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Atlanta Restaurant Updates: new places & faces


micropundit
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Buckhead. According to JK, the Kinjo brothers new resto in the rapidly developing Terminus project,will be a robata-a traditional Japanese open flame grilling technique- and not another MF SUSHI BAR.

Any new word on this restaurant, has it opened yet.. Finalized my plans.. I will be arriving this evening to my hotel in Buckhead.. I would love to go here if its open. I have made most of my plans for downtown, can anyone recommend a place like this in Buckhead.. Is LowCountry Barbecue Express any good?

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I assume you meant that you made most of your plans for Midtown. As far as Buckhead goes, thre is no shortage of great restaurants in Buckhead. Yes, there are lots of overpriced, overcrowded, overrated restaurants, but several of the city's best restaurants are still in Buckhead. Bone's, for one.

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Buckhead. According to JK, the Kinjo brothers new resto in the rapidly developing Terminus project,will be a robata-a traditional Japanese open flame grilling technique- and not another MF SUSHI BAR.

Any new word on this restaurant, has it opened yet.. Finalized my plans.. I will be arriving this evening to my hotel in Buckhead.. I would love to go here if its open. I have made most of my plans for downtown, can anyone recommend a place like this in Buckhead.. Is LowCountry Barbecue Express any good?

Specifically robata? The only robata place I've seen in Atlanta (assuming that the new Kinjo place isn't open) was at Sakan-ya, and recently closed.

I've never heard of Low Country Barbecue Express, and Atlanta's not really about barbecue.

Best Japanese presently available in Buckhead would be Taka (largely sushi).

Can you pee in the ocean?

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A lunch last week with two sages of the Atlanta dining scene crystallized in my mind the nuts and bolts of how the ATL can successfully cultivate its food reputation.How:

1) collaboration between all of the parties at interest

2) Entrepreneurial innovation ;not corporate chain cloned restaurants.

The why is because it is only with a shared vision among all of the key players - the public, private and community sectors- and the entrepreneurial energy that is currently driving the ATL’s dining scene that the “new blood and new commitments” necessary for growth and development can be attracted to our city.

First, a word about TROIS: the lunch is a must do! The prices are affordable, the service is great and the food is special. My dining companions and I agreed that Chef Jeremy has put together a stellar menu that the kitchen executed with great panache. And the room seemed to be a lot more intimate and warm than on my last visit.

The experience made me realize that TROIS was in many ways a metaphor for Atlanta’s dining scene’s potential. It is a result of an entrepreneurial effort that merged with a collaborative vision between the developers, the arts community and others. It attracted a well regarded chef who has made his bones in some of the country’s top venues. And significant resources were committed to the project ($7million?),

TROIS is, in essence, three elements, each featuring the latest trends, skillfully blended together to create a new approach to world class dining.

The bar as a stand alone experience would rate with the best of the new wave of luxury, old school cocktail bars sweeping the globe. The restaurant with its French focus and sleek , modern curves with, is inline with the surge of intimate Gallic eateries in the major metropoles both here and abroad. Joel Robechon and Gorden Ramsey’s ventures are the most current examples of this trend. And the private dining and event space serves the needs of business and corporate cliental who seek a swank intimate discrete experience for their deliberations. A private club ,if you will, that has a four star chef at its helm.

Concentrics Hospitality has put the three venues together so that they seamlessly blend into one experience that should place another star in Atlanta’s national reputation. And that is the key for the city’s movers and shakers as they attempt to cash in on our culinary skills: include all the best minds in the media; the food industry; academia; and others to build a greater awareness and appreciation for our culinary scene and allow the energy and expertise of its creative class of restaurateurs to continue to grow and develop. Like its new restaurants, Atlanta is a sleek, substantive and modern city and with the thinking that characterizes restos like TROIS, it can become one of the best locations in the nation.

Question of the week: What nationally regarded local restaurateurs are rumored to be planning a new restaurant, their fourth?

NEWS and NOTES:

Brookhaven. It looks like the JOCK’S and JILL’s location on Peachtree Road is closing. The question is whether or not it is for good or merely a relocation?

Decatur. THE BLUE MAGNOLIA GRILL, where one can chow down on fried okra, chicken and greens as well as jerk tofu , has opened at 2743 LaVista Road.

Downtown. In a surprising move, Ian Winslade, opening chef of SHOUT and BLUEPOINTE, has joined the team at THRIVE, scheduled to open at 101 Marietta Street February 3. Rumor had it that he was going to play a major role at POSH, Tom Catherall’s newest Buckhead restaurant.

Midtown. THE GRAPE at 10th and Peach has a “we’ve moved” sign up. Anyone know why and where?

