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April 11, 2012

Atlanta Eats Beat: April 2012

Buckhead welcomes a new pasta spot with panache, baker Eric Wolitzky puts the cakes in Cakes & Ale, Blais taps Tap’s top chef

By Nancy Staab

  • The Lawrence images form StarChefs.com

STG Trattoria opens with a killer culinary team, updates on upcoming restos The Spence and The Optimist, Chef Shaun Doty is for the birds, Decatur scores a food Victory, and there’s a new Dessert Pusher bringing sweets to the street

Clockwise: sea bass at The Lawrence, Chef Blais, Cakes & Ale dessert, duck carnitas at The Lawarence, Chef Doty Clockwise: sea bass at The Lawrence, Chef Blais, Cakes & Ale dessert, duck carnitas at The Lawarence, Chef Doty

What do you get when you take Bocado owner Brian Lewis, executive chef Joshua Hopkins (formerly of Abattoir) and sous chef Adam Waller (formerly of Sotto Sotto)? Predictably, you get a buzzy neighborhood eatery with an Italian theme, house-made charcuterie and other meat-centric goodies like meatballs, and Neapolitan-style, wood-fired pizzas given the perfect char via two authentic Acunto oven imported from Italy. The new STG Trattoria in Buckhead Plaza (just past St. Regis Atlanta) boasts an approachable menu of panini, pastas, pizzas, bruschetta and small plates, plus a cool, rough-hewn, arched wine cellar entry (filled with Italian wines only, natch) and a fully-stocked cocktail bar of Amaro-based sips. STG is open for dinner now and will start serving lunch on April 16. As James Oxendine reports in Covered Dish, look for a future guest chef dinner at STG with Chef James Lewis of Birmingham’s Bettola. (Lewis was recently named one of the best chefs in the country by Food & Wine magazine and just happens to be owner Brian Lewis’ brother.)

First JCT. Kitchen’s Ford Fry launched chef Drew Belline at No. 246 and now he’s backing Adam Evans as executive chef of his upcoming seafood shack The Optimist andThe Optimist Oyster Bar in Westside. The joint is slated to open this May, just in time for a special, guest-chef seafood feast, entitled Oceans 6, for Atlanta Food & Wine Festival with chefs Mike Lata and Bryan Caswell among the six seafood savants. The Optimist’s chef Evans has done stints in New Orleans and NYC (including Tom Colicchio’s flagship Craft and Craft Atlanta/Craftbar) prior to working at JCT Kitchen. Expect seasonal, sustainable, New American seafood dishes and some wood-grilling techniques. In a recent interview with Eater, Evans revealed that he seeks a "Hamptons-meets-the-South" vibe for The Optimist and revealed some small plate menu items  for the oyster bar section, such as Maine lobster rolls, fried oyster loafs and gumbos. He also predicted that diners are "going to really love our garlicky Virgnia clams and pork belly with hand-torn sopping croutons and also our mussels in a crabby-coconut broth with birds eye chili and picked herbs."

As chef/owner Richard BlaisThe Spence nears opening date in in May, Blais is putting the finishing touches on his culinary team. In addition to sous chef Bradley Chance (Flip Burger Boutique) and pastry chef Andrea Litvin (The Livingston and Vongerichten’s ABC Kitchen in NYC), Blais just announced that chef Adrian Villareal (formerly of Joël and Tap) will also add his culinary creativity to The Spence. Creative, Villareal has certainly been, at the gastropub Tap (where his menu items included Popcorn Fried Veal Sweetbreads, Kimchi Zucchini, and Brown Bread Ice Cream) so we can’t wait to see what spins he puts on The Spence menu. A native of Mexico, Villareal attended Le Cordon Bleu Paris and worked in several Paris restaurants before launching his career at the famed French restaurant Joël in Atlanta. 

