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Pork cheeks, Three Philosophers cream, spaetzle and greens; Photography by Helena Peixoto
Mystery Solvedby Jonathan Baker | Jezebel magazine | March 8, 2012
Dinner Party Atlanta glowed with an aura from the moment it started: outlandish dinners, served at outlandish locations, all drawn up by the hipster gourmand squad behind two of our city’s coolest restaurants, Top Flr and The Sound Table. With a waiting list of more than 6,000, well-known guest chefs and secret locations (airplane hangars, the center court of Alexander Memorial Coliseum, to name a couple) for their meals, Dinner Party instantly gained cult status. It was a monthly club that was whispered among foodies, acclaimed by critics, but one that few people could experience… until now.
Anchoring the corner of Juniper and Eighth Streets, The Lawrence is Dinner Party’s long-awaited brick-and-mortar location, and the third understated gem in the Top Flr family. Led by visionary Patrick La Bouff, Top Flr/The Sound Table partner Darren Carr and their Executive Chef, Shane Devereux, The Lawrence added key players that, quite frankly, a single restaurant just isn’t supposed to get: Rathbun’s’ George Brooks joined the trio to serve as chef de cuisine. Eric Simpkins, a pioneer in Atlanta’s mixology movement, showed up on La Bouff’s doorstep one day, simply upon hearing about the project. His co-beverage director is none other than the ballsy, on-the-rise The Sound Table barkeep, T. Fable Jeon. Even Steven and Nick Carse (the heartthrob owners of the King of Pops) can often be found floating about the kitchen or dining room, embracing their recent role as co-owners and, by default, utility guys.
It’s the type of group, when you see them all there and in action, that makes you feel lucky to be in the building.
And while the clan established itself for its role in the late-night bar scene and cut its teeth on La Bouff’s Dinner Party philosophy of, “Let’s see what crazy shit we can pull off,” The Lawrence is all about being consistently unique. There’s afternoon tea served daily. The cocktail list isn’t just inventive (homemade eggnog), they often go the adventurous route (blending white wines into cocktails). Rather than having a chef’s table, four bar stools are perched on the edge of the kitchen, within arm’s length—and earshot—of the chef. The office isn’t quietly tucked away behind closed doors, but, instead, sits neatly above the dining room in a small loft, on display for everyone to see. And then, of course, there is the menu.
Devereux is the quiet darling of the group. One of Atlanta’s culinary secret weapons, he unassumingly built a reputation at Top Flr, The Sound Table and Dinner Party by delivering truly interesting and international cuisine that consistently matched space and vibe perfectly. With The Lawrence, he continues to push creative boundaries, yet does so in a polished way that fits the neighborhood. For starters, crispy hog ears are perfectly passable and impossible to put down. Light and airy with a hint of cinnamon and star anise on the back end, they taste like one part Top Flr and one part Peter Chang. Beef jerky arrives surprisingly tender, heavy on the meat flavor and light on the spice. Carnita tacos don’t see their usual roasted pork counterpart, but, instead, feature duck tongue. Poussin, de-boned and stuffed with foie gras, tastes like the Thanksgiving you never knew existed. Warm chocolate rum cake toped with brown butter ice cream and pretzel dust is hot, cold, sweet, salty and crunchy—all at once. In short, it’s wonderful.
The Lawrence captures the art of constant discovery, executed by a mischievously brilliant cast, who are all there for the right reasons. It’s not a supper club—Dinner Party will continue to operate as per usual—but it is a restaurant that is built on the unique dining experience, and the ever-present element of cool. Atlanta is lucky to have it.