Rosewell. Dick and Harry Marmulstein, sibling owners of the highly regarded DICK and HARRY’S, have sold their interest in the restaurant. No word as to who and what are the plans of the new owner(s)

Thank you for dropping by and remember success doesn’t come to you, you go to it.

100% right 50% of the time.

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To the recent posts of the decline of our culinary civilization in Atlanta:

It is true that the city has made a horrific turn into the trendy and mostly corporate dining destinations. And with the continuous opening of "sexy" bars and "cool" lounges, food is now deemed less meaningful next to atmosphere and scene. There doesn't seem to be a real answer to this downward spiral because the places attract so many of our city's residents and these martini Valhalla's thrive while institutions of passionate cooking are failing.

The true future of this city lies with so many of the many talented cooks still toiling in the last of this city's training grounds. Cooks who sacrifice so much for the sake of learning at The Dining Room, Bachannalia, Joel. Add to that, Aria, Repast, and Restaurant Eugene. This city needs to cultivate its local talent, not search the country for new blood. There are so many talented cooks in these restaurants that have "made their bones" in this world and chose to live and work in Atlanta. Sooner or later they will come up and be ready to bring food back into the spotlight.

Until then, these training grounds need support. The students cannot learn without schools. Atlanta needs to support fine dining. Until it is shown that Atlanta has a respect for food, periodicals such as the NY Times, and Starchefs will continue to look at us as a trendy wasteland of sub-par restaurants. We should be offended by the comments of these writers. We should also take them to heart and show them that we have real talent in Atlanta and we have the ability to compete with food cities.

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Having only been here 7 mths this has been a greatest surprise for us. We have read articles that point out (with great pride) that Atlanta area residents eat out by some huge percentage more than other Americans. Then, on the other hand, dining seems almost completly dominated by chains and corporations. It makes me go :blink::blink::blink::wacko: .

-Mike & Andrea

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Having only been here 7 mths this has been a greatest surprise for us.  We have read articles that point out (with great pride) that Atlanta area residents eat out by some huge percentage more than other Americans.  Then, on the other hand, dining seems almost completly dominated by chains and corporations.  It makes me go  :blink:  :blink:  :blink:  :wacko: .

Mike, I'll point out that your experience may be skewed by your location.

Can you pee in the ocean?

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It's because Atlantans are not truly serious about food. Most of the time, if I mention a really great place like Soto, Restaurant Eugene, Sotto Sotto, or even Bacchanalia, I get a "where is that?" or a just a dumbfounded look like they've never heard of the place despite the fact that these are (or were, in Soto's case) some of the top places in the city and, in some cases, Southeast. But everyone knows where Ru Sans, Maggiano's and Cheesecake Factory are.

Atlantans rely too much on word of mouth and are easily too easily convinced of a restaurant's quality. If I handed 10 Atlantans $250 each to go take a date to the best restaurant they knew, half of them would go out and come back with $150 in hand because they don't even know where to find any of the best restaurants.

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Having only been here 7 mths this has been a greatest surprise for us.  We have read articles that point out (with great pride) that Atlanta area residents eat out by some huge percentage more than other Americans.   Then, on the other hand, dining seems almost completly dominated by chains and corporations.  It makes me go  :blink:  :blink:  :blink:  :wacko: .

Mike, I'll point out that your experience may be skewed by your location.

I imagine so in Alpharetta. I can't throw a rock and not hit a Chili's type chain. Part of me says there is a sick opportunity up here for quality home grown food businesses similar to the crop of independent bagel stores cropping up and thriving next to every starbucks. Gourmet grocery, cheese mongers, small plates, ex. lg plates, fine dining, experimental dining any type of food. If I was rich man yadadadadadum.... :raz:

-Mike & Andrea

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True, most people are not serious about food. I still don't see how Atlanta cannot be a serious food city. Do you think NY, Philly, San Fran is full of foodies. Surely there are people in those cities who love the chains and love the places "to be seen." Yet, they also have some of the best restaurants in the nation. Atlanta should be capable of sustaining restaurants with national prestige. Yet with Seegers gone, Soto gone, and probably a few other recognizable names to follow, it does not bode well for the future. Investors will go with what makes money. Right now Atlanta is showing that flash and hype sells more than truly ethereal dining. There are a lot of restaurants where I will go and have a very good meal in this town. There are not enough places that awaken every sense during the dining experience.

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I have to agree with you when you say I still don't see how Atlanta cannot be a serious food city.

This city, and I have lived here and observed it over some 30 years, is surely a repository of individuals with both the money and interest in fine food to encourage and support such culinary creativity. There are some very good, creative places to eat here, like Restaurant Eugene, but they are few and far between ... and many of us are familiar with the talents of Chef Richard Blais whose work brought many gourmands great pleasure ... and Bacchanalia isn't too far off the mark either ... they do exist but there should be many more given the population of this city.

