I have the same vision for the concept. Andy is a business-minded trained chef. We each have our own skill set and the combination is perfect. Our business ethic and passion for our concept is something that is shared amongst the rest of our team of chefs, management, waitstaff, etc. Customer service and a wonderful dining experience are very important to us. We also challenge our culinary team to work with different ingredients and experiment with different recipes to bring something new for our guests. Naturally, we have our staple tapas dishes, but reinvention and refreshing our menu is important as well.

Q: How did you become interested in the restaurant industry?
SMB: In my family, food was the center of our family gatherings. It was a time where we could converse, celebrate and enjoy. Years ago, I had the opportunity to live in several countries and experience different types of cuisine. My family culture, coupled with experiencing different types of cuisine, naturally provided the foundation to appreciate the art of eating. When I was playing tennis, I traveled internationally, and there were so many culinary experiences that I wanted to have here at home in the States. Hence, the concept of Barcelona Restaurant & Wine Bar was born.

Q: What made you want to come to Atlanta and why Inman Park?
SMB: Members of our team have roots in Atlanta and after visiting the area, we knew it would be a great place to open Barcelona. We love Virginia-Highlands and so when the opportunity to open our restaurant in Inman Park became available, we went for it. Inman Park is the perfect location for us because it’s a neighborhood. We are the type of restaurant where we want the locals to come for a drink and/or a meal and feel at home. We couldn’t be more thrilled about the success of our Inman Park location.

Q: I know that this early, but are there plans for anymore Barcelona Wine Bars, or your new concept Bar Taco Tequila Bar, here in Atlanta?
SMB: We will always explore opportunities for our concepts but we do not have any confirmed expansion plans at this time. Right now, our focus is Barcelona in Inman Park and ensuring it is a great experience for our guests.

Q: Where have you eaten here in Atlanta?
SMB: I’ve dined at so many places in Atlanta—Cakes & Ale, Miller Union, Kevin Rathbun’s Steak, Antico Pizza, One Eared Stag, No. 246 to name a few.

Will Harris, the owner of White Oak Pastures, Georgia’s largest certified organic farm, has been inducted into the Southern Foodways Alliance’s Fellowship of Southern Farmers, Artisans and Chefs. Harris, who supplies sustainably raised beef products to Atlanta restaurants and food stores through purveyors like Halpern’s and Buckhead Beef, will be formally inducted at the Taste of the South at Blackberry Farm in January.

Patrick Cuccaro, General Manager of Affairs to Remember Caterers , has been elected chairman of the Georgia Restaurant Association (GRA). GRA has more than 3,000 restaurant members representing nearly 100,000 employees.

The long awaited list of the recommended concession winners for over 125 restaurant and retail slots at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport was released last week for City Council approval. Among the local restos are Ecco, Yeah! Burger, The Varsity and The Real Chow Baby.

Brookhaven. Olde Blind Dog, an Irish pub/restaurant, and other restaurants are under construction/consideration at TOWN Brookhaven, according to the Atlanta Business Chronicle.

Buckhead. Locally owned chain Olde Towne Grille & Tavern is slated to open in the former Saskatoon space at 360 Pharr Road by early 2012 according to various media reports.

Get Fried at Tavern 99 is Atlanta’s latest take on fried chicken. Starting at 5 p.m. and continuing while supplies last, Tavern 99 diners can enjoy cornflake fried chicken, side salad, mac and cheese, collard greens and prime seats for Thursday Night Football for just $12.

Decatur. Decatur Metro reports that Cozee Tea’s, a family owned shop that serves tea in a variety of ways, including, hot, cold, smoothies, latte’s and bubble, plans to open in January at 225 E. Ponce de Leon.
Downtown. First posted on their Facebook page and widely reported since, French American Bistro (F.A.B.) closed on Saturday.

East Atlanta. Gravity Pub, one of the oldest bars in East Atlanta Village, has closed, according to Creative Loafing.
Midtown. Thrillist first reported on Metro Fuxon, a restaurant/bar/lounge featuring a melange of Latin and Caribbean flavors on its menu, has opened at 554 Piedmont Avenue NE in the former Rare Soul space.

Creative Loafing reports that Adam Waller, formerly sous chef at Sotto Sotto, is now the top toque at Escorpion.

Morningside. Owner Matt Coggin has taken over as the executive chef at D.B.A. Barbecue. According to Eater Atlanta, he is going to create more specials and update the menu for the winter.

Poncey-Highland. Ponce City Market, Atlanta’s Chelsea Market to be, has its first confirmed tenant, Dancing Goat Coffee Bar, according to What Now Atlanta. The coffee bar will locate in a space on the corner of Glen Iris and North Avenue in the Ponce City Market’s marketing center, slated to open this spring, and then relocate permanently when the massive mixed use development comes on line in 2014.

Super Pan Latino Sandwich Shop, Hector Santiago’s lunch cafe, is now offering a series of lunch combo specials to the menu like a half-order of pork belly buns, choice of veggies or soup of the day, and a beverage special of the day for $9.

Westside. Anne Quatrano and Clifford Harrison have announced that they’ve hired Tyler Williams as Abattoir’s new executive chef. Williams previously worked at Bacchanalia.

Question of the Week: What was the first restaurant slated to go into the space most recently occupied by the former Saskatoon at 360 Pharr Road?

P.S. The answer to last week’s QOTW—What former Atlanta star chef is now headlining in a Greenville, South Carolina restaurant?—is Gary Mennie, now at High Cotton.

Do you have restaurant openings, closings, or other news to share? Email James Oxendine at atldiningchatter@gmail.com