The night former first lady Laura Bush, in town for a book tour stop, dined at South City Kitchen last year, her Secret Service team arrived hours ahead of time. They checked out the restaurant and designated the upstairs table where she would be seated. When she got there, though, she decided she preferred the patio. "Before long, she was posing for pictures with people walking by," South City general manager Paul Hymel said. (The Secret Service dudes were not amused. Then again, they never are).
South City hosted another presidential visit when one "Teddy Roosevelt" called for a reservation. At the appointed hour in walked Robin Williams, who played the Rough Rider in the "Night at the Museum" movies. While local notables, including former Falcon Warrick Dunn and producer Jazze Pha have long been regulars, South City has become a go-to spot for visiting celebrities in search of Southern comfort food. With each movie project lured here by the state's industry-friendly tax credits come a new crop of famous customers. South City's location, right around the corner from the celeb-favored Four Seasons and close to the W Midtown and Loews Hotel Atlanta, makes it an easy outing after a day of filming.
When they arrive, entertainers and athletes can expect attentive but not fawning service. "To me, they're just people," Hymel said. Added server Katy Reese: "We want Joe Smith to feel as special as Tom Hanks. We want Tom Hanks to feel as normal as Joe Smith."
South City doesn't hang pictures of famous guests on the wall a la the Buckhead Diner, and doesn't have much in the way of private dining space. Entertainers are usually fine with sitting in the dining room. Most of them, anyway. "When Usher comes he wants to be out of the way," Hymel said. "He doesn't really want people to talk to him." NBA player turned commentator Charles Barkley, on the other hand, will be hurt if you don't talk to him. "He likes to hold court," Reese said.
Celebs who visit South City are generally in a casual mood. Ben Affleck and Jennifer Garner came earlier this year while she was here filming "The Odd Life of Timothy Green." Afterward, "they clasped hands and just walked down the street, like they were going to go explore," Reese said. South City generally relies on referrals and word of mouth but did pursue author and reality show personality Bethenny Frankel when she was in town earlier this year. She tweeted a request for restaurant recommendations and South City Kitchen swooped in with 140 persuasive characters. (Afterward Frankel tweeted, “South City Kitchen in ATL is delicious! A must go!")
Diaz, in town filming "What to Expect When You're Expecting," visited twice in the same day. She and a group of friends were having dinner on the patio when Barkley and Chris Rock, in town for the same movie, happened by. "I can’t imagine what it must have been like to walk down Crescent Avenue and see Cameron Diaz, Charles Barkley and Chris Rock shooting the [breeze],” Reese said. Increasingly common, it sounds like.
Tori Amos is 48. Comedian-actress Kristen Wiig is 38. Actress Jenna Leigh Green is 37. Actor Brandon Adams is 32. Actress Aya Sumika is 31.
Contributing: news services
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