"Cape Cod-meets-Santa Monica” is one of the ways chef-owner Marc Taft of Marietta’s Chicken and the Egg explains Brine Seafood Shack, his new chic but laid-back restaurant at the Avalon retail complex in Alpharetta.
The multilevel, choose-your-own-experience dining destination clearly has a lot going on, including indoor, outdoor and rooftop seating under a retractable roof, with two bars, and lunch, dinner and rooftop menus.
The menus, created by Taft and Brine chef de cuisine David Connolly, previously of Two Urban Licks and Tap, feature sustainable seafood from New England, the West Coast and the Gulf of Mexico.
Dishes range from a daily crudo or ceviche, shucked oysters, peel and eat shrimp, and other raw bar items to Portuguese fish stew, fried seafood baskets, and hot or cold lobster rolls.
What’s more surprising is that Taft was able fit so much into a narrow jewel box space perched in the center of one of Avalon’s main pedestrian promenades.
One busy Saturday afternoon, Taft was working the line at Brine when he took a break to talk about the evolution of the concept and some of the things he has in the works with his Southern Fried Hospitality management and development group.
“Probably every chef wants to do seafood at some point, and we knew we wanted to do that somewhere, sometime,” Taft said. “But this opportunity at Avalon expedited this particular concept. A lot of chefs are doing seafood restaurants that are more upscale now. We kind of went the opposite way with something casual and easy.
“I spent time in Southern California, where it’s beautiful every day, and you go out to the beach at lunch and eat fish tacos. But I grew up in Alabama, and my idea of the beach was the Gulf Coast and seafood shacks. David spent five years in Maine, so we knew we wanted to get New England dishes in there, too.”
How all of those influences are translated veers between different sections of the menu and a wide variety of flavors and preparations.
“You’ll notice we have the tuna poke and the fish tacos, and you see some Asian influence there. But you also see very traditional New England seafood, like chowder and fried clam bellies,” Taft said. “We did add some familiar items at dinner, like lobster mac and shrimp and grits. We have our fried chicken from Chicken and the Egg, and we have a great burger, too.”
Like the menu, the space was subject to some creative tinkering that ultimately created the kind of casual atmosphere Taft envisioned.
“Originally, they wanted me to do a big restaurant here,” Taft said. “But we found this space and that’s where it came to this idea of a modern seafood shack. And then we wondered if we could do a rooftop. Arcadia Louvered Roofs out of Dahlonega did this retractable roof, which is the only one in Georgia and one of only three in the United States. I wanted it to feel like the beach up here, and when its breezy, it really does.”
As far as upcoming Southern Fried projects, Taft admits he’s about to be a very busy man. Feed Fried Chicken & Such is set to open any minute now in the Battery Atlanta adjacent to SunTrust Park. And CO-OP Community Table + Bar is scheduled to open in April in Forsyth County’s Halcyon Development.
“We waited six years after opening Chicken and the Egg to do something else,” Taft said. “But we want all of our places to be like this and not pretentious. We’ll make sure you know what’s on the menu, so you can order confidently and not worry about what you’re getting on your plate. That’s going to be our approach across our brands — chef-driven but approachable and user-friendly.”
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