Hidden Hometown Gems: Introduction
Hidden Hometown Gems
Written by the Editors of Points North
Habits are inherently hard to break, which is why we often dine at the same restaurants and frequent our favorite big box shops. Thankfully, as editors of a community magazine constantly searching for new content, we know better. We know new shops are opening their doors, new chefs are coming to town and that Atlanta’s Northside is home to plenty of unique individuals, attractions, events and venues, all waiting to be discovered. So, that’s exactly what we’ve set out to do. With the introduction of this new editorial series, we pledge to go deep to uncover Hidden Hometown Gems, those potential new favorite places that perhaps we’ve overlooked or simply never taken the time to try. Throughout the year, we’ll highlight a key community from our coverage area in each issue. Here, we offer a sampling of hidden hometown gems to come.
Eleanor’s | Smyrna
Few things epitomize the “hidden gem” concept quite like Eleanor’s and if you’ve never been to the popular neighborhood joint Muss & Turner’s in Smyrna, well, then you’re officially missing out on two gems! As with many great discoveries, there’s an even better story behind it.
In this case, the restaurant and bar discreetly found beyond the cooler door began when Eleanor Seale interviewed for a front-of-the-house position in the midst of construction for Muss & Turner’s, which opened in February 2005. Previously, she had been an office manager for a doctor’s office, but at the urging of friends and family, Seale decided to pursue her passion for cooking — at the age of 63. Seale, who grew up in Harlem, had also owned a liquor store in the past. Within minutes of meeting her, the team at Muss & Turner’s connected with her, and though they knew she was special, they couldn’t have predicted just how important she would become. Two months in, the toll of standing all day was wearing on Seale who happened to see owner Ryan Turner inundated with invoices in his office one day. Upon learning how much she loved QuickBooks, Turner said Seale took on a whole new level of engagement with the business.
“All of this stuff that if I had to focus on myself, I’m not sure we would still be in business,” Turner said of Seale, who from human resources and controller to friend, drinking buddy, de facto Mom and in-house Sage, became the glue that held it all together.
“I remember coming home and talking to my wife. I said ‘I don’t know how, but I want to do something for her,’ ” he said. Given the opportunity to expand in 2011, the Muss & Turner team chose to create a bar experience that didn’t previously exist — one that would provide two different experiences without having to travel. One that required a fun discovery process and produce a positive reaction such as “Why do I keep seeing people go into that cooler and not come back out?” as one patron famously asked.
Eleanor’s, which opened on Mother’s Day last year, isn’t all about its speakeasy entrance, though I can say from personal experience that it is almost as much fun to introduce Eleanor’s to a friend who has never been as it is to discover for yourself. The food is fabulous, the service is great and what can we say? We love the story of how the Muss & Turner team created a place that celebrates their appreciation for someone so important to them. Talk about a gem. 770-434-1114, 1675 Cumberland Parkway, Ste 309, mussandturners.com
Antebellum Restaurant | Flowery Branch
When Nick St. Clair, and his wife, Allison, opened Antebellum in Historic Flowery Branch in a turn-of-the-20th-century home where another eatery had failed, the skeptics lined up for a feeding frenzy. Not only are there few restaurants nearby, none featured interpretative Southern cuisine. St. Clair eschewed the plastic-plate, meat-and-three mantra once present in small towns throughout the South, and Antebellum is indulgently graceful with a sweeping, wraparound porch that is essentially Southern. Inside, soft lighting, hardwood floors, wrought iron decorations and a certain familiarity hearken diners back to the good ‘ole days, and if that doesn’t do it, a lonely train whistle from the nearby railroad line and St. Clair’s unique flair with textures, spices and execution certainly will.
In a short time, St. Clair has proven to be a worthy student of the culinary South despite being as antithetical to Flowery Branch as they come. He was raised in southern California, trained in Santa Barbara wine country’s Los Olivos Café, and cut his culinary and management teeth in Spokane, Wash. Upon moving to the Atlanta area a few years back, St. Clair worked with Top Chef Kevin Gillespie and took a post at Aspens Signature Steaks in West Cobb, but he longed to put a different sizzle on his cuisine apart from grilling steaks.
