Kraig Torres, the owner of the Atlanta-based craft beer and wine retailer, Hop City Craft Beer & Wine, recently opened his first restaurant, Barleygarden Kitchen & Craft Bar, at Avalon, the village-like, mixed-use development in Alpharetta.
In many ways, the project is a natural follow-up to the bar at Hop City in Krog Street Market, where the mix of 60 rotating craft beer taps, plus wine and cocktails, made it a wildly popular destination.
At Barleygarden, Torres is offering 61 taps featuring craft beer at the downstairs bar, and 24 more taps featuring classic German, Belgian and English styles in the rooftop beer garden.
The minimalist 2,000-square-foot, two-story space is centered around the two bars and several outdoor seating areas, including a dog-friendly patio.
Kevin Ouzts of Atlanta’s Spotted Trotter butcher shop, who was formerly the chef-owner of the Cockentrice at Krog Street Market, joined Barleygarden as executive chef, putting together a beer-friendly menu that leans toward snacks, charcuterie and sandwiches.
One sunny afternoon last week, Torres and Ouzts were at Barleygarden to talk about the concept and the menu.
“When I was approached to open in Avalon, they wanted a bar like Krog Street, but not the retail side,” Torres explained. “But, as it turns out, you can’t simply own a bar in Alpharetta, so I either had to pass on the project or open a restaurant.”
Based on his experience at Krog Street, Torres had some definite ideas about the design for Barleygarden.
“The basic layout is mine, and I designed it from the bar out,” he said. “I wanted to make sure that nobody would go more than 30 seconds without a beer in their hand. I learned the hard way at Krog Street that you cannot have enough space behind the bar, and I dramatically underestimated how busy we would be.”
When it came to the menu, Torres had one person in mind.
“Kevin has been a friend for a long time, and he’s a guy I always wanted to work with,” he said. “We’ve done beer dinners together, and I couldn’t think of anybody’s food I’d want to serve here more than his. So we worked together to create what we thought would be an accessible menu, but at the same time, it had to be quality food.”
For his part, Ouzts said he welcomed the chance to put together a casual, beer bar-centered menu, especially in the aftermath of closing a fine dining restaurant.
“I’d come from fine dining, and lot of the food that I was doing at the Cockentrice just didn’t work for people at Krog Street,” Ouzts said. “People there seem to want easy, functional food, and just having fun.
“Here, 60 percent of the menu comes from what we make at the Spotted Trotter, and Kraig wanted that. So it’s a really great outlet for me to stay true to what I said I was going to do, which is focus on the Spotted Trotter.”
To that end, there’s a Spotted Trotter hot dog, and burger made with bratwurst. But the most obvious example of that approach is the hefty Charcuterie Grilled Cheese.
“We wanted to have a fun, approachable way to do charcuterie,” Ouzts said. “It’s like a charcuterie board on bread. I think anybody can understand that, and they can just pick it up and eat it.”
Asked about the reaction to Barleygarden so far, Torres said it had been nothing short of overwhelming.
“We’ve already exceeded any possible expectation here,” he said. “The guests have been gracious, and really thirsty and hungry.”
900 Avalon Blvd., Alpharetta. 678-266-6218, barleygardenkitchen.com.
More images from a First Look at Barleygarden Kitchen & Craft Bar at Avalon
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