More recently, Polaris closed in March 2020, because of the pandemic, but reopened in December 2022. Since then, reservations have been hard to come by.
The history of Polaris is wrapped in multiple storylines, starting with the fact that Atlanta’s Hyatt was the first contemporary atrium hotel.
Conrad Hilton is alleged to have said it was a concrete monster that never would fly, and the late singer Jim Morrison called the elevators Victorian rocket ships.
But, more notable is that it was the first fully integrated hotel and restaurant in Atlanta, and it figured into local civil rights history.
In the words of 92-year-old Atlanta civil rights leader Xernona Clayton, it was “the hotel of hope,” because it offered the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. a place to meet for an integrated luncheon, after a nearby hotel refused him service.
“With the history of civil rights, and what this hotel stands for, I just want to do what I can to continue that legacy,” said Derick Morrow, area vice president and general manager at the Hyatt Regency Atlanta.
To that end, the company adopted an initiative called Change Starts Here, which aims to increase the number of products it uses from Black-owned suppliers. In addition, there’s an ongoing partnership with several Georgia farmers. And, the Hyatt’s Black vendor showcase next month is expected to draw more than 50 businesses, mostly local.
Polaris Chef de Cuisine Angus Daunt came on board just before the December reopening. Some items, such as the Polaris steak Oscar, are forever fixtures of the menu, he said, but Daunt has been quick to create his own dishes, too.
“I try to do local ingredients with classic techniques, and even some Southern influences,” he said. “The crispy Dr. Joe duck leg has Camellia white beans from Louisiana, but we’re trying to use as much local stuff as we can.”
Asked what it’s like working up high at Polaris, Daunt smiled and said, “It’s great. I was up here this morning, cutting tenderloins and looking out at Kennesaw and Dahlonega, and thinking, how many chefs have this view from their kitchen? Not too many, you know.”
Polaris Manager Dyshun Rice also oversees the bar, with an eye toward Black-owned wine producers, such as Brown Estate, and spirits producers, including Uncle Nearest and Rye and Sons.
“It’s a very nice cocktail program we have here, utilizing a lot of Black-owned companies,” Rice said. “It’s a very fun cocktail menu, too, where we’re taking a lot of the classics and giving them a little spin. The wine list was curated to go with chef’s menu. I knew when I saw cassoulet, I needed malbecs, with some spice and richness to go with it.”
James Gallo is both the Hyatt’s pastry chef and its beekeeper. His signature Blue Dome dessert celebrates Polaris in a flourless chocolate cake with a honey caramel center, pecan praline sauce, and chocolate sorbet.
The Hyatt’s bees live in hives on the roof below Polaris, and produce up to 1,000 pounds of Blue Dome honey, depending on the year. The raw honey is used in cocktails, savory dishes and desserts. And, Blue Dome jars are available in the Hyatt gift shop.
“This is our 10th anniversary with the bees,” Gallo said. “We started in 2013, with two rescue hives. Through the ups and downs of learning beekeeping, in the winter of 2017 we were down to about 1,500 bees in just one hive, but, by 2019, we were up to five hives, and now we’re up to eight, and it should be 10 by spring.”
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