New ideas are a continuous flow for restaurateur Phillip Cooper. The certified sommelier mastered his craft as part of theRay’s Killer Creek team before breaking out on his own in 2012 with Vin25 wine bar and bistro in Roswell. There, he says, styles and flavors are the focus rather than a bottle with a well-known name.
Cooper’s latest venture is Citizen Soul, located in Alpharetta’s new city center. In the spirit of Vin25, the restaurant will have an array of wines, 20 local craft beers on tap, a selection of aged bottled beers and a creative cocktail menu. Cooper, who goes by Coop, has also set up a retail program that allows diners to take home a bottle of their favorite vintage.
“I wanted to offer a retail concept, but not a retail shop,” Cooper says. “When I found this building in Alpharetta, I saw a way to bring together a retail concept and food. Here, we have a kiosk with a menu you can scroll through, so even if you’re not dining, you can pick a bottle and walk out the door with it. We also are organizing a curated wine club that offers recurring purchases based on flavor profiles and prices.”
The boxy, white-brick building that’s home to Citizen Soul has an industrial look that pays homage to the early 1900s, when a blacksmith’s shop was located on the same property.
“The site was Hard Bailey’s blacksmith’s shop,” Cooper says. “We want to conjure up the idea of every man’s bar, the citizen’s bar, the place where everybody wants to hang out. Citizen Soul is a tip of the hat, in a culinary sense, to those who came before us in this place.”
Inside the 3,500-square-foot building, the stone, iron and wood textures are designed to hark back to the site’s roots. Dark walnut tables sit atop polished concrete floors; the counters and bar are also concrete. Two enormous wine cabinets and their contents behind copper screening are as much part of the décor as is the charcuterie-aging cupboard. Leather banquettes with tufted pillows are lit by glass globes — also with copper screens.
“Yes, it’s rough and industrial,” Cooper says. “The high ceilings add to that warehouse feel. But it all comes together. I like to think it’s what a modern-day blacksmith shop would look like.”
For food, Cooper opted for a California pub-style approach and a menu overseen by chef Edgar Cruz of Vin25. But it’s too soon to say what the restaurant’s signature dish will be. “I’m sure there will be some legacy menu items that come around every season, just as they do at Vin25,” Cooper says. “But right now, I have no idea if we’ll be known for [them].”
What he does know is the menu is sticking to California-inspired cuisine: lots of fresh ingredients, veggies, pastas, and flatbreads and pizzas baked in the wood-burning oven. Along with a charcuterie and comprehensive cheese program, the made-from-scratch kitchen will produce pickles and ketchup for the burger, and French fries will be cooked in duck fat for extra flavor.
“Our seasonal donuts [at Vin25] are a huge seller, so we’ll also have them in Alpharetta,” Cooper says. “We’ll also have our house-made peanut butter cup with our own peanut butter.”
Citizen Soul has another feature sure to draw diners for dinner and, eventually, lunch and brunch. The rear of the building sports a 45-seat patio overlooking what city center developers call the Shade Garden: a grassy plot anchored by a gigantic oak tree with roots at least 100 years old. Oversized bay windows behind the bar provide not only a view of the garden area but can also open to make the bar two-sided and available to thirsty visitors strolling by who want to grab a refreshment.
But with the holiday season approaching, Cooper is prepping for celebrations inside. A private dining room for 25, a chef’s table and sections of the main dining room are available for raising a glass with friends and colleagues to the new year as well as the memory of Alpharetta’s years gone by.
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