Last week, chef Zeb Stevenson and business partner Ross Jones debuted Redbird, taking over the back part of the Westside Provisions District space that was once home to Bacchanalia.
Among the most anticipated openings of 2019, in many ways the restaurant is already part of Atlanta dining history. Stevenson previously worked for Jones as executive chef at Watershed on Peachtree, which she sold in early 2018. And when Watershed first opened in Decatur in 1998, Bacchanalia’s Anne Quatrano was the consulting chef.
Redbird’s casually elegant design by Smith Hanes features a wide-open floor plan focused around soaring windows and natural light. The shiny exhibition-style kitchen, which can be viewed from every corner of the dining room, is flanked by an intimate chef’s counter. A spacious bar invites lingering over cocktails or a bottle of wine, and a front patio offers covered outdoor seating.
Stevenson’s dinner menu is cleverly contemporary, with a variety of sharable snacks, cold dishes and composed vegetable plates taking up the top of the page, followed by larger proteins and a list of sauces and condiments.
Throughout, you’ll find the likes of garden greens with simple vinaigrette, garlic crumbs and chives, grilled okra with buttermilk and crispy shallots, pan-roasted red snapper, and a koji-cured duck breast for two. But you’ll find many homey touches, too, including a slice of sugar cream pie, labeled, “for mom.” And there’s weekday lunch with sandwiches and weekend brunch with blueberry pancakes.
Curated by Jones, the wine list is hand-selected from family-owned and small artisan wineries she’s visited, while the bar offers premium spirits, signature cocktails, and beers from around the world.
Last week, Jones and Stevenson took turns sitting at the end of the bar at Redbird, where they talked about how the concept came about, and what they hope to present.
“After approaching 20 years with Watershed, I wanted to try something new,” Jones said. “Zeb had come to Watershed, and he and I forged a great friendship and a professional relationship that was very positive in my life. We travel together, and we talk about food, and drink wine, and we just started coming to this idea of doing a new project together.
“I just felt it was time to close the Watershed chapter and start something that was completely different. I was ready to move on, and Zeb wanted to do something, and I really wanted to support him and his vision, and the things he wanted do. So that’s how Redbird came to be. On our first day, we had a nice embrace, because it was two years in planning, and here it is now.”
Asked about creating an aesthetic and atmosphere for Redbird, Jones said comfort was the key.
“What we wanted to accomplish was a very open, sort of relaxed but beautiful environment where you could just feel comfortable no matter where you were coming from,” she said. “And we wanted everybody to see everybody. Zeb wanted the kitchen to be open and he wanted to be able to engage with everybody. The term we like to use is free-spirited. That’s really what we wanted to go after with the aesthetic and the whole feeling. It’s beautiful but it’s not fancy.”
Stevenson echoed Ross in talking about Redbird as a business born out of friendship.
“Ross and I are kind of an odd couple, but there’s a real bond of love between us,” he said. “We go out to dinner, we cook at each-other’s houses, so many of the things that we serve here at the restaurant are things we’ve cooked together and really liked. In fact, with the kitchen counter, I wanted it to feel like people were coming to my house for dinner. Yesterday, there were some guests sitting there, and I was rolling out pastry dough for pie, so we just had a conversation about the pie.”
Speaking specifically about the menu, Stevenson called it “mix-and-match.”
“The first thing I point out about the menu is that anyone can order anything the way they want to. There’s not a firm set of rules, and there are no sections. We do serve our proteins al la carte, with a section of sauces and condiments meant to add a little bit of fun. But it’s meant to be a mix-and-match experience.
“The top is cold or room temperature dishes, and a couple of snacks. You order a little bit from up there. And then if go for proteins, you can use all the vegetable dishes to serve as sides, and order some condiments, and before you know it, you’ve got a table full of things you can try together. To me, that’s the sweet spot of how to order from this menu.”
1198 Howell Mill Road, Atlanta. 404-900-5172, redbirdatl.com.
Scroll down for more images from a First Look at Redbird at the Westside Provisions District
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