Truman opened two months ago in the former Colbeh Persian Kitchen & Bar space on Decatur Square, offering a throwback menu heavy on steakhouse favorites in the guise of a vintage neighborhood tavern, with a bar and lounge area in front and a dining room in back.
Executive chef Michael Condon of nearby Decatur spots Badda Bing Catering and Calle Latina partnered with Brian Buchanan, Paul Vinces and Mary Beth Jones on the project. All together, the four Decaturites have a long history in the food and beverage business.
Buchanan, who is a wine and spirits specialist and serves as general manager, said much of the inspiration for Truman comes from Publicans, the legendary tavern in Manhasset, N.Y., where Condon grew up and started out in restaurants.
“It was the primary setting for the best-selling memoir by J.R. Moehringer called the ‘Tender Bar,’ ” Buchanan said. “It’s a great read for anyone who loves alcohol and food. Michael worked there, starting out as a busboy. After that, he worked for Danny Meyer and other folks in New York City.
“The idea here is a classic New York steakhouse with a very Decatur vibe. It’s very casual but the quality of the food doesn’t reflect that. It’s center plate dishes and things you may have eaten with your parents 25 years ago.”
Among those sorts of menu items, there’s French onion soup, prime rib with horseradish cream, Linguini FraDiavalo with shrimp, mussels, clams, and spicy tomato broth, and a French Dip sandwich with au jus and steak fries.
“Prime rib is a big staple of our menu,” Buchanan said. “It’s something you don’t see all that often. But it’s something we all love. And we do it three ways, with a queen cut or a king cut or an open-face sandwich.
On the beverage side, Truman leans toward the tried-and-true, too, with twists on classic cocktails and a sizable selection of craft beers, along with old school novelties, such as Mickey’s malt liquor.
“The beer, wine and cocktail lists follow suit with the food menu,” Buchanan said. “The wine list is very small with about 27 wines. We always have four wines by the glass, with a red, rose, white and sparkling. And we’ll open up or feature other wines by the glass, as well. We do that like the rotating taps on the beer list.”
Talking about the overall concept and the kind of food he’s cooking, Condon said it was a surprising challenge because so many dishes are so familiar to so many people.
“When I was coming up with the menu and writing it, I realized that for a chef it’s like cooking with your clothes off,” Condon said. “Because every single person has tried prime rib or Caesar salad or French onion soup. With this type of menu, if something’s not spot-on, everyone knows it.”
123 East Court Square, Decatur. 404-907-4116.
More images from a First Look at Truman.
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