By now, everyone knows that Bon Appétit named Staplehouse the best new restaurant in the country. Not the city, not the state, but the entire United States. Suffice to say, you may have a little difficulty getting a reservation. But, if you can, planning a month in advance and paying a deposit on your reservation is completely and utterly worth it.
The story behind Staplehouse is bittersweet. The restaurant was created in honor of Ryan Hidinger, a chef who was diagnosed with and passed away from gallbladder cancer in 2014 at the age of 36. In 2015, Ryan’s wife, Jen Hidinger; his sister, Kara Hidinger; and chef Ryan Smith founded Staplehouse, named in reference to its reliance on classic ingredients or kitchen staples. A triumphant tribute to Hidinger’s life and passion for cooking for friends, Staplehouse offers guests a warm environment filled with the compassion and love of its founders. Furthermore, it dedicates all profits after taxes to The Giving Kitchen, a non-profit organization committed to aiding Atlanta restaurant workers in emergency situations.
Upon arriving for brunch, I entered at the back as a friend of the owners. The vibe is cool/casual in the trendy Edgewood neighborhood east of Midtown, and the garden and outdoor patio are relaxed and intimate. The building is a narrow row house, and inside is bright and airy with a completely open kitchen. I felt as if I was arriving at a good friend’s house for a laid-back Sunday brunch.
I started with a strong and flavorful coffee then ordered a series of small plates from the menu, which changes regularly. The first course was a shishito pepper dish with the tastiest savory Japanese furikake seasoning with a hint of spice. The peppers were crispy and perfectly burnt.
Next was the sweet potato masterpiece — a true work of art. Served on a beautiful round plate made by a local Georgian potter, this dish was almost too pretty to eat (almost!). The sweet potatoes were a deep red color and were topped with a dollop of buttermilk, basil, matsutake mushroom sauce, and a sliver of aji dulce red peppers. The combination of flavors was entirely unique and deliciously poignant.
The catfish with fermented pepper, bok choy, and mussels on rice and faro absolutely melts in your mouth. The sauce was cloyingly acidic and a perfect complement to the fish and mussels. It was almost as good as the heartier chicken sausage dish that arrived next, which, eaten with burnt garlic and turnips, was perfect for fall. Every bite was impeccably prepared with considerable care and attention to detail.
This care was apparent in all aspects of the Staplehouse dining experience. From the thoughtful selection of the coffee to the gratitude journal given to us at the end of the meal (specifically dedicated to my husband’s birthday since that was our reason for coming by), every detail was deliberate, thoughtful, and full of warmth.
Staplehouse may feel like an everyday destination with its inviting demeanor, but the experience here is far from ordinary.