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At Midtown’s Babs, things are great: ‘They have to be.’

Shrimp salad (foreground) and chicken salad sandwiches (at back), were among recent offerings at Babs in Midtown. LIGAYA FIGUERAS / LFIGUERAS@AJC.COM
Shrimp salad (foreground) and chicken salad sandwiches (at back), were among recent offerings at Babs in Midtown. LIGAYA FIGUERAS / LFIGUERAS@AJC.COM

Freezer-to-fridge cooking, charitable funds feed community

Editor’s note: As the COVID-19 pandemic disrupts the restaurant industry, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution has changed its dining coverage and suspended its restaurant reviews. Instead, we are publishing a new column called Atlanta Orders In, which looks at the challenges faced by Atlanta restaurants, and serves as a guide to ordering takeout.

If you need a dose of positivity, talk to Babs owner Randy Adler.

Chef-owner Randy Adler of Babs stands behind the counter of his Midtown restaurant, which marked its 16th anniversary April 1. There were no customers to celebrate. Still, the career chef is upbeat, with a plan to weather the chaos caused by the pandemic. LIGAYA FIGUERAS / LFIGUERAS@AJC.COM
Chef-owner Randy Adler of Babs stands behind the counter of his Midtown restaurant, which marked its 16th anniversary April 1. There were no customers to celebrate. Still, the career chef is upbeat, with a plan to weather the chaos caused by the pandemic. LIGAYA FIGUERAS / LFIGUERAS@AJC.COM

On April 1, his Midtown restaurant celebrated its 16th anniversary, but there were no customers present for a party. Still, the career chef was upbeat, clear in his vision for weathering the chaos caused by COVID-19.

» COMPLETE COVERAGE: Coronavirus in Georgia

Since the pandemic disrupted the restaurant’s operation, Adler’s customers and friends have reached out, asking how they can help. Using their financial donations, Adler launched the Tzedakah Project, finding ways to put people to work while simultaneously feeding folks in need and instilling a sense of community. He is in the midst of setting it up as a 501 (c) (3) nonprofit.

Tzedakah, he explained, is a Hebrew word meaning “justice” or “righteousness.” It often is translated as “charity,” but carries the sense of an ethical obligation.

“I believe that there needs to be a response of how you get people on their feet. Not just feed them,” Adler said. “Tzedakah is ‘giving quietly.’ This is not a GoFundMe. This is Go Fund Us.”

Babs always offered takeout, but never its own delivery. Now, three college students, including Tim Monroe (pictured), pedal Babs food to Midtown customers as well as in-kind meals for the elderly and medically at-risk in the neighborhood, and health care workers. CONTRIBUTED BY RANDY ADLER / BABS
Babs always offered takeout, but never its own delivery. Now, three college students, including Tim Monroe (pictured), pedal Babs food to Midtown customers as well as in-kind meals for the elderly and medically at-risk in the neighborhood, and health care workers. CONTRIBUTED BY RANDY ADLER / BABS

One of the first Tzedakah Project initiatives was to create Babs on Bikes. Babs always offered takeout, but never its own delivery. Now, three college students pedal Babs food to Midtown customers, as well as in-kind meals for the neighborhood elderly and medically at-risk, and health care workers. The students walk away with two Babs meals of their own, as well as any gratuities they collect.

“We’re thrilled to be supporting students with work and food and a sense of community,” Adler said.

Adler began adjusting his operation weeks ago. “I felt at the end of February that there was going to be this massive lurch. The signs were there,” he said. Adler began watching his cash flow closely, and started shifting his product inventory to include more items that would freeze well.

Many items on Babs’ daily specials menu are freezer-to-fridge. Matzo balls are packaged separately from chicken soup, so that patrons either can reheat them together in a pot, or freeze them separately and use when needed. LIGAYA FIGUERAS / LFIGUERAS@AJC.COM
Many items on Babs’ daily specials menu are freezer-to-fridge. Matzo balls are packaged separately from chicken soup, so that patrons either can reheat them together in a pot, or freeze them separately and use when needed. LIGAYA FIGUERAS / LFIGUERAS@AJC.COM

Much of Babs’ daily specialty menu, posted the night before on the restaurant’s Facebook page, falls into what Adler calls “freezer to fridge.” Soups like vegan vegetable and barley are portioned into quart containers and frozen. Matzo balls are packaged separately from the chicken soup, so that patrons either can reheat them together in a pot, or freeze them separately and use when needed. Chicken salad (delicious!) is packaged separately from the bun. Both can go in the freezer. Customers even can purchase eggs from Babs. What they’ll get are eggs that have been cracked, whipped, portioned into containers and frozen.

Plenty of items on the specials menu are in keeping with the restaurant’s focus as a breakfast-lunch-brunch spot. A recent menu included blueberry French toast with eggs, potato and bacon; quiche with shrimp and vegetables; and the Egg Slut — a brioche bun slathered with Sriracha mayonnaise, scrambled eggs and cheese, plus bacon or a sausage patty, for an upcharge. And, there are brunchy, bubbly cocktails to-go, like blood orange mimosas and bellinis.

The dessert lineup is not only filled with sweet treats, but also speaks to resourcefulness, such as a tiramisu made with pancake batter.

“When life gives you pancakes, make tiramisu,” Adler joked.

Babs in Midtown offers brunchy, bubbly cocktails to-go, such as blood orange mimosas and bellinis. LIGAYA FIGUERAS / LFIGUERAS@AJC.COM
Babs in Midtown offers brunchy, bubbly cocktails to-go, such as blood orange mimosas and bellinis. LIGAYA FIGUERAS / LFIGUERAS@AJC.COM

In all seriousness, Adler spoke of his gratitude for the generosity of the client base he has amassed at Babs, and in his 40-year culinary career, including time in the catering business. He’s proud that he was able to pay his 10-person staff their full wages through March 15. And, he’ll keep plugging ahead with his current three-person team.

“Every day is a new day, and uncharted water,” he said. “How are things? They’re great. They have to be.”

Is there a restaurant you want to see featured? Do you have feedback about the Atlanta Orders In column? We want to hear from you. Send your comments to ligaya.figueras@ajc.com.

BABS

Menu: posted daily on Babs' Facebook page. Call to inquire about the availability of regular menu items.

What's new: daily specials menu, freezer items, Tzedakah Project

Alcohol: cocktails to-go, bottled and canned wineWhat I ordered: pint of Lowcountry roasted corn and Georgia shrimp salad, build-your-own Country Club Chicken Salad sandwich, quart of matzo ball soup, quart of vegan vegetable and barley soup, pancake tiramisu, blood orange mimosa

Service options: pickup, bicycle delivery in Midtown, or delivery via Zifty. Order online or via phone.

Safety protocols: closed Mondays-Tuesdays for sanitizing. Gloves and sanitary wipes available to all customers. Staff adheres to all COVID-19 health and safety precautions. Curbside pickup available.

Address, phone: 814 Juniper St. NE, Atlanta, 404-541-0888

Hours: 9 a.m.-2:30 p.m. Thursdays-Sundays

Website: babsmidtown.com

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