Georgia born and raised Bradley Wyatt mixes a mean cocktail and keeps the front of house running smoothly at Robert Phalen's meat-centric Inman Park eatery, One Eared Stag. He's also about to be a father. "The sooner she gets here, the sooner I can take her hunting and fishing," says the avid outdoorsman.
Here, Wyatt talks about celebrity guests, the Stag's vegetarian options (hint: there are many, in spite of the dead animals hanging all the walls), and his favorite summer cocktail.
It's 8 p.m. on a Saturday. What's the wait for two?
It shouldn't be more than about 20 minutes. A lot of people don't realize before they come here that we have a lot of tables for a very small kitchen. We have a great bar, so I encourage people to just sit down for 10 to 15 minutes and to enjoy the experience. We also have a TV, which we debated about a lot, but it's great when Braves games are on to see guys who don't even know each other standing up in the restaurant and cheering.
Has anyone ever offered you cash or gifts to speed things along?
It's funny. You walk in here, and we all have beards, and there are dead animals everywhere, but people really just mind their manners. I've worked at other restaurants around town, and I'll fill in at other places on occasion, and the demands that people make there— that stuff would never fly here. It's a whole different mindset. And I enjoy that. It makes you want to go out of your way that much more. When people come in here, we try to provide dialogue.
We HAVE been offered game and meat. Things like, "I have a small pig in my freezer, do you want it?"
Tell us about your favorite customers.
Families. We get a lot families. Two of our regular clients actually had scavenger hunt around Inman Park for their kid's birthday, and they came and dropped stuff off here. When we were decorating for Christmas last year, we had tons of kids here, helping us put popcorn on strings. It's a really family-oriented place, and we love our regulars, especially our families.
We also get a lot of industry people. It's really great when you come here and it's a Sunday afternoon or Sunday night, and you have Adam [Waller] from Bocado with his fiance, or Todd Ginsberg [executive chef, the General Muir]. And they come here because it's their type of food. It's nice to know that the people that are working 90 hours a week like we do are taking what little time they have off work to come to OUR restaurant. It's humbling.
What do you do when a VIP or celebrity comes in and doesn't have a reservation?
They wait like everyone else! We had that guy who plays Don Draper [Jon Hamm] in here the other night eating fried chicken. Our servers are really mellow about celebrities. It doesn't phase them. And Jon just walked in and waited like any other customer.
Mostly, they just want to be treated like normal people.
But for every Jon Hamm that comes in, we get 50 people in here that are people in charge of props, or cameras, or whatever, and I'll take them any day of the week. That's repeat business.
What's the most outrageous request that you've accommodated?
There is one dude who comes in here and orders the fried chicken— with sides of butter. He dips his fried chicken IN butter. Which is ridiculous. I don't understand it.
The most persistent, oddest request we get is if we have vegetarian things on the menu. People think we are so meat-driven, that they forget that there's this whole other half of the menu that's all based on produce and vegetables. My girlfriend Julia is vegetarian, and this is one of her favorite restaurants to eat at. Our celery salad is one of our most popular items year-round.
Do you have a favorite place to sit?
Table 74, this round patio table on the porch, and I'll tell you why. Took at that view— the church, the old homes, the trees. You sit out here, and you don't even feel like you're in Atlanta any more. It's where I take my friends to sit for a beer or drink.
What's your favorite menu item?
For cocktails, the sidecar with benedictine. My favorite, hands down, I love it. It has lemon juice, Cointreau, benedictine, and it's just awesome. I mix it with a little bit of champagne. It's citrusy, it's nice, it's light. That's my go-to drink.
For food, the chef's breakfast. Breakfast is my favorite food. And I pray that it has some hot chicken on it that day.
At the end of the day, what's the one Gatekeeper tool you need to get the job done?
Dialogue. If I listen to you, and I start a dialogue with you, that's it. That's all we need. It starts with good listening. I think when you go to so many restaurants, things are so automated, it's just sad. People don't stop, they don't listen, and they don't engage in dialogue. That is the difference between someone getting a decent experience, and something that's really memorable. I don't want things to be automated here. It comes with listening with your eyes and your ears. If people are comfortable at the bar and don't want to get up, don't rush them. If people look like they're in a hurry, acknowledge that, and speed things along. Listening and really paying attention to people's needs is the best way to ensure people have a great experience.
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