Melissa Goodman aka "Gifted Gourmet"

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The ever expanding galaxy of Atlanta’s dining scene has several new stars waiting to be explored. Southern cuisine, which has not only become part and parcel of the Atlanta experience, is now poised to become a signature theme as well. From the eastside to the Westside, there are a number of restos that are, in whole or in part, focusing on the food that is culled from the various regions of the South and doing it with a great deal of skill and passion.

From southern expatriates living in the big cities to southerners returning to their roots, there is a growing appetite for the food that you remember from your grandmother’s table-food that is fresh and prepared with passion. Couple this nostalgia with the farm to table movement that is sweeping the country and you have a movement that is beginning to take hold here in Atlanta. You can now go from RESTAURANT EUGENE’S Sunday southern dinner to SWEET LOWDOWN’S southern tapas, with a taste of RARE’S small plates on the side. I had an experience with this trend this past week and I am now fully subscribed to the southern food movement.

My epiphany occurred at JCT KITCHEN and BAR- JCT stands for junction, which is a reference to the railroad tracks that run beside the location. It is located in the old COMMUNE/SAMPAN spot in West Midtown and bills itself as serving “Southern farmstead cooking”. Now I must confess that I really don’t know what southern farmstead cooking is but if my lunch there is any indication, I like it a lot.

Open for less than 2 weeks, JCT seems to be gaining its footing judging by the crowd during my meal. My host, the Media Maven, and I decided to try the fried chicken; operating under the theory that if they can’t get that right then the whole premise falls apart. Well not only did they get it right, they did an excellent job: the chicken was tender, the crust crispy and the sides, green beans and macaroni and cheese, were spot on. The price points of the menu were good ranging from $ 4-7 for starters; $ 6-9.50 for the sandwiches; and, $8-13 for the mains. Desserts were all $5-7.

Service was crisp and friendly. The décor was very spacious, what the restaurant describes as California wine country with an east coast twist”.( I would term it rustic chic.) Their music selection was another element that caught my attention: they had offerings from every genre of southern music from country to James Brown. JCT looks and feels like a keeper so go by and see if this emerging Westside star can’t put some South in your mouth.

Question of the Week: What pioneering intown restaurateur is sharing her expertise and energy to create a coffeehouse that will provide jobs and work experience to some of the city’s homeless residents?

NEWS and NOTES:

Atlantic Station. LOBBY AT TWELVE has opened a private dining space called THE CELLAR. It has a separate entrance and is available for cocktails, wine tastings and meetings and will accommodate up to 40 people for dinner and 75 for receptions.

Atlantic Station At Your Door, the home delivery service for many of Atlantic Station’s restaurants is up and running. Service includes delivery to residents of AS as well as surrounding neighborhoods and businesses.

Buckhead. NAVA’S new top toque is Jesse Peres, formerly of San Antonio,Texas.He replaces Tom Harvey who has decamped to ONE MIDTOWN KITCHEN.

Some early details have emerged about LOLA BELLINI BAR and RESTAURANT, Here to Serves first Italian restaurant. It is scheduled to open at Terminus this summer and “promises to be the first antipasto bar of its kind in Atlanta”. It will feature two outdoor patios, one for dining and one for drinking and lounging. The menu is described as “California Italian”. The Johnson Studio is the architect.

Cobb County. THE WAVERLY GRILL, the Renaissance Waverly Hotel’s fine

dining restaurant , is closing. However, it will reopen as MEDCI late 2007.

Decatur. Look for DEPAUX, featuring seafood, steaks and what the former Baton Rouge family owners describe as “Louisiana comfort food”, in the historic Decatur Train station,303 East Howard, this spring.

Downtown. UTOPIA MARTINI BAR and TAPAS LOUNGE opens this week at 840 Marietta Street. Just look for the giant murals on the side of the building by local artist Michael Colly whose work will be featured inside as well.

East Point. C’EST BON CAJUN RESTAURANT has closed. The Lithonia location remains open.

Virginia Highland. Let’s welcome Jeff Smedstad, formerly of the highly regarded LOS SOMBREOS in Phoenix, to our city. Jeff is the new executive chef at SALA.

Thank you for dropping by and checking us out and remember the world is round and the place that may seem like the end may be the beginning.

100% right 50% of the time.

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According to my well placed sources, expect to see some bold face names hailing from culinary capitols like LA, Chicago and New York, just to drop a few names, gracing our fair shores with some serious urban and urbane restos.

Atlanta’s spectacular growth in population and increased tourism has fueled the competition to fill all of the expensive towers being built/ planned intown. Many of these towers will have a mix of office, housing and retail; specially designed to create a more urban environment here in sprawlsville. And restaurants are becoming a major selling point for those who want to attract the top businesses; retailers and tenants.

