We went to Atlanta for a Celtics-Hawks game a couple of weeks back (big haha to the overzealous guy in all blue yelling at us that the Hawks were clearly better). While we were there, we wanted to try out somewhere new to eat. We started at Taco Mac the night of the game, and it was good for a wings place - and had a very impressive tap listing. The next morning we hit up Hugh Acheson's creation Empire State South for brunch. Hugh recently took home TWO James Beard Foundation awards for his cookbook A New Turn in the South and also won as Top Chef in the Southeast (for his Five and Ten restaurant).
It was a beautiful morning, and the courtyard looked very welcoming, but the inside looked too cozy to try the outside yet. The gigantic booths and mixed chairs inside gave it a really laid back look, and I loved the open feeling. The staff was great and the food was better. This is probably the only restaurant experience I'd ever give a perfect 10. Hugh Acheson and Chef Ryan Smith are really killin' it with this place.
Their coffees were ridiculously good. Jenn started with Hugh's breakie - toast, local fresh fruits and cheeses, and some jam. It was a knockout. I started with some pimento cheese with bacon marmalade.
It was really great. It had a smoky flavor and the toast was perfect with it.
I like my pimento cheese recipe, but this one wins. We chowed on that for a while before we shared the griddled pork belly. I remember it having brussels sprout leaves, anson mills grits, sorghum gastrique (which seems to be in every other dish now), and coddled egg. It sounded like a pretty ambitious dish with all of those flavors, so I was curious. It was unsurprisingly complex, but wasn't too much. I was very impressed.
We finished it with a housemade donut. I'm addicted to donuts. I try to avoid even going places that sell them so I won't eat 50. This one is up there with the best donuts I've ever had.
I'm looking forward to my next trip over to ATL so I can chow down again. And Chef Smith can teach me how to play bocce ball on that court out in the courtyard and sip on some of their summertime bottled cocktails.