Here are five reasons why you should go:
1. Superstar in the kitchen: While the food is deserving of a standing ovation, the executive chef, Randy Lewis, is a highly acclaimed rising star. Food & Wine magazine honored him as one of the 10 best new chefs in the country, Food Arts magazine named him one of five American chefs redefining America’s regional cuisine, and he has appeared in several episodes of “Ready, Set, Cook” on the Food Network. He is executive chef at The Gypsy Kitchen (also at Buckhead Atlanta), which is receiving rave reviews.
2. What you see isn’t what you get -- it’s better: Yes, every chef worth his or her salt is putting a twist to some sort of cuisine, whether it’s Southern, Italian, Chinese or anything else. But at Southern Gentleman, they take it to a new level -- it’s not enough to taste different, it looks different, too.
For instance, we ordered the TSG deviled eggs and were presented with a round panko-fried ball on a toothpick with a white square. The entire appetizer was delicious, the crunch ball complementing the cool white … cheese? No. It was the white of the egg! Of course it would be, but it was so visually different and so tasty that everything merged together for a delicious treat. The very attentive server told us that it’s one of the restaurant’s best sellers.
The same thing happened with the sweet potato gratin that is a side to the cast-iron seared culotte steak. The steak is impeccably prepared and presented in the same way that tuna often is served — cut into squares and lined in a row — but what caught our attention was a large orange block. It was a series of paper-thin sweet potatoes stacked like Legos. The delight of tasting something that we weren’t sure what it was (we forgot the menu) was exciting and almost dangerous. Imagine our shock and the thrill of remembering that these squares were sweet potatoes. They were soft, scrumptious and, well, amazing.
3. Appetizers, appetizers! The Southern Gentleman has a large bar that already has attracted Buckhead’s beautiful people so there is a wide variety of snack and before-supper offerings. Again, with the nothing-you-see-is-what-you-think-it-is theme, we went with the Southern classic chicken & waffles. The waitress even warned us that it is not the usual, which made it even more desirable. Yes, under the able hands and talents of the chef, Southern Gentleman’s chicken & waffles dish is much more sophisticated with the chicken being a chicken liver mouse served with small butter herb waffles. Make sure to order this.
Same with the mini shrimp andouille corn dogs served with a New Orleans remoulade. The surprise of the shrimp made the dish even more delicious because it was so unexpected. The other dish was the Louisiana Parish meat pies featuring Overview Farms beef and pork, Holy Trinity tomato, pie crust and comeback sauce. We’d like to be able to relate what it tasted like but our companion wolfed them down before we were able to get our fork across the table. He echoed what other reviewers have said -- these are so delicious that if they didn’t order anything else but these pies they would be leave happy.
4. Now that’s a drink! A true Southern gentleman appreciates a good drink (or two) and usually bourbon is involved. Southern Gentleman’s cocktail menu is as exciting and innovative as its cuisine. We ordered the old fashioned and it was potent, generous and worthy of another. What we especially like that is while it was properly chilled, there were no ice cubes to water it down. Other examples of craft cocktails include the Fallen Hound (rye, yellow chartreuse and absinthe rinse), East of the Hudson (bourbon, sweet vermouth, bitters and smoked cherry) Grit & Grace (rye, lemon, apricot liqueur and mint); and Pack of Mules (Pick vodka gin, absinthe or bourbon with lime juice and homemade ginger beer). For those who like their whiskey straight up, the eatery has a fabulous selection of bourbon (including a $74 shot of Michter’s 20 year old) as well as rye, which is hardly found in Atlanta. For those who need their hootch from Across the Pond, there is again an unusual offering of scotch — everything from Glenlivet to Oban 13 year to an 18-year-old Dalmore.
5. The decor: The Southern Gentleman really is two restaurants — a lively bar scene and a sophisticated dining room. Both complement each other, and there is enough space between them so a quiet romantic dinner or a business meeting can take place. The dining room is appropriately Southern with a formal chandelier, crystal (it looked like Waterford) and a smiley-yet-formal wait staff that will gladly describe the dish and offer opinions. Professional all around.
Mary Welch is a veteran journalist who writes about travel, lifestyle and business. Her work has appeared in publications such as the Atlanta Journal Constitution, The Fulton County Daily Report and Family Vacation Critic.