The Atlanta Dining Outlook: A Designer’s Forecast

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ATL Food Chatter: November 23, 2009
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I chatted recently with Ed Seiber, president of Seiber Design, Inc., about his perspective on the future of Atlanta’s dining scene. Seiber, the designer of Atlanta icons such as Restaurant Eugene, New York Prime and Spice, is a veteran of over 20 years in the Atlanta market. He designed Truva, the Downtown Mediterranean restaurant that officially opens today. He’s currently working on a fast-casual burger concept for Shaun Doty, slated for the White Provisions development on the Westside.

The urbane Seiber, who has received national and international recognition for his restaurant designs, is also a food fanatic of the first order. Here are some of his thoughts:

Q: What is your outlook for Atlanta’s dining scene over the next two to three years?

ES: We see the continued growth of the fast-casual segment, but we already sense adult value meals alone can’t carry us for the next two or three years. Diners will still seek a quality dining experience in which value is measured in many ways: quality ingredients, (many locally-sourced), artfully prepared and hospitably presented in simpler yet evocative settings.

Q: What sectors do you see flourishing and which will not and why?

ES: Smaller, chef-driven neighborhood restaurants, gastropubs, artisanal food and drink offerings in many forms will remain a strong segment. While Atlanta may well continue to see a few out-of-state high-end restaurants open in Buckhead, Midtown and Downtown, our local entrepreneurs will continue to define what makes our dining culture unique. We don’t see the glitzy indulgence sector returning anytime soon. For those who do want to splurge occasionally, they’ll be looking less to a Las Vegas and more to a sophisticated, casual downtown vibe.

Q:
What design features are becoming more pronounced in this market (as opposed to, say, New York)?

ES: New York restaurant and bar concepts will continue to influence Atlanta’s, but going forward we see this coming less from midtown and uptown Manhattan and more from Brooklyn, Queens, and the neighborhoods of lower Manhattan. Design features tend to travel from region to region, city to city, so we don’t expect unique features here as opposed to New York. The features are driven more by the specific dining concept and the budget. What we do see for the next couple of years are simpler, more understated designs with more monochromatic color palettes highlighted by pops of color and texture.

Q: What are some of the characteristics of the simpler design aesthetic?

ES: Recycled and reclaimed materials, energy efficiency, long-term durability, and when possible, locally sourced materials will be important. Due to constrained budgets, we’re likely to also see a variety of less expensive decorative components used to accessorize the dining rooms, similar to stage set design. We see a greater emphasis on comfort and more intimate spaces and less emphasis on bling and ostentation.

New York architect Deborah Berke wrote about “austerity aesthetics” recently, in which “beauty must be a function of simplicity, composition, and quality rather than expensive materials or structural gymnastics. Architects must do more with less.” Perhaps we can call it the New Resourcefulness.

Q:
Last question: where would you take visitors from Paris to eat here in Atlanta?

ES:
We would definitely take them to our unique, chef-driven restaurants, especially those that reinterpret southern cuisine, or reflect artful approaches to cooking. To name a few—Shaun’s, Repast, Restaurant Eugene, Pura Vida, Cakes & Ale. I hope our Parisian friends have some time and are hungry.

NEWS AND NOTES:

Buckhead. Shula’s 347 (named for the number of NFL victories for the Hall of Fame coach), a 260-seat steakhouse/sports bar, has opened in the Buckhead Marriott at 3405 Lennox Road.  

College Park. Michon’s Loft—serving smoked meats and seafood and featuring live entertainment—has reopened and relocated to 1583 Virginia Avenue.

Cumming. Chow Down Atlanta penned a great report on new fried-fantasy shop Dutch Monkey Doughnuts. Among the specials are everyone’s favorite doughnut toppings of the moment: maple-bacon.

Decatur. Community BBQ opened for business last Thursday. (If you go, let us know how it was: We’ve heard great early reports.)

Downtown. Creative Loafing notes that Pizzeria Vesuvius—from a team comprised of owners of Noni’s, Grant Central, Thumbs up and others—was slated to open on November 20 in the former Bureau location at 327 Edgewood Avenue.

Druid Hills. The Atlanta Business Chronicle is reporting that a Twisted Taco is locating in the former Emory bookstore location by spring 2010.


Dunwoody
. The Atlanta Business Chronicle also reports that Sage Woodfire Tavern is opening a second location in Park Place shopping center at 4505 Ashford-Dunwoody Road.


Forest Park
. Thrillist is reporting that Piggy City Bar-B-Que, serving Memphis style barbecue, has opened in the former Frank’s Bar-B-Que location at 1134 Main Street.

Hartsfield. Cafe Intermezzo is opening its third location on Concourse B by the end of the year.

Midtown. Rumor has it that Spice Market at the W Midtown is no longer under Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s Culinary Concepts umbrella.

Roswell. INC. Street Food, featuring an eclectic menu of Latin American street food from the owners and chef of Little Alley and The Salt Factory, will open at 946 Canton Street in the historic Roswell Square this December.


Vinings
. After ten weeks of renovations and rebuilding, Canoe will reopen its doors on Monday, November 23. During the first week Canoe will be open for dinner only and will offer a three-course prix-fixe menu at $55 per person on Thanksgiving Day.


Westside
. The Daily Beast singled out Miller Union as one of the country’s hottest new restaurants.

Question of the Week
: What West Coast frozen yogurt trendsetter will move into the Atlanta market next year?

PS.  The answer to last week’s QOTW—What new Metro Atlanta-based sports restaurant group is planning a Buckhead store in 2010?—is Duluth’s Arena Tavern 

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

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