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Chef Ron Hsu, who held a top creative position at New York’s super-high-end Le Bernardin and gained global exposure when he recently competed on Netflix’s The Final Table, spent a year perfecting his modern cooking at the $100-a-head pop-up, Lazy Betty. That was just a warmup for his next act. No one can quibble with Hsu’s credentials, his competitive nature, or his will to succeed.
As obvious as the physical transformation of Atlanta’s restaurant scene has been, an underground dining revolution is also underway. The latter—waged by chefs hosting pop-up “restaurants” and dinner series, as well as entrepreneurs offering incubating spaces—isn’t as easy to observe as the former. But it’s similarly impressive. In many ways, it’s more impressive.
Most pop-up restaurants—in which a chef typically takes over a professional kitchen for a night or two—serve as incubators or showcases. Traveling toques may want to drum up attention away from home, or cooks who dream of starting their own place might take over a friend’s stoves to grandstand their food. But Jarrett Stieber is the only chef in the city who makes running pop-ups his full-time living.
Villains Wicked Heroes has partnered with the Fry Guy food truck and mixologists from Miller Union for the latest entry in its pop-up series: Moules Frites. Focusing on mussels and fries, the menu will change each week. Miller Union mixologist Zach Capito will helm the first evening, and Stuart White will lead the last two. The special menu will be available Monday night from 5 to 10 p.m. April 7th, 14th, and 21st.
Normally closed on Monday nights, Villains Wicked Heroes now features a pop-up restaurant of the month. For February, executive chef Jared Lee will be working with guest chef and Puerto Rican native Carlos Collazo to host PR 184. Inspired by the Puerto Rican “pork highway,” PR 184 focuses on cuisine from “lechoneras,” or South American restaurant shacks centered around roasted pig. PR 184 will run until March 3. Look for a paleo-concept starting March 10.
Last fall, pop-up chef Jarrett Stieber launched Eat Me Speak Me at Candler Park Market, a two-part dining and drinking experience that quickly culled a loyal following. Like most pop-ups, the concept was pretty straightforward. Stieber would cook a succinct menu inspired by locally-sourced ingredients, and then with the help of a tiny map and password, you’d end the evening in a secret location imbibing with fellow diners. Setups like this allow chefs in the process of establishing themselves an opportunity to connect directly with adventurous eaters, and in Stieber’s case, gives him a work-life flexibility uncommon to the average line cook.
The team responsible for the beloved midtown neighborhood joint, Cypress Street Pint and Plate, have opened a pop-up restaurant in Atlantic Station. Taking over the space formerly occupied by The Grape, Hudson North is a tavern focusing on a locally-sourced menu and craft beers.