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Eat Peeps:

September 19, 2011

Top Dogs!

Flip biz partners Richard Blais and Barry Mills hope lightning strikes twice with buzzy new haute-dog spot, HD1, opening 9.22

By Nancy Staab

  • Portraits by Tim Redman
  • Food photo by Heidi Geldhauser for The Reynolds Group Inc.

On the eve of the opening of their sure-to-be buzzy new hot dog restaurant HD1 (short for Haute Doggery) the dynamic duo from Flip Burger, Richard Blais and Barry Mills, have a little fun with their condiments of choice.

Richard Blais and Barry Mills of Flip and HD1 Richard Blais and Barry Mills of Flip and HD1

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Saying HD1 is a hot dog joint is bit like describing Flip as a greasy spoon. Bravo Top Chef All-Stars winner Richard Blais is nothing if not wildly inventive, so as creative consultant he’s sure to put his own inspired and delicious, not to mention successful stamp on the standard dog when his latest venture HD1 opens Thursday, Sept. 22 in Poncey-Highland. Barry Mills may seem a more serious mustard to Blais’ vibrant ketchup, if you will, but scratch the surface and you’ll find that Mills is an equally out-of-the box business maverick. In fact, it is due in part to Mills’ influence that Flip Burger sports a playful, upside-down décor designed by local architect wunderkinds ai3 and one of the hippest restaurant soundtracks of alternative music in town (Mills is also a major music buff). So you do the math. Put these two left-brainers together and the results of their latest project, HD1, are bound to be interesting and unpredictable.

Here’s the hints we have gleaned so far about the forthcoming hot dog haven. The vibe will be a little more grown-up and edgy than Flip. In fact, Blais recently told Eater.com that whereas “Flip Burger might be pop music, this is more alternative. I do not want people to view this as the hot dog version of Flip.” Think: moody palette of dark woods, metals, pops of oxblood-red leather for the communal benches or booth seating, and a 3-dimensional ceiling by ai3.

There will be a roof-top bar serving canned beers and lots of kitschy-cool craft bourbon and rum drinks and even the soft-serve ice cream will be given an adult makeover—infused with boozy flavors like bourbon brown sugar. There will also be plenty of late-night action at HD1 with a special after-hours menu that includes a build-your-own dog option. However, don’t expect any liquid nitrogen on the premises.

No one tires of Blais-isms faster than the restless, mercurial Blais himself, whose protean talents are always pushing him in new directions. And though Blais seems to be routinely pigeon-holed in the creative/mad scientist-chef category, and even did a stint at the world’s most avant-garde resto El Bulli, his inventiveness is NEVER at the expense of insanely good taste.

About the dogs: As the name implies these are elevated, modern interpretations of classic hot dogs, or hot dogs in high def, as the restaurant moniker seems to claim. There will be several house-made hot dogs and sausages on the menu--many, as Blais reveals in the exclusive interview below, custom created by local artisanal charcuterie master Kevin Outzs of The Spotted Trotter. Blais’ recent cooking demo for Good Morning America also revealed a few trade secrets like his technique of bathing his dogs in a “buttery Jacuzzi” of garlic and herbs to keep the dogs moist through the grilling process. House-made condiments will be riffs on classics such as a canned-beer mustard, or Pepper Jack cheese foam. Toppings might include Vidalia onions pickled with fresh turmeric and seasoned rice wine vinegar, a coffee-spice brisket chili, or an array of global toppings, and the final product will be placed in freshly baked artisan buns. As for sides: expect more culinary play such as waffle fries with mae-ploy (a Thai-based sweet chili sauce) or perhaps, if we’re lucky, even a sous vide potato salad with a crumbled potato chip topping such as he made for the Good Morning America crew!

 

A SNEAK PREVIEW OF A FEW ITEMS FROM THE ALWAYS-ROTATING HD1 MENU: 

 

The Red Haute Dog with brisket chili, pepper jack foam, Viadalia onion (a riff on the classic chili-cheese dog)

Fennel sausage dog with San Marzano ketchup, fontina, and grilled radicchio Fennel sausage dog with San Marzano ketchup, fontina, and grilled radicchio

The Kenturkey with smoked bacon, mornay, and tomato-pimento marmalade.

