The Christiane Chronicles: Restaurant parking nightmares, and Sobban’s impressive garden

Raves and rants from veteran dining authority Christiane Lauterbach
Christiane Chronicles
Illustration by Zohar Lazar

The absolute worst part about my otherwise enviable job? Parking. Depending on where I go, I’m left to navigate wonky meters, spiral-of-death garages (Empire State South), ridiculously steep terrain (Bell Street Burritos in south Buckhead), and dark, suspicious lots (basically everywhere in Little Five Points and East Atlanta). It’s a miracle I still dine at One Eared Stag, which has no parking lot (but is by a MARTA station), or Antico Pizza, where people park every which way along the narrow streets. Krog Street Market is almost always more congested than I-85 during rush hour, though there is valet when you finally tire of circling the lot. But valet at Lusca or Miller Union? Completely unnecessary. Perhaps I should start taking MARTA. Maybe then I can finally get a drink at the W Atlanta without paying $10 to park.

Photograph by Lauren Taylor Watt

Restaurants with their own gardens are nothing new. But now instead of simply snipping a few sprigs of rosemary and sourcing the rest from farmers, top toques like Billy Allin at Cakes & Ale, Jeffrey Wall (with the help of Lou Linzie) at Kimball House, and Hudson Rouse at Home Grown GA are really getting their hands dirty, plotting out their own rows of garlic, edible flowers, greens, herbs, heirloom tomatoes, and Jerusalem artichokes.

I’m particularly struck by what Cody Taylor and his wife, Jiyeon Lee, are doing at Sobban. Last year the couple, who also own Heirloom Market BBQ, raised a few beds on the side of their Korean-Southern diner on Clairmont Road—then decided to think bigger. Today there are more than 40 beds and wooden boxes containing 90-plus varieties of (largely unusual) fruit and vegetables, growing in 76,000 pounds of rich, black soil. The all-edible landscape includes a grow house at the top of a steep hill behind the restaurant, and more is being planted every day.

“It takes me four hours just to water,” Taylor said to me as we traipsed past Korean quinces, jujubes, papaws, goji berry bushes, white eggplants, and giant beans climbing up bamboo poles. Unusual heirloom tomato plants, melons, and Korean okras were growing among tiny yuzu trees, infant wasabi trees, and radishes with aerial edible seedpods. The rich harvest goes toward authentic banchan, salads, and hot kimchi (hence the kohlrabi leaves drying overhead in Sobban’s dining room). Is this the next level of farm-to-table dining? I sure hope so.

Field Notes

  • It’s always fascinating to see how quickly (and often secretly) restaurants change hands in the Chinese community. Recently
    Good Luck Gourmet has opened where Gu’s Bistro once thrived, and TJ House in Duluth has morphed into a Cantonese place called Mong Kok.
  • Not long ago I learned that servers at Bone’s, Atlanta’s landmark steakhouse, get a star embroidered on their jackets
    for every five years of service. The record: seven stars!
  • I realize that Canoe’s executive chef, Matthew Basford, grew up in Australia, but that doesn’t mean I want to eat kangaroo loin while looking at the Chattahoochee River.

This article originally appeared in our August 2015 issue.