From downtown to Buckhead, the ATL has attracted some of the world’s best developers who are now faced with the daunting task of selling/ leasing space at formerly unheard of prices in this market. We are seeing names such as Trump and Hines competing with the local guys as well as new comers like Magic Johnson. They are bringing in “brand names” like the W hotel and restaurants like Beverly Hills hotspot, CRUSTACEAN.

While Buckhead has been the golden child historically, Midtown is now the venue of choice for the hip and the hot. But for all of you future restaurateurs/ foodirati: downtown has the infrastructure (hotels); the foot traffic (tourism and convention trade); and, most importantly, the muscle of the city’s biggest developer behind it. Sources tell me that some big time restaurants are being recruited to downtown and the public and private sector are working together to make it happen. So if I were you, I would not sleep on downtown’s potential over the next 5 years-from my keyboard to your screen, you heard it first here.

I had a chance to experience another side of Atlanta’s dining scene this weekend that reminded me that packed houses and excitement are not limited to the big name, hot spots. The Industry Bigfoot and his lovely bride hosted an urbane dinner party at CANTON HOUSE, the Buford Highway spot noted primarily for its dim sum. The guests, who included leading figures of the arts, local business moguls and the CEO of a multi-billion dollar philanthropic organization, were led on an exciting tour of Chinese cooking prepared especially for us. A part of the evening’s excitement came from our groups sparkling and wide ranging conversations but the other part came from witnessing the throng of Vietnamese wedding parties, Chinese family diners and their assorted guests happily(and noisily) enjoying their evening. It was a vivid reminder that our city’s dining scene is rich and varied.

Question of the Week: What local upscale Asian family owned restaurant group is planning on opening their 4th restaurant late this year?

Brookhaven. Look for a HUDSON’S GRILL to occupy the former JOCK’S and JILL’S on Peachtree Road.

Buckhead. Look for a name change for Brazilian steakhouse BOI NA BRAZA, if not ownership. (Not a lot of cars in the lot lately)

Look for a FLYING BISCUIT CAFÉ at Northside and West Paces in the old MAMA FU’S spot. Raving Brands takes on the OK CAFÉ.

SIDEBAR is now back to being BLUEBAR. The Peachtree Battle Shopping Center spot will again feature jazz and small plates.

JAVA THE HUT COFFEE LOUNGE has opened at 252 Pharr Road. It features Wi Fi, coffees, Italian sodas and gourmet sandwiches.

Decatur. Stockbridge based JUST LOAF’N , a po’ boy and wings joint , has opened its second restaurant at the former location of THE AUTOMATIC, 313 Boulevard Avenue.

Downtown. B.E. D. has folded. The Miami based hotspot at the Glenn hotel was in operation for less than a year. The hotel will operate the space as THE GLENN HOTEL RESTAURANT & BAR until they decide on a new operator and concept. Sources say management, or lack there of, was the major issue.

Inman Park. TRES P’s has closed. It was a personal favorite; sad to see them go after only a few months.

Midtown. VINOCITY WINEBAR & RESTAURANT has replaced top toque Paul Wooten, now sous chef at SWEET LOWDOWN, with Matt Ahlberg.

Word on the street has it that Bob Amick has been touring London’s gastopubs for research on TAP, his version of the genre slated to open this spring in the same building as TROIS.

Well thanks once again for dropping by and remember, don’t judge each day by the harvest you reap but judge it by the seeds you have planted.

100% right 50% of the time.

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Now that we are a month into the New Year the outlines of three trends that are going to impact Atlanta’s 2007 dining scene have begun to appear, albeit faintly. At this point in time there is no clear cut direction that the dining scene will take: the economy is still uncertain; the 2006 entries are still being digested (TROIS got 4 stars from the paper of general circulation) and, I have yet to consult my runes. But here are some early picks for the year.

First, the number of noteworthy new restaurants, especially in town, will be substantial. I have counted 8 that will be open by the end of spring and that count doesn’t include some of the smaller neighborhood based spots. All of the current trend leaders of our dining scene are readying their latest offerings to a growing population, that is younger and more well traveled market than ever before. The appetite for great food and service, at a good price point, is driving a dynamic that is filling all corners of our fair city with better dining choices than we have ever had. Look for the high end restaurants to be confined for the most part to hotels and the more chef driven spots to crop up in the “hot” neighborhoods.

Second, there will be some shake outs in the market due to factors such as increased competition; higher costs; poor management; and, lack of capital to upgrade or improve. SEEGER’S is just the latest example of the shake out; there will be other operators who will be closing / consolidating their properties as they attempt to stay viable. Look for some bold letter name type of establishments to have different names on the front door this coming year.

