Photo by Mia Yakel
One Eared Stag’s Robert Phalen is opening a new restaurant in East Lake this summer. Called Mary Hoopa’s House of Fried Chicken & Oysters, it will be a casual Southern spot inspired by the former cook and nanny of Phalen’s mother-in-law, whose fried chicken recipe Phalen adopted. Located at 2371 Hosea L. Williams Drive, the restaurant will serve dinner and weekend brunch, with chef Neal Bukiet leading the kitchen and Mikey Kilbourne serving as beverage director. Menu items will include a fried chicken sandwich with honey, pickles, cabbage and yogurt; fried chicken; oysters with benne crackers; Sapelo clams with pork belly, kimchi, tofu, green onion, mustard greens, and broth; chicken wings with chipotle sauce, cilantro, jalapeño, and boiled peanuts; and Heritage minute chop with celery root, celery, curd, and fried egg.
We spoke with Phalen about his plans for Mary Hoopa’s.
Tell me about the concept. We’re piggybacking on what we do at the Stag on Monday nights–family-style fried chicken that comes with sides. We’ll push forward to produce a new restaurant with that at the forefront. It’ll be completely family-friendly. Everyone likes fried chicken and oysters. Those are the highlights, and it’ll be peppered with all kinds of other items such as things we’ve done here in the past or things we’ve wanted to do but [One Eared Stag] wasn’t the right place. Everything has to be super approachable. I live right by the new restaurant. I want my neighbors to walk there. [The area] is full of young families.
What menu items will you offer aside from fried chicken? We’ll do roasted chicken as well. We’re planning to have fish fries on Mondays to mirror what we do at the Stag. We’ll have some pork, beef, and fish as well. There will be salads, a lot of shared stuff, eggs, things on toast. There will always be some sort of chicken soup. It’s a fairly small menu. It won’t change as much as the Stag’s does but it will still be seasonal. We’ll always have daily vegetables. You’ll get a good overhaul every month.
Which items will overlap from One Eared Stag? Poutine, scrapple, and fried smelts. The hot chicken will move to Mary Hoopa’s.
Will everything be served family style? No, but the vibe will be super friendly. There will be communal tables and other tables you can push together.
What’s on tap for the beverage program? We’ll be beer-heavy and also have sparkling champagne and a small wine list because that goes great with fried chicken and oysters. There will be six beers on draft (local), and a variety of cans and bottles. We’ll offer pony buckets (half beers) so you can get a bucket of beer and a bucket of chicken for a decent price. I want to get some large format beers, too. We’ll still have a full bar with spirits and cocktails.
What’s the price point? We’re trying to keep the price really low. The highest would be $22 for steak.
Tell me about the original Mary Hoopa. She was a friend of my wife’s family. She was the cook and nanny while my mother-in-law was growing up. I never met her; she passed away before I [could meet] her. Mary’s daughter was my wife’s nanny, so the fried chicken recipe was passed down. I just tweaked it.
What will the space look and feel like? The vision is what you’d expect if you went into an old A&P: A little rugged, worn in, loved, and very welcoming. There will be exposed brick, a lot of wood, reds, light blues, pale yellows, and a little green. I believe the space used to be a laundromat. It’ll have 112 seats, including the patio.
Anything else I should know? We’ll be selling the fried chicken flour mix in little bags. Thursday though Saturday, we’ll have a late night menu until 1 a.m. for industry people because a lot of them live in the area. We’ll offer oysters, a grain bowl, and a chicken sandwich, plus beer.
Update 3/30/17: This story originally stated that Mary Hoopa’s would open in April. The opening has since been pushed back to June.