The Grape gets rejuiced

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ATL Food Chatter: May 10, 2010
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Good news for vinophiles who enjoy a casual atmosphere: The Atlanta-based wine bar chain formally known as the Grape plans to rise above its past financial problems with new leadership, a trio of revamped Atlanta stores, and an aggressive vision for expansion.  

The chain, which at one time boasted local celebrity franchisee Usher, landed in bankruptcy because it was saddled with costly leases as it tried to grow too quickly, according to Emily Streib Marcil, President of Second Growth LLC.
 
Second Growth LLC, which is owned by Atlanta high-tech entrepreneur Gregg Freishtat, purchased the business out of bankruptcy last year and now owns the three remaining Atlanta area Grape locations, which form the foundation of the company’s new direction. Freishtat and Marcil have replaced the previous regime’s franchise-driven operation with a business model designed to establish The Grape Wine Bar and Bistro as the first national brand in the wine industry. Its expanded name reflects the brand’s new emphasis on making the dining experience equal to the wine experience.
 
Marcil, who joined the company after twelve years with Capital Grill, has spent her first year on the job determining what strategies would be most effective in rebuilding the brand. Her first step: tweaking the design, menus and wine list of the three Atlanta stores—in Phipps Plaza, Vinings and Atlantic Station. Atlanta firm ai3 was commissioned to update the interiors and will also design the new prototype being developed for Second Growth’s expansion plans. Paul Agnelli, formerly of the Capital Grill and the Buckhead Life Restaurant Group, has been hired as the corporate chef, and master sommelier Jay James consulted on the revision of the wine list. Live music and private dining areas are part of the revamp. Some revised menu items include flatbread with pulled pork and fire-roasted corn, and jack cheese; shrimp and grits with tasso ham gravy; and herb-roasted Springer Mountain chicken with caramelized shallot butter with asparagus and roasted fingerling potatoes.
 
Once the renovations have been completed and finessed, 2011 will see the roll out of the new prototype in Atlanta, around the Southeast and possibly beyond. 

NEWS AND NOTES:

 
Linton Hopkins will be the guest chef at the inaugural event of the Atlanta Botanical Garden’s Well Seasoned Chef series on Wednesday, May, 19 from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. The entire series is listed as sold out, but you can be placed on the waiting list by calling 404-459-1543.

Speaking of Linton Hopkins, Chris Gaither, former sommelier at Restaurant Eugene, is interning at the French Laundry.
 
Alpharetta. Thrillist is reporting that Mango’s Cuban Cuisine has opened at 5950 North Point Parkway.
 
Atlantic Station. Lobby has instituted a $10 all-you-can-eat pizza special every Thursday night from 6 to 9 p.m. There will also be free movies shown in Atlantic Station’s park every Thursday evening as well.
 
Buckhead. Au Pied de Cochon in the InterContinental Hotel begins a “Passport to France” series next week, exploring regional specialties from France. The series will continue, for one week beginning on the third Monday of each month, for the remainder of 2010. This month features the France’s Southwest, with dishes such as white asparagus and foie gras salad and beef tenderloin Rossini.

Rumor has it that a 4,000-square-foot, 175-seat English pub will open in the former La Madeline space at 1931 Powers Ferry Road by mid-June.
 
Decatur. What Now Atlanta reveals that Yogli Mogli, a local fro-yo chain, is opening a store in Emory village in the former Emory University bookstore this July.
 
Downtown. Thrillist reported that Book Cafe, a bookstore/bistro, has opened at 314 Auburn Avenue.
 
Midtown. The 2010 Summer Lunch Box Series, which will run from May to July every Wednesday from 11:30 a.m until 2:30 p.m in Arts District Plaza (corner of 15th Street and Peachtree), has begun. On Wednesday, May 12th, it will feature food from Fresh 2 Order.
 
A banner on the former Oasis Mediterranean Cafe on 14th Street says, “Coming soon: Wasabi.”
 
Sandy Springs. Thrillist is reporting that Gigi’s Cupcakes, a Nashville, Tennessee group, has opened its first Georgia store at 1140 Hammonds Drive.
 
Question of the Week: What former Atlanta chef is rumored to become the new chef de cuisine at The Plaza Hotel in New York?
 
PS.  The answer to last week’s QOTW—What ATL resto was named a finalist (2nd place) for the design award in the casual/quick service category by a prestigious international hospitality design publication?—is Abattoir. Hospitality Design Magazine named them the 2010 award runner up for Dominick Coyle and Anne Quatrano’s interior design and Atlanta based Square Feet Studio’s architecture.

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