The words adorable and European are never far from my mind when I walk into Larakin, the coffee shop and wine bar that opened late last year almost within sight of Piedmont Park. I climb a few opulent steps engraved with the names of the drinks that wait within—coffee, wine, latte—and suddenly I am in another culture. A wonderfully comfortable patio extends a warm welcome to whoever seeks easy, relaxed sustenance: a perfect hot biscuit, a tasty sandwich on freshly baked focaccia, or a glass of Spanish wine and a plate of white anchovies marinated in lemon and extra-virgin olive oil.
The narrow indoor space offers no seating, but plenty of incentive to down a cortado while standing at the counter; at six by four feet, the kitchen has less room than some walk-in closets. Though the package is tiny, the message is important: One can serve splendid coffee and wine and even some good food out of a small space, if one has the will and talent. The face beaming out of the kitchen/closet belongs to Jordan Chambers, a perpetually curious Missouri native who went to culinary school in Atlanta, and whom locals may remember as the co-owner of Emory Village’s Steady Hand Pour House, which closed in 2013.
Larakin (or larrikin) is an Australian expression that can denote a mischievous or rowdy youth or, more generally, someone who knows how to have a good time, conveying something like joie de vivre does in France. Chambers was inspired by a trip down under to adopt it for his new business. The cafe’s treasures start in the morning with a simple breakfast sandwich, filled with a buttermilk frittata baked in a cast-iron pan with Cabot white cheddar, thinly sliced red onion, and chopped guindilla peppers. It’s served on a brioche roll, to which you may want to add a dash of Ding’s Magic Hot Sauce, a local product made by a friend of Chambers’s. Although he hadn’t been to France until recently, Chambers also endeared himself to me by standing up for the famous jambon beurre, a sandwich in which butter, rather than cheese, complements slices of mild Parisian ham. Alas, though, customers had other ideas, and Larakin has switched to a (still delicious) proper ham-and-cheese sandwich.
At Steady Hand, Chambers was an early adopter of made-to-order cups of pour-over coffee; he’s been serving Intelligentsia beans since 2007, and in his new place he eschews syrups, flavors, and even sugar. But he’s no longer just a coffee nerd of uncommon gifts: Chambers has emerged as a wine geek to be taken seriously. I and many others had to wait a solid six months, the amount of time it took to get a full beer and wine license, for his vision to be fulfilled. Now, though, he’s able to pair his glorious conservas—imported tinned seafood such as razor clams, sardines, scallops, branzino, mussels, and small mackerels, packed in fruity olive oil by artisanal European facilities—with compatible wines. (See page 33 for more.) Tinned-fish plates are served with guindilla peppers, cornichons, lemon, and focaccia or chips. Pizzas and focaccias change constantly depending on what’s around: Combos such as tomato, spicy onion, basil, and microgreens, and feta, basil, and Calabrian chilis, have been big hits, and look out for the occasional refreshing gazpacho as well.
Larakin approaches wine the way it does coffee: no additives or stabilizers, minimal sugars and sulfites, small production. The list changes frequently, and the blackboard chalks up selections by the glass that may include a sparkling Gramona III Lustros Brut Nature, a skin-contact Casal de Ventozela Contatto, even a Txurrut Basque Vermut or an El Maestro Sierra Oloroso 15-year sherry. Beer and sangria haven’t been forgotten, nor has the imperative to make things fun: Hosting events like Sunday-afternoon music parties with resident DJ Indiana Robbins, Larakin is a gift to its neighborhood in countless ways. It deserves a place on your radar.
This article appears in our October 2023 issue.