Southern Art: Atlanta

Chef Art Smith presents reinvented Southern food in the heart of an elegant hotel

Southern Art's ham bar is said to be among the largest in the country, adding to the list of unique qualities of the hotel restaurant.

I’ve never been much of a fan of hotel food. Whether in town for business or pleasure, I usually think of room service or the lobby restaurant as a backup plan — for when a reservation at the city’s hottest restaurant falls through or when I simply don’t feel like changing out of my pajamas.

That all changed when I visited the InterContinental Hotel Buckhead recently and had the pleasure of eating at their signature restaurant, Southern Art.

The restaurant, which is one of four of renowned chef Art Smith’s culinary endeavors, presents traditional Southern food with an urban twist. Just off the InterContinental’s elegant lobby, the restaurant has both modern and elegant charm, combining décor from the previous restaurant, which was a French brasserie, with some of Smith’s contemporary taste. The result is stylish pale gray walls accented by grand chandeliers, ceiling murals, and tones of purple, red, and yellow. Once the décor sets in, you notice the atmosphere of the restaurant. Lunchtime on a Wednesday is no small feat for any restaurant, hotel or not, but Southern Art was bustling on the sunny afternoon that I visited, giving the impression that the meal I was about to enjoy was certainly not a backup plan for the lively and hip Atlanta crowd.

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The menu was exactly as I assumed it would be, offering traditional Southern dishes like fried green tomatoes, a pulled pork sandwich, and a classic shrimp and grits. What I soon learned, though, was that while obvious at first sight, the dishes, whether traditionally Southern by nature or an original creation, were injected with an original twist that could have only been done under the creative and innovative eye of Smith. The butcher’s board presented freshly sliced ham from Southern Art’s very own ham bar — one of the largest in the country — and was accompanied by homemade mustards and relishes. Before they were given their cornmeal treatment, the green tomatoes were pickled in the house pickling juice, and then were served alongside a jalapeño jelly created with the executive chef’s homemade hot sauce, and a unique goat cheese pimento cheese.