His version of fried green tomatoes, served with scrumptious bacon jam, a fried egg, brioche, hot sauce and shaved mimosa ice, is as scrumptious as it is decadent. The sweet potato soup with apple cider cream and fried collared greens was sensational, and we long to sample St. Clair’s grilled andouille sausage with fried chicken, Cajun remoulade, chow-chow peanuts and celery, which he highly recommends.
St. Clair’s entrée offerings are conceptually intriguing and executed with flair. A root beer-braised, bone-in short rib with fried pumpkin, corn bread puree and cranberry relish continues to enthrall, while the grilled wild salmon — served with crispy cheddar grit cake, smoked tomato vinaigrette, jalapeno jam, country ham chip and local greens — is extraordinary. The wild shrimp with Logan Turnpike cheddar cheese grits, country ham, peppers, onions and lemon butter sauce can make the most loquacious stutter due to immense flavors. While dessert may sound a bit superfluous at this point, Antebellum’s Jack Daniels chocolate bread pudding with house-made vanilla ice cream and caramel is a real treat.
The St. Clairs are young, energetic and focused on providing a great experience for all guests. Antebellum is among the most consistently top-ranked restaurant by diners on Open Table. Both the town of Flowery Branch and the venue itself offer a bona fide Southern experience that is well worth the excursion. 5510 Church St., 770-965-8100, antebellumrestaurant.com
Bite bistro & bar | Alpharetta
Chef Leif Johnson and partner Derek Bakarich launched their restaurant, Bite, after Johnson’s ultra-successful five-year run with Bite as a catering business in Dunwoody. In fact, during the recent expansion and redesign of the space by Wilcox Design Group, catering orders flourished. A new patio will provide guests with an al fresco dining option soon.
Before coming to Atlanta, Johnson was executive chef at the winery that produces Toasted Head wines in Dunnigan Hills, Calif. Bakarich and his wife Staci moved to Duluth a few years ago, and he remains a partner in a few Los Angeles-area Mexican restaurants.
Bite initially attracted a substantial crowd for lunch, particularly with business and ladies’ groups who appreciated Johnson’s “new American” cuisine, a fusion of influences that give him and his right-hand man in the kitchen, Jason Morgan, a boundless canvas for exploring textures, spices and unfamiliar combinations that woo patrons. Bite’s menu combines casual fare like small plates, flatbreads and salads with glimpses of intriguing execution in the pasta and main dish categories. Creations like mussels and Spanish chorizo, corn and poblano fritters and a smoked pork and grilled pineapple flatbread are rarely seen. Nor is “The Double,” which combines house-ground short rib and brisket, special sauce, pickles, lettuce, tomatoes and American cheese — a stunning burger interpretation. Seared duck breast is accompanied by roasted butternut squash, parsnip, red chard and a port demi, while Bite’s redfish is served with vegetable couscous and celery root puree. Other top selections are the signature street corn, red chili pork tacos, lobster roll and chipotle spaghetini, a marvelous dish that combines smoked chicken, spinach, tomatoes and parmesan.
