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Atlanta Restaurant Updates: new places & faces


micropundit
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A THRILL ON THE ‘HILL.

A recent visit to an in town neighborhood bar provided an example of hope for Atlanta’s dining scene in the midst of the economic malaise that is spreading throughout the land.

Castleberry Hill, already known for its many art galleries and boutiques, has several new restaurants and clubs, like the dynamic Studio 281 jazz club, popping up all over. 255 TAPAS LOUNGE, located at 255 Peters Street, is the newest spot in the ‘hill. More of a lounge than a restaurant, this hot spot has a pretty decent bar menu (although not really tapas). The main attraction here is the bustling bar scene and gorgeous outdoor patio with cabañas-a perfect spot for pre/post game libations.

There are a number of other neighborhoods whose restaurant scene is providing significant opportunities for bold and creative entrepreneurs. In Inman Park, Kristen Hard has turned her passion for chocolate into an opportunity for profit with CACAO, a boutique selling her unique chocolate creations, just opened next to her production kitchen at 312 C N. Highland Avenue.

In these tough economic times our resilient and creative dining scene is thriving in places like Castleberry Hill that continue to offer opportunities for the creative and bold.

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

Buckhead. CRAFT will begin taking reservations on November 15th. No word on the actual opening date for the long awaited Atlanta’s version of the famous New York hotspot.

Ben McPherson has been named the new top toque at ECLIPSE DE LUNA, one of Atlanta’s oldest and best tapas bars, at 764 Miami Circle

HOLEMAN & FINCH has begun its soup and sandwich menu that features a fresh soup and two sandwiches from 11am-3pm during the week. There is a limited version during the weekend.

Buford Highway. THE HAVANA SANDWICH SHOP, the 32 year old Cuban sandwich favorite located at 2900 Buford Highway, was gutted by fire recently and will be closed indefinitely.

Downtown(DT). THE WINE LOFT, an upscale wine and dine spot, has opened at 300 Marietta Street next to STATS.

DESSERTS BY LATRELL, serving up an impressive array of cakes and pastries, is sweetening up the Sweet Auburn district at 581 Edgewood Avenue.

Decatur. TOSSED, the New York based salad bar on E.Ponce de Leon in downtown Decatur, has wilted for good.

Marietta. SOBA BISTRO and BAR, a casual upscale Asian cuisine spot, has opened at 1060 East Piedmont Road in the Piedmont Commons shopping center.

Midtown. Jerome Legendre, formerly of the Four Seasons George V Paris, is the new lounge manager at PARK 75 in the Four Seasons Atlanta. Check out his vast assortment of unique cocktails.

QUESTION OF THE WEEK: What owner of a popular in town café is rumored to be opening a spot on the red hot Edgewood avenue strip?

Thanks for stopping by and remember that clinging to the status quo is anchoring you to failure.

PS. The answer to last week’s QOTW- Who won the annual Best Dessert Atlanta competition this year?-is Kristina Tweems, Pastry chef at WOODFIRE GRILL, for the second year in a row.

100% right 50% of the time.

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FIRST BITE: THE ORIGINAL EL TACO

The colorful collaboration that replaces SALA opens Tuesday, October 21st and it adds both a new taquaria and a new tactical approach to our dining scene.

Fifth Group Restaurants (SOUTH CITY KITCHEN, ECCO) consulted with Shaun Doty (SHAUN’S) on EL TACO’S mainly Tex-Mex menu. (Here )

While I am not the biggest fan of Mexican food, after sampling several items I am convinced that that the food here is several cuts above my previous experiences.

However, from my point of view, the bigger news is the collaboration of two big time Atlanta players that produces a product that has a depth and heft that can survive in this market.

Fifth Group‘s Robby KUKLER and Chef Shaun are excited about the partnership that had the peripatetic Chef Doty actually manning the stove during my visit. Both agreed with my assessment that these types of partnerships historically only happened in New York, i.e.,DEL POSTO ; Mario Batali and Joe and Linda Bastianich.

THE ORIGINAL EL TACO, the combination of Fifth Group’s science and Shaun’s art, welcomes both local residents and visitors to a family friendly spot with a value price menu that adds some serious salsa to our dining scene.

