A couple of months ago, my husband Bill and I got all dressed up for a fancy meal at Craft Atlanta. We didn’t know it at the time, but Craft Atlanta and the other Craft related restaurants around the country were founded by Chef Tom Colicchio, the same guy who created Bravo’s hit reality series, Top Chef. Bill and I had seen episodes of Top Chef when we still had access to cable television, but we moved abroad for a couple of years. Then we moved to a rural town in Georgia, where cable television isn’t available. Since we were not willing to sign up for a five year contract for satellite TV, we sort of lost touch with Top Chef. Consequently, when we dined at Craft Atlanta for Bill’s birthday, we were there only because we’d heard the food and service were top notch. And they were! We had a marvelous time, even if it was one of the most expensive meals we’d ever enjoyed.
Fast forward a couple of months. Bill and I were curious about Craftbar Atlanta, the less formal restaurant on the first floor of the same building that houses Craft Atlanta. Realizing that we needed to drive up to Atlanta to hit Whole Foods for some slow cooking grits, we decided that before we went to the store, we would try Craftbar Atlanta for a leisurely Saturday brunch. Here’s how it went.
Reservations and First Impressions
I had no trouble making reservations for Saturday at 11:30am at Craftbar Atlanta. Over the past several years, I’ve made just about all of my restaurant reservations on OpenTable.com. All the cool restaurants use OpenTable and Craftbar Atlanta is no exception. The schedule was wide open.
Having already been to Craft Atlanta, we knew Craftbar was located on the first floor of the same building at The Mansion at 3376 Peachtree Road. We pulled into the courtyard and handed over our car to the valet. When we opened the door at precisely 11:30am, the restaurant was completely empty, save for the chef standing behind the grill. A laid back looking man in black pants and a white shit came around the corner, smiled apologetically, then welcomed us to Craftbar Atlanta. We were their very first customers of the day.
We had a choice of sitting inside or out. It was a little chilly in the restaurant, so we briefly considered eating outside, but ended up opting to sit by the window. Someone brought us ice water and some delicious fresh biscuits with butter and jam made from Georgia’s muscadine grapes.
Craftbar Atlanta’s menu is somewhat similar in concept to Craft Atlanta’s menu in that the emphasis is on using very fresh, locally produced ingredients and preparing them in the simplest ways to create delicious food. The brunch menu included some breakfasty choices like French toast, a cheese omelette, baked fritatta, and biscuits and gravy. It also included more substantial lunch-like choices like roasted chicken and fish. I noticed one could also purchase the Craftbar burger, a sandwich that seemed tempting to me, but not on a weekend when I had the opportunity to have an elegant brunch. And, for me, a good brunch called for a glass of sparkling wine!
When our waiter, Jonathan, approached us, I asked him to bring me a wine list so I could pick out a glass of bubbly. Craftbar Atlanta offers three by the glass. There was the $9 LaMarca Prosecco from Italy, the $11 Gruet Rose from New Mexico, or the Lanson Brut Champagne at $18. I wasn’t in the mood to pump up the bill with actual champagne, so I went for the prosecco. Bill had a glass of the Gruet Rose.
Although I was very tempted by the French toast with its bourbon cream and maple syrup, I had come to Craftbar Atlanta for biscuits and gravy ($12). I had taken a look at Craftbar Atlanta’s menu beforehand and was dying to know how this southern classic would be handled by a “top chef”. Bill opted for the cheese omelette ($12) and we also decided to split a side of grits ($5).
Although I came to Craftbar Atlanta hungry and eagerly partook of the biscuits offered while we were waiting, I still had plenty of room for the biscuits and gravy I ordered. Served on an oval plate with a side of light, fluffy scrambled eggs and breakfast potatoes, this meal would never be recommended by Weight Watchers. Nevertheless, it was quite delicious. Jonathan had kindly brought me a spare plate, where I could move any food that didn’t quite fit on the more decorative oval one as I split the first of two biscuits.
The gravy was a typical white one, seasoned with bits of bacon. It was served on the side and very thick. I appreciated that the gravy was on the side, since it was quite rich and I didn’t need it all. The biscuits were perfect– light and fluffy and wonderful. I enjoyed the egss and potatoes, too, but didn’t feel the need to eat them all. I probably would have been satisfied with just the biscuits and gravy.
Bill enjoyed his beautifully prepared omelette, which was made with cheddar cheese, peppers, and sweet corn. His plate was adorned with greens and sweet grape tomatoes. Bill doesn’t normally like tomatoes that much, but he did comment that he liked the ones at Craftbar. When Jonathan later spoke to us about Craft’s philosophy, he reminded us that all of the produce comes from local farms and are served in season. No wonder those tomatoes had such a lovely flavor!
Our side portion of grits came in a small metal pail. They were seasoned with pepper and what tasted like sweet corn. Normally, I like my grits rather plainly prepared, but I will admit to enjoyed the way I had them at Craftbar Atlanta. They were spruced up with just the right amount of pepper to give them a little spunk.
For dessert, I opted for a sinful creme brulee served with chocolate chip cookies ($9). It came to me in a small metal bucket with a long handle. Bill had a dark chocolate trifle with chocolate panna cotta and vanilla ice cream ($9). His dessert was covered with a thick layer of ganache on top and was absolutely delicious, although it was a bit rich. Other options included a deep dish blueberry pie, which wasn’t quite ready when we were dining, and a variety of ice creams and cookies.
We found the service at Craftbar Atlanta to be very competent and professional. Our waiter seemed a little standoffish at first, but later warmed up and talked to us about what it’s like to work at Craftbar Atlanta. In the course of our meal , two more parties of two showed up and sat outside. Jonathan seemed to handle everybody with grace and aplomb.
As I was sitting at our table, I happened to notice what looked like cookbooks on a small credenza. Jonathan confirmed that the restaurant did, in fact, sell Tom Colicchio’s cookbooks. We ended up purchasing one which was autographed by the man himself.
Not including the cookbook or tip, our bill was $75.60. Maybe that seems like a lot to pay for brunch for two, but we did have a marvelous time. The food was excellent. The service was friendly and unhurried. And we left Craftbar Atlanta perfectly satisfied and ready for our trip to Whole Foods. It was definitely easy to resist free samples at Whole Foods after such a stellar brunch at Craftbar Atlanta.
Craftbar Atlanta is a great place to go for an elegant brunch. It’s also a good place for those who would like to experience Craft Atlanta but in a more casual, less expensive atmosphere. I recommend it wholeheartedly.
For more information: http://www.craftatlanta.com/