Pano Karatassos joins ghost kitchen craze with Lamb Shack

Customizable pitas, other Greek dishes prepared at Kyma in Buckhead

Pano Karatassos officially is on board the ghost kitchen bandwagon. The executive chef of upscale Greek dining destination Kyma launched Lamb Shack Tuesday. The delivery-only fast-casual virtual Greek restaurant’s food is being prepared in the same kitchen as Kyma in Buckhead.

Lamb Shack specializes in customizable pitas and salads, while also offering a handful of appetizers, entrees and desserts.

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The rise in takeout during the pandemic is partly what prompted Karatassos, also the corporate executive chef of Buckhead Life Restaurant Group, to embark on the new venture. “We were never really doing to-go-style food from Kyma until this past year. We do a tremendous amount now,” he said, adding that, because Kyma is not open for lunch, it offers an opportunity “to open something casual on the Greek side,” using that restaurant’s kitchen during weekday lunch hours.

Pitas, which are grilled gently until “nice and fluffy,” are available open-faced, or as a traditional wrap filled with a choice of protein, spread and toppings. Proteins also can be served over a Greek salad.

Those proteins, which feature all-natural products prepared using slow-cooking techniques, include Superior Farms leg of lamb, Heritage Farms Berkshire pork, Joyce Farms chicken breast, Faroe Islands salmon, organic tofu or Kyma’s signature Spanish octopus.

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The five spreads are tzatziki, olive, roasted red pepper and feta, hummus, and grilled eggplant and yogurt — all of which have been part of the Kyma repertoire for years. Garnishes include arugula, sliced tomatoes, crumbled feta, marinated red onions and french fries.

While design-your-own pitas and salads are the focus at Lamb Shack, other offerings include the same lamb pie that brought Karatassos victory over Bobby Flay in the latter’s Food Network cooking competition show in 2019, as well as spanakopita, three-day marinated lamb chops, Greek fries (of the round chip variety) and Greek doughnuts, known as loukoumades, with yogurt and honey.

The pitas range in price from $13 to $15, while salads are a buck or so higher. “It’s a touch more expensive, because the ingredients of the salad are more expensive than pita. The rest is appetizer pricing,” Karatassos said, describing the menu items as “top quality, yet very affordable.”

Hours of operation are noon to 2 p.m. Tuesdays-Fridays, with delivery via Uber Eats and DoorDash.

Lamb Shack joins a growing list of virtual restaurants in Atlanta that range from tiny start-ups operating in commercial kitchens Prep Atlanta and Cloud Kitchens, to virtual brands launched by existing restaurant operators. The latter include Farm Birds, a Southern fried chicken sandwich outlet run out of burger chain Farm Burger’s Buckhead location (and its Whole Foods storefront in Midtown beginning in mid-July), and Chicken Out, operated by Nick Leahy at Nick’s Westside.

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Credit: Hannah Jimerson

Credit: Hannah Jimerson

Karatassos said the decision to launch Lamb Shack was not based on financial necessity. “You either have a business that works, or you don’t,” he said. “Kyma has a business that works. We are a dinner-only restaurant, and with talented chefs working in the kitchen. We want the challenge.”

He noted that Lamb Shack provides the kitchen staff an opportunity to “do stuff that will never be on Kyma’s menu.” In addition, he sees it as filling a void in the neighborhood. “In Buckhead, there isn’t a casual Greek concept.”

Karatassos is leaving open the possibility of adding dinnertime hours of operation and even turning Lamb Shack into a dine-in restaurant. “If we can do 5-7 p.m., we will,” he said. “If, down the road, the fall comes and we’re like, let’s open up with this menu for lunch, then so be it.”

Credit: handout

Credit: handout

The new business comes nearly a year after Karatassos renovated part of the interior and outdoor dining spaces at Kyma while it was closed last spring due to COVID-19. Yet, Lamb Shack isn’t the only action lately among Buckhead Life restaurants. Chops Lobster Bar is undergoing an expansion, in tandem with the ongoing Buckhead Plaza construction, that is expected to be completed this fall. Although details aren’t yet forthcoming, Karatassos said, “It’s going to be exciting when it’s done.”

As for Buckhead Diner, another of the group’s restaurants, located across the street from Kyma, it will remain closed until the area sees an increase in lunchtime patronage. “The lunch volume at Buckhead Diner was a tremendous part of that business,” Karatassos said.

Lamb Shack. Noon-2 p.m. Tuesdays-Fridays; order via Uber Eats or DoorDash;

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