Atlanta Orders In: Banshee shrugs off pandemic challenges with terrific seasonal fare

A peach salad with fried brie is a summer stunner at Banshee. In the background: Parisian gnocchi, fry bread and tomato Caesar. CONTRIBUTED BY WENDELL BROCK

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A peach salad with fried brie is a summer stunner at Banshee. In the background: Parisian gnocchi, fry bread and tomato Caesar. CONTRIBUTED BY WENDELL BROCK

Banshee Executive Chef Nolan Wynn found plenty of ways to stay busy during the 3½ months his East Atlanta Village restaurant was closed. He took charge of home-schooling his 5-year-old son, Sterling. He planted a garden and built a fancy new tool shed. And, he installed an 80-foot limestone path beside his home that prompted his wife to post an Instagram photo with the caption, “When chefs can’t chef.”

All jokes aside, Wynn and his partners also took care to stabilize Banshee during a time of uncertainty and prepare for their drive-through service, which launched July 7.

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Georgia peaches and pecans really shine in Banshee’s cheesecake, served with bruleed fruit and nutty granola. CONTRIBUTED BY NOLAN WYNN

Georgia peaches and pecans really shine in Banshee’s cheesecake, served with bruleed fruit and nutty granola. CONTRIBUTED BY NOLAN WYNN

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Georgia peaches and pecans really shine in Banshee’s cheesecake, served with bruleed fruit and nutty granola. CONTRIBUTED BY NOLAN WYNN

To help weather the pandemic, Banshee applied for, and received, a James Beard Foundation Food and Beverage Industry Relief Fund grant. Wynn, a 2019 semifinalist for the Beard rising star chef award, declined to disclose the amount, but said: "It was enough to help us feel comfortable with our rent and utilities for a few months, for sure, and kind of help take some pressure off being closed down."

The restaurant also received a Paycheck Protection Program loan and raffled off coveted bottles of Pappy Van Winkle, dividing the proceeds among the staff of 27. Currently, Banshee is offering carryout-only service five nights a week, prepared and served by a core group of seven employees.

Wynn, who grew up on a Moultrie farm, is showcasing the bounty of the Georgia summer with 12 stunningly good dishes. He threads skewers with chanterelles, shishitos and mortadella, and tops the charry bites with tomato mostarda and a sprinkle of benne. He builds a romaine-free Caesar with chunks of heirloom tomatoes, and a peach salad around a slice of just-warm fried brie. And, he concocts a dangerously seductive Parisienne gnocchi in a bath of lemon nage sauce, with cherry tomatoes, pole beans and Italian sausage.

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Banshee’s Katie McDonald minds the “drive-through” station. Courtesy of Wendell Brock

Banshee’s Katie McDonald minds the “drive-through” station. Courtesy of Wendell Brock

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Banshee’s Katie McDonald minds the “drive-through” station. Courtesy of Wendell Brock

The chef, who recently turned 31, discovered his passion for cooking while working over a summer break from college at Blue Sky Grill in Moultrie, “a local steakhouse that everybody came to.” While studying business at Gainesville State (now University of North Georgia), he was kitchen manager of Mama’s Boy in Athens. Sensing how much he still had to learn, he debated going to culinary school, but opted for real-life training at Hugh Acheson’s Five & Ten, where he spent about three years.

Moving to Atlanta, Wynn mastered the art of pasta at No. 246 in Decatur, and open-hearth cookery at King + Duke in Buckhead; he was sous chef at both of the Ford Fry restaurants. It was at King + Duke that he met partner Peter Chvala, and the two hatched their plan for Banshee, which they unveiled in September, 2018.

Banshee was a rarity in that it brought fine dining to scrappy East Atlanta. Thanks to Wynn's straightforward cooking, an excellent cocktail program, and late-night DJ sessions, it was a smashing success from the get-go. A review by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution's food and dining editor, Ligaya Figueras, awarded it two stars. 

Over the winter, the owners converted a small deck behind the restaurant into an inviting all-weather space, with hardwood floors, a full bar and table service. “We only got to try it out for one weekend before we had to close,” Wynn said wistfully.

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The Banshee team (from left) is Executive Chef Nolan Wynn, Bar Manager Katie McDonald, Bar Manager Faielle Stocco and General Manager Peter Chvala. CONTRIBUTED

The Banshee team (from left) is Executive Chef Nolan Wynn, Bar Manager Katie McDonald, Bar Manager Faielle Stocco and General Manager Peter Chvala. CONTRIBUTED

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The Banshee team (from left) is Executive Chef Nolan Wynn, Bar Manager Katie McDonald, Bar Manager Faielle Stocco and General Manager Peter Chvala. CONTRIBUTED

He’s determined to have fun anyway.

Fans of his pepperoni butter, normally paired with fry bread, were ecstatic to learn he’s selling it by the pint ($10). And, every week, there’ll be a secret menu item, revealed on Instagram, or by clicking the online ordering platform. I wouldn’t want to spoil the surprise, but this week’s secret involves brats and Funyuns.

This is what happens when chefs can chef.

BANSHEE

Menu: new seasonal dishes and some old favorites

What's new: weekly secret menu items

Alcohol: beer, wine and sake to go

What I ordered: fry bread, with pepperoni butter; peach salad; tomato Caesar; Parisian gnocchi; classic cheesecake, with bruleed peaches and pecan granola. From bread to dessert, it was an exceptional meal. In treating ingredients simply and without clutter, Wynn coaxes out summer's brightest flavors, to dazzling effect. From now on, I want all my peaches with fried cheese!

Service options: takeout-only; order online or over the phone; no delivery

Safety protocols: follows all recommended guidelines

Address, phone: 1271 Glenwood Ave. SE, Atlanta; 470-428-2034

Hours: 5-8 p.m. Tuesdays-Thursdays. 5-9 p.m. Fridays-Saturdays

Website: banshee-atl.com

Is there a restaurant you want to see featured? Send your suggestions to ligaya.figueras@ajc.com.

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