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With Here to Serve restaurants shuttered, a critic recalls Tom Catherall’s heyday in Atlanta

Restaurants close all the time, and though each shuttering plays as a tragedy for the owner, most move on without much afterthought. Chefs swing to a new kitchen. Servers disperse to surrounding restaurants. But when all 10 Here to Serve restaurants abruptly went dark overnight and left 650 employees without jobs, the industry was dumbstruck.

Tom Catherall’s Shucks Oyster & Wine Bar to be a family affair

Here to Serve Restaurants founder Tom Catherall is opening his third restaurant in Town Brookhaven in mid-September. Two doors down from Noche, Shucks Oyster & Wine Bar will be family-run, with Catherall’s sons Ryan and Nick taking the lead in the kitchen, his brother managing, and his daughters waiting tables.

Don Diem takes over the kitchen at Old Vinings Inn

Housed in an 1880s former general store, Old Vinings Inn has been serving upscale Southern fare for years. About two months ago, proprietor Lee Schulman hired Don Diem to replace Jeremy Hartman as executive chef. Diem, who was the opening chef for the original Noche in Virginia-Highland, worked with Schulman at Tom Tom A Bistro.

Tom Catherall shares plans for Smash

Tom Catherall, founder of Here To Serve Restaurants (Noche, Prime, Aja, Cantina, Goldfish, Twist, Shout, Coast, and Strip), is turning 64 in May, but he’s not slowing down anytime soon. In fact, he’s celebrating his birthday Memorial Day weekend this year with the opening of another restaurant, Smash. Located in Brookhaven in the space formerly home to Stir Crazy, Smash will be an American chophouse, likely led by former Prime executive chef John McGarry.

Thomas Catherall’s Staying Power

Talking about money is uncouth in some circles. Thomas Catherall—one of the defining forces of the Atlanta dining scene for nearly three decades, with eleven restaurants under his Here to Serve Restaurants umbrella—does it to remind me that there are things that matter more to him than the opinion of the press. During a recent conversation, I couldn’t take my eyes off his colossal watch, which I was promptly told was a Bentley and weighed a full pound. I got to hear about his identical, supercharged Range Rovers; his forty-foot sport fishing boat, the Perseverance; and his philosophy (“I want the masses, not the classes,” a more refined version of his oft-told “an ass in every chair” motto). I tried not to flinch every time he mentioned the word millionaire in rapid-fire tones.

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