A dessert from Cakes & Ale Bakery A dessert from Cakes & Ale Bakery

Cakes & Ale acquired Dynamic Dish’s David Sweeny for their lunch service and have now bolstered their bakery staff with the addition of head pastry chef Eric Wolitzky from the trendy Red Hook, Brooklyn, spot Baked. Wolitzky has been featured in several foodie mags like Bon Appetit and Food & Wine and appeared on Bravo’s Top Chef Desserts season 1. He specializes in updated versions of classic American desserts and, to wit, has already added his famous chocolate chip cookies and Mississippi Mud Pie with stout whipped cream to the menus of the bakery and restaurant, respectively. Other new sweets on recent menus: a triple ice cream cake, an adorable lemon meringue icebox confection and a pineapple upside-down cake with salted caramel and cherry ice cream. And this just in: Cakes & Ale is now serving Sunday Brunch starting April 15. Sample sweet and savory menu items: Dutch pancakes with fresh berries, crème fraîche and powdered sugar, and pressed ham, turkey & gruyère on brioche with powdered sugar, raspberry preserves and garden greens.

Speaking of Decatur, Eater.com reports that the town will soon get its own outpost of the hipster pocket eatery Victory Sandwich Bar in Inman Park. Their mini craft sammies like Victory at Sea (a glorified tuna sandwich) and the Hambo are already legendary, as is their Coke and bourbon slushies. Meanwhile, the popular, Decatur-based Community Q BBQ will be opening a second location on Marietta Street in Westside this summer so Midtowners can feast on beef ribs, pulled pork, and a legendary 3-cheese mac’n’cheese.

In other chef shake-ups, Creative Loafing reports that One. Midtown Kitchen chef Drew Van Leuvan will be leaving his post to open a new craft bar and resto called Seven Lamps at Shops Around Lenox in Buckhead. Stay tuned for more details. As  LuxeCrush reported, Drew’s savory chocolate pasta with braised lamb shoulder was recently featured in Food Network Magazine. Also coming to Shops Around Lenox, another outpost of Decatur-based, Northern Indian eatery Bhojanic, according to John Kessler at The AJC. The new restaurant will include some outdoor seating and is slated to open this summer.

Chef Shaun Doty Chef Shaun Doty

The Atlanta Business Chronicle broke news that owner/chef Shaun Doty of Yeah! Burger has his eye on an Ansley Mall space for his new fast-casual chicken joint, adorably named Bantam & Biddy (after two prize poultry breeds). The resto is not so much a fried chicken haven as a place for free-range rotisserie birds and seasonal sides, and we hear he’s planning to bring back the duck fat fries made famous at his former Shaun’s resto. The space will be designed by The Johnson Studio and is slated to open September 2012. Doty will also be the featured Pop Up Chef for Midtown’s Street Food Thursdays on July 26. Other chefs on the lineup include Ryan Smith of Empire State South (May 10), Jay Swift of 4th and Swift (May 31), David Waller of Taqueria del Sol (June7) and Zeb Stevenson of Livingston (June 28).

Perhaps you will also spot The Dessert Pusher, a new entry in Atlanta’s food truck fleet, at Midtown Street Food Thursdays this spring. The 17-year pastry vet will be peddling her street sweets from the humble (Kitchen Sink Cookies, Whoopie Pies, Salted Caramel Brownies and Banana Pudding) to the more complex (Crème Brulee, Strawberry Shortcake, and Fig and Marscapone Bread Pudding). You can follow the truck at Twitter/dessertpusher to discover locations.

The Lawrence on Juniper Street, Midtown, is now officially open and we have the food porn to prove it! Check out these mouthwatering photos of signature dishes by chef Shane Devereux as documented by StarChefs.com. There’s nothing generic about the bold global flavors and traditional Continental finesse that goes into the dishes at this buzzy new eatery from The Dinner Party and Top Flr. team. They also just received their cocktail license, so now you can pair their global epicurean bites with artisanal cocktails courtesy of ace mixologist Eric Simpkins!

Duck Tongue Carnitas at The Lawrence Duck Tongue Carnitas at The Lawrence

Striped Bass, Cauliflower, Curried Raisins Striped Bass, Cauliflower, Curried Raisins

Chestnut stuffed Poussin, Kale, Fennel Chestnut stuffed Poussin, Kale, Fennel