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

Buckhead. Jimmy Meas, formerly sushi chef at PRIME, has been named top toque at its sexy new Asian sibling AJA, scheduled to open soon.

Taria Camerino, formerly of TOP FLR and her short lived LP5 BAKERY, has joined H&F Bakery as “lead pastry angel”.

MY PANINI, the first in what was to be a national group of Atlanta based panini restaurants, has closed.

Downtown (DT). MINGLES CAFÉ, a restaurant /bar, is slated to open soon at 182 Courtland Street.

Norcross. In town fave FLYING BISCUIT CAFÉ has opened its first Gwinnett County location at 5720 Peachtree Parkway.

Roswell. CARRO DE BOI, a churrascaria located at 8612 Roswell Road, has closed.

West Midtown.Todd Immel has replaced Charles Schwab as the meat and seafood manager at STAR PROVISIONS. Charley has joined the folks at BLUE RIDGE GRILL.

QUESTION OF THE WEEK: What former NFL great has opened a new wine shop in Sandy Springs?

Thanks for stopping by and remember: Who can better heal the wounds of another than someone who has felt the same wounds.?

PS. The answer to last week’s QOTW- What owner of a popular in town café is rumored to be opening a spot on the red hot Edgewood avenue strip?- is Ria Pell of RIA’S BLUEBIRD CAFÉ.

100% right 50% of the time.

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A TASTE OF HONEY (is better than..)

With some of the national and international restaurant awards being recently announced, it appears that Atlanta’s dining scene has to be content with a smaller, albeit somewhat significant, national profile.

Of course there are no Michelin stars shining brightly in our firmament but we usually have 1 or 2 spots on Esquire magazine’s annual Best Restaurants list. But this year we got zilch.

Gayot.com, the online restaurant database, has saved the day with its’ 2008 Best OF listings. Atlanta got shut out in the 40 Best Restaurants category that in the past always had a BACCHANALIA on it. (The inclusion of Sea Island’s GEORGIAN ROOM under Atlanta just adds insult to injury.)However, 4th and SWIFT was named one of the 10 Best New Restaurants; KEVIN RATHBUN STEAK was named as one of the 10 Best Steakhouses; and TOP FLR was named one the Top 40 Best Cheap Eats.

ATLANTAN magazine’s Danny Bonvissuto does do us a solid with her piece on our dining scene in the November issue of Food & Wine but for the most part this is truly looking like the winter of our discontent as far as our status as an up and coming national dining destination.

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

Alpharetta. FIN AND FAUNA, a fine dining spot in downtown Alpharetta, will open this fall.

Brookhaven. Ray Schoenbaum(RAY’S ON THE RIVER), will not locate one his restaurants in the Town mixed use project.

Buckhead. Ian Winslade, currently top toque at SPICE MARKET, will also become the opening chef at MARKET, Jean Georges Vongerichten’s 2nd Atlanta restaurant at the W hotel Buckhead. A D Alushi(THRIVE) will reunite with his former BLUEPOINTE co-worker as the front of the house guy.

F2O, Fresh to Order)is scheduled to open its newest location at 3344 Peachtree Road Monday, October 27th featuring their signature $10 sandwich in 10 minutes.

Midtown. The owners of SIDEBAR, the DT hipster hangout, are opening a new concept, ENGINE 11, in the former SPOTTED DOG location( formerly a fire station) at 30 North Avenue this fall.

THE BOOKHOUSE PUB has opened at 736 Ponce De Leon near the MJQ LOUNGE.

West Midtown.BACCHANALIA’s chef de cuisine,Joshua Hopkins, who has worked as part of the BACCHANALIA family since 2005, has been named top toque at the ” whole animal cuisine” restaurant ABATTOIR ,slated to open in spring 2009. He will serve as business partner of the new concept as well.

QUESTION OF THE WEEK : What Atlanta restaurant architect has been tapped to do a major renovation to a Beantown landmark by a national restaurant group there?

Thanks for stopping by and remember:

If you count all of your assets ,you will always show a profit.PS. The answer to last week’s QOTW- What former NFL great has opened a new wine store in sandy Springs?-is Chris Hinton, former all Pro tackle for the Colts and Falcons.

