The Atlanta restaurant community sparkles with incredible options, many of them exploding onto the scene just in the last few years. One of the most lauded, Southern Art & Bourbon Bar, gleams from inside the Intercontinental Hotel, turning any dining occasion into a celebratory event.
Art Smith, well known for his other successful restaurants in Chicago, DC, and California, burst onto the culinary radar in 1997 as Oprah Winfrey’s personal chef. His knack for elevating Southern-style comfort food into gourmet dishes with a healthier spin, brings hungry fans clamoring for a seat at any one of his tables. The Southern Art and Bourbon Bar venerates the fine art of cuisine as one of the South’s most treasured aesthetics.
No question, this is a full-on sensory experience.
Whiskey, Swine, and Sweets
Start with a drink at Bourbon Bar featuring more than 70 select bourbon offerings from American distillers, focusing on small-batch producers served exclusively here. The bar also revives pre-Prohibition era cocktails for a cheeky nod to that glamorous age.
Wander over to the artisan ham bar to select a custom charcuterie, perhaps to accompany cocktails or for the whole table. Honoring the tradition of Southern smokehouses and regional county hams, Southern Art manages to display swinging hams in a manner that’s both intriguing and, well, artful. Selected hams rotate and chalkboards describe the origins of those presented for a full education on this hearty staple.
Turn from ham heaven to find a vintage pie table laden with decadent desserts teasing the possibilities for dinner’s close. It may not be realistic to actually “share” any of these creations, not with caramel chocolate pretzel pie, 12-layer red velvet cake, banana pudding pie, and coconut cake parading about. Best to plan for everyone to order something different and pass around with coffee … or more bourbon, instead.
Once seated in the main dining room, lean back in your chair to look upward for a dazzling kaleidoscope of paintings suspended in a floating collage, interspersed among colorful chandeliers. The gorgeous imagery in that artwork reflects down onto the plates of traditional classics prepared with a modern approach. The master, Chef Smith, dips into his own family traditions to swirl a palette of unforgettable farm-to-table dishes. Try starters of Addie Mae’s chicken and dumpling soup or a salad of hydroponic greens with sorghum dressing, a Southern flatbread with BBQ pork and fried green tomato or chicken and tasso roll. Move on to entrees such as wild-caught Georgia shrimp and grits, buttermilk fried chicken, bourbon-glazed pork, cornmeal-dusted catfish. Sample side items that hold top billing for flavor — Brussels sprouts with house-cured bacon, baby beets and apples, braised collards, or hominy field pea succotash. Ebullient servers delight in the opportunity to further discuss menu items, guiding the perfectly-balanced order.
After a few luscious dinners, we recently tried the Southern Art Jazz Brunch for an absolutely decadent weekend indulgence. Glory, glory, hallelujah, what a treat! Talented musicians accompany the brunch menu combining favorites from the dinner menu with omelets, eggs benedict, and chicken and waffles. The party really swings with the rolling Bloody Mary cart, parking at each table to stir up whatever personal blend is desired. (I wonder how many impromptu check-ins the Intercontinental accommodates after this brunch, with diners in need of an immediate, post-gluttony nap.)
Whether dinner, drinks, brunch or even a weekday lunch, Southern Art and Bourbon Bar charms with an atmosphere of joyful hospitality and captivatingly creative cuisine.