Indeed, Summerhill finds itself at a crossroads as rapid development has brought new businesses and living spaces to the area, but risks the kind of gentrification that can alienate its longstanding Black residents. “When they built the Interstate, it separated Summerhill from the rest of Atlanta. So we thought, ‘What if we open this restaurant and it becomes the hottest **** south of I-20.”
Washington and Nutter, who are both Black, have several plans for community outreach, specifically hiring staff from the neighborhood with an emphasis on mentoring young Black chefs. Two other investors, well known veterans of the city’s craft cocktail scene, will be operating partners overseeing the bar program.
Washington and Nutter had long hoped for an opportunity to come back to Atlanta with a new restaurant. Though neither are natives, the city holds a special place for them as they both first moved here to work with Darryl Evans, a pioneering Black chef who mentored a generation of talent during his tenure at several area landmarks, including the Four Seasons Hotel. They will continue operating Southern National and split their time between the two.
Washington, who used to live in East Point, would cut through Summerhill on his way to work. “I always thought this neighborhood needed a marquee restaurant to create some vibe and energy,” he said. “I always wondered why no one had developed it.”
Kristie Abney, the realtor who took Washington around when he was shopping for spaces, said his reaction was immediate. “He was like a bride who had looked at eight million wedding dresses and is like this is the one.”
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