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Bill Johnson Has Set the Stage for Atlanta’s Most Iconic Restaurants

No one has designed more high-profile Atlanta restaurants than architect Bill Johnson. Some of his early projects from the late 1970s and the early 1980s—including Peachtree Cafe, where Buckhead learned to love Chardonnay at the pastel-colored fern bar—predate the creation in 1988 of the Johnson Studio, the Downtown architectural firm responsible for the atmospheres of upscale titans of the 1990s and 2000s, including Seeger’s, Joël, Bluepointe, Nava, Ciboulette, Dick and Harry’s in Roswell, and MidCity Cuisine.

Justin Amick Becomes a Master

Justin Amick, the general manager and sommelier of the Spence in Midtown, remembers when, as a child, he ate in a different restaurant every night and stubbornly stuck to well-done hamburgers. They were cooked especially for him by the chefs working for his father, Robert Amick, a cofounder of the defunct Peasant Restaurants group that included the Pleasant Peasant and Mick’s. As a little boy with a loud voice and a fierce competitive streak (I first met him on the playground at the Paideia School, which my children also attended), the middle kid in the Amick family dreamed only of basketball, a sport that won him a full scholarship at Tulane. But after just two seasons as a point guard, he quit. “I discovered good food and good wine in New Orleans,” he told me, discussing his transition from athletics to the restaurant business by way of a short, unhappy stint in advertising on Wall Street. Love was an agent of change too: He married his college sweetheart, with whom he now has a toddler.

Table Talk: Cakes and Ale, Cardamom Hill nominated, Hugh Acheson to relocate flagship, Antico to open gelato shop

Cakes and Ale, Cardamom Hill nominated for Bon Appetit's best new restaurants Represent. Bon Appétit has released their list of the top 50 Best New Restaurant Nominees for 2012, and two Atlanta hotspots made the cut.

The Spence

A strange, witty, occasionally confounding, and often wonderful mix of eccentricities defines the Spence, the year's most anticipated opening. Its name carries an unofficial subtitle: "The restaurant where Richard Blais finally returns to the kitchen."

The first bit of idiosyncrasy is evident before you even enter the place. On the corner of Fifth and Spring streets, in front of the congested valet stand, sits a small wooden planter holding an overflow of herbs and flowers, with a chalkboard at the top that has "The SPENCE" written in neat, steady penmanship. It recalls a sign beckoning guests to a country bed-and-breakfast. But if it puts you in the mind-set of cottages and farmlands for a moment, the techno thumpity-thump vibrating in the restaurant’s door handle brings you right back to Atlanta.

Richard Blais double-header at HD1 and The Spence

Last Friday, a friend and I decided to try a little culinary experiment: lunch at last year’s Richard Blais concept HD1 followed by dinner at his brand-new flagship, The Spence.

Richard Blais’ The Spence set to open this Memorial Day weekend

We have good news and bad news concerning Atlanta chef and "Top Chef All Stars" champ Richard Blais' brand-new Midtown restaurant The Spence. The much-anticipated eatery will finally open its doors this Memorial Day weekend. Alas, all reservations for Saturday and Sunday are already way beyond booked to capacity and restaurant reps are now urging frantic foodies to patiently wait until The Spence goes live on Open Table for reservation bookings Monday.

Food Chatter: Checking in with Richard Blais

It isn't easy catching up with Richard Blais these days: His hectic schedule divides his time between family, appearing at charitable functions, and developing his highly anticipated restaurant, the Spence, slated to open in Midtown this spring.

Food Chatter: Q&A with Andrea Litvin of the (forthcoming) Spence

Athens native Andrea Litvin has landed the job as pastry chef for the Spence, the upcoming partnership between Concentrics Hospitality partners Bob Amick and Todd Rushing and the city’s most famous chef, Richard Blais. Other players in the upcoming restaurant—which is currently aiming for a March opening—include longtime Concentrics favorite, the Johnson Studio, as designer; sommelier Justin Amick, crafting the beverage program; and Bradley Chance, formerly of Flip Burger Boutique, who will be sous chef.

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