Atlanta Orders In: 6 months into pandemic, Paces & Vine continues to evolve

Tables on the patio at Paces & Vine have been spread out to facilitate social distancing. Courtesy of Paces & Vine
Tables on the patio at Paces & Vine have been spread out to facilitate social distancing. Courtesy of Paces & Vine

Credit: Handout

Credit: Handout

Plexiglass, expanded patio, virtual wine events among safety-driven changes

It’s imperative for restaurants to evolve, if they want to stick around. Paces & Vine was established in 2014, but it’s vastly different now, compared with Day 1 — or even six months ago.

Dave Green and Tom Murphy are still operating owners, but Murphy has taken a step back to focus on his namesake spot in Virginia-Highland. Ian Winslade, Murphy’s executive chef at the time, developed the Paces & Vine launch menu, but he’s now doing his own thing at Mission & Market in Buckhead. Instead, it’s chef Adrian Gutierrez running the kitchen, with former Murphy’s wine guy Michael Kunz handling general manager and wine director duties.

The restaurant was conceived as a Murphy’s-type neighborhood place for folks who frequented the Vinings Jubilee shopping and dining district, but Paces & Vine has become more aligned with its high-end half-sister restaurant, the Select in Sandy Springs, which Green also owns, and for which Kunz handles wines.

Not surprisingly, the pandemic was responsible for physical and operational changes that Green and Kunz have implemented since March.

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Vinings Jubilee is similar to a town center, with lots of boutiques, spas and restaurants. Courtesy of Paces Properties
Vinings Jubilee is similar to a town center, with lots of boutiques, spas and restaurants. Courtesy of Paces Properties

Credit: Handout

Credit: Handout

The pandemic forced them to close for a period this summer, when an employee tested positive, but it also has prompted innovative maneuvers, such as excluding third-party delivery services in favor of temporarily turning staff into delivery drivers; building and installing transparent plexiglass baffle screens between tables in the dining room; and expanding the 40-seat patio beyond its fenced boundaries.

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Plexiglass dividers have been installed as an added safety measure at Paces & Vine. Courtesy of Paces & Vine
Plexiglass dividers have been installed as an added safety measure at Paces & Vine. Courtesy of Paces & Vine

Credit: Handout

Credit: Handout

Kunz sees digital platforms being integrated into the business model, too. “It’s basically an alternative to television,” he said. “There is a lot of opportunity here. Not just winemaker tastings, but other types of tastings, YouTube videos with folks in the wine business. It’s one more way to adapt, adjust and get around to the other side — and help brand us as what we really are: a wine-based restaurant.”

Kunz and Green are looking ahead when it comes to other aspects of the operation. On Tuesday, Gutierrez and the kitchen team finally restarted lunch, after six months of dinner-only hours. Brunch will be back by late September, with a menu that isn’t the same old waffles and eggs, but fits the concept and gets the staff excited to roll out of bed on a Sunday.

Paces & Vine offers fresh, hearty salads, including a seared ahi tuna salad (left) and a Maine lobster Cobb (right). Its freshly baked sourdough loaves come with a compound butter, whose flavors rotate daily. Ligaya Figueras / ligaya.figueras@ajc.com
Paces & Vine offers fresh, hearty salads, including a seared ahi tuna salad (left) and a Maine lobster Cobb (right). Its freshly baked sourdough loaves come with a compound butter, whose flavors rotate daily. Ligaya Figueras / ligaya.figueras@ajc.com

Credit: Ligaya Figueras

Credit: Ligaya Figueras

There also are plenty of unknowns requiring attention, such as planning for cold weather. There is a fireplace and some space heaters on the patio, but Kunz plans to invest in more of the latter. “We’re trying to make outdoor seating as viable for as long as we can,” he said. “I’m definitely concerned about cold and flu season. I think there will be people willing to eat outside, if we can provide a warm enough environment.”

The landlord would not OK installing an enclosed tent, Kunz said. “I’m going to try to approach him to figure something out. Enclosing it would be ideal.”

Kunz’s other concern is a COVID-19 outbreak among staff. The summer scare that forced them to close for 2½ weeks was a “best-case scenario,” because only one staff member caught the virus. “That’s the challenge for the future of restaurants,” he said. “You can’t close down for two weeks every time anybody gets sick. At some point, it’s going to be an unsustainable thing. We’re trying to figure out how to go forward in all this, keep staff and guests safe, and make decisions to keep the business going.”

Kunz is a glass-half-full kind of guy — with a very full plate.

Any meal from Paces & Vine should start with warm sourdough bread. Ligaya Figueras / ligaya.figueras@ajc.com
Any meal from Paces & Vine should start with warm sourdough bread. Ligaya Figueras / ligaya.figueras@ajc.com

Credit: Ligaya Figueras

Credit: Ligaya Figueras

PACES & VINE

Menu: upscale, seasonal menu featuring new American cuisine

Alcohol: full menu available for dine-in; cocktails and wine available for takeout

What I ordered: sourdough bread loaf, Maine lobster Cobb salad and seared ahi tuna salad. In normal times, Paces & Vine offers complimentary bread service. Now, to minimize waste, it offers a freshly baked sourdough loaf with a rotating compound butter for $5. Every order should include an order of hot bread and luscious butter (pecan, in my case). The lobster Cobb and ahi tuna salads hit the spot over the hot Labor Day weekend. They were more than substantial enough to be entrees.

Service options: dine-in or takeout; order in person, by phone or online; call upon arrival for curbside; delivery through Grubhub

Safety protocols: following all COVID-19 safety guidelines; masks and daily temperature check for staff; customer temperatures taken at entrance; patrons encouraged to wear masks when not seated; hand sanitizer at entrance and restrooms; only one person permitted at a time in restrooms; dining room seating capacity reduced by 50%

Address, phone: 4300 Paces Ferry Road SE, Atlanta; 404-205-8255

Hours: lunch, 11 a.m.-2 p.m. Tuesdays-Fridays; dinner, 5-9 p.m. Tuesdays-Sundays

Website: pacesandvine.com

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