I grew up in the suburbs of Atlanta, and if you asked me if I would ever open a restaurant in Alpharetta I would’ve laughed. This used to be farmland. But Ford Fry convinced me. He and I share a lot of similar views in the way we run our company and treat our staff. I trust his opinion. He feels confident, and he’s certainly challenged some notions about how quickly you can open restaurants and still be successful.
The Charleston Oak Steakhouse is in a three-story old bank, whereas the atmosphere here at Avalon will be more modern. There are a lot of floor-to-ceiling windows. In all our restaurants we keep some element of nature. Here, the wood in the center of the dining room is reclaimed wood from an 1850s barn in South Carolina.
We say this isn’t your parent’s steakhouse. In the winter there is not corn or asparagus on the menu, because it is not in season and we try to cook as local as possible. Instead, you’ll see brussel sprouts and root vegetables. Our thinking is that we are going more for a farm-to-table steakhouse.
Most of the food-centric crowd doesn’t associate a steakhouse with forward-thinking, so it’s about balancing that with timelessness of tradition. If you look across America, the oldest restaurants are Italian and Steakhouse. We aren’t trying to alienate people, but we want to progress the steakhouse movement along.
For me personally, one of the measures of a great steakhouse is consistency of cooking. So when you cook on wood, the heating can be a little uneven. A steakhouse menu involves exact cooking every time and a traditional grill will do that.
We are going to focus on traditional steakhouse wines, like Bordeaux and Napa Valley Cabernet. That is what people are looking for and that is what they expect. We will also have some craft cocktails on tap, like a Manhattan aged in a white oak barrel and a white Negroni.
There are only 100 seats, and none of our restaurants are larger. Even though Indigo Road has many different looks, our hospitality is consistent. We like that a manager has the opportunity to visit every table because that builds loyalty. At the end of the day it’s about getting the right people and making them happy, both our staff and the guests. Happy chefs cook happy food.
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