The state of fine dining in Atlanta

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ATL Food Chatter: September 21, 2009
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Some observers of the local dining scene have opined that the October 1 closing of the Dining Room at The Ritz-Carlton Buckhead, Atlanta’s last Mobil five-star restaurant, marks the end of fine dining in the city. Two Dining Room alumni argue, though, that while the closing will have some negative impacts, its demise only marks the end of that particular type of fine dining and that Atlanta’s chefs will create a new format for fine dining.

Shaun Doty, one of the several Dining Room alumni who have gone on to helm Atlanta restaurants, believes in this new era, “five-star dining” must be re-engineered to meet the economic and demographic challenge of the times. He cites Restaurant Eugene as a prime example of the new fine dining paradigm: chef-owner Linton Hopkins recently adapted his menu to an ingredient-driven collection of small plates.

Doty also points out another factor that may have played a part in the Dining Room’s demise: executive chef Arnaud Berthelier was not a highly visible figure in the community during his tenure.

Todd Ginsberg, who worked under Joel Antunes at the Dining Room, says that the days of the “$100+ per person” prix fixe menus are fading fast if not gone completely. But he feels that there will still be “white tablecloths and great wine lists,” albeit in more approachable settings. Ginsberg also notes perhaps the most difficult aspect of the closing for the city: It eliminates the pipeline of world-class chefs that the Dining Room brought to Atlanta, many of whom stayed and opened highly lauded restaurants that greatly enhanced our dining scene.

Atlanta (and other cities its size around the country) find its culinary evolution at a moment where the “finest dining” experiences are now mostly offered in more casual settings by skilled chefs who have local roots or who have been cooking in Atlanta for years and understand the audience. When the economy rebounds, will new high-dollar, formal temples of gastronomy emerge? Who knows—maybe one day a local chef-led operation will occupy a space at the Buckhead Ritz.

NEWS AND NOTES:

Buckhead. Lenox Square Grill—a full service restaurant anchored in the mall and offering breakfast, lunch and dinner daily—is slated to open October 15.

Decatur
. Decatur Metro reports that Tastings Wine Bar has closed.

Downtown. The Sun Dial is scheduled to close after dinner on Sunday, October 4 and re-open in late December, pending weather, while The Westin Peachtree Plaza embarks on the largest window replacement project in the Western Hemisphere.

Repeat Atlanta is reporting that Checkers is opening a unit in the former Kentucky Fried Chicken space on Broad Street this month.

East Atlanta. Creative Loafing’s Besha Rodell reports that Cantina La Casita has closed.

Midtown
. Drew Van Leuvan, who was slated to be the top toque at the re-concepted Trois before it was decided not to pursue the project—has been named executive chef at One Midtown Kitchen. Tom Harvey, the former executive chef, will assume that role at Murphy’s.

Fuze Burger is slated to open this month in the former Thai Palace space at 265 Ponce de Leon Avenue.

Old Fourth Ward
. Croaker’s Spot, a “seafood and nouveau soul food” restaurant out of Richmond, is scheduled to open a location at the corner of Edgewood Avenue and Boulevard next month.

Vinings. Yoforia, the locally based frozen yogurt chain, will open their fourth metro area location this fall at 4338 Paces Ferry Road.

Virginia Highland
. D.B.A. Barbecue has a new chef, Drew Kirkland, who has worked at Rathbun’s and Rathbun Steak.

Westside. As of Tuesday, September 15, Abattoir opened for lunch Tuesday through Saturday in addition to their regular dinner hours.

Question of the Week: What former Dining Room chef is rumored to be planning a restaurant in London with famed pastry chef Pierre Herme?

PS. The answer to last week’s QOTW—What Atlanta restaurant group is opening a bakery/coffee shop/ sandwich shop in Brookhaven?— is Metrotainment Cafes. They are opening Sugar Shack this fall in the Brookhaven Shopping Center.

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