Behind the scenes at Chattahoochee Food Works on Atlanta’s Upper Westside

Outside Chattahoochee Food Works
Courtesy of Via Failla
Outside Chattahoochee Food Works Courtesy of Via Failla

Credit: Via Failla

Credit: Via Failla

The minds behind Chattahoochee Food Works are Andrew Zimmern (right) and Robert Montwaid. (Courtesy of Ash Wilson)
The minds behind Chattahoochee Food Works are Andrew Zimmern (right) and Robert Montwaid. (Courtesy of Ash Wilson)

Credit: Ash Wilson

Credit: Ash Wilson

Food Works is located at the Works, an 80-acre, adaptive mixed-use development on Chattahoochee Avenue, on what’s being called Atlanta’s Upper Westside. Now in its soft opening phase, the food hall will ultimately be home to 30-plus culinary vendors in the 25,000-square-foot space.

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Inside Chattahoochee Food Works
Courtesy of Ash Wilson
Inside Chattahoochee Food Works Courtesy of Ash Wilson

Credit: Ash Wilson

Credit: Ash Wilson

Recently, Zimmern led a tour through the build-out, which he celebrated for its high ceilings, natural light, and unobstructed sightlines. But equally important are the stories of the gathering Atlanta chefs, who he said “are like a pastiche for what the city represents.”

As a founding principle, Zimmern explained that he and Montwaid wanted to make sure Food Works had “a diverse cross section of the Atlanta food community in spaces that young entrepreneurs or new entrepreneurs could take advantage of.”

“Why would we bring in people from out of town when there’s so many accomplished culinarians in this city?” Zimmern said. “As someone who has visited Atlanta a lot, and has eaten in Atlanta a lot, the culinary firepower here in this town, both known and hidden, is massive.”

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Chef/owner Marcus Waller of Graffiti Breakfast graduated from culinary school and picked up skills at both Waffle House and King + Duke. (Courtesy of Ash Wilson)
Chef/owner Marcus Waller of Graffiti Breakfast graduated from culinary school and picked up skills at both Waffle House and King + Duke. (Courtesy of Ash Wilson)

Credit: Ash Wilson

Credit: Ash Wilson

Among the chefs I spoke with, Marcus James Waller, who graduated from culinary school and worked as a line cook at both Waffle House and King + Duke, owns Graffiti Breakfast with his wife, Tonya Waller.

“This is my first brick-and-mortar, and I didn’t really know what I was doing when I came here. But everybody just took me in their arms and gave me all the information to be successful,” he said. “King + Duke was a place where I learned everything about a kitchen, and Waffle House made me fast.”

Graffiti Breakfast is one of the vendors already open at Chattahoochee Food Works. (Courtesy of Ash Wilson)
Graffiti Breakfast is one of the vendors already open at Chattahoochee Food Works. (Courtesy of Ash Wilson)

Credit: Ash Wilson

Credit: Ash Wilson

The Graffiti menu features breakfast staples using ingredients sourced from nearby urban farms, including a signature cornbread, collard green and macaroni and cheese stuffed waffle served with fried chicken and sweet potato puree.

Across the way at Baked Kitchen South African Street Food, chef-owner Allan Katzef, who earned a business degree in marketing before deciding to go to culinary school, is celebrating the cuisine of his family’s home country.

Baked Kitchen South African Street Food is among the vendors at Chattahoochee Food Works. (Courtesy of Ash Wilson)
Baked Kitchen South African Street Food is among the vendors at Chattahoochee Food Works. (Courtesy of Ash Wilson)

Credit: Ash Wilson

Credit: Ash Wilson

“Being accustomed to eating well with my family, I’ve always wanted to bring it all together in a concept in America,” he said. “I think South African cuisine is slowly coming around, but nowhere near where it could be. We started with a food truck, and the brand was targeted toward music festivals, but we couldn’t really do the kind of dishes we do here.”

The Baked Kitchen menu includes the Burri Don Dawg, with South African boerewors sausage tucked into a toasted baguette; Sosaties, grilled lamb and apricot skewers; and pap, a kind of porridge made with maize meal.

Baked Kitchen Sosaties are cubed lamb and apricot skewers served here over wild rice and mac 'n cheese. (Courtesy of Baked Kitchen)
Baked Kitchen Sosaties are cubed lamb and apricot skewers served here over wild rice and mac 'n cheese. (Courtesy of Baked Kitchen)

Credit: Handout

Credit: Handout

On the other side of the hall, Pomodoro Bella is a Neapolitan wood-fired pizza concept from chef Byars Parham and chef and general manager James Semanisin. The duo met working at Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse, and Parham most recently was the executive chef at Cru Food & Wine Bar at Avalon.

Chef/owner Byars Parham of Pomodoro Bella has worked at Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse, as well as Cru Food & Wine Bar at Avalon. (Courtesy of Ash Wilson)
Chef/owner Byars Parham of Pomodoro Bella has worked at Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse, as well as Cru Food & Wine Bar at Avalon. (Courtesy of Ash Wilson)

Credit: Ash Wilson

Credit: Ash Wilson

“We started a catering company in the middle of the pandemic, just to make it more complicated,” Semanisin said, laughing. But he explained that the opportunity to open at Food Works led the partners on a quest for the perfect pizza dough.

“We actually use a little molasses in our dough,” Parham said. “It gives it a little color, and a little sweetness, but it took almost a hundred test batches to get it right.”

In addition to seven different pizzas, including pepperoni, and fig and pear bianco, Pomodoro Bella offers four salads, four pasta dishes, and daily dessert specials — plus meal kits, sauces and fresh pasta to take home.

Pomodoro Bella's offerings include the Fig Pear Pizza.
(Courtesy of Via Failla)
Pomodoro Bella's offerings include the Fig Pear Pizza. (Courtesy of Via Failla)

Credit: Via Failla

Credit: Via Failla

One thing the vendors seem to have in common is that they’ve all been much busier than expected during the Food Works’ soft opening. Along with that is the sense of community, and even collaboration, that’s quickly evolved.

“We did a Thai green curry pizza with TydeTate Kitchen next door,” Semanisin said. “With Graffiti Breakfast, we did a chorizo and egg pizza one day. So we’re here, we’re neighbors, and most of us feel we should be having fun while we’re doing this.”

Chattahoochee Food Works has patio seating. (Courtesy of Ash Wilson)
Chattahoochee Food Works has patio seating. (Courtesy of Ash Wilson)

Credit: Ash Wilson

Credit: Ash Wilson

Chattahoochee Food Works

Soft opening hours, 11 a.m.-8 p.m. daily

1235 Chattahoochee Ave., Atlanta

chattahoocheefoodworks.com

What’s open now: Banh Mi Station; Baker Dude; Baked Kitchen; Flying Fish; Graffiti Breakfast; Monster Cravings; Morelli’s Ice Cream; Pomodoro Bella; Sakura Ramen Bar; Taqueria La Luz; TydeTate Kitchen; Unbelibubble Tea House; the indoor/outdoor bar is open, but the name and craft cocktail list are yet to be announced

Coming soon: Belen de la Cruz; Cubanos ATL; Dash + Chutney; Hippie Hibachi; It’s Baked Baby; Philly G Steaks

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