Call it the return of the Angry Chef. Sometimes controversial, always colorful, Ron Eyester is back in the kitchen, again.
This time it’s at Southern Bistro, where Eyester partnered with Nancy and Colman Goodrich on the rebranding and revamping of their long-running Sandy Springs restaurant, Nancy G’s.
Look for new menus at lunch, dinner and brunch, featuring the likes of crispy Tennessee catfish and crawfish risotto, plus Eyester signatures such as “The Big Nasty” fried chicken brunch sandwich. A new bar menu from longtime Atlanta barman J.D. Doyle includes several house cocktails.
Of course, Eyester became known as the Angry Chef behind his Twitter handle and penchant for making fun of diners at his restaurants. More famously, the founder of Grateful Tables restaurant group appeared on “Top Chef” season 12 in Boston, and once owned and operated four Atlanta restaurants.
His original Morningside/North Highland Avenue spots, Rosebud and the Family Dog, as well as the short-lived Timone’s, all closed in 2015. His troubled Atlantic Station restaurant, Diner, closed in March 2016.
Now, after those tough times professionally, financially and emotionally, it seems Eyester is settling in to make a fresh start, and cooking every day is a big part of that.
Last week, Eyester sat down with the Goodriches in the porchlike private dining room at Southern Bistro to talk about the changes at the restaurant and the partnership that brought it about.
“I’ve known Nancy since we worked together across the street at Food 101, and we’ve been friends since,” Eyester said. “Nancy opened up this place 10 years ago, right when I was opening the Food 101 on North Highland Avenue, which later became Rosebud.”
“I’d been having some problems here, and when I saw Ron was having some problems, too, I reached out to see if we could help each other,” Nancy Goodrich said. “Honestly, I begged him to come here. I really thought he could help me a lot, because he has a name and he’s a great chef.”
Eyester admitted he was reluctant to return to the kitchen full time, thinking he would continue to do more restaurant consulting work.
“Actually, though, it’s been refreshing to be able to concentrate on the food and not have to be burdened by all the administrative stuff that was choking me during the end of my run,” Eyester said. “The foundation here is incredibly stable, and that allows us to improve on the product we’re sourcing and serving.
“From my background, I want to source locally, as much as possible, and try to cook seasonally, as much as possible,” Eyester said. “I also want to bring creativity to the daily specials. The more creative we are, the more we can get our guests engaged in what we’re doing. With the exception of a couple of desserts, we’re making everything from scratch. And I think people can taste the difference.”
Reflecting on the demise of his restaurants in light of this new chapter in his career, Eyester was upbeat and philosophical.
“I was a little apprehensive about dipping my toes back in the pool,” Eyester said. “We probably are going to get reviewed at some point. And if it goes bad, it’s definitely going to sting a bit. But this opportunity has given me some clarity on what I know I’m capable of and what I know I’m good at. Right now, the focus is on making things better, and keeping it in perspective.”
And what about the Angry Chef?
“I’ve been pretty tame on Twitter, lately,” Eyester said. “I’ve been really well-behaved. Which is ironic, because this place has all kinds of Angry Chef fodder. We’ll see what happens.”
4920 Roswell Road, Atlanta. 404-705-8444.
More images from a First Look at Southern Bistro.