Bon Appetit names Atlanta’s Staplehouse as America’s Best New Restaurant

When a restaurant opens its doors, its owners hope it will succeed. But in the case of Staplehouse, a restaurant located in an unassuming brick building at 541 Edgewood Ave., in the Old Fourth Ward, its owners probably never dreamed that their concept would garner such national aplomb.

Co-owner Jen Hidinger even graced the May 2016 cover of Entrepreneur magazine.

The accolades are the culmination of a tragic story with a happy ending. The restaurant is the brainchild of Jen and Ryan HidingerRyan Hidinger passed away in 2014 after a battle with cancer, but during his medical treatment, the Atlanta restaurant community rallied around the Hidingers to raise funds for his bills. Such an outpouring of support led to the founding of the Giving Kitchen, a not-for-profit charity that provides emergency grants to metro Atlanta restaurant workers. Staplehouse serves as the profitable arm of the Giving Kitchen.

Bon Appetit deputy editor Andrew Knowlton determined the magazine's Hot 10 list along with fellow editor Julia Kramer. Knowlton stated that the Staplehouse story "tugs at your heart," but that "you don't have to know this story to appreciate a meal at Staplehouse." He said it earned top honors because "the restaurant, the area, the food (Smith) was doing, flew in the face of all my expectations of Atlanta and the South."

“I was so amazed with the complexity and layer of flavors,” said Knowlton, who grew up nearby in Alpharetta. Of Smith’s approach to new American cuisine, he said, “His food reads simple on the plate, but if you start asking questions, you are like, ‘Jeez, there’s a lot involved in that.’ That’s the brilliance of the food. Most people won’t find it intimidating. You don’t need a Ph.D. to eat it, but it has the technique of a high-end, Michelin-star (restaurant).”

Knowlton cited food, plating, wait staff knowledge, music and lighting among the determining factors for Bon Appetit’s Best New Restaurants list, but also passion. “Passion starts with the chef, owner, maitre d’ and trickles down to the bartender, waiter and host,” said Knowlton. “At the end of the day, you can tell who is trying, and those people usually succeed.”