NEWS FLASH: Former Creative Loafing food writer and critic,Bill Addison, is returning to Atlanta January 2009 as food editor and critic for Atlanta Magazine. Bill ,who is currently food critic for the Dallas Morning News, assures me that Christiane Lauterbach,the current food scribe is not leaving but will focus on her beloved ethnic eateries. Welcome home!

Edited by micropundit (log)

100% right 50% of the time.

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BACK TO BUCKHEAD.

Ian Winslade, the bright Brit who has dazzled Atlanta’s diners with his continental flair and charm for over 15 years in the restaurants of both Tom Catherall and Pano Karatassos, is returning to the scene where he began his Atlanta experience but this time he will be under the flag of international superstar Jean Georges Vongerichten as Chef de Cuisine of MARKET, the celebrated chef’s second restaurant at the new W Buckhead Hotel, opening mid November.

I caught up with Chef Ian recently at Piedmont Park’s Green Market and posed a few questions after first sampling his stellar butternut squash soup with ginger and basil. (It’s like drinking your favorite book)

Q: What is the difference between SPICE MARKET and MARKET?

A: SM is an Asian themed tapas style restaurant; M will be a la cart menu spot modeled after the restaurant in Paris that will essentially be “Jean Georges greatest hits”. I will be managing both kitchens.

Q: When will MARKET open?

A: November 17th.

Q: What is the difference between working for operators like Tom Catherall and Jean Georges?

A: Both Tom and Pano are great operators but Culinary Concepts (JGV’s restaurant company) is a global conglomerate. There will more SPICE MARKETS and MARKETS opening up all over the world and I will be part of that experience.

MARKET, with its Kasim Reed designed dining room, will feature a multicultural menu features French, Asian and Italian inspirations coupled with alluringly familiar cuisine, from Maine lobster with crispy potatoes and spicy aioli, to bacon wrapped shrimp with avocado and passion fruit mustard, every appetizer and entree on the menu is an old-fashioned favorite with a modern twist.

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

Buckhead. Andrew Litherland , formerly of the Ritz Carlton Coconut Groove, has joined the Ritz Carlton Buckhead as executive chef with responsibilities to oversee all culinary operations except THE DINING ROOM.

Decatur. THUMBS UP CAFÉ will open their 4th metro location in the former CRESCENT MOON location in late November.The breakfast friendly spot is a partnership between former CRESCENT MOON owner, Rob Atherholt and Lou Locricchio, founder of the THUMBS UP restaurants.

Doraville. CAFÉ 101, featuring Chinese and Szechwan cuisine in a contemporary setting, has opened at 5412 Buford Highway.

Downtown (DT). IL MULINO will open late November under Chef Michele Mazza featuring a décor of dark hardwood floors; black wrought iron chandeliers and grand wall tapestries.

Midtown. La PIETRA CUCINA is now open on Saturday evenings. The intimate spot continues to draw media buzz in spite of the unfinished construction.

Smyrna. CREPE REVOLUTION, serving both traditional and customized crepes, has opened at 4600 West Village Place.

QUESTION OF THE WEEK: What Atlanta chef is Dallas bound to open a new seafood concept there?

Thanks for stopping by and remember:

Kind words may be short but their echos are endless.

PS. The answer to last weeks QOTW- What Atlanta restaurant architect has been tapped to do a major renovation to a Beantown landmark by a national restaurant group there?-is Bill Johnson , who rumor has it, is being hired by the folks at LEGAL SEAFOODS to renovate one of their stores.

100% right 50% of the time.

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RAISING A BAR.

I had been hearing the rumors over the last few months: Kevin Rathbun is opening a speakeasy. But I was having some trouble confirming the fact that the King of Krog Street was looking at taking his internationally acclaimed skills and planning a speakeasy type spot. Well I finally caught up with Chef Kevin Rathbun and it is true, that while nothing is signed yet, he is planning to bring a sophisticated bar to Atlanta’s dining scene.

He said that after visiting spots in New York and Chicago like THE PEGU CLUB and THE VELVET ROOM, and scoping out the scene at HOLEMAN & FINCH, he decided to pursue opening a ‘pocket bar”; the kind that are opening all over the world.

