Chef Jarrett Stieber isn't one to follow trends or the rules. Even the name of his weekly pop-up at Gato in Candler Park, Eat Me Speak Me, seems to highlight the young chef's clever sense of humor. Stieber's wit coupled with his kitchen prowess have become a winning combination for his loyal band of followers. His pre-pop-up career reads like a greatest hits of the Atlanta dining scene — having worked stints at beloved and lost restaurants Pura Vida and Abattoir and city staples Restaurant Eugene, Holeman & Finch Public House, and Empire State South before launching Eat Me Speak Me in 2013.
These days, Stieber can be found running his popular pop-up weekend nights from behind the counter at Gato, where he churns out course after course of cheeky takes on the culinary industry's penchant for tweezer food. Garnishes of "pretentious flowers," the tagline "In Guy [Fieri] we trust," and dishes named for any number of dad jokes fill the menu. For those who dine regularly at Eat Me Speak Me, Stieber continues to put forth some of Atlanta's most delicious and honest locally sourced food.
Where does this James Beard Rising Star semifinalist eat and drink when he's not cheffing it up in Candler Park?
I'm not much of a breakfast-eater, honestly. Generally, I start my day by walking Fernando (our dog) when I wake up, then leaving to get coffee before going into work. So, I suppose espresso at Chrome Yellow. I like to cook omelettes — eggs and butter only! — if I have good eggs around and feel like washing some dishes before leaving the house.
Pho Bac on Buford highway — definitely our favorite place for pho. The broth is aromatic and bright, plus they give you an appropriate ratio of random bits to noodles to broth. They're lightning fast, and the Vietnamese coffee with condensed milk is a guilty pleasure of mine.
My controversial opinion on barbecue in Atlanta is: There is no great barbecue in the city. There are some good things at each place, but nowhere that crushes the barbecue game once you've had a taste of real-deal stuff. I would rather drive three hours to Asheville to eat Elliott Moss and his crew's food at Buxton Hall than 10 minutes to places nearby me. Bryan Furman's food at B's Cracklin' Barbeque in Savannah is killer, too — also worth the drive!
I know BoccaLupo may qualify as "fancy," but given the price point — nothing costs over $20 — it really doesn't have to be. Sitting at the bar has a relaxed atmosphere and you can run in for a few glasses of wine, an app, and a pasta for under $50 (not to mention that my wife, Hallie, and her bar partner, Austin, provide phenomenal service). Dish Dive has great food in an even more casual atmosphere with a lower price point, too.
Yet Tuh is a frequent Monday night spot for my wife and I — great Korean food. North China Eatery, Pho Bac, Desta for Ethiopian, Madras Mantra for Indian.
Pho 24 isn't our favorite Vietnamese restaurant, but they're open 24 hours so it's pretty hard to beat after a long night of service. The hot wings and cold High Life at the Righteous Room often do the trick too. Chinese Buddha for great shitty Chinese takeout.
Cocktail or beer of choice
Beer of choice is High Life in a glass bottle — it's so much better in the glass bottle, like Mexican coke versus the canned crap — definitely my No. 1 shower beer after work. For fancies, Westbrook's gose is probably my favorite. I'm totally over hoppy beer. My favorite cocktails are boozy and bitter: Negroni, Sazerac, Vieux Carre, hanky panky, etc. On the brighter side, a classic daiquiri. I love a lot of bartenders so I'm not gonna start listing them all, but David Chapman made me my first Vieux Carre, and I'm eternally indebted to him for that.
Fancy night out
Had an awesome meal at Atlas a few months back. If you want to go for a super formal type of fancy evening, I definitely recommend the experience.
Crock pot dinners are the way to go. Love my wife's pot roast and the smell that fills the apartment while it cooks. Skirt steak from Brasstown Beef gets cooked at home a lot because it's high heat, quick cook, and super delicious with whatever random veggies and au poivre-style pan sauce.
Top five Atlanta restaurants not mentioned above
In no particular order:
Miller Union: always dependable and one of the city's best lunch options that isn't all sandwiches and fried food.
Cakes and Ale: Billy [Allin's] food is focused, sincere, and well executed, and makes you feel good about yourself after you eat it.
Staplehouse: Ryan [Smith] and his crew are pushing the envelope and doing really interesting, creative things.
Bocado: way more than just a burger (which is awesome). The tartare is one of my favorites in town. Always look for specials or new menu additions, which really showcase how badass Adam [Waller's] cooking is.
Saltyard: Nick [Leahy] and Maggie [Huys] are making honest, commendable food in their kitchen. They source locally and sustainably, come through with strong flavors, and are beyond hospitable.
Out-of-town favorite (regional)
Definitely Two Boroughs Larder in Charleston. Walter really does know best! Josh and Heather [Keeler] are hardworking and inspirational. My wife and I are looking to open our own restaurant, and Two Boroughs is a prime example of how a husband-and-wife team can successfully run a tiny little restaurant together that makes people extremely happy.
Out-of-town favorite (national)
Probably Two Boroughs still, but I am also quite fond of Prune and Roberta's, both in NYC. Never had anything short of stellar experiences every time I've been to either place (plus their respective books are some of the finest). No matter what opens in the Big Apple, I never skip visits to those spots when I find myself in that city.
The last time I left the country, I was 18, so I probably am not the world's leading authority on where to dine, but I did go to a place in the Romanian mountains that served shots of hot tuica (Romanian prune moonshine, basically) and had stuffed bears hanging from the ceiling. Definitely recommend that cabin restaurant if you find yourself in Poiana Brasov on a chilly night. I also heard there are some good restaurants in Denmark, but they're a little hard to get into. Though one of my yakitori guests said Noma was "passable," for what it's worth.