Third and perhaps most significantly, look for more steak houses to pop up on the landscape. Nationally, this trend is hot with celebrity chefs from Wolfgang Puck to Bobby Flay entering this highly lucrative niche. I am talking beef from specially bred cows; beef from several different countries; and steaks from several different animals, including fish. One of the other changes in this genre is to take the traditional format and broaden it to appeal to women as well. I expect that in addition to the local guys-KEVIN RATHBUN STEAK- we will see several of the national high end chains as well as some of the celebrity chef properties coming to town. Atlanta already has some top rated steak houses (although curiously enough none in Midtown), so it should be a very good year for the carnivores among us as the competition heats up for the steak lovers dollar.

A prime example of some of these trends will be LOBBY STEAK and SUSHI ,slated to open later this year at the Twelve Hotel Centennial Park. The result of the recently announced marriage between Bob Amick et al and the Novare Group- the ATL’s urban development gurus- this new age steak house should liven up the downtown steak house scene and compete with the established chains as well as the rumored CRAFTSTEAK.

Question of the Week: What dynamic hospitality company is tapping a chef with experience in the kitchens of Ducasse, the Ritz Carlton and others to head up their latest (and smallest) endeavor?

NEWS and NOTES (From my keyboard to your screen):

Atlantic Station. TEN PIN ALLEY, the upscale bowling alley, martini bar and eatery from the Hollywood based Dolce Group, is now open. Word on the street is that they are pitching some new concepts to local developers. Now that would be sweet.

Buckhead. Attention foodies: look for a TRADER JOES at the site of the former Office Depot on Peachtree Road.

Jerry Fulridge , formerly of P F CHANG’s , is slated to be the opening chef at HOTSTIX STIR FRY KITCHEN in Lindbergh City Center.

East Atlanta. Look for SALSA, located at 749 Moreland Avenue, to bring “Pan American cuisine” to heat up East Atlanta.

Inman Park. PIZZA VINO is now under new management and the new guys are bringing in some major fire power as the new top toque. Seth Trafford comes to North Highland by way of stints at PRICCI, VENI VIDI VICI and BACCHANALIA.

Memorial Drive. From the folks who brought us VICKERY’S , FONTAIN’S and HIGHLAND TAP , comes THE DEPOT. To be located in the long vacant Atlanta & West Point Railroad freight depot, the 210 seat resto- 112 inside and 98 on the patio- is slated to open late spring. The owners are promising “good casual food with a big active bar”. If the past is prologue, this should be a serious joint in the rapidly revitalizing eastside corridor.

Well that is it for this week, thanks for dropping in and remember contentment is not the fulfillment of what you want, tit is the realization of how much you already have

100% right 50% of the time.

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Last week both the local and national media provided some interesting takes on two trends that we may soon see in greater force in Atlanta’s dining scene. The first, by way of the New York Times: specialty cocktails. The second, from our hometown paper: desserts.

With respect to specialty cocktails, the NYT swooned over London’s bars and their startenders, who have become almost as famous as chefs in the top rated restaurants. Citing their settings-some in hotels, some in restaurants- and their varied offerings, the lede was that London had the most sophisticated mixed drinks in the world and therefore by some form of logic, was the most sophisticated city in the world. Well if that is the case-London like drinking spots equal sophistication, then the ATL is moving on up to the big time.

Already blessed with continental styled bars such as TROIS and the XO BAR in the Intercontinental Hotel, Atlanta is set to drink further from sophistications cup with the advent of TAP. Bob Amick has spent a good deal of time touring London’s bars and gastropubs designing his latest Midtown eatery. And since the W and St Regis hotels all are noted for their distinct bar scenes, I would expect no less from them as well.

Regarding desserts and their ascendancy on local menus, the local paper featured some of the prime examples of the practice in our town. Highlighting both chefs, i.e. Kathryn King of ARIA, and restaurants-QUINONES – the article put desserts on an equal footing with the rest of the menu for ATL hotspots. And the Chicago of the South’s sweet tooth is going to get some new temptations. SWEET POCKETS CUPCAKES is making their signature cupcakes available in retail outlets like JAKES’S ICE CREAM as well as online at sweet-pockets.com. And ONE HOT COOKIE, a franchised sweet shop featuring cookies, ice cream, sandwiches and art, is opening an outlet in Emory Village. So Atlanta restaurateurs, let’s tighten up those cocktails and focus on your dessert menu; you do want to be on the cutting edge don’t you?

A cutting edge spot that I checked a couple of weeks ago is VINO LIBRO. This is one cool spot located in the coolest new development in Atlanta, Glenwood Park. Atlantic Station may have done it first but Glenwood Park does it best. VINO LIBRO features a good menu of tasting plates; a superb specialty drink and martini list and (drum roll please) a daily dessert selection. The ambiance is modernist with the library/ reading room in one section and the bar/ wine room is on another. Go for the food, go for the drinks; whatever, just go.