One of the locations that have caught his interest is the White Provisions development springing up at 14th Street and Howell Mill road. He likes the look and feel of the development and the fact that it offers a space that is downstairs –a sort of hidden jewel.

But thinking about venturing outside of Inman Park is not the only new thing on Chef Kevin’s plate. He has recently developed a daily blog for his customers so that they can keep abreast of the specials, menus and other news about his dining empire. Like all of his endeavors, the consistent thread is keeping it simple. And, like all of his restaurants, it is very good. So, when the bar deal is completed, we can look for a world class spot where one can drink and dine with class.

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

Buckhead. JIMMY JOHNS GOURMET SANDWICHES, the 25 year old, Illinois based sandwich shop chain, is slated to open their 4th metro area location in the lobby of The Realm Condominiums, by the end of the year.

Decatur. SILK: A SMOOTHIE CAFÉ has closed after a brief run at 902 College Avenue.

Midtown. BELEZA, the Brazilian cocktail lounge, is revamping its menu this fall to include serving all raw food items; cerviche, carpaccio, crudo in addition to its’ current vegetarian fare.

Sandy Springs. Both MAMBO ITALIANO and THE GRAPE have closed their locations in the City Walk development.

West Midtown. Tim Gaddis has returned to STAR PROVISIONS as the Cheesemonger in chief.

QUESTION OF THE WEEK: What formerly closed Buckhead sushi bar has recently reopened in their original location?

Thanks for stopping by and remember:

There is a great deal of difference between advice and help.

PS. The answer to last week’s QOTW- What Atlanta chef is Dallas bound to open a new seafood concept there?-is Joshua Perkins, who is helming COAST GLOBAL SEAFOOD out there in beef country.

100% right 50% of the time.

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GRILL OF MY DREAMS.

A confession: in all of my years of visiting, researching and enjoying many of Atlanta’s best restaurants, I have never been to WOODFIRE GRILL. So finally, I had the opportunity to dine at the fabled spot and it was love at first bite.

Nicolas Quinones and Bernard Mousa, formerly of midtown’s LOCA LUNA, and Chef Kevin Gillespie have faithfully continued former owner Michael Touhy’s mission of providing great, locally sourced, sustainable and organic food, masterfully prepared in a charming rustic setting.

My dining companion and I were blown away by our experience. She had recently dined at Jean Georges new spot in the Chambers hotel in Minneapolis and found WOODFIRE to be even better. From the rich, sumptuous, quail to the clever vanilla trio dessert, I marveled at the consistent flavor and presentation of the meal.

The service was attentive and knowledgeable. I followed our server’s recommendation and ordered the 3 course tasting menu and after 6 courses, I had to agree wholeheartedly with his judgment that the tasting menu best captures the chef’s talent and skills.

Now that I have finally experienced WOODFIRE GRILL and enjoyed the depth and complexity of flavors in the unique and interesting pairings on the menu, I can say that it is as good as any restaurant in Atlanta, farm-to-table, organic or otherwise.

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

Alpharetta. AMERICAN ALE HOUSE GRILL has opened at 9945 Jones Bridge Road.

Buckhead. CHASTAIN’S NEIGHBORHOOD SUSHI BAR and GRILL, a casual spot that features a menu that ranges from burgers to sushi, has opened in the former CARBO’S CAFÉ spot at 3171 Roswell Road.

Chamblee. VIET TOFU, a casual Vietnamese deli and sandwich shop specializing in made to order banh mi sandwiches, has opened at 4897 Buford Highway.

Downtown (DT). SOCIAL WINE BAR and RESTAURANT, a 2 level tapas and wine bar, is open and already getting some media buzz, at 12 West Peachtree Place.

Midtown. SUBLIME DOUGHNUTS, an independent bakery featuring some spectacular doughnuts and whose owner, Kamal Grant, is a CIA graduate, has opened at 535 10th Street near Georgia Tech.

Stone Mountain. MAMA NEMS, a seafood/soul food spot also features live jazz and gospel music, has opened at 6049 Memorial Drive.