A new full bar includes a well-conceived roster of craft beers, spirits and wines that you likely won’t find at your local package or grocery store, which further enhances the restaurant’s penchant for originality and creativity, and you’ll be hard-pressed to find a more likeable service staff than the one at Bite. 11500 Webb Bridge Way, 770-754-5500, biteatl.com
Circle A Farms | Cumming
We’re big proponents of locally grown produce, so imagine our delight at this discovery. A farm churning out lettuce in our back yard! Who knew? Circle A Farms, the realized dream of owner Jeff Adams, produces hydroponic lettuce, which means it’s grown using mineral nutrient solutions in water without pesticides or herbicides or even soil, and the result is the most vibrant, flavorful salad greens you can find. Varieties like Butter Bibb, Romaine and spring mix are available year-round for delivery to various sites throughout Cumming. 770-652-3304, circlealettuce.com
Johns Creek Arts Center | Johns Creek
There’s more to the Johns Creek Arts Center than meets the eye. In fact, it may not catch your eye at all if you’re not specifically searching for it, but a wonderfully assorted world of artistic opportunities awaits in its inconspicuous facility. Recognized by the Chamber of Commerce as a “Jewel of Johns Creek,” the arts center offers a variety of camps, classes, outreach programs and events. For the seriously aspiring artist, six- to eight-week classes in topics from ceramics and sculpture to jewelry and mosaics are available each season, while those who’d rather dabble in a new medium may be interested in the center’s experimental art workshops. Groups of eight or more can organize a fun-filled evening of Bottles and Brushes, or work with the center’s staff to customize a group event. A gallery in the lobby features instructors’ artwork for show and sale (stop by through March 2 for a special Georgia Watercolor Society exhibition) and the annual Art in Bloom fundraiser on March 21 promises an inspiring evening with artistic interpretations in fresh flowers. 6290 Abbots Bridge Road, Building 700, 770-623-8448, johnscreekarts.org
Marvelous Cupcake | Suwanee
Given our weakness for sweets and the sheer volume of cupcakeries in the communities around Atlanta, we’ve become connoisseurs of these single-serving confections, and we’ve learned that not all are created equally. Our greatest complaint is that some put more emphasis on visual appeal than taste — icing that’s too stiff or piled too high, cake that’s too dry to uphold the “right” shape, garnishes that are pretty but impractical. None of these problems exist at Marvelous Cupcake. The shop is less showy than some of its competitors (it’s located in an often overlooked strip mall), but it boasts some of the best cupcakes in town. Here, the cake is always light and moist, the icing is creamy and subtly sweet and the proportion of the two is just right. (They’re visually appealing, too, but that’s just the icing on the cake!) Flavors rotate daily, with favorites like Red Velvet and Cinnamon Swirl making frequent appearances, and a drive-through window offers a quick and convenient fix for your sweet tooth. marvelouscupcake.com
Old Mill Park | Roswell
While the shops and restaurants along Canton Street buzz with business, an . historic gem hides nearby. Featuring an interpretative walk that highlights the old mill ruins, Roswell’s Old Mill Park provides access to Vickery Creek and its 30-foot dam, which was constructed in the 1830s to supply power to the mills. An audio tour, downloadable via visitroswellga.com, allows visitors to step back in time as they explore the Mill Village and hike to the ruins at their own leisure, and the Vickery Creek Covered Pedestrian Bridge is the perfect place for a picnic or a photo opp when the weather warms. 95 Mill View Ave.
Moxie Burger | Marietta
Truth is, some of us love burgers. For those of us who previously considered these patties as simply part of the comfort food repertoire, we would like to extend a sincere thank you to Chas D’Huyvetter. As the owner and operator of Moxie Burger, not only has this local boy given us a hidden gem we can sink our teeth into — again and again and again — he has successfully elevated the burger to the status of culinary kryptonite. When D’Huyvetter decided years ago that the world needed a bit more moxie, he certainly knew how to put a delicious dent in the appetites of Atlanta’s Northside. Never mind the comfy feel of his neighborhood restaurant, complete with sizeable bar, deep wooden booths and a menu written in chalk … what keeps us coming back for more is the juicy burgers. The signature Moxie, 6-ounce certified Angus beef, topped with fried green tomato, bacon, pimento cheese and the über special, super secret moxie sauce miraculously made a believer out of one particular Southerner who has never taken a liking to pimento cheese. Perhaps because this pimento cheese is made in-house and is pure perfection on a patty.
Of course, should you want to venture outside the beef burger box, menu offerings also include ground lamb from White Oak Pastures, black bean patties, ground turkey, grilled chicken, and the opportunity to build your own burger. Salads, “dawgs,” a kids’ menu and a well-conceived list of libations (craft beer and wine) ensure everyone in the family is happy. We would be even happier if more Moxie Burgers opened in our communities … “the world needs more moxie,” after all! 255 Village Pkwy NE, 770-627-3201, moxieburger.net
Coming Soon in Hidden Hometown Gems
Stay tuned for the following communities in our Hidden Hometown Gem series!
March – Acworth & Kennesaw
April – Dunwoody & Sandy Springs
Share Your Gems!
No one knows the Northside like you, dear readers! Help us uncover hidden gems in your hometown by e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
Special Advertising Section: Hometown Highlights
Advantage Math Club
This independent, teacher-owned center is a cozy and cool place for students in grades 3 – 5 to learn about math. The relaxed facility fosters creativity and provides a blended and integrated learning experience taught by Georgia certified elementary teachers. Both individual and small group instruction are available.
