Review: Reopened Foundation Social Eatery more refined, ambitious

Credit: Henri Hollis

Credit: Henri Hollis

If you were invited to dinner at Foundation Social Eatery in downtown Alpharetta, the restaurant’s name might lead you to expect a gastropub with 10 different burgers on the menu and dozens of craft beer taps behind the bar.

Instead, much of the menu lovingly is dedicated to French cuisine, while the bar specializes in boozy cocktails that lean heavily on the classics.

The restaurant’s name is a vestige of its first incarnation, which opened in Roswell in 2014 and lasted six years. The new FSE is a bit more refined and ambitious.

Although many of the dishes on chef-owner Mel Toledo’s menu are American, other offerings have a heavy French accent, from the paté to the scallops with pickled champagne grapes. A wood-fired oven, visible in the open kitchen, is decorated with penny tiles that shout, “Merci!”

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Credit: Henri Hollis

Credit: Henri Hollis

The French famously do not cater to picky eaters, and the menu here makes few concessions to those who aren’t omnivorous, whether that means allergy restrictions or dietary preferences. There are several gluten-free items available, but the kitchen produces a lot of fresh bread and pasta, so some gluten cross-contamination is unavoidable. On our visits, there were just three vegetarian items on the menu, including the bread service. Vegans probably should eat elsewhere.

At the expense of inclusivity, Foundation succeeds in adding depth and sophistication to many of its dishes. The little gem Caesar salad gets a rich boost of umami from whole anchovy filets, while black truffle and veal jus add complexity to creamy burrata. And, turnip and ricotta tortelli is topped with confit duck, rounding out a trio of dishes that easily could be vegetarian, but wouldn’t be as special if they were meatless.

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Credit: Henri Hollis

Credit: Henri Hollis

Along with a more sophisticated menu, the new restaurant boasts a strong bar program and good service. The cocktail list is relatively short and features tastefully modified classics. The hanky panky, a lightly updated version of the 1930s cocktail, is silky, but bracing, with gin, sweet vermouth and rhubarb-flavored fernet. The golden hour, made with Cathead honeysuckle vodka and apricot liqueur, sounds treacly, but the sugar is reeled in by bitter Cocchi Americano and grapefruit.

The bar menu also includes a couple of well-considered nonalcoholic drinks, and the beer list has a nice mix of local favorites, esoteric craft brews and popular domestics. The wine list is available by the glass and includes recognizable labels, along with some interesting Old World producers.

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Credit: Henri Hollis

Credit: Henri Hollis

The service at Foundation is professional and polished. On our first visit, our server politely advised us against ordering the bread service, since the paté and mussels each come with bread. Her thoughtfulness was appreciated. Also, drinks quickly were refilled and questions were answered efficiently.

However, the kitchen was out of challah one night, which was supposed to be the bread on the burger, as well as with the lightly smoked salmon belly appetizer. Instead, we got what appeared to be buttered, toasted sandwich bread. The bread substitution wasn’t mentioned and, while the toast wasn’t bad, we might have changed our orders, had our servers not glossed over that fact.

In the case of the burger, it really changed the dish, resulting in more of a patty melt than the expected burger Americain. The fries also were disappointing — mostly short and stubby, like the ones that fall to the bottom of a fast-food bag.

Credit: Henri Hollis

Credit: Henri Hollis

Despite a few minor quibbles, Foundation Social Eatery is doing a lot the right way, and the restaurant hasn’t reached its final form. The team plans to open a counter-service bistro and takeaway market called Petite FSE. The space also will expand quite a bit in warmer weather, with both covered and uncovered patios. Sunday brunch just began at the end of January.

It’s hard to fault a restaurant that makes most of its bread and pasta in-house. And, well-executed French dishes always are a pleasure to find, as is a restaurant with such an enthusiastic, invested staff.


3 of 4 stars (excellent)

Food: American, with substantial French influence

Service: very good

Recommended dishes: burrata, escargots, little gem Caesar salad, paté, mushroom ravioli, Calabrian pork sausage papardelle, wood oven-roasted hanger steak, scallops, confit lamb shank

Vegetarian dishes: bread service, mushroom ravioli, roasted king trumpet “scallops”

Alcohol: full bar

Price range: $$$-$$$$

Hours: 5-9 p.m. Tuesdays-Thursdays, 5-10 p.m. Fridays-Saturdays, 11 a.m.-2 p.m. Sundays

Parking: free in lot and parking deck

MARTA station: no

Reservations: recommended

Outdoor dining: yes

Takeout: not recommended

Address, phone: 55 Roswell St., Alpharetta. 678-691-0028


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