QUESTION OF THE WEEK: What restaurant was named downtown’s 2008 best designed by Central Atlanta Progress?

Thank you for stopping by and remember;

In theory, there is very little difference between theory and practice. But, in practice, there is.

PS. The answer to last week’s QOTW- What formerly closed Buckhead sushi bar has recently reopened in their original location?- is GENKI NOODLE and SUSHI BAR at 3186 Roswell road.

100% right 50% of the time.

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Took a group of 15 to La Pietra Cucina last night and was very pleased. The chef clearly brought his Babbo roots to Atlanta. Pastas (I had two and tasted several others' pasta choices) were superb -- I especially liked the restaurant's clone of the Babbo version of linguine alle vongole. Wine list was very short and needs work, the service was little spotty and of course the bulk of the restaurant is still an empty space, but based upon this try, I'd go back in a flash.

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AJA VU.

With the influx of bold name celebrity chefs; ultra luxury Hong Kong hotels, featuring 4 restaurants; and fashionable interior designers creating spaces that are more London than low country, Atlanta’s dining scene is no longer defined by or confined to its’ Southern roots and nowhere is that phenomenon more evident than at AJA, Here to Serve Restaurants’ opulent ode to the Orient.

Globally, Asian haute cuisine has been given the critics’ seal of approval and, more importantly, the customer’s cash, at fabled spots like MONKEY BAR and BUDDAKAN . And that is apparently where Tom Catherall has taken his cues from: the large, high volume glamour palaces featuring the requisite statue of Buddha and a menu of various and sundry Asian delights, all carefully packaged to attract fashionable foodinistas .

AJA's menu, skillfully executed by William Sigley, formerly of Atlanta’s AQUAKNOX but now plying the skills gained helming Wolfgang Puck’s CHINOIS , is a veritable journey on the Silk Road. My favorites are the wok seared items but save room for the young coconut dessert, it is not to be missed.

The former EMERIL’S spot is an acknowledgement of the coming of age of Atlanta’s market: we now have a well done representation of a global dining trend. So when you go to New York or Paris and dine at one of their Asian glamour spots, you can say: isn’t this just like AJA?

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

Atlantic Station. PARIS BISTRO, serving traditional breakfast items, sandwiches, salads and daily specials, has opened at 171 17th Street, inside the Wachovia bank tower.

Buckhead. BONE’S was voted most popular Atlanta restaurant in the 2009 Zagut survey, the first time in years that it was not BACCHANALIA.( who was voted as having the best food).

Dunwoody. TWISTED TACO, the midtown casual taco joint, is opening a new location in Park Place this winter.

Midtown. Jeremy Lieb has left TROIS and is currently in Cincinnati working as “consultant” to a local operator. Tony Ginsberg (TAP) has replaced him as top toque.

Old Fourth Ward (O4W). HIGHLAND BAKERY has recently completed a 1,200 square foot addition and as a gesture of good will for their fortune, they are offering free goodies to customers who donate canned goods to the Hosea Feeds the Hungry campaign.

QUESTION OF THE WEEK: What renowned O4W eatery is replacing its’ signature “feature” this spring?

Have a HAPPY THANKSGIVING!

PS. The answer to last week’s QOTW-What restaurant was named downtown’s 2008 best designed restaurant by Central Atlanta Progress- is NONI’S BAR and GRILL, designed by Matt Ruppert, NONI’S owner.

100% right 50% of the time.

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Reignking, is that the BBQ place in the same shopping center as Yakitori Jinbei? I've wondered how that place is. Is it any good?

Yes, it is (Thompson's BBQ) -- quite the non-descript shopping center on Cobb Parkway, with an Olive Garden out front. I think it is really good; I always stick to the sausage, though. And the prices can't be beat, especially compared to what bbq chains like to charge for ribs. They use tomato-based sauces, and have a good Brunswick stew.

They even smoke bologna, which I had never seen.

Dave, I tend to skim over restaurants I'm not familiar with -- or I would've seen the O4W explanation!

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A HSU IN.

The Georgia Restaurant Association (GRA) recently named veteran Atlanta restaurateur Anna Hsu its 2008 Restaurateur of The Year, the highest honor bestowed by the prestigious (and powerful) organization.

