Atlanta Orders In: Hot Betty’s serves all-day breakfast and cocktails in downtown Tucker

This takeout order from Hot Betty’s in Tucker includes fish and grits, corned beef brisket hash with poached eggs, and breakfast tacos with chorizo, onion and hominy. Wendell Brock for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Credit: Wendell Brock

Credit: Wendell Brock

Wes McNeil bought a house in Tucker in 2016, and right away he felt the town could use a good breakfast restaurant. It worked out nicely that the chef also happens to be an aficionado of the egg.

“Eggs are incredible,” said the Maryland native, who came to Atlanta to work on a food truck catering to the film industry. “There’s 101 different ways to prepare an egg. It’s my favorite thing to cook.”

But, opening a diner is not always a sunny-side-up proposition. You have to raise capital, find a space, plan the menu, hire a team, and hope people will come.

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Chicken livers with spicy smoked-paprika aioli are always on the menu at Hot Betty’s Breakfast Bar in Tucker. Wendell Brock for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Credit: Wendell Brock

Credit: Wendell Brock

In June, McNeil and his business partner, Shea Powell, quietly unveiled Hot Betty’s Breakfast Bar on Tucker’s Main Street. At the breakfast-all-day spot, McNeil fixes everything from classic bacon and eggs, to his grandmother’s crabcake, to healthy, tofu-based vegan bowls and scrambles.

Come Friday and Saturday nights, he rolls out an anything-goes dinner menu that might showcase farro risotto and short ribs with potato gnocchi one week, fish and chips and roast chicken with mashed potatoes the next. (Guests still may get biscuits, chicken and waffles, and crab and avocado salad — anything from the breakfast menu — at supper.)

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Chef Wes McNeill moved here from Charleston, South Carolina, where he’d had his fill of shrimp and grits, so he serves fish and grits at Hot Betty’s in Tucker. Wendell Brock for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Credit: Wendell Brock

Credit: Wendell Brock

Though McNeil previously opened five restaurants (including Hop City’s Barleygarden Avalon and Boxcar), this is the first where he has “complete conceptual control, and skin in the game.” He struck up a friendship with Powell at Cafe Lily in Decatur, where he was executive chef and she was a regular.

“On March 16, we got the keys to the building,” he said. That happened to be a red-letter date in the restaurant industry — the moment when COVID-19 forced many businesses to suspend service. But, it didn’t stop McNeil from following his dream.

“I proceeded to open it up as a normal, regular restaurant,” he said. Though he sells plenty of takeout, table service has been the main affair since Day One. Hot Betty’s doesn’t have a patio, but nearby BlueTarp and High Card Brewing have been amenable to guests using their outdoor space.

Hot Betty’s Breakfast Bar in Tucker opened for business June 22. Wendell Brock for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Credit: Wendell Brock

Credit: Wendell Brock

And, McNeil has taken great care to create a safe place with affordable food — including vegan and vegetarian fare. It always has bothered him to see that lone person at a table who can’t find a satisfying meal. “I do believe anybody can walk in, no matter what their dietary restrictions or their personal beliefs on food are, and find something on my menu to order.”

Starting at 9 a.m. Mondays-Saturdays and 11:30 a.m. on Sundays, guests also may have a cocktail.

This raised some eyebrows at first. “Tucker is a conservative town,” he said, “and I think people were a little shocked to walk into a restaurant and see the restaurant has a bar.”

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Menu: breakfast all day; dinner specials Fridays-Saturdays

Alcohol: dine-in only

What I ordered: biscuit, with jam and honey butter; fried chicken livers; brisket hash; fish and grits; breakfast tacos. The biscuit was huge and cakey; the strawberry jam tasted like homemade. The chicken livers, with smoked-paprika aioli, were a rare breakfast treat; it was another huge portion, I dare you to finish it. I devoured the tacos (chorizo on corn tortillas) and enjoyed the fish and grits. I was disappointed by the hash — those fat slices of brisket were a bit chewy.

Service options: dine-in and takeout (order by phone)

Safety protocols: follows standard CDC guidelines; staff wears masks; masks aren’t mandatory for customers

Address, phone: 2316 Main St., Tucker; 470-395-9146

Hours: 7 a.m.-3 p.m. Mondays-Fridays, 8 a.m.-3 p.m. Saturdays-Sundays, 5-9:30 p.m. Fridays-Saturdays


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