Question of the Week: What local restaurant company whose portfolio includes Irish pubs and classic American eateries in intown settings is opening a property in swank St. Simons, Georgia?

NEWS and NOTES (from my keyboard to your screen):

Buckhead. In a reverse pivot, Ian Winsblade, is now the top toque at POSH after being named top toque in the marketing materials for THRIVE, the new downtown eatery that opened last Saturday.

Castleberry Hill. MBAR-music, martinis and margarita’s- has opened at 257 Peters Street. It is a sleek meet and greet spot that also features high end tequila and vodka bars as well.

Chandler Park. RADIAL, the popular Dekalb Avenue breakfast-centric spot has shuttered after a solid 4 year run. (Editor's Note: Radial is alive and well. See the post below on March 16.)

Decatur. Look for THE CHOCOLATE BAR, featuring fine chocolates, desserts and wine, in the Artisan condos on W. Ponce de Leon Avenue in downtown Decatur. (Looks like Decatur is getting with the program)

And across the street from THE CHOCOLATE BAR, look for SAWICKI’S MEAT, SEAFOOD and MORE, a specialty shop, in the old PASTRIES TO GO space. The owner is Lyn Sawicki, formerly the manager of STAR PROVISIONS and a really great chef and person.

Downtown. The word from those in the know is that Bob Amick’s Concentrics Hospitality may be the management company for 790 the Zone’s 20,000 square foot sport/ entertainment complex on Marietta Street, near the Georgia Aquarium.

Now that is very interesting, more on this as details emerge.

Marietta. PROVANCE, the former Buckhead Gallic gourmet spot has moved to 736 Johnson Ferry Road at Oldtown Parkway and become OLDETOWNE BISTRO.

Vinings. The DOC CHEY’s property has shuttered after a brief run.

Thank you for looking in on this week’s column and remember that history, although sometimes made up of the few acts of the great, is more often shaped by the many acts of the small. Oh, and have a have a happy Valentines Day!

100% right 50% of the time.

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With the emphasis lately on all the new restaurants coming onto the scene it is easy to forget about how good some of the existing ones are, especially the small, chef driven ones like LES FLEUR DE LIS CAFE .I scheduled lunch with The Sage last week to talk about what was going on with the Atlanta food scene and because of some unforeseen circumstances, we ended up at the diminutive downtown diner for what turned out to be a real treat.

First, a few words about The Sage and why I seek his counsel. He has been a fixture on the Atlanta scene for over a decade. People-important people in the food business- seek his ear and favor. So when I get an opportunity to seek his counsel, I’m on it.

The Sage and I marveled at how Chef Robinson could turn consistently good fare without the benefit of a stove! . The food and the atmosphere were conducive to conversation of an unhurried variety, just the way a lunch with good friends should be. And that is what is generally missing in Atlanta or so we opined.

During the meal our discussion turned to where he saw the market going and why. In short and summary, his prognostication is that we will see more of the same but with better quality because of the increased competition. He did say what he would love to see in the near term: a really great sushi restaurant ; an “African American WATERSHED”: a white tablecloth place with valet parking that served good but not necessarily soul food; and, someone invest some serious resources into CITY GRILL so that it could reach its full potential.

As we were leaving, I asked Chef Robinson how things were going. He said that business had increased 20% last year and based upon current trends, that he expected a 30% increase this year. He did allow that there were challenges but in my opinion things were not too bad for an almost three year old restaurant in the heart of “downtown”- where nobody dares go upon fear of their life. So, if LES FLEUR DE LIS CAFÉ can survive and prosper at 57 Forsyth Street, in the Healy building, then the Atlanta dining scene’s future is in pretty good shape.

Question of the Week: What former intown star chef has decamped to rural South Fulton County and bought and operates a bakery/ café there?

NEWS and NOTES (from my keyboard to your screen):

Alpharetta. BIA’S PIZZA KITCHEN at Jones Bridge and Old Alabama Road has shuttered.

Atlantic Station. Look for a FLYING BISCUIT to join the mix at the AS, probably with a second floor location.

Buckhead. MORTON’S steakhouse hopes to expand their street presence and customer appeal by opening BAR 1221, an expansion and redesign of their existing bar area, in the next 6-8 weeks.

Campcreek Parkway. Look for THE TASTING ROOM, an upscale wine bar and restaurant to open soon in Campcreek Marketplace. Word is that a very famous Falcon is a partner in this venture.

