Atlanta Orders In: Two Urban Licks makes safe eating on Eastside Beltline top priority

Salmon Chips have been a staple on the menu since the restaurant opened in 2004. This snacky assembly of smoked salmon, chipotle cream cheese, capers, red onions to pile on super-sized potato chips travels well. If paired with a drink, it’ll feel like happy hour. Ligaya Figueras / ligaya.figueras@ajc.com
Caption
Salmon Chips have been a staple on the menu since the restaurant opened in 2004. This snacky assembly of smoked salmon, chipotle cream cheese, capers, red onions to pile on super-sized potato chips travels well. If paired with a drink, it’ll feel like happy hour. Ligaya Figueras / ligaya.figueras@ajc.com

Credit: Ligaya Figueras

Credit: Ligaya Figueras

Veteran restaurateur plays all the ’what ifs’ as he navigates restaurant group through pandemic

By his count, Bob Amick has opened about 200 restaurants in his nearly 60-year career. The co-founder of Atlanta-based Concentrics Restaurants group has weathered recessions and real estate crises. He recalls the frightful awakening of the HIV/AIDs epidemic in the 1980s. But, in his mind, “there’s nothing like this pandemic ... We’ve never been through anything like this before.”

Of the three local restaurants that remain in the Concentrics portfolio, only one — Two Urban Licks on the Eastside Beltline, a stone’s throw from Ponce City Market — currently is operating. Its sister restaurants, Bully Boy and Parish, are temporarily shuttered due to the COVID-19 outbreak.

Amick, business partner Todd Rushing and the Concentrics team are accustomed to careful planning, but the pandemic forced them to make rapid adjustments. “We went from a weekend in the beginning of March trying to evaluate option A, B and C,” he said. “We left the meeting with option A. That was a Sunday. By Tuesday, we were at option C and we closed.”

Dedicated parking spots make takeout easy at Two Urban Licks. Customers can pick up their order in the breezeway, or call upon arrival for curbside. Ligaya Figueras / ligaya.figueras@ajc.com
Caption
Dedicated parking spots make takeout easy at Two Urban Licks. Customers can pick up their order in the breezeway, or call upon arrival for curbside. Ligaya Figueras / ligaya.figueras@ajc.com

Credit: Ligaya Figueras

Credit: Ligaya Figueras

All 300 of the company’s employees were furloughed — at its restaurants in Atlanta, Chicago and Lancaster, Pennsylvania, as well as its consulting, management and marketing staff. The company immediately filed everyone for temporary unemployment. “Within 10 days of closing, our employees got their first unemployment paycheck,” Amick said.

Two Urban Licks stayed shut 11 weeks, reopening the first week in June. They tried to think of everything, addressing crowd control by repositioning the host stand and wait benches in the breezeway. Customers cannot enter without a temperature check and a mask — which must be worn whenever they are not seated. When patrons do move, the flow of traffic is controlled. Hand sanitizer? Check. Plexiglass around booths? Check.

Veteran Atlanta restaurateur Bob Amick, who owns several eateries, is shown here in July 2009. (BITA HONARVAR / AJC file)
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Veteran Atlanta restaurateur Bob Amick, who owns several eateries, is shown here in July 2009. (BITA HONARVAR / AJC file)

Staffers undergo weekly COVID-19 tests, initiated after an employee tested positive earlier this summer, forcing the restaurant to close for more than two weeks. “We could not afford to do that again,” Amick said.

Even though Two Urban Licks has 23-foot ceilings and wide garage bay doors that allow fresh air into the dining room, the company installed a mist unit to disinfect the place weekly with hospital-grade sanitizer.

The greenspace at Historic Fourth Ward Skatepark, just feet from Two Urban Licks, is a fine spot for a takeout picnic. Ligaya Figueras / ligaya.figueras@ajc.com
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The greenspace at Historic Fourth Ward Skatepark, just feet from Two Urban Licks, is a fine spot for a takeout picnic. Ligaya Figueras / ligaya.figueras@ajc.com

Credit: Ligaya Figueras

Credit: Ligaya Figueras

One of the restaurant’s biggest safety attributes existed prior to the pandemic: a massive patio. The 110 socially distanced seats offering a view of Beltline action are such a hot ticket these days that Two Urban Licks had to put a 90-minute limit for outdoor dining. “Everyone wants to camp out there,” Amick said.

“We think we did as good a job as anybody in protecting our staff and customer base,” he said, noting that navigating the pandemic continues to be “ridiculously precarious. Our biggest fear still is the public’s confidence in going out.”

An order of heirloom tomatoes from Two Urban Licks is served with burrata, pea shoots and an Italian vinaigrette. Ligaya Figueras / ligaya.figueras@ajc.com
Caption
An order of heirloom tomatoes from Two Urban Licks is served with burrata, pea shoots and an Italian vinaigrette. Ligaya Figueras / ligaya.figueras@ajc.com

Credit: Ligaya Figueras

Credit: Ligaya Figueras

As the calendar has flipped to September, there are plenty of unknowns in the months ahead, he said. “How cold is it going to get? What’s going to happen with the virus? The politics, the elections? We don’t know. You evaluate and determine if it is wise to move forward. Play all the what ifs.”

And hope that you made the right call.

Packaged in a plastic container with grilled bread wrapped in foil, Two Urban Licks' steamed mussels are takeout-ready. Ligaya Figueras / ligaya.figueras@ajc.com
Caption
Packaged in a plastic container with grilled bread wrapped in foil, Two Urban Licks' steamed mussels are takeout-ready. Ligaya Figueras / ligaya.figueras@ajc.com

Credit: Ligaya Figueras

Credit: Ligaya Figueras

TWO URBAN LICKS

Menu: slightly abbreviated; new items include smoked fried ribs, smoked mushroom enchilada and confit turkey wings

Alcohol: full menu for dine-in; beer and wine available for takeout; on weekends, satellite bar set up on the Beltline offers canned cocktails and beer to go

What I ordered: salmon chips, heirloom tomatoes, mussels, confit turkey wings, scallops, blackened salmon. The salmon chips have been a staple on the menu since the restaurant opened in 2004. With salmon, chipotle cream cheese, capers and red onion piled on super-sized potato chips and paired with a drink, it’ll feel like happy hour. This snacky assembly travels well.

Service options: dine-in or takeout; order by phone.

Safety protocols: following all COVID-19 restaurant safety guidelines; staff wear masks, and undergo daily temperature checks; customer temperatures taken at entrance

Address, phone: 820 Ralph McGill Blvd., Atlanta; 404-522-4622, dedicated takeout line: 470-809-7047

Hours: 5-10 p.m. Wednesdays-Thursdays, 5-11 p.m. Fridays, 11 a.m.-11 p.m. Saturdays (brunch until 3 p.m.), 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Sundays (brunch until 3 p.m.)

Website: twourbanlicks.com

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