First Look: Tupelo Honey serving up Southern in Sandy Springs

The original Tupelo Honey Cafe in Asheville became a fixture of the quaint-and-cool western North Carolina city’s dining scene, drawing visitors and locals willing to wait in long lines to sample its generous brand of scratch-made, “Southern Appalachian cuisine” for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

That popularity spawned locations across the Southeast, with more coming to Texas and Colorado soon. In late June, the first metro Atlanta Tupelo Honey Cafe opened in a sprawling 6,800-square-foot space in the new Sandy Springs Gateway development on Roswell Road.

The location was planned as a prototype of things to come, with an expanded bar program featuring 36 craft beers on tap and four draft cocktails, plus Atlanta-only food and drink specials.

“This is all born out of one little store in Asheville,” the founder and CEO, Steve Frabitore, said one recent afternoon.“This store we brought to Atlanta is our latest and greatest thinking, and we’ve already had a great response. People seem to really love the bar program and love the food, so we’re off to a tremendous start here.”

Knoxville native Ryan Moore is the chef at Sandy Springs, bringing over 25 years of experience cooking in large and small kitchens, most recently at Tupelo Honey in Knoxville.

Among the weekly specials Moore is presenting, there’s the $6 “Shoo Mercy” burger, served after 8 p.m. on Mondays, and the popular $10 bottomless “Mac-Smack-n-Cheese,” served after 8 p.m. on Thursdays.

But the aptly named Fried Chicken Tower has been the biggest hit, so far, Moore said. Served family-style in limited quantities after 4 p.m. on Sundays and Wednesdays, the $23 food sculpture holds two breasts, two thighs, four biscuits and blueberry jam. What’s more, the chicken pieces are sprinkled with a bit of Tupelo Honey’s secret “Bee Dust.”

“It’s brined for 24 hours, then battered and bread in a special blend of spices,” Moore said. “At the end, it gets a touch of the Bee Dust. It’s a little bit sweet and a little bit savory. Even I don’t know exactly what’s in it. But it’s good.”

Another signature of the Tupelo Honey menu is the phrase “shoo mercy,” which roughly translates to “over the top.”

“The shoo mercy shrimp and grits go back to a lady at the original Asheville location,” Moore said. The dish adds caramelized onions, sauteed mushrooms, spinach, bacon and more shrimp than the regular version. And when they would set this stuff down in front of this lady, she would say, ‘Shoo mercy, this is so good.’ So when we go over the top with any dish it’s shoo mercy.”

Right now, Tupelo Honey is only open for dinner. But weekend brunch will launch on Saturday and lunch service is set to begin the following Monday.

“If dinner is any indication, we’re expecting to be very, very busy,” Moore said. “We’re already number two sales among 13 stores. We’re pretty famous for our brunch, with things like our shoo mercy sweet potato pancake. And we’re adding some new things, too, like a couple of new scrambles. So after we open for brunch and lunch, we’ll likely be number one, no doubt.”

Here's more from a First Look at Tupelo Honey Cafe in Sandy Springs. 

The new Watermelon Salad over spicy arugula with honey yogurt dressing, topped with country ham and candied basil. (BECKY STEIN PHOTOGRAPHY)
The new Citrus Shrimp Salad is lightly dusted with a red chili spice over an orange ginger fennel salad. (BECKY STEIN PHOTOGRAPHY)
Shoo Mercy Shrimp & Grits with caramelized onions, mushrooms, spinach, bacon and additional shrimp. (BECKY STEIN PHOTOGRAPHY)
Chef Ryan Moore at the new Tupelo Honey Cafe in Sandy Springs. (BECKY STEIN PHOTOGRAPHY)

4600 Roswell Road, Building C, Suite 110, Sandy Springs. 404-649-6334.

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