Downtown. STATS is the current name for the 790 the Zone/ David Marvin/ Bob Amick 15,000 square foot sports bar/ studio/ restaurant collaboration. Located at 300 Marietta street next to the Dome, Georgia Aquarium and Centennial Olympic Park., this site is part of a new “restaurant row” that promises to bring some different and exciting dining concepts to downtown. Amick’s involvement just ups the wow factor. Speaking of Bob, not only did he take his TAP chef on a 4 day tour of London’s gastropub’s, he also took TROIS top toque, Jeremy Lieb to Paris for a four day tour of their latest hotspots. Now that’s what I call attention to detail; I hope that bob spreads some of the continental flair to his present and future projects.

Look for an organic bakery/ produce shop/ food store in the Sweet Auburn Curb Market soon. Word is that it will be run by a former resident of Munich, Germany who envisions the shop as being ALON’s meets STAR PROVISIONS. (Sounds as if one of my wishes for the Atl’s dining scene is coming true)

Kirkwood. VINOCITY, the Midtown wine bar and restaurant, is relocating this spring to Kirkwood Station, a new urban development located at 1963 Hosea L. Williams Drive.

Midtown. Look for CAFÉ AMORE, a neighborhood boite, to join the roster of retail and restaurants at Plaza Midtown condos.

Congratulations to NAN’S FINE DINING for their recent award of 4 Diamond status from AAA for 2007.

Again, thank you for stopping by and checking the column out and remember that ability is what you are capable of doing; motivation determines what you do; but attitude determines how well you do it.

100% right 50% of the time.

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Les Fleurs de Lis is one of my favorite places to eat downtown. It's got good food, but the service is slow and unattentive at times. I love the atmosphere though. That's what every downtown place should be like - small, quaint and intimate. Unfortunately, we have five food courts for every one place like Les Fleurs de Lis, though. The best place I've been to downtown for a quickish meal is right next door to Les Fleurs de Lis at Loaf and Kettle. Very good soups and sandwiches. Seriously, they serve some amazing sandwiches.

More Alon's/Star Provisions-type places would be very welcome, especially after the unexpected closing of EatZi's. I am a Highlander, so I frequent Alon's quite a bit, but I loved having the option of going to Buckhead to check out the larger and different selection of items that Eatzi's had.

Flying Biscuit in Atlantic Station is an abomination.

Does anyone know the status of Tamarind and the Monroe St location of Trader Joe's?

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The March issue of Travel and Leisure magazine features a dining guide to Atlanta that illustrates the challenge and opportunity that our dining scene faces in the future.

T&L ‘s review highlighted QUINONES; TABLE 1280;ROLLING BONES; PIEBAR; and, LOBBY @ TWELVE Hotel as a representative sample of the depth and breadth of the ATL’s dining scene for the sophisticated traveler. They hit the key dishes and distinct features of each very well. They also mentioned TROIS and ECCO in lesser detail. With this type of ink enticing folks to check us out in the spring-the best time IMO- the timing couldn’t be better. I believe that this article is just the tip of the good news to follow as the Atlanta dining scene slowly gains in reputation. My hope is that the rest of the equation –the attractions, architecture and accommodations- will be in place in order to capture this “new” market’s potential

However-and you just knew there would be one- the people who read T&L are ,for the most part, sophisticated folks and their expectations will be considerably higher than we have experienced before. These are not your standard conventioneers; they are people who travel for leisure as well. So this story may open us up to the type of scrutiny that will require an upgrade in our calculus of felicity.

What I mean is that the levels of service, accommodations and culinary offerings must meet new and more stringent standards, across the board. From the ground transportation at the airport to the dining experience will be looked at by more than the casual suburban shopper from the outer provinces of the Southeast. And these customers are going to expect the very best across the board and will pay for it. That is the challenge; the opportunity is to capitalize on the good review.

.

Question of the Week( From my keyboard to your screen): What newly minted Midtown multi- cultural cuisine resto is for sale after less that 6 months of operation?

NEWS and NOTES:

Buckhead. Look for the former site of PROVANCE to become CATCH, an upscale seafood spot.

Congrats go out to Pano Karatassos , founder and CEO of the Buckhead Life Group, for receiving The Golden Oak award from Share Our Strength. This a national recognition for his service to this organization which has raised over $ 200 million, on a volunteer basis, to fight hunger and poverty worldwide.

Decatur. Long time swank spot THE SUPPER CLUB will be closed by its owner on March 31. She will open a special event space in Mt Airy, Georgia. The location at 308 W.Ponce De Leon Avenue will be reborn as a bar named THE PARIS ROOM.

Downtown. Look for OLYMPIA PALACE, a Mediterranean restaurant, in the Georgia Pacific building soon.

According to The Sage, the buzz is building for FAB (French American Brasserie) nee BRASSERIE Le COZE, opening this spring at Allen plaza.

