Buckhead Diner, one of Atlanta’s most iconic restaurants, has permanently closed its doors after more than 30 years.
Trillium Management Inc. purchased the property at 3073 Piedmont Road NE in mid-August for $6 million, Atlanta Business Chronicle first reported. The restaurant’s lease ended in July 2021, but it had not been open for more than a year.
Jim Cumming, who owns Trillium, also developed downtown Atlanta’s FlatIron Building and the former downtown headquarters of Oxford Industries Inc. He also owns properties next to the Buckhead Diner, including 3085 Piedmont Road, and 590 and 596 E. Paces Ferry Road. The Buckhead Diner property was purchased from Kenneth A. Orkin Realty, which has owned the land since the 1970s. The restaurant opened in 1987.
The fate of the Buckhead Diner building, with an exterior wrap of stainless steel, checkerboard enamel and custom-hued neon, is yet to be determined.
“It was a difficult decision,” said Andrea Jimenez, the marketing director for the Buckhead Life Restaurant Group, which operates Buckhead Diner. “But at the end of the day, (Buckhead Life) co-founder Pano Karatassos has always been really good at understanding when it’s time to move on to the next endeavor.””
Credit: SARA HANNA PHOTOGRAPHY
Credit: SARA HANNA PHOTOGRAPHY
She said the restaurant group is focused on several new projects, including the recent opening of ghost kitchen Lamb Shack and the renovation of Chops Lobster Bar, so the decision was made not to renew Buckhead Diner’s lease.
A relocation of the restaurant “is a possibility,” Jimenez said, “but not a priority.”
Serving lunch, brunch and dinner, Buckhead Diner had a menu that featured items including buttermilk pancakes, omelets, burgers, crabcakes and its signature blue cheese chips.
Jimenez said the hope is to make several of the restaurant’s most popular dishes available on the menus at other Buckhead Life restaurants.
The restaurant had been closed since mid-2020. In an interview with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution this past July, Buckhead Life corporate executive chef Pano I. Karatassos stated that Buckhead Diner would remain closed until the area saw an increase in lunchtime patronage.
“The lunch volume at Buckhead Diner was a tremendous part of that business,” Karatassos said.
Other Buckhead Life restaurants, including Atlanta Fish Market, Bistro Niko, Chops Lobster Bar, Corner Cafe, Pricci and Kyma, reopened over the past year after all temporarily closing in early 2020 due to the pandemic.
In addition to its comfort food, Buckhead Diner became known over the years as a magnet for celebrities, with visits from stars including Robert Downey Jr., Jeff Foxworthy, Jimmy Buffett, Elton John, Ted Turner and Liam Hemsworth.
It was also the first stop for chefs who went on to make a mark on Atlanta with their own restaurants, including Gerry Klaskala, Kevin Rathbun and Joey Riley.
“It was a staple and an icon, and it will always be remembered as such,” Jimenez said. “It combined fine dining and casual within its walls, and up until that time, that hadn’t really been done. We’re amazed at the legacy it’s leaving.”
Cumming did not immediately respond to the AJC’s request for comment.
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Credit: Jason Getz / Jason.Getz@ajc.com