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Steak tartare with grilled eggplant puree; photography by Caroline Petters

Thrill of the Catch

by Wendell Brock | Men's Book Atlanta magazine | September 14, 2012

A lure is an object that dangles from the end of a pole and hooks fish. Men keep these shiny, dangerous little toys hidden away in tackle boxes, reserving them for rituals that often involve heavy drinking and Hemingway-esque battles with creatures that invariably seem to wiggle away.

Lure is the name, too, of the seductive new seafood concept by Fifth Group Restaurants in the legendary Midtown space that was the original Vickery’s. Where Vickery’s was a colorful, anything-goes neighborhood joint that maintained the cozy charm of former owner Margaret Vickery’s Crescent Avenue bungalow, Lure is a study in contemporary masculinity. There’s not a drop of color in designer Bill Peace’s elemental environment of gun-metal grays and weathered woods.

Slanting the palette toward the nautical and neutral is an effective strategy, because it concentrates the energy on the strong, charismatic flavor profiles created by Executive Chef David Bradley and Fifth Group beverage guru Vajra Stratigos. This masterfully executed food is hip and playful without ever being fussy. Scallop crudo bumps up against sugar snaps and horseradish. Unctuous steak tartare oozes with eggplant puree. Sautéed grouper is a continent-hopping collision of Silver Queen corn and palate-tingling spicy lime pickle.

But the managers of Lure know that patrons aren’t just trawling for dinner. The restaurant is at the heart of the city’s party district, so why not lubricate the action? Booze is so big here they put it in punch bowls—group slurps that our server likened to “drinking out of a bath tub” in college.

Even the names of the drinks are in on the joke. Your Money, My Looks mixes Aperol, Jim Beam, prosecco, grapefruit and rosemary. (Is your prenup ready?) It’s Not Unusual is a potent Tom Jones homage of white rum, brown ale, orange and pineapple juice, and citrus bitters, sure to be loved by everyone. (Now, let’s go dance, baby.) The ladies might like to nurse a housemade bottled cocktail like the pretty, pink Micha Caliente (lemon-lime soda, jalapeno vodka, orange liqueur, cranberry and verdejo, served in a glass with strawberries and a long slice of cuke) or the Blue-Eyed Boy (Bombay Sapphire, mint, elderflower, peach bitters). Solitary types might contemplate the meaning of life in Japanese fashion, sipping glasses of shochu poured over ice and decorated with heady strips of citrus, coconut bark or licorice root.

After a little shochu and a few aphrodisiacal Katama Bay oysters dipped in shochu mignonette, you may want to don a towel and retire to a Japanese hot-springs sauna. Do that, and while your belly may be flatter, your tongue will never forgive you for what else it’s missing.

Bradley riffs on the classics and has plenty of fusion tricks up his toque, too. There’s New England-style clam chowder and a Thai-inspired tom yum shrimp bisque. Fried-oyster sliders are tucked into buns with watercress and remoulade and pricked with a little toothpick flag that says “Yum.” Grilled octopus and bits of pork are meant to be rolled up in lettuce leaves and doused with prickly Vietnamese dipping sauce; stopping by our table, Stratigos jokingly called this dish a taste of Buford Highway. While you can make your gut very happy on such small plates, keep in mind there’s pan-fried sole with capers, brown butter and spinach; fish and chips (or rather, “arcadian redfish in lacy sourdough batter”) and grilled whole Georgia rainbow trout with pickled ramp butter and new potatoes.

In the end, Bradley knows that fish houses and ice-cream parlors go together like beach and breeze. Again, it’s Americana with a twist. So think green-tea soft-serve and funnel cakes with figs and Pernod pastry cream. Our fave, however, was the guava and coconut bread pudding with crème anglaise and hazelnuts. Put a “Yum” flag in that, baby.

When a talented chef and a maestro of booze open a Pandora’s box of lures, you never know what they’ll land. Lucky for you, Lure is a classy, one-stop bait shop where you can hook up with dinner and a date. Yet none of the frat-house noise of the place diminishes the sure hand of the kitchen. Just stick a straw in the punch bowl, toss out your line and see what you catch.

1106 Crescent Ave. NE

Dinner: Sun.-Thu., 5-10pm; Fri.-Sat., 5-11pm (Bar opens at 4pm daily.)

Appetizers and shared plates: $4.50-$36
Entrees: $16-$33

Park It
Free valet parking. And in this busy stretch of nightlife, that’s a must.

Dress the Part
Though the after-work crowd brings a dressier-than-necessary air, anything works—from shorts to suits.