Call it a super group restaurant concept. Wonderkid, the new retro-modern diner from Darren Carr and Eric Simpkins, the partners behind Big Citizen (Bon Ton; the Lawrence; Miracle Bar Atlanta), and Nick and Steven Carse, the brothers behind King of Pops, opened in late December at the Atlanta Dairies complex on Memorial Drive.
From 8 a.m.-11 p.m. every day but Monday, Wonderkid executive chef Justin Dixon (the Shed; Bully Boy) is offering up diner-style classics with some clever twists. The “Just the A.M.” menu is served until 11 a.m., the “All Day” menu runs from 11 a.m. until 10 p.m., and the “Always Wonderful” menu is available all hours.
Among the dishes, look for a Falafel Waffle with tabbouleh, roasted eggplant, and sunflower sprouts; Steamed Mussels with wine broth, garlic, leeks, fresh herbs, and fries with dijonnaise dipping sauce; a hefty Roasted Turkey Sandwich with fresh mozzarella, cranberry relish and basil mayo; and an oversized Chicken Pot Pie with roasted root vegetables, black pepper gravy, and puff pastry.
In addition, King of Pops is debuting its new soft-serve ice cream at Wonderkid. Made with premium grass-fed Georgia dairy products and “single source fruits,” right now, vanilla and chocolate, and dairy-free raspberry and pineapple are on tap, with swirls, toppings and sugar cones, too.
Other desserts include the likes of Buttered Rum Bundt Cake, Mocha Cream Pie, and Caramel Layer Cake, all baked fresh daily by pastry chef Sarah Simpkins.
The drinks menu from beverage director Taylor Blackgrave includes “Greatest Hits” and “Now Playing” music-inspired cocktail lists, selections of mostly American wines and local canned beers, and nonalcoholic canned and bottled beverages and zero-proof cocktails.
Employing midcentury design elements, Atlanta’s Smith Hanes Studio created a surprisingly cozy space that recalls vintage Los Angeles diners, with a step-up counter, tufted booths, and retro tables and chairs.
Last week, Carr, Simpkins and the Carse brothers sat down at a table in the still under construction private event space at Wonderkid to talk about opening a restaurant and bar together.
“The way Wonderkid came to be was a meeting of the minds between both the Big Citizen crew and the King of Pops crew,” Nick Carse said. “We had known each other for some time, and we were both looking at spaces next to each other at Atlanta Dairies, but decided it would be better together.
“I think we’ve always respected each other’s creativity, hard work, and business ethics and ethos. I think that our businesses are similar with the type of culture we have and how we like to go about things. So here we are with a diner, soft serve, and some amazing drinks, all in the same space.”
“We did a pretty in-depth study, asking, what is a diner?” Carr said. “To so many different people, it’s so many different things. And people take a lot of ownership of their diners, as well. If you speak to somebody from Philly, or somebody from New York, or Chicago, or L.A., they’ve all got a different idea of what a diner is.
“We took that it’s a place where people need to feel comfortable and welcome and relaxed. And then we took the essence of the diner combined with the offerings of the diner. But we all loved that sort of West Coast diner feel the most. That’s probably what comes through the most here. But you’ll see snippets from places from all over. And we wanted to create intimacy and a cozy feeling, too.”
Asked about the food and drink at Wonderkid, Simpkins noted that, like the space, it was a matter of taking a look at what a diner is to various people.
“What are the experiences people have from the late night after-party, to the morning with a cup of coffee and a newspaper at a counter, to the lunch burger in the middle of the day?” he said. “And because we come from a bar-centric background, we really wanted to bring the bar out more, because most diners that even have alcohol have very few offerings.
“Between the King of Pops and Big Citizen, the thing that has been a hallmark of both of our companies is the fun that we have. That was one of the big tenets for looking at the food and the drink. It had to hit the marks that reminded people of diners. So it’s classic American comfort food, but it’s reimagined in a lot of fun ways.”
“We’ve been making pops almost every day for 10 years, and we’ll have a full menu of those pops here,” Steven Carse said. “But one of the things we’re most excited about is rolling out soft serve here. So it’s kind of the culmination of those 10 years, and the flavors we’ve been working with.
“It feels good to be unveiling that here, both because it’s a historic Atlanta building, and because it’s less than a mile from our headquarters and where both Nick and I live. So it all just seems right to be able to do it in this space with these guys.”
777 Memorial Drive, Atlanta. 404-331-0720, wonderkidatl.com
Scroll down for more images from a First Look at Wonderkid
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