When Ticonderoga Club opened in Krog Street Market last October, it wasn't Greg Best and Paul Calvert's clever imbibes people experienced first. Permitting delays left Ticonderoga booze-free for a couple of weeks, which meant partner and chef David Bies delivered the Club's initial tastes. Bies and the team chose lunch to highlight the spiedie, a marinated cubed chicken sandwich and regional delight from the city of Binghamton, N.Y. Dinner service soon followed, along with the liquor license. Bies continues to churn out signature dishes inspired by his love of travel, flavor, and days as a fishmonger in Asheville.
The Georgia native began his career under Charleston chef Ken Vedrinski at Woodland's Resort and Inn, where he worked his way up the ranks to sous chef before leaving to spend a year cutting up hundreds of pounds of fish a day in Asheville. Bies returned to Atlanta and the kitchen for four years as chef de cuisine at Linton Hopkins's Restaurant Eugene before taking a sabbatical to travel (and eat) his way through Asia, Europe, and Central America. In 2014, Bies accepted the challenge from Best, a friend and former Hopkins colleague, to partner in Ticonderoga Club, where his globally inspired menu is shaped by the flavors of his travels.
So, where does a chef with worldly wanderlust eat and drink around Atlanta on his days off?
Only when my wife cooks, and it's "flitters" or baleadas. She's from the Bay Islands off the coast of mainland Honduras. Baleadas are handmade flour tortillas traditionally filled with refried red beans, eggs, avocado, and "white butter," which is what the islanders call "crema." Flitters [fritters pronounced with an "L"] are an island thing — dough made the night before, rolled out, and cut into random shapes and fried. Soft, puffy, chewy, perfect for dragging through refried beans, runny egg yolk, and white butter. Pearl's flitters (my mother-in-law's recipe) are on the Sunday brunch menu at Ticonderoga Club. My wife makes the dough at home the night before and works Sundays just to roll out the flitters and fry them when an order comes in. I'm convinced this is something only a Caribbean woman can do. We serve them with refried red beans, avocado, runny eggs, chorizo, and white butter.
At home, it's a sandwich of whatever is available and a lot of Duke's mayonnaise. If I'm out and in a hurry, always tacos, usually at Las Tortas Locas.
Fresh Air BBQ in Jackson, Ga. I've eaten there since I was a kid. It's been around since the 1920s. The place has a sawdust floor. The barbecue is great.
Gaja. Allen Suh is an absolute badass.
Atlanta has an amazing ethnic restaurant scene, which makes up about 90 percent of where I eat out. It's impossible for me to narrow it down to even five.
Breyer's mint chocolate chip ice cream.
Favorite cocktail or beer
The beer that Greg or Paul hands me at the end of the night.
Fancy night out
BoccaLupo. Everything Bruce [Logue] cooks is delicious.
If my mom is cooking: day-after Thanksgiving, turkey noodle soup. I don't think I need to elaborate on that. Simply the best. If I'm cooking: slow-cooked barbecue chicken charcoal only, non-negotiable. If my wife is cooking: fried fish; usually whole snapper stuffed with garlic and "mutton pepper," a hot pepper from her island. It's similar to a habanero but much more floral and flavorful. Cole slaw and fried green banana.
Out-of-town favorite (regional)
Buckner's Family Restaurant in Jackson, Ga. It's in between Barnesville and Jackson, right off of exit 201 on I-75 South. It's a true Southern, lazy Susan, all-you-can-eat battle royale — at least for me it is. They're only open Thursday through Sunday, and the menu changes a little each day. They're mostly known for their fried chicken, which is always on the table. Steak and gravy, chopped pork, baked ham, creamed corn, butter beans, stewed okra, mashed potatoes, cole slaw, and a whole lot more each night. Unless you come with a party of eight or more, you'll be sitting at a table with locals. I'm sure they'll be kind enough to tell you to dress your fried chicken with honey and hot sauce or spoon the stewed tomatoes over your cornbread. If not, well, now you know.
Out-of-town favorite (national)
I always go back to restaurant experiences as a whole when I think of a "favorite" restaurant. If I were to base it on that, I would say Peche in New Orleans. Incredible food, service, and friends I was with.
For meat: Ibu Oka. It's in a small town named Ubud in Bali, Indonesia. All they serve is babi guling which translates to suckling pig. But these pigs aren't suckling pigs, they're big, really big. There's a line every day that wraps around the corner before they open. No chairs to sit on, no utensils to eat with, only handmade rugs to sit on and your soon-to-be sticky fingers. All they serve is the best pork you will ever be so lucky to eat. They do a few pigs each night, which are always ready right when they open the next morning around 11 a.m. If you're staying close to Ibu Oka, you can walk down and watch two guys roasting the pigs over an open fire — one guy turning the spit by hand and the other mopping a mixture of spices, chiles, and coconut milk continuously through the night. The first thing to order is a plate of pork skin. It's always the first thing 86'd.
For seafood: any restaurant on Jimbaran Beach in Bali. My dad lives in Bali, so I've spent a lot of time eating my way around the island. Each restaurant on Jimbaran Beach lets you hand-pick exactly which fish, prawn, squid, and everything else you want to eat. You pay for it by the pound, and then they grill it over wood and coconut shells.