Marcus Bar & Grill in Atlanta

With the arrival of the Marcus Bar & Grille, New York chef Marcus Samuelsson is betting on the ATL.

This is not the first time that a great chef from elsewhere has opened a restaurant here. Tom Colicchio, Emeril Lagasse, Michael Schwartz, Jonathan Waxman and Art Smith have all done this over the past 15 years. They all failed.

Maybe these restaurants didn’t live up to the hype, or maybe diners felt the absent celebrity chef had no connection to the local community.

That doesn’t seem to be the case with Marcus Bar & Grille. Atlanta has had a warm welcome at the Edgewood Avenue restaurant since its debut in March. And, when the novelty wears off, I’ll bet it’ll still feel like a place created specifically for Atlanta.

Credit: Andrew Thomas Lee

Credit: Andrew Thomas Lee

It starts with location: Atlanta’s Old Fourth Ward, birthplace of the Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. are deeply connected and committed to creating jobs in historic African-American communities.

The design of the high-ceilinged, industrial space — formerly the short-lived Adele’s — gives Marcus Bar & Grille an upbeat energy. Guests are greeted by a bold blue facade and banana yellow interior walls accented with collections of vinyl records and roller skates. (Fun fact: Roller skates were Samuelsson’s mode of transportation to work as a young line cook in New York City.) Plush living room seating provided by bench seats and a few curved booths lend a cozy and inviting feel.

Credit: Andrew Thomas Lee

Credit: Andrew Thomas Lee

The modern Southern menu offers an inviting blend of familiarity and originality. The deviled eggs receive a filling of chicken crackers. Italy comes to Atlanta in a Caprese salad that combines fried green tomatoes, pickled watermelon and burrata.

The “everything” wings come with ranch, plus a tangy dip of homemade hot sauce, hot honey, and lemon pepper. Equally good are the crispy fries underneath, seasoned with an addictive blend of togarashi and Ethiopian chili.

Even such a ubiquitous dish as chicken and waffles stands out. Three pieces of crispy fried chicken are coated in a sweet maple glaze, accented with the Ethiopian spice blend berbere. The subtle heat comes from the melted chili butter hidden beneath this cornbread waffle, while the pickles elevate each bite with acid, salt and crunch.

The King of the South is an assortment of Southern specialties – a hot cast iron skillet loaded with three proteins and a variety of sides. In my case, it was beef brisket, sautéed shrimp and fried chicken, topped off with cola beans (black eyed peas), rice, sautéed mushrooms and tender cabbage topped with smoked turkey. Unfortunately, the brisket was dry and stringy, and the chicken was nowhere to be found – a snafu that an attentive server rectified with a trio of wings.

It wasn’t the first misstep. While the rest of my dinner enjoyed their cocktails, I sipped on a zero-proof sugary drink, but it wasn’t the one I ordered.

The best drink came during brunch. The Bloody Mary, nicknamed a Bankhead Bribe, was superbly balanced; the homemade tomato juice had terrific body and spice, while a toothpick threaded with pickled okra, green olive and jalapeno wheel added to the appeal.

Yet aside from the soft, sweet cornbread with whipped honey butter and berry jam; an order of wings; and cookies and chicken sausage patties ladled in gravy, brunch was disappointing – especially a runny vegetable shakshuka that claimed okra, but came with asparagus.

Credit: Andrew Thomas Lee

Credit: Andrew Thomas Lee

Adding to the frustration: pounding music so loud that we struggled to hear or be heard, even though we were sitting on the terrace. (Summer dinner parties beware: Tabletops not shaded by umbrellas get so scorching from the sun that you’ll burn your forearms if you touch the surface.)

Hannah Young, a former executive chef at Adele, led the all-black kitchen brigade during its opening weeks, but is no longer around (and a replacement has yet to be named). However, the team has always skillfully executed ribs with an Alabama sauce that pulls a punch of horseradish, cauliflower in coconut curry, crispy Brussels sprouts caramelized in warm honey and those killer wings seasoned with flavors as international as Atlanta.

That’s why Marcus Bar & Grille fits perfectly here. From the food to the atmosphere to the staff, the restaurant is comfortable in its own skin and invites customers to feel the same.


2 out of 4 stars (very good)

Food: Chief-led Modern South

Service: welcoming and caring

Recommended dishes: Cornbread, Deviled Eggs, Wings, Ribs, King of the South Platter, Fried Chicken and Cornbread Waffle, Coconut Curry Cauliflower, Collard Greens, Brussels Sprouts

Vegetarian dishes: cornbread, fries and dips, tomato and burrata salad, cauliflower, macaroni with four cheeses, cola beans, Brussels sprouts

Alcohol: full bar

Price scale: $$$

Hours: dinner, 5pm-10pm Tuesday to Thursday and Sunday, 5pm-11pm Friday to Saturday; brunch, 11.30am-2.30pm from Saturday to Sunday

Car park: free street parking; free lot one block away; valet available

MATE: King’s Memorial

Reservations: accepted

Outdoor dining: terrace with some umbrellas

To go out: not recommended

Address, phone: 525 Edgewood Ave SE, Atlanta. 470-890-1700


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