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Steamed clams with chorizo sausage and Italian crushed tomatoes
By Land and Seaby Austin Holt Photography by Sara Hanna | Jezebel magazine | October 31, 2013
Tom Catherall is the man who invented Noche, and for that, we will be forever grateful. (He’s also the guy behind Prime and others but who’s counting?)
So, naturally, when the rumor mill started churning that the Here To Serve Restaurants masterminds was opening SMASH Kitchen & Bar, a hunting club-inspired chophouse in the heart of Town Brookhaven, we got a little excited. After all, H2SR holds a bit of a track record for opening fun restos with good food.
As promised, SMASH is a smashing good time. Brick walls, ornate lighting and canine statuary nod a tad country club, but any pretention is diluted by small touches—portraits of The Beatles; a not-so-subtle provocation to “eat” while you’re here; that literal buck-head chandelier. It’s a far cry from the Stir Crazy chain outpost that used to occupy the space. It’s a conservative spot with some tongue-in-cheek decor (and one of Catherall’s own design--guy’s got an eye for interiors).
The Catherall-designed menu never feels scattered, either; rather, there’s something for everybody (a greatest hits list, if you will). Locally sourced meats are transformed into some winning steaks and burgers; a wood-burning oven, visible through a long picture window, turns out Mediterranean-style flatbreads; and, drawing on the proprietor’s English heritage, there’s even a modernized take on shepherd’s pie—a menu highlight sure to please even the staunchest anglophile. Meanwhile, the wraparound bar opposite the main dining area is primed to become one of Brookhaven’s favorite new hangout spots.
“I always look for what’s not there,” explains Catherall of the concept. “We’ve had such great success with Noche in Brookhaven. People live, work and play here. So when the space opened up, I wanted to do something different that fits.” Or, put another way (by the man himself), black-tie food at blue-jean prices.
If you think the story ends here, then you don’t know H2SR. A month before SMASH opened, Catherall spotted an available storefront across the street and, having been on something of an oyster kick since spending time in San Francisco, he thought the time was right to kick off a new trend in Atlanta.
“I think we’re really the first oyster and Champagne bar in Atlanta,” Catherall says of his second venture Shucks Oyster & Wine Bar. “I love oysters. It’s the only food I can think of that is so pure, it takes on the taste of where it’s from.”
In the case of Shucks, the headlining fare is presented as a rotating list from America’s three coasts, along with an impeccably curated wine and Champagne list. Seasonal oyster and wine pairings? Rejoice, seafood junkies. Fans of raw oysters will have a blast with five housemade sauces (hello, Louisiana hot sauce!), while those who prefer something a little more… cooked, have some imaginative baked options to consider, including oysters Rockefeller; barbecue with tasso ham and New Orleans barbecue sauce; and even a bacon, cheddar and jalapeno offering that’s simply out-of-this-world good. All this, and we haven’t yet mentioned the shrimp, mussels and clams.
The space itself is not huge (in fact, it used to be a cupcake shop). But when he was picking the location, Catherall didn’t want it to be big. Communal tables; a bright, faintly nautical decor; and a view straight into the raw bar give an intimacy to the spot. The kind of place where you can be happy and make plans.