What feels like a gamble delivers a big payoff.
By Hope S. Philbrick
The folks who opened White Oak Kitchen & Cocktails had a whole lot of confidence in the concept: It’s a huge restaurant. You feel the space immediately, since the entryway puts some significant distance between the front door and the hostess stand. As you’re escorted back to your table, you walk past a bar that’s bigger than some businesses and then pass room after room, table after table before being seated—and, odds are that when you get up at some point to find the restroom or just look around, you’ll discover even more seating areas and private rooms than you’d initially noticed. It’s huge. There’s enough seating for 300.
If an established restaurant had relocated to this space, it would have felt like less of a gamble. A successful restaurant might obviously need to expand to accommodate expanding customer requests (e.g., Watershed on Peachtree). But there was no White Oak Kitchen & Cocktails in Atlanta before this location opened. And so its sheer size and obvious design investment—there’s a lot of white oak inside this place, which isn’t cheap—feels ballsy.
The place is fantastic.
Whether you want to savor ‘contemporary Southern’ cuisine for yourself or share it with folks who are visiting Atlanta from some other place, this is a wonderful option. The cocktails and cuisine are prepared with thoughtful expertise, the vibe is upscale casual, and the service is as friendly as the ‘Southern Hospitality’ reputation requires.
The downtown location is convenient for even the most reluctant-to-explore-Atlanta conventioneer and great enough to lure even a diehard OTPer ITP (if you don’t speak fluent ATL, that means suburban resident inside the perimeter of I-285). It’s exactly the sort of restaurant option that downtown needed: A truly great Southern culinary experience that’s current and authentic, not old-timey and touristy.
Chef Josh Hopkins earned critical acclaim for his previous work at Bacchanalia, Abattoir, STG Trattoria. Now helming the kitchen at White Oak Kitchen & Cocktails, he continues his commitment to sustainability, seasonality and simplicity. His fried green tomatoes manage to seem light and fluffy. Pimento cheese is just-spicy-enough. Meats are cooked to perfection and paired with divine sides that showcase local produce. Be sure to save room for dessert and don’t be skittish about trying something different like fried rhubarb pie—whatever you pick, it’s bound to be delish.
The bar features more than 70 whiskeys and bourbons, and a whole lot more. Among the specialty cocktails, one standout is The Atlantan ($12), a lip-smacking mix of cherry-infused Woodford Reserve Bourbon, kirsch brandy, Carpano Antica Formula, Fee Brothers’ Aztec chocolate bitters and flamed orange zest.
Prepare to say yum.
White Oak Kitchen & Cocktails
270 Peachtree St.
Atlanta, GA 30303
-Photos © HSP Media LLC