When Shout opened in 2005 at Colony Square in Midtown, the “Food, Fun, Flirt” restaurant from pioneering chef Tom Catherall represented a distinct era of Atlanta dining. When it closed in late 2014, it was both a harbinger of the demise of Catherall’s Here To Serve Restaurants group and a signal that times had changed.
On Friday, 5Church Atlanta opened in the former Shout space, seeming pitched to deliver another kind of audacious dining and drinking experience to the busy corner of 14th and Peachtree streets.
The “neo-Victorian” decor and design elements range from black leather banquettes and moody artisan chandeliers to the dark, hand-painted ceiling by artist Jon Norris, which details pages from Sun Tzu’s “The Art of War.”
It’s the third 5Church location from restaurateurs Patrick Whalen, Ayman Kamel, Alejandro Torio and executive chef Jamie Lynch, who started out in Charlotte N.C., and opened in Charleston S.C., before setting their sights on the ATL.
Kamel moved to Atlanta with his family to operate 5Church as managing partner. Lynch will keep a hand in the menu, which features his famous “60 second” prime New York strip steak — a cut-to-order, quick-seared exercise in the raw and the cooked — and a few more signature items.
But the partners brought on James Beard Award-winning executive chef RJ Cooper to oversee the kitchen and create a slew of new menu items, including the likes of Smoked Pekin Duck with duck confit cabbage pancake, duck egg and spicy plum sauce.
Cooper began his career in Atlanta, working under famed chefs Guenter Seeger at The Dining Room at The Ritz-Carlton Buckhead and Gilbert Le Coze at Brasserie Le Coze. His return to Atlanta came after a stint in Charlotte, where he met Lynch. The two heavily tatted chefs bonded over a similar philosophy in the kitchen and a mutual love of motorcycles.
“He always wears a black chef coat, I always wear a white chef coat. It’s the whole yin and yang thing,” Cooper said last week, as he and Lynch sat down to talk about opening 5Church Atlanta.
“I’m Jackie Chan and he’s Chuck Norris,” Lynch replied, laughing. “But, dude, I was able to get a James Beard-award winning chef to come run my restaurant. That’s pretty awesome.”
Asked why Atlanta was the pick for the new 5Church location, Lynch — who worked at New York City restaurants such as Le Cirque, Aureole and Café Boulud, and moved to Charlotte after the 9/11 attacks — started with the declaration that he “fell in love with the South.”
“It afforded me the opportunity to own my own place — something I could never have done in New York,’’ he said. “Charlotte is a small city and Charleston is a small town, and they’ve been really great. But Atlanta is a big city. There’s crazy culture here, People are sophisticated about food and dining and the experience in a way that’s super refreshing. We can do what we want to do here and people will get it.”
For his part, Cooper said he was surprised by how much the city had changed since his days in Atlanta.
“The diversity from what it was in the early ’90s to what it is now is 180 degrees,” he said. “There’s so much life and richness in the neighborhoods now. You go to Little Five Points or you go to Buckhead or here in Midtown, and it’s a completely different experience. It’s really turned into a dining town.”
1197 Peachtree Street N.E., Atlanta. 404-400-3669, 5churchatlanta.com.
Here are more images from a First Look at 5Church Atlanta.