The traditional (pre-Internet) rule for reviewing restaurants was to allow ninety days after opening to give the chef and staff a minute to gain its footing. I think that was fair. I mean, three months is quick, right?
Well, anybody who waits ninety days to review Hudson North (19th Street W District Ave, Midtown @ Atlantic Station Tel: 404.747.2297), Atlanta’s first pop-up restaurant, will arrive to closed doors. The restaurant, opened by Bill Streck of popular Cypress Street Pint & Plate, opened early October with plans in hand to close the last day of December. That’s right, it’s a temporary restaurant by design for those who have never heard of pop-up restaurants — a mind boggling but growing trend in bigger cities such as New York and San Francisco.
If you are a believer in cosmic forces you will appreciate how the stars perfectly fell into alignment to make this pop-up dream a reality, and a successful one at that. How else do you explain how a restaurateur with one crazy idea, a temporarily empty gold mine of a space and one very talented displaced Washington, DC chef (H.B. Hibbs) in need a gig — even if only temporary — all cross paths at that right moment in time?
Exactly, you can’t.
Looking around the dining room I don’t see a single soul in the brisk crowd beating their head against a wall trying to unravel the mystery of the forces of the world. Instead, the laid back audience is sipping cocktails and reveling over chef Hibbs’ beer-soaked bacon figs with bits of almonds. They use their fingers to gather tiny pieces of dill, fennel and clementine oranges to carefully place atop a sweet sliver of lime-cured scallop. And, they scoop citrusy halibut ceviche, which has been cleverly forged into the shape of a tuna fish can, with tortilla chips.
With each bite off the appetizer menu a flurry of questions run through my mind. Is it Mediterranean? …Or more Asian? …Is it kinda sorta Mexican? That halibut ceviche I mentioned earlier is perfumed with underlying notes of lemongrass and scallop crudo sings a ginger tune.
Pressing down into savory fork tender braised short ribs over mustardy beet bbq puree I am hit the realization that the real story here might not be Atlanta’s first ever pop-up restaurant. The real story here is the new chef on the block. Many of Hibbs’ ingredients are sourced from local farms and armed with this kind of quality he hits flavor profiles with the precision of a military marksman.
And while I am dishing out deserving praise to owners and chefs I should really be giving a shout out to the staff. These passionate people, despite their jobs being temporary, have clearly bought in to this concept as if it were their own.
It’s amazing how this seemingly impossible project has fallen together so brilliantly, so perfectly.
What happens after December 31? Well, that remains uncertain. Rumors are swirling that they just might pop up somewhere else. Perhaps in a neighborhood near you.
Only time will tell.