Sorry for the Cards Against Humanity reference, I couldn’t help myself.
Hugh Acheson has been a fixture on the fine dining scene in the South for some time, but I first found out who he was by watching Top Chef on Bravo. Hugh always came across as both funny and serious at the same time, and I had always hoped I would have the chance to try his food.
As fate would have it, I ended up in Atlanta on a consulting gig, so I managed to carve out an evening to run to downtown Atlanta and try Chef Acheson’s new restaurant, Empire State South. Since I had never tried the food here before, I, of course, went immediately for the tasting menu. First off, I will say that the service here is remarkable. My server, Colt, was remarkably friendly, generally well-informed, and immediately picked up that I was a bit of a foodie. (Note to Colt–it’s the Wil-AM-ette Valley).
Overall, I would consider the food here worthy of a special trip. I was particularly taken with the grilled octopus, as well as the andouille sausage stuffed quail. If there was any low note, it was probably the pork, but I’m guessing that’s only because it immediately followed truly sublime quail.
The wine pairings were, on the whole, quite good. Colt suggested I try a different pairing with the catfish, recommending an Austrian Gruner Veltliner instead of their normal pairing, and he was dead on right.
And I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the remarkable cocktail menu. Their take on several classic American cocktails was truly worthy of note, particularly the Fire Down Under, an all-liquor rum version of an Old Fashioned.
All in all, I would consider my trip to Empire State South to be one of my true food highlights in the South outside of New Orleans.