First Look: Golden Eagle
The elegant new Reynoldstown watering hole harkens back to the shadowy, wood-paneled social clubs of yesteryearMonday December 11, 2017 10:05 am EST
It's Friday evening in Atlanta. After an hour-long commute down I-75, the sun setting in the distance, I arrive at Reynoldstown's newest hotspot: Golden Eagle. Sitting there in the crepuscular light, it's a damn oasis. A friend who visited earlier said he wasn't sure what the place was going for. For me, it was immediately clear: a return to my roots, to a place that gives me that familiar they-don't-make-'em-like-they-used-to feeling.
Located inside the historic railroad depot that once housed H. Harper Station, Golden Eagle shares space with Muchacho, a daytime hideaway slinging tacos and coffee on an umbrella-filled outdoor patio out front. Entering through the bright green side door at night, you'll find a completely different vibe, reminiscent of the shadowy, wood-paneled social clubs of the rust belt; those Moose Lodges, American Legions, and Eagle Clubs in chugging steel and coal towns, where third-shifters sought a dark escape to drink and dine in mystical camaraderie. In fact, owner Michael Lennox who also owns Ladybird Grove and Mess Hall created the watering hole in homage to his grandparents and the places they dined in their hometown of Pittsburgh. The result is something like acts one and three of The Deer Hunter, but with more art deco.
Andrew Thomas Lee
Though the exterior renovations upset some neighbors, designer Elizabeth Ingram (Marcel, Beetlecat, Superica Buckhead) has succeeded in creating a warm, clubby atmosphere that carries the retro concept and quenches the soul. The original brick is painted dark brown. Plaid carpeting covers the floor and green velvet curtains drape from the ceiling. A sexy lounge area features crushed velvet seating, flickering candlelight, and eagle-topped golden mirrors. A beautiful wooden cabinet holds a reel-to-reel tape player streaming music. There is even a vintage metal electric heater the same kind my own grandparents had in their breakfast room.
Culinary director Taria Camerino (Sugar Coated Radical, Ford Fry Restaurants) oversees a menu of throwbacks from yesteryear, like buttery garlic knots showered in Parmesan ($3.95) and grilled branzino for two ($29.95) with crispy artichokes and hearts of palm. A trio of oysters ($9.95) warmed with uni butter and topped with breadcrumbs, is broiled until brown and bubbly. A touch of the South comes by way of crispy shaved okra ($5.95) tossed in zesty lime salt.
Inside the fancy menu booklet, which matches the carpet's plaid, Golden Eagle is described as a Diner's Club and Sunken Garden. Shatteringly crisp with just enough kitsch, crab Rangoon ($9.95) is the right snack to pair with sips of a Mai Tai or Blue Hawaiian. Griddled sweetbreads ($10.95) are decent and plump but could use a marinade for more flavor and tenderness. Oft-overlooked classic pepper steak, or tavern steak au poivre ($19.95), fits seamlessly here. A generous portion of culotte (sirloin cap) sliced into thick slivers is bathed in a sauce of spiked cream, pan drippings, and pepper with a hearty stack of tempura-fried onion rings. Add a side of cheesy golden au gratin potatoes ($7.95) for a classic plate of indulgence.
The bar is Golden Eagle's focal point. Maitre d' William Bubier, formerly of Kimball House, directs guests to the grand U-shaped wooden edifice, backlit and surrounded by comfy leather counter stools. An antique cash register sits on the art deco back bar. Golden reading lamps are a lovely touch. Cushy teal fabric pads the knees of those in dresses and many dress the part.
Andrew Thomas Lee
Bar manager Jeff Stockton (Empire State South) has created a cocktail program to match both the restaurant's design and the era by which it's inspired. "I wanted some fun tiki drinks, especially a blue drink," he says. "I wanted some approachable classics to balance more obscure classics." His beautifully illustrated menu of signatures ($11.95) and classics ($9.95-$10.95) is reminiscent of an old-school roadside diner's placemat of cocktails.
Riffs on an Old Pal, Vesper, and Sidecar are thoughtful and carefully balanced. Stockton's Birds of a Feather stirs together mezcal, cacha̤a, Luxardo bitters, Vermouth, violette, and a spritz of lime for a sort of desert daiquiri with floral aromas. Run Devil Run expertly mixes tequila and scotch no, really. "I am always just trying to find a balance on the palate," Stockton explains, noting how the acid and grass of the tequila and the peat and butter of the Scotch come together. "The nuttiness of both orgeat and cacao played with the citrus and the spice of the bitters on top to tie it all together. People are constantly surprised by the flavor profile and even non-scotch or non-tequila drinkers can appreciate it.
Andrew Thomas Lee
The wine list is carefully curated with both Old and New World varietals. A glass of silky Domaine du Seminaire Cotes du Rhone, with rocky tannins and dark berry fruits, pairs well with the smoked bone marrow accompanying steak tartare ($14.95). Champagne is a fitting end to an evening here, and Laurent Perrier La Cuvee Brut is available by the half bottle ($40). With a soft mousse, high acidity, loads of citrus, and slight toastiness, it's as delicate and elegant as Camerino's chocolate truffle dessert ($8.95). Hibiscus poached pears perch on a circle of dense chocolate. Gold flecks sparkle atop.
Golden Eagle adds a bit more elegance than the scruffily beautiful rust belt haunts I remember, but its ability to harken back to eras past without getting hokey is admirable. Here, Lennox has blended the old with a bit of the new, and will no doubt attract neighborhood regulars and destination drinkers alike. As I left, I found myself humming Frankie Valli and smiling with nostalgia.
Golden Eagle, 904 Memorial Drive. 404-963-1703. www.goldeneagleatl.com.