Situated in view of the Atlanta Beltline Westside Trail, and billed as its “own unique dining experience,” Boxcar joins Monday Night Garage, the soon-to-open ASW Exchange tasting room, and the upcoming Wild Heaven Beer and Best End Brewing projects in a flourishing food and beverage district that’s being dubbed “Malt Disney.”
The Boxcar space features a restaurant and bar on the top floor, with a patio and open kitchen. In the basement, there are a new Hop City retail store, with a broad selection of craft beer and small production wines, and a second bar for sipping while you shop.
The design draws inspiration from freight train boxcars and hobo graffiti, with works by Atlanta artist Catlanta on display, including an original mural of Leon Ray Livingston, the famous American hobo and author who traveled under the name “A-No. 1.”
Executive chef Matt Hutchins has been in charge of the kitchen at Barleygarden at Avalon in Alpharetta, which opened in 2017, and was Torres’ first foray crossing over from craft beer and wine retailer to restaurateur.
But Boxcar is a much more ambitious project. And Hutchins’ menu ranges from share plates, soups and salads to cheese and charcuterie and a substantial selection of sandwiches, burgers and entrees.
Some of the opening standouts include Roasted Beet Carpaccio with goat cheese, fennel, frisee, and fennel-caper gremolata; bacon and Brussels sprouts with duck fat, maple gastrique, and apple cider syrup; and the Big Bleu Bison Burger with sherried mushrooms and blue cheese whip.
The beverage program features 80 rotating draft beers, with suggestions for pairings on the food menu, plus 30 wines by the glass using the Coravin system, and eight house cocktails.
Last week before the soft opening, Torres and Hutchins sat down at a table on the Boxcar patio to talk about the concept and menu.
“Truthfully, I wasn’t sure how this was going to go,” Hutchins said. “I worked with Kraig at Barleygarden, but that wasn’t the same vision that I had in the past. It’s smaller and more burger- and sandwich-focused.”
“The guideline I gave Matty first and foremost was making a place that the neighborhood would embrace,” Torres said. “Beyond that, I wanted Matty to express his creativity and unleash him a little bit here. He has such great ideas, particularly when it comes to using ingredients.”
Hutchins noted that the menu is a work in progress, and subject to change accordingly.
“As a general rule, I always try to source locally, wherever possible, and play with food seasonally whenever possible,” he said. “I used to be very die-hard farm-to-table everything. I’m trying to learn a balance here, and what works in making a successful business, and making people happy.
“But I’m also trying to change the menu more often than just seasonally, maybe a few items at a time. That keeps it interesting for the chefs in the kitchen, and for the bartenders, as far as pairings, and it keeps it interesting for the guests, as well.”
For Torres, Boxcar is something like the culmination of everything he’s done since opening the first Hop City in Atlanta a decade ago.
“This is our most expensive project by a pretty wide margin,” Torres said. “We did Barleygarden in Avalon. We’ve done retail stores and bars, before. The combination of everything in a 9,000-plus-square-foot beer and food wonderland is the most ambitious, but I have every confidence this is going to work.
“It’s the first place we’ve done where you can actually dine and shop in one footprint. There are really very few places in town where that’s possible. We have 1,000 beer options downstairs for you to take home, and we have about 700-800 wine options. So come upstairs, enjoy your meal, and a beer or a glass of wine you really dig, and then take it home. That’s it. That’s the punchline.”
1000 White St. SW, Atlanta. 470-788-8171, boxcaratl.com.
Scroll down for more images from a First Look at Boxcar in the Lee + White development