Part entrepreneur, part socialite but a complete professional, Ms. Hsu, the co-owner of such Atlanta mainstays as HSU’S; PACIFIC RIM and SILK, is a 25 year veteran of Atlanta’s dynamic restaurant scene. Her long time support of the restaurant industry and its legislative initiatives earned her the award and a hallowed place in Georgia’s restaurant history.

She was also a prime mover in the creation of the Taste of Asia week, a program that affords metro Atlanta’s growing Asian restaurant population an opportunity to market themselves both to residents and tourists.

Not one to rest on her laurels, Ms Hsu and her business and marital partner George Hsu are already planning a new, upscale restaurant group, A-Z-N, that is scheduled to have its Atlanta debut in 2010.A-Z-N will provide a contemporary ,upscale Pan-Asian dining and entertainment experience in a 200 seat setting. So hats off to Anne Hsu for her past and prospective contributions to Atlanta’s dining scene; being selected for this honor speaks well of both her and Atlanta.

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

Buckhead. JACK & DIANE’S GENUINE FOOD and DRINK, a 4,000 square foot sports and rock and roll bar owned by the 10 DEGREES SOUTH team, has opened in the Chastain Square shopping center on Roswell Road.

Midtown. FAT MATT’S CHICKEN SHACK has closed.

Old Fourth Ward (O4W). Christian Shultz, the opening GM at 4th& SWIFT, has left the building.

Sandy Springs. HEARTH PIZZA TAVERN, from the owners of midtown’s CYPRESS STREET PINT & PLATE, has opened in former ARTUZZI’S spot on Roswell Road.

Smyrna. GOODNESS GROCERY, a health food grocery featuring a deli serving all natural and organic selections, has opened at 4500 West Village Place, in the West Village Development.

Virginia Highland. VINE, the lauded but lamented wine bar cum restaurant, has closed (again).

QUESTION OF THE WEEK: What Dekalb County Italian spot is changing their menu to “totally Southern” soon?

Thanks for stopping by and remember:

Hope and patience are the softest cushions to lean on in adversity.

PS. The answer to last week’s QOTW- What renowned O4W eatery is replacing its’ signature “feature” this spring- is TWO URBAN LICKS. They are replacing the 14 foot tall rotisserie with a specially designed fire pit.

100% right 50% of the time.

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Sandy Springs. Both MAMBO ITALIANO and THE GRAPE have closed their locations in the City Walk development.

I just received this email:

As you may have been aware, we recently closed our Sandy Springs location due to conditions that were out of our control. We are thrilled to announce that we have resolved these issues and that effective today, Thursday, December 4th, our Sandy Springs location has re-opened!

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A HSU IN.

The Georgia Restaurant Association (GRA) recently named veteran Atlanta restaurateur Anna Hsu its 2008 Restaurateur of The Year, the highest honor bestowed by the prestigious (and powerful) organization.

Part entrepreneur, part socialite but a complete professional, Ms. Hsu, the co-owner of such Atlanta mainstays as HSU’S; PACIFIC RIM and SILK, is a 25 year veteran of Atlanta’s dynamic restaurant scene. Her long time support of the restaurant industry and its legislative initiatives earned her the award and a hallowed place in Georgia’s restaurant history.

She was also a prime mover in the creation of the Taste of Asia week, a program that affords metro Atlanta’s growing Asian restaurant population an opportunity to market themselves both to residents and tourists.

Not one to rest on her laurels, Ms Hsu and her business and marital partner George Hsu are already planning a new, upscale restaurant group, A-Z-N, that is scheduled to have its Atlanta debut in 2010.A-Z-N will provide a contemporary ,upscale Pan-Asian  dining and entertainment experience in a 200 seat setting. So hats off to Anne Hsu for her past and prospective contributions to Atlanta’s dining scene; being selected for this honor speaks well of both her and Atlanta.

Congratulations to her. Anna is one of the nicest and loveliest people in the Atlanta restaurant industry--and the fact that she is drop dead gorgeous does not take any thing away fr/ her achievements. I think very highly of her.

in loving memory of Mr. Squirt (1998-2004)--

the best cat ever.

