Chances are, you may have seen a minimalist sign which reads simply, “Spring” swinging on Mill Street next to the train tracks on the Marietta Square.

Tucked away just around that corner is an intimately-dressed, 40-seater restaurant, which boasts a rich and succulent hyper-seasonal menu with ingredients sourced from local farms. Spring, and its humble proprietor and head chef Brian So, may not have caught your tastebuds’ attention yet, but they’ve been garnering the attention of ravenous foodies around Marietta and metro Atlanta as well as the culinary elite.

Nothing proves that more than Chef So’s semifinalist nomination for the Rising Star Chef of the Year Award, presented by the James Beard Foundation.

“It’s very … I’m still pretty surprised,” So admitted about being recognized by the JBF. The awards honor and celebrate chefs who are making sustainable moves in and actively diversifying America’s culinary lexicon, in the name of late cookbook author and educator James Beard. The James Beard Awards are essentially the Academy Awards of restaurants in America.

Since its quiet opening in May of last year, Chef So said that Spring’s success “feels like it has been a progression.” The Kennesaw native and former Sobban chef noted that while Spring went “under the radar” at first, traffic has steadily increased with each overwhelmingly positive review that has been published.

The foodies started showing up after Christiane Lauterbach’s Knife & Fork took notice, and after being named number 25 of Atlanta Magazine’s 50 Best Restaurants, more patrons from the Metro area and Marietta proper have begun filling Spring’s chairs. Since being nominated for the James Beard Foundation’s Rising Star Chef of the Year Award, Chef So said his phones have been “blowing up,” and he hopes that supremely positive stride will continue.

Though his modest restaurant operates within the ever-popular farm-to-table model, Chef So insisted Spring is about much more than fleeting trends or buzzwords. “We don’t hit you over the head with it,” So offered. “It’s (just become) the standard … Ninety-nine percent of the time, what’s closest is what’s going to be best.”

So’s commitment to providing the freshest and most fulfilling dining experience from local ingredients is reflected in one of Spring’s signature dishes: the chicken liver pâté, served with blueberry jam, pickled mustard seed, and shaved raw pistachio on brioche bread. With full fare ranging from bacon-wrapped venison on braised red cabbage to polenta with wild mushrooms and spaghetti with rabbit sausage, it is plain to see why Spring and Chef Brian So have caught the attention of so many discerning and particular palates.

So’s efforts with Spring have also brought out the best in Marietta’s bustling culinary community, through partnerships with Cool Beans Coffee Roasters. He has also received the eager support of fellow locally-sourced eateries such as The Butcher The Baker, who are collaborating on upcoming events with Spring, and Stockyard Burgers and Bones, whose team helped with various construction projects. “We felt very welcome in the neighborhood,” So said, in delight. “Everyone’s out to grow together…The more people we get to the Square, the more it benefits us all.”

There’s no doubt that with that attitude, all of Marietta Square will be hoping that, when the James Beard Foundation announces its final nominees live via its Facebook page on March 15, that Chef Brian So and Spring will win not just for their astounding accomplishments. So for Spring has already received national recognition as one of its newest and brightest stars.

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