The Select Restaurant and Bar opened in mid-May at City Springs, the Sandy Springs multiuse project that includes the Sandy Springs Performing Arts Center.
The 1920s-inspired concept from Vinings’ Paces & Vine partners Dave Green and David Lester pays homage to Le Select in Paris, one of the places where Jazz Age artists and writers such as Picasso, Hemingway and Fitzgerald gathered to drink and dine.
Executive chef Matt Rainey offers daily dinner and late-night small plates with dishes said to be influenced by “the olive oil regions” of Spain, Italy and southern France.
Look for starters such as Alaskan King Crab with saffron sabayon, citrus, avocado and spring onion, and entrees such as Miso Sea Bass with charred bok choy, pickled shiitake mushrooms, orange miso, and scallion salad. And in deference to neighborhood diners and Arts Center crowds, there’s Steak Frites, a Black and Blue Burger and fries, and a kids menu with pasta and a grilled cheese sandwich.
The seasonal beverage program offers some 60 bottles and more than 30 wines by the glass, plus a dozen house cocktails — including the cheery Canary Mellow cocktail with chamomile gin — and a half-dozen local beers on draft.
Designed by Smith Hanes Studio, the Select layout is divided between the main dining room and open kitchen, a curtained private dining room, and a separate barroom with cafe tables and booths. At the front of the space, a dramatic conservatory-style patio looks out on the 4-acre City Green park.
Last week, I sat down with Green and Rainey at a table near the bar, where they talked about opening a nouveau French restaurant in Sandy Springs.
“It started around the idea of doing a chef-driven concept here in Sandy Springs,” Green said. “And doing something that would be special. Maybe a little piece of Buckhead or New York. Our designer, Smith Hanes, did a great job. And things like this 1920s-style conservatory give the space a feel that goes along with our story.
“Hemingway is a favorite of mine. And I knew a little bit about Le Select and what went on there. I think it’s a really fascinating story, the places where the ex pats and the lost generation gathered and lived that bohemian lifestyle after World War I. But more than that, it was a time when you could come as you were. For us to have the Performing Arts Center here, and having a park here, brings people together. And we plan to have Select Nights with live jazz music.”
In keeping with the story, Green noted that the bar is one of the most important elements in the look and feel of the Select.
“We have a zinc bar, which is very French, and bar tables with black slate tops from 1920s blackboards, and 1920s glass in the conservatory,” Green said. “So we’ve put little things like that here and there, without going too crazy.
“As for the bar program itself, you can tell by the wines that we have things from all across Europe. Our cuisine is from what we call the ‘olive belt’ from northern Spain all the way through southern France and into Italy. So our wine director Michael Kunz gathered wines to pair with dishes from that region. And we have some great classic and craft cocktails that speak to the concept.”
A Georgia native, with a long resume working in restaurants in Atlanta and around the U.S., Rainey was most recently the executive chef at both Rococo Steak and Ceviche Tapas Bar & Restaurant in Tampa, Florida.
“My wife got a promotion, so we decided to come back to Atlanta,” Rainey said and laughed. “All my family is here, so it’s great for our kids.”
Switching to the subject of developing the menu for the Select, Rainey said that first and foremost he wanted to please the customers.
“First I just thought about what the public wanted versus what I wanted,” he said. “The concept was basically staying healthy, and being light by staying away from a lot of cream and butter, and the heavy French sauces. We’re using olive oil, lots of acid, and directing the menu that way.
“We have a 22-ounce bone-in rib-eye for the man who wants that. And then we have a 6-ounce filet. But we’re doing a lot more on the seafood side, with portions that can be shared, and a price point that’s affordable. We’re here to create a place that people can call their own. I treat my food like you’re coming to my house, and I want you to get the respect that you deserve.”
6405 Blue Stone Road, Sandy Springs. 770-637-2240, theselectatl.com.
Scroll down for more images from a First Look at The Select in Sandy Springs
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