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CALL ME GASTRODAMUS.

The Industry Bigfoot and I chatted over lunch recently about the what was on the horizon for Atlanta’s dining scene in 2009 and we came to the conclusion that while there was not a whole lot to be excited about there are a couple of projects that may brighten up our market going forward.

THE GOOD NEWS: Outside of Buckhead Life Restaurant’s two entry’s (PANO’S in the ST Regis Hotel and PANO’S GRAND CAFÉ in the 3344 Peachtree Road tower) , there will be very few “big box” restaurants opening in 2009. Most of the reported openings involve small, chef driven, neighborhood spots like SERPAS TRUE FOOD in the Old Fourth Ward or ABATTOIR in West Midtown, that feature value priced menus.

And there are 2 hotel restaurants, The W Hotel and Residences in downtown (BLT STEAK) and The Hotel Palomar Midtown, that also promise some exciting spots in 2009.

THE BETTER NEWS: There will be opportunities for the brave/cash rich who can pin point the right locations. According to the IB, ethnic food, especially Asian, is in, i.e., he believes that another high-end sushi resto could make it in Buckhead. Other opportunities: a steakhouse in midtown and another upscale seafood spot. While the influx of bold name out of town chefs will come to a halt, locations such as the former MICK’S/ PLEASANT PEASANT on Peachtree Street offer local operators prime opportunities for small, chef driven neighborhood spots.

THE BEST NEWS: I’m predicting that 2009 will provide an opportunity for Atlanta to create a dining scene that offers excellence at every price point. Every operator will be challenged to provide the best service and value in order to survive and only the very best will.

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

Alpharetta. ROJO TAQUERIA, serving gourmet tacos and featuring a premium tequila bar, has opened at 2850 Holcomb Bridge Road.

Airport. ONE FLEW SOUTH, the upscale southern cuisine spot featuring a Johnson Studio design, has opened on concourse E.

Buckhead. NEO, the luxe contemporary Italian spot at The Mansion on Peachtree, is having a special “NEO Unplugged “- an exquisite Italian dinner by candlelight- on Wednesday, December 17th. Contact 404-995 7545 for reservations.

Downtown(DT). Ciao baby. IL MULINO, the New York old school Italian import, opened December 4th at 191 Peachtree Street.

East Atlanta.THE SHED at GLENWOOD is hosting a vodka and caviar tasting, featuring Petrossian caviar and 4 Russian and Imperial vodkas, Wednesday, December 17th. For details, visit: www.theshedatglenwood.com.

QUESTION OF THE WEEK: What chef, whose former downtown spot received rave reviews for its food but not its service, has returned to downtown to helm a Centennial Olympic Park area restaurant?

Thanks for stopping by and remember:

The best preparation for tomorrow is to do today’s work superbly well.

PS. The answer to last week’s QOTW- What Dekalb County Italian spot is changing their menu to “totally Southern” soon- is CALVINO’S. Update: Recent media reports indicate that CALVINO’S may close at the end of December.

100% right 50% of the time.

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QUESTION OF THE WEEK: What chef, whose former downtown spot received rave reviews for its food but not its service, has returned to downtown to helm a Centennial Olympic Park area restaurant?

Chef Lenny Robinson of Les Fleur De Lis Cafe is now at the helm of Peasant Bistro.

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QUESTION OF THE WEEK: What chef, whose former downtown spot received rave reviews for its food but not its service, has returned to downtown to helm a Centennial Olympic Park area restaurant?

Chef Lenny Robinson of Les Fleur De Lis Cafe is now at the helm of Peasant Bistro.

I had a feeling that might be the answer; and I never made it to The Tasting Room.

Richard Blais' FLIP opened last night. That's two restaurants I'll need to be trying after work, now...

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QUESTION OF THE WEEK: What chef, whose former downtown spot received rave reviews for its food but not its service, has returned to downtown to helm a Centennial Olympic Park area restaurant?

Chef Lenny Robinson of Les Fleur De Lis Cafe is now at the helm of Peasant Bistro.

Here's hoping he can fix both the food and the service at Peasant Bistro, as both were, well, terrible on my one and only visit this summer.

