After a series of delays, Scout, a new casual fine dining restaurant and bar from longtime Atlanta restaurateur Chris Martha, finally opened in late December in the Oakhurst neighborhood of Decatur.
Located in the historic Neel Reid-designed Scottish Rite building on West Hill Street, the architectural and interior design of the 4,500-square-foot space was undertaken by the Atlanta firm Seiber Design Inc., in conjunction with LCM International general contractors and Green Olive Media.
The result is a dramatic open floor plan under a soaring peaked ceiling, with rows of vintage windows, an exhibition-style kitchen, a multisided bar area, and a well-ordered look that conjures something like contemporary Americana. Or maybe even a set from a Wes Anderson film.
Along with Martha, the Scout team includes executive chef and partner Michael Semancik, beverage director Nate Shuman and chef de cuisine Jacqueline Hubschman, all of whom previously worked together at Proof & Provision and the Georgian Terrace hotel.
Last week, Martha, Semancik and Shuman sat down at Scout to talk about the concept and the food and drink.
“This is the first project where I had complete control, as far as the team, and the design and construction,” Martha said. “The second closest thing I’ve done is Proof & Provision, where I had a lot of the same creative freedom.
“One of the greatest things about the story here is that it’s an old space from such a great architect. I’ve lived in Oakhurst for eight years, and my wife and my family love it. So we knew that we were going to be improving the depth of the food and beverage scene here, and we had to figure how to do that.”
Semancik explained that the name Scout fits with the concept and functions on multiple levels.
“I think our identity as Scout, and what Chris and I intended when we started talking about the concept goes hand in hand with scouting out product, and scouting out people to work here, and keeping the identity and history of the space,” Semancik said.
“The other side is the community and being of service to the community,” Martha said. “That’s the responsibility of the scout, however you look at that role historically, as far as the pioneers or the military or the Boy Scouts.”
For better or worse, construction delays gave Semancik time to scout out more product, tweak the menu many times over, and consider how it would progress through the seasons.
“I probably created 30 different renditions of the menu, though all in the same vein of what we were trying to get across,” Semancik said. “We went from summer to fall and ultimately where we are now in winter. This current menu fits because it was meant to be a bit more hardy.”
Semancik builds a big part of the menu around seasonal produce, much of it supplied by Decatur farmer Bobby Britt.
“He’s really providing some of the best produce in the area,” Semancik said. “Right now, his Hakurei turnips and golden carrots are worth every penny. We do a side called local veggies with hotel butter, and we’ve been really surprised how many people have taken to that, even the kids.”
But the menu also mixes Yankee and Southern influences, and ranges from Bangs Island Mussels with andouille, caper butter, and crusty bread, to a free-range chicken thigh Parmesan sandwich with Taleggio and arugula, and pan-seared Maine scallops with Gouda grits, turnip greens and brown butter.
Shuman’s beverage menu is equally creative and culinary, using ingredients from the kitchen for cocktails, curating local beer on draft, and offering wines from around the world.
For example, his Mi amor es de Coyoacan cocktail mixes mezcal, cocoa-and-coffee-infused Punt e Mes, Damiana liqueur, lime and honey, topped with a house-made marshmallow.
“The dynamic in the bar area is about beverage, socializing and a communal sort of feeling,” Shuman said. “Over in the dining room, you can watch the chefs, see your meal come together, and feel the heat of the kitchen. Wherever you are, everyone has a nice view of the room and what’s happening here.”
321 W. Hill St., Decatur. 404-496-6863, scoutoakhurst.com.
More images from a First Look at Scout in Oakhurst.