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Atlanta Orders In: Menu is streamlined, but Aix still marks the spot in Midtown

Aix and Tin Tin chef-owner Nick Leahy approaches each challenge with an entrepreneurial spirit. CONTRIBUTED BY MIA YAKEL
Aix and Tin Tin chef-owner Nick Leahy approaches each challenge with an entrepreneurial spirit. CONTRIBUTED BY MIA YAKEL

Chef-owner Nick Leahy does whatever is needed to keep French restaurant and wine bar running

If Nick Leahy wanted to vent about the woes of 2020, it would be understandable. Like all restaurants, his fledgling French Provençal dining spot, Aix, and adjoining wine bar, Tin Tin, have felt the impact of the pandemic.

Initially, the chef-owner pivoted to takeout, but, as concerns heightened regarding the spread of COVID-19, Leahy sent all 23 employees home, except his general manager. The two of them worked to operate a takeout menu of soup, salad and bread. Leahy baked upward of 40 loaves a day, and gave the proceeds to his furloughed staff.

As COVID-19 cases in Atlanta continued to rise — and with his own immune-compromised wife among those at higher risk of contracting the disease — Leahy shut everything down.

Takeout got back on track about seven weeks ago. Tin Tin reopened for on-premises dining in early June, but there have been minor setbacks along the way. The wine and liquor stash was the target of two burglaries.

Still, Leahy didn't complain in a recent chat. Rather, the veteran chef focused on the process of decision-making and approaching each challenge with an entrepreneurial spirit, much as he did when he launched Aix and Tin Tin in late 2018.

“I tried to take it slowly, to think of all the things we needed to do,” he said, noting that there have been “a lot of permutations” in state-mandated guidelines.

An appetizer of pan-roasted scallops from Aix sits on a bed of summer succotash. LIGAYA FIGUERAS / LIGAYA.FIGUERAS@AJC.COM
An appetizer of pan-roasted scallops from Aix sits on a bed of summer succotash. LIGAYA FIGUERAS / LIGAYA.FIGUERAS@AJC.COM

Leahy said he sees an upside in the constant rejiggering. “We’re having to create things and discover processes. It’s been kind of fun, entrepreneurially, to be flexible and versatile, and try out a bunch of things.”

From a culinary perspective, he said, “we’ve definitely put the Provençal theme on hold. I think the food people want is comforting food right now.”

Bouillabaisse and Georgia white shrimp Provençal have been replaced by pan-seared trout, house-made fettuccine with a meaty short rib, and duck and pork belly ragout on the streamlined menu. Such dishes travel better, and can be prepared with a reduced kitchen staff.

Other attractions for the takeout audience include an $80 family meal for four. The latest dinner, which changes weekly, features roasted chicken thighs with sofrito, a quart of soup, a peach salad, seasonal vegetables, whipped potatoes, challah bread and a peach crumble for dessert.

And, there are pantry items for sale, like a $40 farm box that features 10 pounds of assorted locally grown produce. “It’s a nice way to get more product in from our farmers,” Leahy said.

He and his team have bottled, capped, containerized and put a price tag on everything from a turnip top and almond pesto, to spice rubs and infused honeys and liquors.

Pan-roasted salmon from Aix sits on a bed of sauteed, spiralized zucchini. LIGAYA FIGUERAS / LIGAYA.FIGUERAS@AJC.COM
Pan-roasted salmon from Aix sits on a bed of sauteed, spiralized zucchini. LIGAYA FIGUERAS / LIGAYA.FIGUERAS@AJC.COM

In-house delivery is part of the plan, too, because partnering with third-party delivery services is “not a feasible business model” for restaurants, he said. Two employees now tootle around town, delivering food. “It’s a good way to get people back, as well as be in control of our product from beginning to end,” he said.

Business has been building for Aix and Tin Tin with each passing week. Whereas takeout accounted for 100% of sales at one point, more people are venturing out to dine now.

On a recent Saturday, even though a rain-soaked patio kept guests inside Tin Tin’s glass-enclosed dining area, and water couldn’t be served from the tap because of a boil advisory caused by a massive water main break, they managed to serve 60 meals. “In January or February, I wouldn’t have been too stoked about that,” Leahy said. “In the current situation, we’ll take what we can get.”

AIX / TIN TIN

Menu: abbreviated a la carte menu of farm-to-table comfort foods.

What's new: family meal for four, with menu changing weekly and including salad, soup, entree, side dishes, bread and dessert for $80; pantry items, including produce, condiments, rubs and infusions

Alcohol: beer, wine, cocktails and infused alcohol to-go; full bar in Tin Tin dining room, but no wine by the glass (bottle service only)

What I ordered: peach and beet salad, pan-roasted scallops, mushroom and ramp arancini, pan-roasted salmon, fettuccine with short rib, duck and pork belly ragout. Ripe peaches and beets shone in the mixed greens salad; mushrooms imparted earthy notes to a handful of nicely crisped golf ball-sized arancini. The ragout, made from a trio of slow-cooked meats, was very rich and filling when paired with house-made fettuccine; a vegetarian version featuring shiitakes, chanterelles and field peas, is available. Scallops were seared exceptionally well and deserve high marks for staying tender, despite transit.

Service options: order takeout or delivery online, via phone or in-person; on-premises dining available at Tin-Tin only (Aix dining area temporarily closed); contactless payment and curbside pickup available on request; call to place orders more than 24 hours in advance; in-house delivery within 5-mile radius; call for locations outside regular delivery area

Safety protocols: following standard guidelines; all employees wear face coverings; servers wear gloves; staff temperatures checked and logged daily; individual packets of sanitizer given to each table

Address, phone: 956 Brady Ave., NW, Atlanta; 770-838-3501

Hours: 5-9 p.m. Tuesdays-Thursdays; 5-10 p.m. Fridays-Saturdays

Website: aixatl.com

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