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It was the year of the city center. With the opening of Buckhead Atlanta, Inman Park’s Krog Street Market, and Alpharetta’s Avalon, restaurants opened in droves. Local chefs got a nod from the James Beard Foundation, a lime shortage caused momentary panic, and one popular pop-up signed on its first brick-and-mortar location. Read on as we remember when.
Two years ago Angus Brown and Nhan Le started serving gourmet fare and creative cocktails to an after-hours crowd in East Atlanta within So Ba. Octopus Bar, as the pop-up was called, soon became a popular hangout for the chef community. Now, the two have taken over the Bluefin space on Peachtree Road in Brookwood and are preparing to open a more traditional restaurant—for those who want to dine before 10:30 p.m.—in late March. Brown reveals the details on Lusca below.
It’s been precisely one month since Angus Brown, chef at Octopus Bar, left Atlanta for a culinary adventure that started in Vietnam and will include stints in Japan and Cambodia. Nhan Le, Brown’s partner at Octopus Bar, has been holding down the fort since Brown’s departure. Brown lucked out with the connections—Le’s family has hosted him, along with the cousin of Lanie Vu, proprietor of Dumpling Girl stands at East Atlanta and Grant Park farmers markets.
Octopus Bar chef Angus Brown is on his way to Vietnam and Japan. He’ll spend the next four months working in different kitchens and learning new cooking techniques to bring back to Atlanta for his next venture, a full-service restaurant called Octopus. Though Octopus won’t open until summer, at the earliest, Octopus Bar remains in full force late on Monday nights and Thursday through Saturday nights. Nhan Le—Brown's partner in Octopus Bar, and the owner of East Atlanta's So Ba, on whose patio Octopus Bar operates—is in charge.
Today, Octopus Bar turns one year old and, if chef Angus Brown has his way, the anniversary party will be well worth being closed Tuesday night to recover. One year has passed since the East Atlanta Village Vietnamese restaurant, So Ba, began the nightly transition into an after-hours destination. “It happened so fast, and seemed so right,” Brown says of his serendipitous partnership with owner Nhan Le.
It took me way too long to finally eat at East Atlanta Village’s Octopus Bar, a fringe endeavor—call it a restaurant addendum—that came to life last fall. Nhan Le, owner of Vietnamese pho joint So Ba, and Angus Brown, a chef who previously worked at Miller Union, devised a win-win brainchild: Brown, assisted by Le, takes over So Ba’s stoves at 10:30 every night except Sunday and cooks until 2:30 in the morning. The late-shift kitchen crew and waitstaff swoop in, and So Ba’s menu full of noodle soups disappears, replaced by a brainy list of mostly small plates, rife with provocative, primo ingredients that mingle Asian and American flavors. Brown and Le aim to please restaurant pros who start knocking off work right as Octopus Bar mobilizes. A similar chefs-cooking-for-chefs intent fueled the opening of Holeman and Finch Public House in 2008, and it’s a recipe other aspiring chef-owners would do well to follow. Octopus Bar’s setup, however odd, yields some of the most focused and individualistic cooking in the city.
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