Midtown. Look for THAI FUSION, a, uh, Thai fusion restaurant, to open this spring at 2441 Peachtree behind HOUSTON’S.

The lights are on at TAP. The highly anticipated, self proclaimed first gastropub , is inching closer to opening.

Across the street, Tamarind ,is also closer to opening: new curtains are up and furniture is being installed.

West Midtown. PHILLY BOYS , the former downtown cheese steak spot, has re-opened at 1663 Howell Mill Road.

Well again thanks for checking out the blog and remember that our words are a faithful index of our souls.

100% right 50% of the time.

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This past week saw yet another round of mega development project announcements that promise to not only enrich the Atlanta skyline but their developers as well, including the restaurant operators/owners who are about to become as important as the developers that are building this town.

For the uninitiated, real estate is to Atlanta what movies are to L.A. And the developers are the stars. The economics of all this new development –land cost, interest rates and demographics- are demanding bigger and bigger projects, with more bells and whistles. And among those accoutrements, especially for the flavor of the month mixed use projects, are restaurants: big, splashy and preferably with national / international cache.

So with news like of the arrival of the much anticipated 5 star Mandarin Oriental hotel chain (which features high end restaurants in all of their properties), be prepared for not only the developers to get a lot of ink but watch and see how Atlanta restaurateurs and chefs compete with the bold face names form the big cities; you know, the ones with the book deals, TV shows and multi-unit empires.

What is driving all of this? Well because the rents at these mega projects are going to be astronomical and the competition for the premium dollar crowd is going to be fierce, especially with the caliber of the out of town players who are eyeing this market hungrily. So only those with major bank and consistent performance are going to be able to play and fewer still will survive. However the rewards, both monetary and otherwise, are going to be sweet. The old ATL is moving on up to the national and international radar and to the winners will go the fame and favor that has spelled success to all the afore-mentioned big city stars.

It is not as if the local restaurant moguls- Buckhead Life, the pioneers, is our Myriad Restaurant Group (NOBU, TRIBECA GRILL); Bob Amick is our Steven Starr (BUDDAKAN, MORIMOTO); and Here to Serve is our China Grill Management (ASIA De CUBA, CHINA GRILL and of course the now famous KOBE CLUB)- are not big time. But folks the stakes –and the steaks – are going to get higher, much higher because of the increased competition. And they are going to have to step up their game to survive and prosper.

Speaking of (former) local stars and the big city, there is a buzz in NYC about

, Sotohiro Kosugi(SOTO), who is set to open his New York shop this spring at 374 6th Avenue.

Question of the Week: What Windy City 4 star duo is looking at opening a spot in the ATL?

NEWS and NOTES: (From my keyboard to your screen).

Buckhead. Long time hangout spot, CAFÉ TU TU TANGO, has closed to make room for a mega project that will span several blocks of the former West Village called Buckhead Avenues. The project will feature 3 hotels, including a 6 star one, “restaurants (that) would be of the caliber of the very finest you would find in Manhattan and the retailers would include the high-class fashion houses of Fifth Avenue, Rodeo Drive, etc.”

Look for a TRADER JOE’S in Lindbergh City Center late this year.

Candler Park. Look for a FOX BROTHER’S BAR BE QUE at the site of the now closed ASADA this spring.

College Park. Look for THE ACADEMY GRILL on Virginia Avenue this summer. It will be, according to those in the know, the OK CAFÉ for the Southside.

Downtown. Look for the following restos to open this spring in the new developments downtown and around the Georgia Aquarium: AZN, a family style Asian resto (say the name real fast) by the Hsu’s (SILK); CAFÉ SABOR and FIVE SEASONS BREWERY.

The luxury boutique hotel under construction across the Ritz Carton Atlanta, the Ellis Hotel, will open THE CAFÉ at the ELLIS HOTEL this spring.

Druid Hills. Emory University is getting into the new dining paradigm by hiring Michael Klein as executive chef at the Emory Conference Center. Chef Klein, a CIA graduate with 25 years of experience, comes to Emory from the Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts, where he was national education director and opening dean of the Atlanta branch.

Midtown. The Midtown W hotel, currently the Sheraton until June 1 when it will close for renovation, is rumored to have hired the Jean Georges Vongerichten group to handle their food and beverage operations.( I am trying to tell you it’s about to get serious up in here.)

JOEY’S LATIN GRILL at the Metropolis condos has shuttered.

Look for FIRESIDE PIES, a Dallas based upscale pizza parlor cum wine bar, at the Plaza Midtown condos this summer. It joins its Big D sibling, STEEL, in the newly completed twin tower mixed use project.

Well once again I want to thank you guys for stopping by and remember that with most people, unbelief in one thing is founded upon a blind belief in another.

100% right 50% of the time.

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