Since I resumed reviewing restaurants last fall, most of my dining experiences have been average. But, cognizant of staff shortages, supply chain disruptions and rising food costs, I recalibrated my expectations. With restaurants still in recovery mode, it seemed appropriate to forgive minor flaws in execution and service.
However, with places like Adele’s delivering dining experiences that would be considered above average even in the Before Times, perhaps we should return to awarding stars with reviews, as The Atlanta Journal-Constitution did before the pandemic.
Open since spring, Adele’s is the newest destination in the cluster of Old Fourth Ward eateries and watering holes (Staplehouse, Old Fourth Distillery, Slutty Vegan and Biggerstaff Brewing) near Boulevard and Edgewood Avenue.
Having brought its Emmy Squared Detroit-style pizzeria to Atlanta, Nashville-based Red Pebbles Hospitality looks to do the same with Adele’s, serving elevated farm-to-table fare (mostly shared plates) in a casually cool setting. The partners, who include Jonathan Waxman (Baffi), chose an old auto repair garage next to Biggerstaff Brewing, because it matched precisely the aesthetic of the original Adele’s in Music City.
The renovated Atlanta structure bears an industrial-style design similar to its sister restaurant — open interior, expansive ceiling with exposed ductwork, white brick walls, poured concrete flooring and retractable garage doors. Also, a few dishes from the original menu were deemed worth repeating in this city: a mountainous Caesar salad of finely chopped kale; light, delicate gnocchi in a lemony caper cream sauce; and a bowl of thick, rich chocolate budino for dessert — all orders I’ll gladly repeat.
But, Executive Chef Hannah Young, who previously worked at the Nashville location, has put her personal mark on the Atlanta menu, particularly with seasonal produce.
Salads pop from unexpected flavor combinations, such as shaved cauliflower, golden raisins and scallions tossed in a white balsamic vinaigrette, or tender, pencil-thin roasted asparagus in a yogurt dressing that is zippy with horseradish.
Among appetizers, house-made ricotta, slathered on grilled bread and topped with dollops of sweet-savory red onion jam, was more gratifying than smoked chicken wings masked by an overly sour tamarind relish.
Young, an Arkansas native, has an affinity for smoked foods. Smoked trout is a star among appetizers, transformed into a thick dip, garnished with smoked paprika, cayenne and chives, and served with crispy pita wedges and a rainbow of prettily trimmed carrots. Smoked duck, while satisfactorily tender, couldn’t compare with the unctuous bone-in short ribs — a hefty two-person entree presented in a cast-iron skillet with a massive portion of roasted fingerling potatoes and raw mustard greens in want of dressing.
In a city teeming with shrimp and grits and burgers, Adele’s versions do not rise to distinction, unlike that gnocchi carryover from Nashville, which brings pillowy pasta; silky, citrusy, briny sauce; and a finish of crunchy breadcrumbs. One of the best mains on the menu, it’s odd that this is the only vegetarian entree, particularly from a kitchen that seems interested in getting creative with plants (try the roasted carrots tossed in saffron oil and cayenne-seasoned granola).
The bar team also is adept. My dining partners especially were content with the house gin and tonic, as well as the yellow jacket (tequila, yellow chartreuse and lemon with a frothy aquafaba cap). Teetotalers: Ask for the nonalcoholic version of a horsefeather (a zingy whiskey-pineapple-hibiscus-ginger beer cocktail) for a modest $5.
Service, though, nearly stole the show. Servers were thoroughly familiar with the menu and ready with answers and recommendations. Pacing was steady and smooth. Plates and silverware were reset between courses, and the table wiped clean. An extra plate was dropped off for shrimp shells, one of many little touches that added up to the kind of hospitality you might expect at a white tablecloth establishment with far pricier food and drinks.
These attributes make Adele’s not just a welcome addition to a historic street in upward transition, but also a worthy destination for any diner in search of creative-yet-familiar dishes, excellent service and fair prices.
Service: outstanding — attentive, enthusiastic, communicative
Best dishes: bruschetta, kale salad, roasted asparagus salad, gnocchi, charred carrots, braised short rib, budino
Vegetarian selections: marinated olives, bruschetta, kale salad, shaved cauliflower salad, roasted asparagus salad, crispy potatoes, charred carrots, pimento mac and cheese, gnocchi
Alcohol: full bar
Price range: $$$
Credit cards: all major cards accepted
Hours: happy hour, 4:30-6:30 p.m. Tuesdays-Thursdays; dinner, 5-9 p.m. Tuesdays-Thursdays, 5-10 p.m. Fridays-Saturdays; brunch, 10:30 a.m.-3 p.m. Sundays
Parking: limited street parking, free parking in lot at Edgewood Avenue and Bradley Street
MARTA station: King Memorial
Wheelchair access: yes
Noise level: average
Outdoor dining: patio
Takeout: yes, call or order in person; no delivery
Address, phone: 525 Edgewood Ave., Atlanta. 470-890-1700
Editor’s note: The AJC has updated its pricing code to reflect the increased cost of restaurant dining.
Pricing code: $$$$$ means more than $100; $$$$ means $100 or less; $$$ means $75 or less; $$ means $50 or less; $ means $25 or less. The price code represents a typical full-course meal for one, excluding drinks.
Sign up for the AJC Food and Dining Newsletter
Read more stories like this by liking Atlanta Restaurant Scene on Facebook, following @ATLDiningNews on Twitter and @ajcdining on Instagram.