Former Portofino executive chef Matt Marcus recently opened the first restaurant of his own, partnering with Andy Lasky to create Bluetop on Peachtree Road in Chamblee.
Serving both lunch and dinner seven days a week, the concept combines fast-casual service with a menu from Marcus that’s both quirky and comfy.
Consider the likes of a Maine lobster corn dog, a signature burger made with Snake River Farms beef and Red Dragon cheddar, and a kale salad tossed with milk blanched garlic, dried blueberries, toasted oats, and fermented hemp nut vinaigrette.
In addition to draft and canned beer, and a concise list of wines by the glass or bottle, there are adventurous drinks from beverage director Jonathan L. Joy, including “Meat Locker” cocktails stirred with duck and lamb washes.
While the name pays homage to the taxi stand that once occupied the space, the Bluetop build-out offers multiple places to drink and dine, including two bars, two dining rooms and a design that melds the indoors and outdoors with backyard picnic tables, bocce and cornhole, and sometimes live bands.
In keeping with Chamblee’s history as a destination for antique and curio shops, Marcus and Lasky bought a 1969 45-foot Global Van Lines moving truck for $500 and retrofitted it to be the kitchen.
“We’re basically running a restaurant out of a food truck,” Marcus said during a recent interview, “but the concept is basically about utilizing the relationships that I’ve built with local purveyors and farmers in over 14 years-plus of being in Atlanta.
“I’m trying to deliver that to the guests at a way more reasonable price than I’m used to in fine dining. The way we found to do that was we took out the china, we took out the fine silver, and we took out the servers, essentially. That freed up a lot of overhead to where we can put that into the menu. Actually, my food cost is higher than it’s ever been.”
Marcus calls his cooking at Bluetop New American, though somewhere along the line that got translated as Americana. Either way, he’s using high-quality ingredients, often in unusual ways, including a Border Springs lamb sloppy Joe.
“I’m taking things that came throughout my life,” Marcus said. “My grandmother used to make me a sloppy Joe with lamb necks, and it’s just happy comfort food for me. A double stack burger with a cheese I found 12 years ago in Mississippi. The Red Dragon cheese makes it for me. And so that’s my little taste of a Mississippi gas station burger.
“I remember the first time we ever figured out how to fry gnocchi. I said if I ever open a fast-casual place, I’m going to put them on the menu and call them tater tots, and give them to the people.”
Besides calling fried gnocchi tater tots, Marcus said the atmosphere was meant to reinforce the cool casualness of the food.
“We totally want it to be a hangout,” he said. “We don’t want any tension in the building. We want you to feel at home. It’s a place where on the weekend I’ve seen people hanging out in the backyard from like 2 in the afternoon until early evening, playing some bocce, and listening to the band.”
Another thing Marcus likes about the backyard, which is close to the kitchen, is that he has a place for his custom Kudu grill.
“I love the Kudu,” he said. “We sat down with the engineer and we designed the one for Bluetop. I’ve got to tell you, it’s everything I ever dreamed it could be. My favorite thing I’ve done on it was an Ossabaw pig head that I let sit for about eight hours on the highest elevation with a pound of chervil underneath.”
While certain items will remain for the long run, Marcus said he’ll be tweaking the menu fairly often.
“The menu will constantly organically grow, and we’re going to really try to pay attention to the neighborhood and what they want. Seeing 80 to 90 ceviches sold a day lets me know that I should probably put a crudo on and maybe expand the oyster program.
“But as far as a demographic, we don’t have one. I don’t know how that’s possible. I’ve seen everything from strollers to wheelchairs in here. And I’m happy with that. I think we’ve created a place for everybody.”
5362 Peachtree Road, Chamblee. 678-620-3490, bluetopchamblee.com.
More images from a First Look at Bluetop