Zac Brown Band chef talks about new restaurant slated for Philips Arena


Viewers of this season of “Food Network Star” already know that the competition includes a face and name familiar to fans of the Zac Brown Band – Chef Rusty Hamlin.

The teddy bear-ish Hamlin couldn’t give many details about his future on the show - “You’ll have to keep watching every week!” he said, cheerfully – but regardless of how his turn on reality TV turns out, Hamlin will have plenty to keep him busy.

As the guy responsible for cooking the epicurean offerings for Brown’s legendary pre-concert “Eat & Greet” fan gatherings for more than a decade, Hamlin knows about preparing menus for large groups.

Killer Mike (center right) and Chef Rusty Hamlin (fourth from left) pose with sledgehammerrs at the announcement of the Philips Arena renovations. HYOSUB SHIN / HSHIN@AJC.COM

But the executive chef for Brown’s Southern Ground empire will escalate those skills as the captain of Zac Brown’s Social Club, the full-service restaurant and adjacent concession stand that will open at Philips Arena during the Atlanta Hawks’ 2018-2019 season.

At the Wednesday unveiling of the new amenities in the 192 million makeover of the downtown arena, Hamlin said it was “an honor to come into our home city and show what we’ve learned around the country, from local farms to docks.”

Hamlin is a Louisiana native who moved to Atlanta in 1996 and specializes in “combining Louisiana flavors with Southern flavors.”

The restaurant will have a set menu that might be tweaked for seasonal offerings. Hamlin is also working with ZB Customs, Brown’s custom furniture company that is part of his 165,000-square-foot command center in Peachtree City, as well as the architecture firm HOK on the design plan for the space.

Hamlin anticipates “a lot of leather” and designs that coincide with “who we are as Southern men.”

Proceeds from the Southern Ground and Social Club restaurants will benefit Brown’s Camp Southern Ground, the 465-acre camp in Fayetteville.


The other musician staking a spot in the soon-to-be-transformed Philips Arena is Run the Jewels rapper Killer Mike (aka Michael Render).

The Atlanta native is expanding his SWAG Shop, which he first opened in 2011 near his old Atlanta neighborhood near Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport.

“Barbershops are rest areas and social clubs for working class guys,” Render said Wednesday, joking that since the space will overlook the basketball court, “We’ve got a blue collar scout box!”

The savvy businessman said he learned from his mother’s entrepreneurial spirit and that his success is aided by his business partner, wife Shana Render.

While construction takes place this summer at Philips Arena, all arena shows have been bumped north to Infinite Energy Arena in Duluth. The first concert slated for Philips when the venue re-opens from this phase of construction is Fall Out Boy on Nov. 4.

Fans won’t notice any difference as far as stage configurations, however, the venue’s concert seating capacity will dip a couple of hundred from about 17,700 to 17,500. A row of reserved seating around the lowest circumference of the arena will be removed, but the additional floor space means extra chairs can be placed there instead.

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About the Author

Melissa Ruggieri
Melissa Ruggieri
Atlanta Journal-Constitution staff writer Melissa Ruggieri covers music and entertainment news for the AJC. She remembers when MTV was awesome.