Georgia Classics: Haven celebrates 20 years in Brookhaven

Word of Mouth Restaurants' team: From left, Ron Eyester, Michel Arnette, Matt Swickerath and Stephen Herman. (Courtesy of Lauren Hubbard / Lauren Liz Photo)

Credit: Lauren Hubbard

Credit: Lauren Hubbard

Word of Mouth Restaurants' team: From left, Ron Eyester, Michel Arnette, Matt Swickerath and Stephen Herman. (Courtesy of Lauren Hubbard / Lauren Liz Photo)

Haven, which bills itself as “an upscale neighborhood eatery,” celebrated its 20th anniversary in November.

“Anytime you can get past a couple of years in a restaurant it’s something,” founder Michel Arnette said. “But to be able to put a couple of decades together, we’re very fortunate. We don’t take that lightly. We’ve seen markets crash and pandemics, and here we are, just humble to be here.”

The Brookhaven restaurant was the first for the Word of Mouth Restaurants group and was followed by Valenza, Vero and Arnette’s Chop Shop. Arnette and Executive Chef Stephen Herman sat down recently to talk about the history of the company, as well as some new restaurants that are in the works.

Haven's dining room has a view of the open kitchen. Courtesy of Lauren Hubbard

Credit: Lauren Hubbard

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Credit: Lauren Hubbard

Arnette worked for Pano Karatassos, founder and CEO of the Buckhead Life Restaurant Group, for 13 years, beginning in 1991. He started at Pricci, moved on to Veni Vidi Vici, and finally was at Buckhead Diner.

“Then, it was time to leave the family,” Arnette recalled. “I told Pano I was going to open a restaurant on Dresden Drive, and he said, ‘Where’s that?’ I told him right around the corner from where I live.”

From the beginning, Arnette has been a mentor to Herman, and together they’ve expanded the Word of Mouth group.

Michel Arnette is the founder of Word of Mouth Restaurants, which owns Haven. Courtesy of Lauren Hubbard

Credit: Lauren Hubbard

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Credit: Lauren Hubbard

“It’s been a really cool adventure that we’ve been on,” Herman said. “I feel like I was a little kid when I met Michel. I was 23. And then we opened Haven and I spent 15 years, day in and day out, at this restaurant.”

Over the past five years, Herman mostly was at Arnette’s Chop Shop, but, with the recent milestone, he decided it was time to get back to Haven.

“This year, we retooled and kind of brought it back to its original identity of Southern-American farm-to-table,” he said. “We’ve got great people here, and Haven has probably had its best year ever. From the food side, as I’ve gotten older, there’s a natural tendency to simplify and try to refine. I really look for balance.”

Dishes available at Haven include (clockwise from front) Ellijay roasted mushrooms, Southern meats and cheeses, and Blue Hill Bay mussels. Courtesy of Lauren Hubbard

Credit: Lauren Hubbard

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Credit: Lauren Hubbard

In 2024, Word of Mouth is set to add a fifth business with the opening of a private club called the Associate. “It’s a combination restaurant, club and live entertainment venue,” Arnette said. “You have to be a member, so it’s kind of old-school. Post-pandemic, we thought it was a unique opportunity to thank our guests and friends — the people who got us to 20 years — so, something exclusive with a brand-new cuisine.”

The food at the Associate will be Asian-inspired, with sushi, yakitori, craft cocktails and a luxury wine program.

“I’m really excited for this new project, because we’re kind of focusing on raw fish,” Herman said. “We have a beautiful grill that we’re going use to work on some yakitori-style cuisine. It’s really going to be a fun opportunity to step out of our box a little bit. It’s our mad lab to practice and play with.”

Shrimp and grits (with smoked andouille sausage) is on the brunch menu at Haven. Courtesy of Lauren Hubbard

Credit: Lauren Hubbard

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Credit: Lauren Hubbard

Finally, another restaurant that’s been in the works for nine years will break ground in 2024, featuring what Arnette calls modern diner cuisine. “It’s about a mile from here, and it’s an old gas station,” he said. “It’s literally on the Brookhaven and Chamblee line.”

“The idea is to design the theme part of it around kind of what a Frank Lloyd Wright gas station in the ‘60s would look like,” Arnette said. “We definitely wanted to give a lot of tribute to the historical relevance of that.”

Haven. 1441 Dresden Drive NE, Brookhaven. 404-969-0700, havenrestaurant.com

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