But Taft said his affordable gourmet Southern comfort food will hopefully be just the thing to keep customers happy and his restaurant — Chicken and the Egg — thriving.
“Food is an integral part of the hospitality that is celebrated in the South, and I want people to feel comfortable to stop in and visit with us or with friends and feel like they have walked into an upscale restaurant that is not pretentious and has a small-town, modern farmhouse feel,” Taft said.
Taft, a Montgomery, Ala., native, has lived in Marietta for three years, since he moved here from Nashville, Tenn., to open Pacci Ristorante in Atlanta. After a good run and several accolades, Pacci closed in March and Taft worked as the director of operations for the Southeast region of Kimpton Hotels and Restaurants, where he was responsible for overseeing several restaurants, including renowned Area 31 in Miami and Central 214 in Dallas.
Joseph Ramaglia, formerly the executive sous chef at Pacci, will serve as the Chicken and the Egg’s executive chef. Ramaglia grew up in the area and now lives in Marietta as well.
Taft said the restaurant’s dishes feature innovative twists on classic American dishes and include as many sustainable, locally grown, humanely bred foods as possible. Because he will be receiving new products every day and is emphasizing the farm-to-table movement that is so prevalent in California and spreading to the East Coast, the menu will change regularly with the seasons.
Taft said his ideas for both the restaurant and its name were inspired by a visit he made in May to a sustainable vineyard in Sonoma, Calif., with his wife, Elizabeth.
“There were sheep roaming and these beautiful heritage breed chickens running around, and I was amazed that they were following all of the right principles and had great food. I really liked the idea of sustainable, local foods and thought of the old riddle, ‘What came first: the chicken or the egg?’ And I thought about how the chicken is really a portrait of the cycle of life, because you can use it as a food source the whole way,” Taft said.
The food Taft created for Chicken and the Egg is heavily influenced by the dishes he learned to cook while watching his grandmother work in her east Tennessee kitchen when he was a boy, he said.
“I loved being in the kitchen, and in little towns like that, people can whip up a meal in 20 minutes and always have casseroles and pies baked in case someone stops by, or they have to take them to someone,” Taft said. “So I began thinking that if you’re in a farmhouse in the South, whether it be an agricultural farm or a pig farm or even an oyster farm, what would you be eating there? And I built on that to create the menu.”
Some of the restaurant’s entrees include pork belly sliders, Carolina crab cakes, deviled eggs and iron skillet-fried chicken. Pastry chef Karie Brown, formerly of Vinings’ Canoe and former Atlanta restaurant Repast, will be serving up desserts such as rhubarb streusel tart with brown sugar and sour cream ice cream, and praline bread pudding with caramel ice cream. Chicken and the Egg will also feature an expansive bar that seats 60 with a selection of organic wine and beers as well as fresh Southern cocktails served up by the restaurant’s resident mixologist, Brandon King, formerly of Buckhead’s Paces 88.
The restaurant is only serving dinner this week, but Taft said it would be open for lunch beginning next week, and on the following weekend, brunch will be served starting at 9:30 and will feature breakfast-only and brunch food options served family style, as well as a Bloody Mary bar and bottomless mimosas.
The 8,550-square-foot space features tables made of reclaimed wood, as well as booths and eco-conscious lighting and products. The interior of the restaurant was designed by Sieber Design of Atlanta and Designer Antiques of west Cobb built the furniture.
Many Marietta residents may be familiar with the Burnt Hickory Village – the retail center at 800 Whitlock Avenue that counts Chicken and the Egg as one of its 20 tenants – as it is home to anchors such as Gabriel’s Bakery and Desserts, Coldwell Banker and Workout Anytime. The 56,640 square-foot center opened in early 2007, but owner R.H. Ledbetter Properties of Rome has struggled to find a steady tenant over the years. The space once occupied Italian restaurant Bubbalini’s, which closed in July 2009, and was followed by Gem City, which closed in June 2010.
Marietta City Councilman Johnny Sinclair said he was happy to see a new tenant in the revolving space, and planned to eat there often, as his office is just a few feet away.
“That shopping center does not have a main tenant, and a lot of times you need those to survive, but it’s got a great location, it’s close in town, nicely built, and I’m just hoping the third time’s the charm,” Sinclair said.
Marietta resident and self-proclaimed foodie Kyle Wigington said he and his wife, Christina, ate dinner during opening night on Monday and said the food was “fantastic.”
“We do most of our eating in downtown or midtown Atlanta, and I thought they did an excellent job,” Wigington said. “There are organic, natural flavors fresh from the farm, but it didn’t come across as trying too hard. Christina had the short ribs, which were fantastic, and I tried their Cajun pasta. It was interesting because a lot of times, restaurants will do Cajun pasta with a heavy cream that is really thick, but theirs was made of fresh ingredients with spices thrown into a bowl so it was very good.”
Wigington said having a restaurant like Chicken and the Egg in Marietta is “absolutely huge,” as he said communities outside of Atlanta tend to miss the mark on having a good date space combined with a cool vibe, good food and excellent drinks.
Dinner is priced between $10 and $24 for entrees, and lunch will be served in a rotating “meat and three” format with a la carte options and prices ranging from $7 to $12.