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Friends toast over an array of bites, from lamb lollipops to garlic green beans, at new Midtown spot Simon’s. Photo by Chris Watkins
Simon’s and the Cityby Kelsie Allen Barton | Jezebel magazine | November 7, 2017
Midtowners are known for being busy bees—on-the-go city dwellers with schedules as hectic as ATL’s traffic. Simon’s, the new restaurant from Simon Guobadia that’s nestled at the corner of Fifth and Juniper (the former home of Ludacris’ Straits eatery, and later Time Restaurant and Lounge) both celebrates this fast-paced lifestyle and provides respite from it, offering a neighborhood vibe, late-night hours on weekends and casual environs in which to relax and converse with friends over Southern-fusion fare that’s elevated yet familiar.
The modern multilevel space boasts an open floor plan, meaning there’s no bad seat in the house from which to view the icicle-esque glass light fixtures that trickle down from the ceiling, creating a shimmering centerpiece. Walls are adorned with black-and-white prints of the Atlanta skyline, a fitting backdrop for sipping one of the Midtown-themed cocktails like the W. Peachtree, made with peach nectar and Champagne, or the 5th & Fashion that blends bourbon, black walnut bitters, orange and cherry. Sit a spell at the central bar—outfitted in plush, tufted red leather—during happy hour (daily, 4 to 7pm) to enjoy $5 Moscow mules and Old-Fashioneds, as well as East and West Coast oysters from the raw bar for just $1 each.
The extensive dinner menu requires a series of decisions; start with the small plates, dubbed “Bites,” at this resto, which aims to keep things simple. Executive chef Allysa Storms—who previously worked at Barcelona Wine Bar in Inman Park—is now making a name for herself as one of the city’s rare female lead chefs.
Here, Storms infuses classic comfort food with global flair: think Thai chili glazed baby back ribs (she cooks ’em in Coca-Cola instead of water, and the added flavor makes them irresistible) and crab mac and cheese with mascarpone cheese and chives. Of course, you can never go wrong sharing a plate of crispy Brussels sprouts sprinkled with lemon breadcrumbs, or ordering the signature Dr Pepper-glazed pork belly topped with pickled carrot slaw that’s as wonderfully indulgent as it sounds. Fancy a little something green? Try the chopped salad, which puts a little South in your mouth, thanks to handmade cornbread croutons and buttermilk herb dressing drizzled over romaine, crispy bacon and grilled corn. Off the raw menu, dishes like seared tuna on a chili cream cheese spread served with ponzu sauce and crab salad also entice.
When it’s time for the main event, don’t overlook the crowd-pleasing house favorite: melt-in-your-mouth Guinness-braised short rib served over creamy yellowstone grits. But the must-try entrees don’t stop there, with other standouts including the 8-ounce red snapper escovitch, which gets a Middle Eastern twist with the addition of colorful bell peppers, Israeli couscous and chili coconut cream; and the short rib agnolotti—delicate, rich pasta squares that Storms individually shapes by hand.
Although it’s tempting to fill up on bites and entrees, save room for the banana pudding, which—spoiler alert—may ruin you for grandma’s recipe. Storms wasn’t a fan of the yellow Nilla wafer-filled dessert as a kid, so she set out to create her own rendition. This version is flame-torched so the sugar crystallizes atop the pudding for a delightful crunch, and features handmade wafers that are sweet and crispy—never soggy. It’s a testament to Storms’ innovation, and to Simon’s mission to create a new dining spot that’s exciting and eclectic—yet still embraces the Southern accent that allows Midtown residents to settle in and feel instantly at home. @simonsatl