Joy Cafe’s fried green-tomato tarts are made by stacking a puff pastry disc moistened with bacon jam with a fried green tomato, pimento cheese and crumbled bacon. Wendell Brock for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Credit: Wendell Brock
Credit: Wendell Brock
“I’m simple Southern," Beber said, comparing her style with her husband’s. “I’ve got recipes that are 100 years old, passed down through the generations of women in my family. He’s fancy. He’s your sauce man. He follows a lot of the famous chefs, and what they do, and how they do it. I always say, ‘Separate, we are both great cooks, but together, we are deadly.’”
In 2017, having made their mark in Buckhead, the Bebers moved Joy Cafe to a Midtown office building with gurgling fountains and a Peachtree-hugging patio. They catered to the city’s three largest law firms. Lunch sales were brisk.
Then, on March 17, thanks to COVID-19, it all fell apart. According to Beber, their building went from 90 percent occupancy to 10 percent. Regulars who stopped by for sandwiches and salads vanished.
The couple knew their business model no longer was sustainable, so they decided to add dinner, and highlight their cocktail program. “We’ve always wanted to do dinner,” Beber said, “but we were always so busy with the catering that dinner kind of got pushed in the backseat.”
Joy Austin Beber and Jon Beber are co-executive chefs of Joy Cafe in Midtown, which they founded in 2011. Courtesy of Atlys Media
Joy Cafe recently rolled out a dinner menu featuring Joy’s Southern comforts (fried chicken and macaroni and cheese; meatloaf with garlic mashed potatoes) and Jon’s fancier fare (halibut puttanesca; a double bone-in pork chop with wild mushroom and Madeira ragu).
“My husband is crazy, so we have pork belly, but it’s pork belly with the ribs still attached," Beber joked. “So, you get the crunchy of the chicharrones on top.”
One appetizer that recognizably is hers is a green-tomato tart: a puff-pastry disc topped with bacon jam, a fried green tomato, her grandma’s pimento cheese and bacon crumbles.
Meanwhile, the cafe’s 1,700-square-foot, dog-friendly patio has adapted well to the pandemic. The Bebers have been able to move tables outside, and space them 6 feet apart, with no problem.
While it’s taken a minute for dinner to take off, the cafe continues to do a steady brunch business, especially on weekends. "We easily do 400 people every Saturday and Sunday,” Beber said.
Though the owners believe their cafe has been pigeonholed as a breakfast nook, that seems to be changing. Case in point: A regular customer who recently piped up: “I come in for brunch all the time. I didn’t know y’all could do this for dinner!” For some, that might seem like a swipe. For Joy Beber, it was pure flattery.
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Joy Cafe is located in an office building on Peachtree Street in Midtown. Courtesy of Atlys Media
Menu: traditional Southern, with a twist
Alcohol: full bar; beer, wine and mimosa kits to go
What I ordered: fried green tomato tarts; salmon with lentil salad; Cobb salad; fried chicken with macaroni and cheese; chocolate-caramel cake. Really liked the tarts, the mac and cheese and the Cobb
Service options: dine-in and takeout; no delivery.
Mask policy: staff, yes; customers, no.
Address, phone: 1100 Peachtree St. NE, Atlanta; 404-996-1377
Hours: 11 a.m.-2:30 p.m. Tuesdays-Fridays. 8:30 a.m.-3 p.m. Saturdays-Sundays. 5:30-9:30 p.m. Tuesdays-Saturdays
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