First Look: Wade's
The self-described 'fine eatery and good time emporium' brings family-friendly dining to Smyrna
One of the best compliments I received recently was from a 65-year-old guy telling me that he liked our burger so much he posted about it on Facebook," says Jason McClure, formerly of Midtown sandwich shop Villains, and one of the co-founders (along with Jack Childress) of Wade's Fine Eatery and Good Time Emporium in Smyrna.
The restaurant opened in August and has been slammed with excited locals since. Named after McClure's father, Wade's offers high-end takes on pub grub and looks ready to become the latest success in Smyrna's evolving dining scene. If the name makes you chuckle, good. Like McClure's father, it's meant to be larger than life and not taken too seriously.
In a suburb lined with drab strip malls, the modernity of Wade's farmhouse-style building pops. The restaurant is sun-filled and airy with unadorned wood walls allowing diners to focus on one of the 14 televisions playing sports dotted around the restaurant. The vibe is social and laid-back, the kind of neighborhood joint where people bump into each other: young professionals, seasoned folks and the occasional college kid. Despite the minimal d̩cor, there's a homey vibe thanks to the neutral color scheme and quirky details like salt and pepper shakers shaped like corn on the cob and pink piggies.
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Garage doors behind the bar open up to a patio with communal seating and a rooftop bar with full service. No sweeping skyline views, but plenty of fresh air and, eventually, tiki d̩cor and cocktails to match. McClure lights up when he talks about the restaurant's design; it's the kind of place that invites you to stay awhile, whether for a football game or an evening out with friends.
Besides ample outdoor seating (a rare offering in Smyrna), Wade's embraces families with youngins. "Being aggressively family-friendly is key," says McClure when asked what sets Wade's apart from other restaurants in the area. While he focuses on chef-driven eats in a casual setting, he also wants Smyrna's growing population to feel comfortable bringing the whole family. Can't find a sitter? The kiddos can romp in the adjacent public park while you chow down.
Don't let the kid-friendliness deter you, though; there are plenty of adult reasons to go to Wade's as well thanks to Kaitlyn Cook, the bar manager who brought her talents over from Staplehouse. Challenged to develop tipples that are creative yet accessible, Cook makes everything from the juices to the tinctures in house. In the thick of summer, folks have naturally been drawn to the Pinky and the Brain Freeze (aka, fros̩), a cool slushie of ros̩, Campari and cr̩me de pamplemousse ($7). Fans nostalgic for Villains will appreciate the Nutty Professor, a play on the classic Coke and peanuts combo with peanut-infused bourbon, Mexican Coke and peanuts sprinkled on top ($6).
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Entrees will be added to the menu eventually, but for now, the three chefs McClure, Childress and Max Hines are focused on perfecting their sandwiches and appetizers. The restaurant has been serving dinner since it opened, and just added lunch service this past weekend.
Start your meal with the crispy and snackable fried chicken skins ($8) served with a strawberry-habanero sauce for dipping. Sweet and spicy, the sauce doesn't burn as much as it delivers a swift kick of heat to the taste buds. Fried cheese curds ($6) disappear quickly with their crisp outsides and gooey insides, served alongside a creamy garlic ranch. "We do everything from scratch, even something as goofy as a condiment like ranch," McClure says.
The sandwich that stands out from the gaggle is the one that McClure feels the most attached to: the Odd Job ($10), another Villains favorite. It was conceived while McClure split his time between Villains and Miso Izakaya. After creating the perfect Korean fried chicken batter with gochujang (red chili paste), McClure worried that it may be too traditional, so he "buffalo-ed" it up with copious amounts of butter, striking an Asian-Americana balance. Sweet, fruity notes from the pear slaw cut the spiciness and add a nice crunch. It's a decadent package and while it comes with fries I preferred it with the Kale Nero salad (a $2 up-charge), because balance. Plus, what's not to love about dinosaur kale coated in a miso Caesar dressing topped with ramen croutons?
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Carnivores will enjoy the smoked brisket cheesesteak ($11) and the Frenchman ($12), a burger topped with bleu cheese, caramelized onions and red wine ketchup. Don't fret, veg heads, the Small Carbon Footprint ($11) is a homemade black rice and beet burger made with love just for you.
There's not much of a dessert menu (McClure promises more will be added soon), but your sweet tooth will be sated by one of the milkshakes made with local High Road ice cream. The star of the bunch is the bananas foster, in which the bananas are first caramelized in rum and sugar. This extra step adds a nice depth of flavor to the frothy beverage ($7).
Things aren't perfect at Wade's: The restaurant is cacophonous thanks to its bare walls (something they're working on) and the wait staff skews toward inexperienced. But that hasn't stopped people from becoming regulars in the past month it's been open. The allure of a chef-driven restaurant with an affordable price point in Smyrna is irresistible to many, and once McClure and his team find their groove, Wade's is sure to become a suburban staple.
Wade's Fine Eatery and Good Time Emporium, 1061 Concord Road S.E., Smyrna. 678-239-4147. www.wadesofsmyrna.com.