The partners include three former veterans of Ford Fry Restaurants — general manager Peter Chvala, executive chef Nolan Wynn and bar manager Faielle Stocco — as well as bar manager Katie McDonald, a familiar presence behind the bar program at Wrecking Bar Brewpub.
Besides paying their dues on the Atlanta restaurant scene, the four longtime friends had been talking about opening a place of their own for years, before finally taking the plunge in 2017. The fulfillment of their dreams is an atmosphere that highlights both classic and contemporary elements, and menus that offer fresh riffs on familiar food and drink.
Located in the former My Sister’s Room space at the corner of Glenwood Avenue and Gresham Avenue, the design by Elizabeth Ingram with architect Sarah Hawker aims for rustic elegance, with bare hardwood floors and whitewashed brick. Deep shades of blue echo in ceramic tiles, wall coverings, and the dramatic curtains that divide the bar area and the dining room.
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Wynn’s seasonal menu is split between starters that could serve as small plates, substantial entrees, vegetable sides, and desserts.
Among current dishes, there’s an artfully plated endive salad with Gorgonzola, beets, walnuts, fennel, citrus and sumac. An autumnal pork tenderloin comes with cranberry mostarda, rosemary turnips, and apple cider jus.
Cocktails are the star of a beverage menu that includes local beer on draft and in cans, and a concise, food-friendly wine list.
Last week, Chvala, Wynn, Stocco and McDonald took some time off before dinner service to talk about Banshee.
“We really wanted to stay true to how East Atlanta is,” Chvala said.“We’re offering something a little bit different, but East Atlanta is one of our favorite neighborhoods in the city. Most of us live either right up the street or in the neighborhood itself, so it was really exciting to find a location that suited our needs right here.
“When we were looking for the idea and the vibe and the name, somehow we came across Banshee, and we all really liked that. It sounded very East Atlanta. It’s basically a ghost in Irish lore that would appear when someone was about to die. We’d always talked about doing a restaurant, but it had been years, so the idea of never actually doing it was haunting us, and we needed to follow up.”
Wynn said he’s still refining the menu by observing and learning what guests are ordering and responding to, but first and foremost, it’s always about what’s in season.
“The concept is really driven by what is available, and a focus on those vegetables, and building everything around that,” Wynn said. “There’s not any specific style of cuisine we’re adhering to; we’re just using those ingredients and applying a lot of different techniques.
“The idea with the pork tenderloin is that fall nostalgia, like Thanksgiving, and all those hearty and comforting flavors, and again, what’s available. Turnips are just starting to come in. Apples and apple cider are coming into season. All those things come together to create a feeling. The endive salad is the same, with bitter greens and baby fennel coming in, and we complement them with a rich beet and Gorgonzola dressing with honey.”
Speaking about the place of the bar at Banshee, McDonald and Stocco said they wanted to create a space that would be inviting and relaxing, with drinks that still might challenge guests’ palates.
“Faielle and I worked together a long time ago, and have always talked about the things we love, like Amari, port and tequila,” McDonald said. “I’ve worked at amazing bars, and I’ve loved them, but it is fun to curate your own. We wanted to showcase the things we love.
“The Staccato is a bourbon-based cocktail, but the main component of that cocktail is port. So it’s fun to show people that, and have that conversation, and then ask if they might like to try a port by itself. The same goes for cordials, and things like sherry and vermouth.”
1271 Glenwood Ave. SE, Atlanta. 470-428-2034, banshee-atl.com.
More images from a First Look at Banshee in East Atlanta Village