Can you pee in the ocean?

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I saw on Richard's blog he opened.  The menu looks good.  It is right near my daughter's school so we will be going for sure.

I want to try the hanger burger and a krispy kreme shake.

I had lunch at FLIP today. Great little place, fun, interesting and flat out good food. 3rd day open and they are drawing big crowds that will not be disappointed.

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A SKILL IN MAKING PEOPLE HAPPY.

That, according to Tom Coliccho,is the secret of the success of his restaurants and if a recent tasting event is any indicator of how well the recently opened CRAFT and CRAFTBAR,his modern American bistros housed on the grounds of the Mansion on Peachtree, will achieve that goal then he will have, once again, proven he is a master of his, well,craft.

The Atlanta store, the 4th edition of the storied New York City franchise, has assembled a dynamic team comprised of long time Colicchio cohorts. Chef Kevin Macky hails back to GRAMERCY PARK as do several other members of the kitchen team. The front of the house is lead by a veteran of LE BEC FIN,Philly’s finest, and POSH here in the ATL.

The menu is well sourced, local provender, prepared simply but skillfully that mirrors the New York and other outposts’ menus. CRAFTBAR is the less pricey of the two but the price points overall are not out of line with the market.

The setting, courtesy, of Peter Bendel, designer of record for all of the stores, is posh casual. I had expected a sterile, big box but it is a very intimate, sophisticated, 2 level space accented with wood, stone, copper, and dramatic artwork that allows the food to be the primary focus.(think WOODFIRE GRILL with multi-million dollar upgrade.)

The staff, trained by the Mansion on Peachtree folks, appears to ready for prime time with their knowledge and deportment and they seemed to be very serious about their work.

With the second coming of Jean Georges Vongerichten directly across the street and PANO’S GRAND CAFÉ opening down the street, CRAFT is competing in the new epicenter of Buckhead fine dining. Their goal: to make their customers so happy with the food and service, that in 5 years CRAFT will be regarded as one of the best local spots in Atlanta.

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

Atlanta and its dining scene lost a true pioneer a couple of weeks ago with the death of Mr. James Paschal, founder of the famed PASHCAL’S, where many of America’s civil rights and political leaders once dined.

Buckhead. A new player has just entered the Atlanta dining scene. This hot new entity is not a person, but a car service that is spicing up the average dining routine and bringing a new feeling of luxury and style to the Buckhead community. Buckhead Restaurant Chauffeur Service (BRCS) is a brand new transportation service that has innovatively penetrated the fine dining market of Buckhead, creating a smart, safe, and stylish way to arrive at dinner and return home in a Mercedes limousine.

PIZZERIA VENTI, a Florida based chain which bills itself as “America’s only sliceria”, has opened its first Atlanta location at 2770 Lennox Road.

Clayton County. TAQUERIA LA OAXAQENA, a favorite of former and soon to be again Atlanta food scribe Bill Addison, has expanded and moved to 603 Mt. Zion Road.

Downtown(DT). Legacy Properties and Concentrics Restaurants, who previously partnered on STATS, are now planning a $5 million+, 10,000 square foot spot on the roof of the Hilton Garden Inn that will be dinner only. Slated to open in 2010, there is no word yet on the cuisine but Concentrics created CIBO MATTO, an upscale Italian store, and STATE and LAKE, an American gastro-pub, for their theWit hotel project in Chicago.

Reynoldstown. DEPOT, the renovated train depot turned bar and restaurant on Memorial Drive, has closed after less than a year in operation.

Toco Hills. MATIO’S PIZZA will open soon in the former MAMA FU’S spot.

QUESTION OF THE WEEK: What deadly Asian delicacy is now being legally served in metro Atlanta?

Thank you for stopping by and remember:

The difference between stupidity and genius is that genius has its limits.

PS.The answer to last week’s QOTW-What chef, whose former downtown spot received rave reviews for its food but not its service, has returned to downtown to helm a Centennial Olympic Park area restaurant-is Lenny Robinson. Chef Lenny Robinson, formerly of LES FLEUR De LIS CAFE is now at the helm of PEASANT BISTRO.

100% right 50% of the time.

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