Atlanta Orders In: In ‘different times,’ Serpas tries leaner menu, lower prices

Serpas True Food Big Easy BBQ Shrimp with rosemary focaccia bread. 
Bob Townsend for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

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Serpas True Food Big Easy BBQ Shrimp with rosemary focaccia bread. Bob Townsend for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Scott Serpas is an Atlanta culinary pioneer.

The South Louisiana native opened Serpas True Food on Auburn Avenue in the Old Fourth Ward in 2009 — well before the area became a busy eating and drinking destination.

That same year, Serpas was named one of the 10 Best New Restaurants in America by GQ magazine.

Since then, his combination of fine dining technique and Southern and New Orleans accents has enlivened both Serpas and Dixie Q, the neighborhood barbecue spot Serpas debuted in Brookhaven in 2017.

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Pan-roasted halibut, served with holy trinity risotto, smoky tomato sauce and a side of sautéed vegetables, is available from Serpas True Food. Bob Townsend for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Credit: Bob Townsend

Pan-roasted halibut, served with holy trinity risotto, smoky tomato sauce and a side of sautéed vegetables, is available from Serpas True Food. Bob Townsend for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Credit: Bob Townsend

Combined ShapeCaption
Pan-roasted halibut, served with holy trinity risotto, smoky tomato sauce and a side of sautéed vegetables, is available from Serpas True Food. Bob Townsend for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Credit: Bob Townsend

Credit: Bob Townsend

While Dixie Q managed to remain open for takeout throughout the pandemic, Serpas closed March 15, and didn’t reopen for delivery and pickup until June 3. The dining room reopened last month, with limited seating for dinner Wednesdays-Sundays, and brunch on the weekends.

“We seat up to 160 normally,” Serpas said. “We’re nowhere near that now. So, it’s a challenge to create energy in a space that big. But, right now, the weather has been really nice, and we’re having success with the patio, as well as in-house.”

Along with enhanced safety protocols, Serpas is using a QR code for the menu, reservations through Resy, and online ordering through ChowNow. “All that seems to be working well,” he said.

Among the changes, Serpas said the biggest is lower prices on a menu that features fewer items.

“We don’t have any entrees above $26 or $27,” he said. “The menu is leaner, but there’s beef, pork, a pasta item, a couple of seafood items. So, it’s not a big menu, but I’d rather keep it tight and organized, until we’re fully open again.”

Across town, Dixie Q increased its sales during the first three months of the pandemic, quickly becoming a community favorite for takeout.

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Serpas True Food House Salad with local greens, goat cheese, candied pecans, blistered grape vinaigrette. Bob Townsend for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Credit: Bob Townsend

Serpas True Food House Salad with local greens, goat cheese, candied pecans, blistered grape vinaigrette. 
Bob Townsend for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Credit: Bob Townsend

Combined ShapeCaption
Serpas True Food House Salad with local greens, goat cheese, candied pecans, blistered grape vinaigrette. Bob Townsend for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Credit: Bob Townsend

Credit: Bob Townsend

“It’s kind of teaching me about two different business models,” Serpas said. “Dixie Q has a lower average price point, and the food travels better. Also, there’s a great little community that’s been supportive, so we just kept on going. A lot of people, who didn’t know about us, found us, and thanked us for being open. That surprised me.”

Looking ahead, Serpas said he plans to carry on, and keep changing what doesn’t work.

“These are different times, so I think people are adapting, and we’re kind of learning as we go,” he said. “Both the customers and the restaurateurs are figuring out what works and what doesn’t.

”I don’t know when it’s going to get back to normal. I hope, by 2021. But, even then, I think it will be a slow crawl. We’ve learned a lot, through perseverance, and it builds character in people, and hopefully brings people together. It’s not just a you thing, or a me thing, it’s a we thing, you know."

SERPAS TRUE FOOD

Menu: casual fine dining with Southern and New Orleans accents

Alcohol: full bar menu available for dine-in; beer, wine available for takeout

What I ordered: barbecue shrimp, with rosemary focaccia bread; house salad, with local greens, goat cheese, candied pecans and blistered grape vinaigrette; pan-roasted halibut, with holy trinity risotto, smoky tomato sauce and a side of sautéed vegetables; beignets, with chocolate sauce. Other than the beignets, which melted a bit, the dishes traveled well, and the portions were generous. The barbecue shrimp, house salad and fresh vegetables were standouts.

Service options: dine-in or takeout; reservations and takeout ordering online; call on arrival for curbside delivery

Safety protocols: following all COVID-19 safety guidelines

Address, phone: 659 Auburn Ave., Atlanta; 404-688-0040

Hours: 4:30-9 p.m. Wednesdays-Thursdays; 4:30-10 p.m. Fridays; 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Saturdays; 11 a.m.-8 p.m. Sundays

Website: serpasrestaurant.com

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