WELCOME TO ENCORE ATLANTA’S new dining column. We’ll do our best to keep you up to date on openings, closings, what chefs are up to and who’s on the move. We’ll break things down into three categories — well done (reasons for praise), simmering (what’s in the works) and toast (what’s closed, who’s moving).
Read on, and please let us know what you think.
It took just a few months for Umi Sushi to become Atlanta’s most alluring space for refined raw seafood, rolls and roasted crustaceans. Reservations are hard to get, and the adjacent VIP sake lounge — Himitsu — requires invited guests to punch in a confirmed pass code for entry.
If you’ve enjoyed the grass-roots food (and upper-crust prices) at The Pinewood in downtown Decatur, there’s now a Kickstarter-funded offshoot near downtown. The Mercury debuted in January at the trendy Ponce City Market complex, with a chic and simple menu inspired by hearty appetites (pork chops, prime rib, porterhouse steaks) and adult beverages honed in the 1960s.
R. Thomas — the famed Peachtree Street triage tent for potential hangover victims — has arisen from the grease fire that closed it in late 2015. The compact dining room and enclosed patio provide platters of hash, super-sized sandwiches, organic egg omelets and buckets of coffee 24/7/365. The menu might be predictable, but the people-watching never disappoints.
Rreal Tacos has arrived in Midtown, and we say “muchas gracias.” The food truck-inspired taqueria near Piedmont Park emphasizes simple presentation, authentic Mexican preparation and the sophistication of locally sourced ingredients. If/when the liquor license gets approved (sometime this spring?), the adult beverages here will be more moderately priced than those at most of its neighbors.
Atlanta mega-architect John Portman opened JP Atlanta inside Hotel Indigo downtown. It’s an homage to evolving notions of fine dining in a prime atmosphere for sealing deals. The food’s a tempestuous mix of classic ingredients (shrimp, peaches, chicken livers) prepared and presented with attention to detail.
Drift Fish House & Oyster Bar is luring diners to East Cobb for wood-fired steaks, shellfish and seafood. Look for such adornments as caviar cornmeal cakes and tiered shellfish platters.
Hipsters have to eat, too. So Inman Quarter — a new inner-city fortress of luxury apartments — has collected an array of startups. Go to Char Korean Bar & Grill for Asian barbecue and to Amer for meticulous cocktails. Serial chef/owner Ford Fry has announced plans to open a new cafe concept at Inman Quarter this spring.
Longtime restaurateur Tom Catherall has launched Tom Tom Tapas and Tequilas in Virginia-Highland. It’s a prodigal return to the first brick in his toppled Here to Serve Restaurant empire. The menu dives deep into the cooking methods and ingredients (olives, octopus, sardines) perfected on the coasts of Spain. Cocktails will emphasize Catherall’s belief in the recuperative properties of booze infused with fresh and exotic fruit juices.
Metro Atlanta’s craft brewery scene continues bubbling with startups. Check out Torched Hop Brewing (Poncey-Highland), Urban Tree Cidery (West Midtown) and Scofflaw Brewery Co. (northwest Atlanta) inside the Perimeter and, OTP, look for Gate City Brewing and Abbey of the Holy Goats (Roswell), Southern Sky Brewing (Kennesaw) and Left Nut Brewing (Gainesville).
TV chef Marc Forgione is committed to fortifying the power-dinner portfolio in Buckhead with a Southern offshoot of his American Cut brand. Look for it in early spring. If the menu at his popular eatery in New York’s Greenwich Village is any clue, we’ll see steak tartare with aged egg yolks and cornflake crab cakes along with dry-aged steaks.
And in case you haven’t heard (where have you been?) Poncey-Highland’s Manuel’s Tavern is closed for a major makeover and isn’t expected to reopen until an unspecified date in late 2016.
The charcuterie-centric Abattoir finished a seven-year run. Its James Beard Award-winning chef, Anna Quatrano, moved on to create W.H. Stiles Fish Camp at Ponce City Market … and the American Food & Beverage restaurant in the Shops of Buckhead closed officially and abruptly in January.
The roster of restaurants that left us last year stretches from the center of town to the suburbs. Here’s our “In Memorium” roll call:
- Decatur’s Bhojanic cafe for raw-food fanatics (its sister shop in Buckhead remains open).
- The Here to Serve empire, which meant the end of local favorites Prime, Coast, Aja, Smash Kitchen, Noche, Twist, Strip, etc.
- Cellar 56, Stillhouse Craft Burgers, Burn Social Club, Czar Ice Bar, etc. in Buckhead’s East Andrews entertainment district. Real estate investors bought and then vacated them. Because the area’s a chip shot from the Phipps, Lenox and Buckhead Atlanta shopping meccas, there’s much speculation about the group’s long-term aspirations.
- And, after 20 years, Midtown’s Veni Vidi Vici served its last romantic Italian dinner.
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