 

Fennel sausage with San Marzano ketchup, fontina, and grilled radicchio

 

Merguez lamb sausage with red currant compote and minted cucumber salad

 

 Classic hot dog with sauerkraut and HD mustard

 

Several daily composed dishes will also be offered in addition to the dogs and the prices and food are designed to be very approachable and more wallet-friendly than Flip.

 

HD1 opens Sept. 22 at 664 Highland Ave. NE, Atlanta, GA, 30306. Phone: 404.815.1127 or www.hd1restaurant.com

 

 

Blais and Mills wield condiments like weapons Blais and Mills wield condiments like weapons

EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW:  BLAIS IN HD !

 

Blais expounds on the Craigslist origins of Flip, why he’s so over molecular gastronomy, what to expect at HD1 and what exactly is in his own fridge

Both you and your Flip/HD1 business partner Barry Mills have been in the restaurant industry in Atlanta for some time, so how did you first meet up and what were your first impressions of Mills?

 [We met on] Craigslist--Barry was looking for a creative chef to consult on a hamburger restaurant. Barry’s a hipster. He's a quiet and brilliant guy. My first impression was how does he fits into those jeans? Barry wears size 27 jeans, I'm almost certain...

 

You guys both seem like wildly out of the box sorts? Is that why you bonded?

Probably. We are definitely two unique and odd birds.

 

How do you complement and contrast each other as a business team?

Barry has a great sense of vibe and energy and the feel of a concept. He's very detailed, and not afraid to go against the grain. And I'm a bit more conservative, believe it or not. So it's a good partnership.

 

Do you recall how the first seed of the phenomenally successful Flip concept came about? Any drawings on cocktail napkins or that kind of thing?

Barry had the initial idea, and then literally, a few days before opening, me and a few chefs sat down in the original Flip restaurant and wrote up the menu, rather casually and candidly.

 

How did the idea for HD1 come about?

I was in NYC when Flip got its 4-star review. That night, when Barry and I got on the phone, we both said we should do a hot dog concept. I took a cab down to Gray’s Papaya [the famed NYC hot dog stand], and that was the beginning...

 

Can you define what has made Flip such a magical restaurant?

It's a fun place with a casual atmosphere. I think the balance of the neat aesthetic with the seriousness of the offerings and a gentle price made it work.

 

I adore the playful element of Flip (the design, the menu, the play on words, etc.), but I love that the creativity is never at the expense of taste. I assume this will be true of HD as well?

Yes, HD1 will be even more about function over form. Fun, but flavor first, always.

 

Is HD1 the hot dog version of Flip or something different? What can we expect?

HD1 is a hot dog place with an ingredient-driven menu helmed by a team of serious chefs. So it's like Flip in that regard, but it's a more casual service model. A lower price point. A different energy. Global yet local at the same time.

 

Can you give me a few concrete hints about star menu items?

Not yet. Stars make themselves, they can't be created as such.

 

Tell me a bit about the meats and where sourced, the buns, how they may be cooked, condiments, foams, etc?

HD1 will serve freshly made artisan soft buns, house ground sausages and our hot dogs will be sourced by a few local vendors who are developing recipes with us. Mainly, Spotted Trotter, a local artisan charcuterie shop.

 

Will any of your HD1 recipes be in your upcoming cookbook or what can we expect from that?

The book will be about cooking at home in a fluid creative way. I'm not sure if any HD recipes will be in it, but I'm sure the influence will be in spirit.

 

In addition to The Spence, the modern American Midtown restaurant you are planning with Concentrics Restaurants group and The Johnson Studio, what else do you have in the pipeline?

I am developing my own t shirt company--news incoming soon!

 

Blais and Mills with the condiments of their choice Blais and Mills with the condiments of their choice

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

FOOD-OLOGY WITH RICHARD BLAIS

 

Favorite foods:  I love Italian food and seafood, and a great steakhouse

 

Always in my fridge:  A bread dough, some tomato sauce, and assorted chutneys.

 

Food trend I am so over:  Farm to table and molecular gastronomy.

 

Famous last meal:  Spaghetti and meatballs

 

After-midnight snack:  Don't do it!

 

My favorite adult beverage:  A real Manhattan

 

What I would like to see on the Atlanta dining scene in the future:  Indian food

 

HD1 opens Sept. 22 at 664 Highland Ave. NE, Atlanta, GA, 30306. Phone: 404.815.1127 or www.hd1restaurant.com