11050 Crabapple Road, Roswell, 770-642-0004, advantagemathclub.com
American Casual Living
Inspired by a deep-rooted passion for creating comfortable, year-round outdoor living areas for family fun, entertaining friends, or quiet enjoyment and relaxation, this family-owned store and showroom brings to life the very finest outdoor/casual furnishings and accessories available.
1955 Mall of Georgia Blvd., Buford, 770-325-0500, americancasualliving.com
Computer Medics of Lanier
Specializing in PC and laptop repair, network setup and trouble shooting, virus removal, data recovery, hardware upgrades and smartphone and tablet screen repairs, Computer Medics’ trusted technicians provide both onsite appointments and services in their repair shop, with night and weekend service available by appointment.
4730 Hammond Industrial, Cumming, 678-910-3033, computermedicsoflanier.com
Nestled on the historic Marietta Square, dk Gallery represents emerging and established contemporary painters and sculptors of the South who have demonstrated advanced mastery of their media. This month’s show features “Expressions of Love: Poetic Abstractions by Jennifer Rivera and The Atlanta Poetry Community.”
25 W. Park Square, Marietta, 770-427-5377, dkgallery.us
Eyesite Family Vision Center
With four locations in Atlanta’s Northside, Eyesite’s locally owned vision centers bring more than 20 years of eye care to the community. Services include comprehensive eye exams for adults and children 3 years of age and up, treatment and management of ocular disease, pre-op and post-op care for Lasik surgery, and more.
Locations in Buford, Duluth, Cumming and Gainesville, eyesite4u.net
This full-service interior design boutique places emphasis on all the interior wood products of a home, as well as detailing the interior finishes such as home furnishings and accents. Insidesign’s 10,000-square-foot showroom provides inspiration for all your senses and delivers an excellent level of quality.
1231 Ashford Crossing, Dunwoody, 770-673-0721, myinsidesign.com
Marmi is a top retailer for ladies shoes and features hard-to-find, narrow sizes. Marmi stores offer a relaxed, boutique-like atmosphere and helpful staff trained in proper fit and comfort. You’ll also find a unique array of accessories, including handbags, belts and jewelry.
Lenox Square, Buckhead and The Forum on Peachtree Parkway, Norcross, marmishoes.com
Each Salon 124 stylist regularly attends training and advanced education courses, keeping them at the forefront of growing and developing stylists and providing customers with consistent, creative and attentive service. The “124 Experience” guarantees that you’ll never feel rushed or pushed at Salon 124.
635 W. Crossville Road, Roswell and 6603 Sugarloaf Pkwy., Duluth, salon124.com
Southern Landscape Supply
This family-owned business sells a variety of landscape and masonry supplies in bulk quantity, including stone, topsoil, mulch, gravel, sand, and bioretention soil. Their professionals have more than 60 years of experience and are dedicated to providing customers with the highest quality product and service at a competitive price.
1705 Ronald Reagan Blvd., Cumming, 770-205-9393, southernlandscapesupply.com
Inviting you to celebrate the joys of color and design, scents and textures, nature and home, Trish Land’s inspired gift boutique features European farm-style furniture and accessories, original art and special treats for yourself or that special someone.
3131-A Main St., Duluth, 770-875-3382, trishland.com
This truly authentic Italian market and deli serves grab-and-go meals such as fantastic paninis on crispy ciabatta and imported meats and cheeses. It is also one of the few local places to find Sapori del Vallo, a fresh pasta imported from Southern Italy. Try it at home with one of their homemade sauces.
11705 Jones Bridge Road, Johns Creek, 770-676-7180
Woody’s Meat & Sausage Co.
Charles “Woody” Horsnby specializes in providing unique, hand-ground, blended-to-perfection Italian sausage from a 100-year-old recipe, hand-cut, aged choice beef of all kinds trimmed to your specifications, incredible thick-cut bacon from Virginia, brats, brisket, chops and more.
5925 Atlanta Hwy., Alpharetta, 770-674-1655, woodysmeatandsausageco.com