Last week, Politan Row opened at Colony Square in Midtown, hosting a series of press, public and ticketed events designed to create excitement around the new upscale food hall from the award-winning New Orleans-based Politan Group.
So far, there are nine food stalls spread around the perimeter of the space, with offerings ranging from sushi and Neapolitan pizza to bubble tea and Vietnamese shaking beef. The stunning 40-seat Bar Politan anchors the center, with twin pillars and a latticed canopy of warm wood and glowing lights. Besides offering all manner of libations, the bar serves as a kind of axis mundi for surrounding arrangements of comfy couches, tables and chairs, where you can sit down and enjoy food plated on china, and drinks poured in proper glassware.
Additionally, front-of-house staff are available to assist guests at their tables or answer questions about dining in the food hall. They’re also responsible for busing tables and offering water service. As welcoming as the interior is, more than half of the square footage at Politan Row is dedicated to outdoor dining. The food hall features a 24-foot indoor/outdoor glass wall that opens the interior space to Colony Square’s outdoor areas, The Plaza, The Patio and The Grove.
“We have room for 11 fabulous vendors, and we have a little something for everybody in Midtown,” said Kirstin Moburg-Davis, who was a producer at the Food Network before becoming the culinary director at Politan Row. “It’s for the lunchtime office person, but also for the neighborhood to start with happy hour and stick around for dinner.
“We really focus on making a beautiful environment. And because we’re from New Orleans, we take our bar program very seriously, with great wines and cocktails. We do a variety of seating, because it’s really how people want to dine now. So whether you just want to meet for a drink and a snack, or buckle in for a full 10-item tasting menu, the format works, and the seating speaks to that.”
Politan Group founder and CEO Will Donaldson started the company in 2014, and soon debuted St. Roch Market in New Orleans. Since then, the group has opened food halls in Chicago, Miami, Houston and Jackson, Mississippi. Three of its concepts have been nominated for James Beard awards, and Colony Square marks its seventh and largest food hall.
“I grew up in Birmingham, right down the road, so I don’t know what took me so long to get to Atlanta,” Donaldson said, smiling. “But it was really finding the right partner and the right location. Atlanta is booming, and has been for a long time. This used to be Atlanta’s original food court, so it was kind of a fun connection.”
A hallmark of Politan food halls has been gathering creative chef-owners who are “first- or second-time entrepreneurs,” Donaldson noted.
At Colony Square, that includes Taylur Davis, who is from Atlanta, but worked in Los Angeles as a private chef and personal assistant, before relocating to open Locale Cafe at Politan Row. “I was born 10 minutes down the street. I returned nine months ago to open my first restaurant,” said Davis, who is specializing in jerk chicken, and offering other Caribbean dishes, including Jamaican meat patties, jerk wings, chicken platters, and grilled corn.
Hospitality veteran Michaela Merrick originally launched the lively Creole-Mexican street taco concept Pretty Little Tacos at Atlanta’s Triton Yards food truck park. “I started my company at the very beginning of the pandemic, but I knew I had something good, and now I’m here,” Merrick said. The menu features birria tacos, stuffed with stewed meats such as oxtail, dipped in broth, and finished on the grill. Look for street tacos, dessert tacos, ramen, and vegan options, as well.
Besides first-timers, Politan has a couple of longtime Atlanta chefs in the mix, too, including Archna Becker, who closed her Buckhead restaurant Bhojanic during the pandemic. Becker’s stall is a spinoff of her ghost kitchen, Tandoori Pizza & Wing Co., which serves up the likes of mango chile wings and chutney marinara and mozzarella cheese pizza. And there soon will be grab-and-go items from her Bhojanic Market.
Becker explained that she’d been asked to open in food halls before this, but the time and place were never quite right. “They asked me to do Ponce, they asked me to do Krog, but none of them made sense,” she said. “This is a really good place because it’s not only weekends or nights, it’s people all the time, and there’s a hotel here. To me, this spot out of all of them is the best. We want to try to franchise this model, so this is kind of a really good test run.”
Shaun Doty, who is well known both for fine dining and casual restaurants around Atlanta, said he always wanted to have a burger stand at Colony Square. His newest concept, Federal Burger, features Georgia ingredients, including grass-fed beef from Stone Mountain Cattle Co. and cheese from Sweet Grass Dairy.
From opening day, Doty has been amazed by how much traffic there’s been in the food hall. “We say location, location, location, but this is really like a whole other level,” he said. “The redevelopment is phenomenal. I couldn’t have visualized Colony Square being so attractive, because I’ve known it for 30 years. The aesthetics, the marketing, it’s been a real triumph.”
Vendors at Politan Row at Colony Square:
Bun Mi Grill
Pretty Little Tacos
Tandoori Pizza and Wings Co.
Politan Row at Colony Square
11 a.m.-10 p.m. Mondays-Thursdays; 11 a.m.-11 p.m. Fridays-Saturdays; 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Sundays.
1197 Peachtree St. NE, Atlanta. colonysquare.com/politan-row.