The Shake-down on Centennial Park’s new restaurant

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The recently announced restaurant soon replacing the Foutainside Café in Centennial Olympic Park has been characterized as a duplicate of New York’s famed Shake Shack because of its simple Americana menu and location (the original Shake Shack is in Manhattan’s Madison Square Park). But the project’s owners and designers hope to see the Downtown project develop beyond its initial perception as a borrowed concept.

Mark Banta, the general manager of Centennial Olympic Park, has a long-term goal of establishing the area as a world-class urban park. And a key element of the visionary leader’s strategy was to create an exciting dining destination as one of park’s centerpieces, one that is uniquely Atlanta. While searching for models that would inspire him, he visited the Shake Shack and was impressed by its ability to generate a great deal of business with a simple, straightforward menu—but he was not interested in bringing an actual Shack Shake to Atlanta.
 
The Park’s new restaurant’s menu was designed by Levy Restaurants, a national restaurant and food service company. Granted, from the few details to emerge as yet about the menu, it sounds very Shack-ish: burgers, fries, hotdogs, milkshakes. (We put in a call to Banta to get extra information about the menu, but he was out of the office. It would certainly be admirable if the owners decided to source their meats from sustainable, even local, purveyors.)
 
Westside-based design firm ai3 has partnered with Turner and Associates, the original architect, to create an approachable, unique appeal. According to ai3’s Patrick Johnson, the project’s design draws inspiration from the Space Age “Googie” architecture that was prevalent in the early forties and fifties drive-ins and diners. Johnson describes the design as a “nostalgic look toward the future.” The restaurant, which will feature walk-up dining service along with an expansive sit-down area, will be owned by the Georgia World Congress Center and operated by Levy Restaurants.
 
Banta, who has served as the park’s general manager since the Olympics, began the process of taking the Downtown district to a whole new level over fourteen years ago. And the million-dollar project, which is slated to open in mid-July, is also a harbinger of more food related things to come: Banta is hinting that there will be some mobile food operations in the park’s future as well.  

NEWS AND NOTES:
 
Atlanta Beer Week will be May 16-22.

Atlantic Station. Opening chef Nick Oltarsh has returned to Lobby at Twelve.
 
Buckhead. What Now Atlanta reports that Taco and Tequilas Mexican Grill will open in Chastain Square this summer. 
 
Decatur. Decatur Metro first reported that Garlic Thai & Sushi Bar has opened in the former Little Azio spot at 340 West Ponce de Leon.
 
Downtown. Thrillist notes that Bistro 57 has opened in the former Fleur de Lis spot.
 
Midtown. The iconic Bobby & June’s did NOT close April 29 after more than 30 years in business, as previously reported.
 
Tomorrow’s News Today is reporting that an IHOP is slated to move into former Louise’s Soul Food spot at 428 Ponce de Leon this June.
 
Toco Hills. Tomorrow’s News Today also writes that Encino, California based Menchie’s, a fro-yo shop, will open their third metro Atlanta location this summer in the Toco Hills Promenade.
 
Question of the Week: What Atl resto was named finalist (second place) for the design award in the casual category by a prestigious international hospitality design publication?
 
PS.  The answer to last week’s QOTW—What three Atlanta restos did Food & Wine editor Dana Cowin single out in her remarks about her recent visit to our shores in the May issue of the magazine?—are Flip, Sublime Doughnuts and Tomo.

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