Duane Nutter bringing new Southern restaurant to Summerhill

Duane Nutter, chef and partner at Southern National in Mobile. /  CONTRIBUTED BY MATTHEW COUGHLIN

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Duane Nutter, chef and partner at Southern National in Mobile. / CONTRIBUTED BY MATTHEW COUGHLIN

Once upon a time the prospect of dining in Summerhill meant one option: Fuwah Chinese Restaurant. But chances are you just parked your car in its lot and looked for better eats at Turner Field.

Now Fuwah sits empty but Summerhill has become a destination for some of Atlanta’s most diverse dining options, including Wood’s Chapel BBQ, Talat Market and Maepole. But the most significant opening will happen in summer of 2022 when two prodigal sons return to Atlanta.

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Chef Duane Nutter and restaurateur Reggie Washington — the team that opened One Flew South in Hartsfied-Jackson International Airport — will open an as-yet-unnamed restaurant at 72 Georgia Ave. with an extensive modern Southern menu and an exciting bar program.

For the past four years, the pair have been practicing their craft at Southern National in Mobile, Ala., where they’ve racked up numerous accolades. Nutter was a semifinalist for a James Beard Award for best regional chef, and the restaurant was just named to the New York Times Restaurant List 2021 — the 50 American places the food staff is most excited about.

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“This is going to be a restaurant that can encompass the neighborhood, with great high energy and and great food and beverage. It will be upscale but a place where everybody’s welcome,” says Washington. “We intend to bring cultures together.”

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.”

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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.

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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.

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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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