Alma Cocina Buckhead in the Terminus 100 Building

First Look: Contemporary Mexican comes to Buckhead with Alma Cocina

Alma Cocina Buckhead opened last week in the Terminus 100 complex at the corner of Peachtree and Piedmont roads.

It’s the second location of the popular contemporary Mexican concept from Fifth Group Restaurants (South City Kitchen; Ecco; La Tavola Trattoria; the Original El Taco; Lure). The first Alma Cocina opened on Peachtree Street in downtown Atlanta in 2011.

Like the original, the Buckhead menu from longtime executive chef Chad Clevenger combines local ingredients with traditional techniques and contemporary twists to create a colorful variety of signature dishes and seasonal updates.

Look for the likes of Fried Chihuahua Cheese with salsa verde and corn tortillas; a Poblano Chile En Nogada filled with fried cauliflower, black beans, butternut squash, pears, apples and pomegranate, topped with walnut sauce; and Shellfish Ceviche with apples, grapes, jicama, cucumbers, avocado, and apple aguachile.

The bar area features rebar and repurposed industrial lighting.  CONTRIBUTED BY CHRIS HUNT PHOTOGRAPHY

New at the Buckhead location, the brunch service starting at 11 a.m. on Saturdays and Sundays will offer Clevenger’s takes on Mexican-influenced dishes like a breakfast burrito, and tres leches French toast.

The beverage program from the new director of beverage Ian Mendelsohn showcases agave and other Latin American spirits, with small producer rum, pisco, and mezcal, including Xicaru Pechuga Mole — plus selections of draft and bottled beer, and wines by the glass or bottle.

Featured cocktails include Alma’s Cantarito with El Jimador Reposado Tequila and fresh citrus juices. Tequila Cubes are tequilas paired with infused ice cubes, such as the Plata with 2010 Single Estate Tequila Ocho, “Los Nopales” floating with a morello cherry, cara-cara orange, cassis, and mint cube.

Recessed booths in the bar area. CONTRIBUTED BY CHRIS HUNT PHOTOGRAPHY

The design by Atlanta’s ASD|SKY includes a spacious bar area with a row of small banquettes recessed in one wall. There’s a private dining room nearby. And with its high ceiling, the main dining room is surrounded by an L-shaped enclosed patio with wood, concrete and steel slats, and rows of hanging plants.

Last week, Fifth Group founding partner Robby Kukler sat down with Clevenger and Mendelsohn to talk about the food, drink and design at Alma Cocina Buckhead.

“Being that Buckhead is a different part of the city, with a different clientele, and different things going on over the weekend, the brunch thing is going to be new, and I’m hoping to serve more ceviches and lighter fare, too,” Clevenger said. “And we’ll keep things seasonal, of course. I’m going to push a little bit more to open up my repertoire of Mexican cuisine, and really show what Alma is all about.

“I can’t think of many restaurants in the city or even in the country that do the things that we do, whether it’s the seasonal things or ceviches or sopes or huaraches. I try to do everything from scratch with manipulating masa into different colors and different textures. I’ve got a French technique with some Mexican flair in there, too. But for the most part, I just push myself to do new and seasonal things, and I hope people in Buckhead will enjoy that.”

Alma Cocina Buckhead dining room.  CONTRIBUTED BY CHRIS HUNT PHOTOGRAPHY

Talking about beverages, Mendelsohn noted that mezcal has become a major focus.

“Mezcal has been wild to watch the last five or six years,” he said. “More and more is coming into the country, and it just keeps getting better and better. People have understood that mezcal is not the fire water it was 20 years ago. There are these great family producers, and with Chad’s food, we can showcase that renaissance with a whole range of products. There’s the smoke, and how it’s made, but the floral aspects are so distinctive, too.”

As far as opening a second Alma Cocina in Buckhead, Kukler said he thought as much about Mexico City as Atlanta.

Robby Kukler (from left; Fifth Group founding partner), Chad Clevenger (executive chef) and Ian Mendelsohn (director of beverage operation). CONTRIBUTED BY CHRIS HUNT PHOTOGRAPHY

“We approached this a one a little different,” he said. “Right in the path with South City Kitchen and with Ecco, we have said we never want to create cookie cutter restaurants, but we want you to know that they’re siblings. We never want to do something identical. We’ve always taken inspiration from the buildings we were in. Here it’s high ceilings, glass, the idea of the big city outside.

“So the idea was Mexico City industrial, and looking at restaurants in those kinds of spaces that are very urban. We also wanted to do something a little more raw and open. All that tied together to wanting to do something really fun in this space. This is very different than downtown. And if and when this concept were to grow and we’d do it again, it would be closer to this, again, than downtown. We’re thrilled and excited the way this came out, and we’re planning to be here for a really long time.”

Terminus 100, 3280 Peachtree Road NE, Atlanta. 404-873-4676, buckhead.alma-atlanta.com.

Scroll down for more images from a First Look at Alma Cocina in Buckhead

Fried Chihuahua Cheese, salsa verde, corn tortillas. CONTRIBUTED BY CHRIS HUNT PHOTOGRAPHY
Xicaru Pechuga Mole. CONTRIBUTED BY CHRIS HUNT PHOTOGRAPHY
Chile En Nogada, with fried cauliflower, black beans, butternut squash, pears, apples, pomegranate, walnut sauce. CONTRIBUTED BY CHRIS HUNT PHOTOGRAPHY
Fried Cauliflower Sope, huitlacoche, pico de gallo, cashew crema. CONTRIBUTED BY CHRIS HUNT PHOTOGRAPHY
Shellfish Ceviche apples, grapes, jicama, cucumbers, avocado, apple aguachile. CONTRIBUTED BY CHRIS HUNT PHOTOGRAPHY
Herradura "Double Reposado" Tequila, paired with passion fruit, mango, agave, blood orange, vanilla, guajillo pepper infused ice cube. CONTRIBUTED BY CHRIS HUNT PHOTOGRAPHY

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