Staplehouse, the Old Fourth Ward restaurant that has received nothing but rave reviews since opening last September, is changing up its format. Chef Ryan Smith and his kitchen team will abandon their nightly tasting menus at the end of this month, and will offer a la carte options only, beginning September 1. Co-owner Jen Hidinger describes the change as a way to make the restaurant more accessible.
We have not been able to use our full space to its full capacity at all in this first year,” Hidinger said in a phone conversation with Eater Atlanta. “Our responsibility to the bigger picture for The Giving Kitchen is us wanting to make sure that we are offering a completely sustainable resource, at the end of the day, to our non-profit parent. ... It does have a lot to do with the physical parameters around the design of our space and not being able to offer our food to as many people as we would like on a nightly basis.”
Smith said the decision to drop the tasting menu was difficult, but the space always has been better suited for a la carte dining. Consideration was given to the idea of dropping the a la carte menu instead, but the team decided it would be too difficult.
“In order for us to make it work as a business, we would have to do ‘X’ amount of tastings every night,” the chef said, “and I think the demand is there, but just the physical space to execute it would have been a logistical nightmare.”
Staplehouse’s new a la carte menu will likely see daily changes depending on availability of ingredients and the mood of the kitchen. Smith has focused on small plates to give diners as many different tastes as possible, and that philosophy will continue going forward. But, some larger, shareable plates may be available too. Even without a tasting menu, Staplehouse will allow diners to leave some decisions in the hands of the staff, should they so choose.
“We’re kind of talking about something like that where it’s personalized with the kitchen creating the menu and the servers dictating how the diners eat their meal,” Smith said.
Staplehouse remains on the Tock ticketing system. Partner Kara Hidinger, Smith’s wife and Jen’s sister-in-law, said the logistics for bookings in the future are still being worked out, but the restaurant will keep using Tock going forward. Reservations through the end of August — including the final tasting menu seatings — are available online now, and September will become available next Friday, August 12. Staplehouse continues to serve a la carte lunch on Sundays.
The restaurant is the realized dream of Jen Hidinger and her late husband Ryan Hidinger, who succumbed to gallbladder cancer in January 2014. Its profits benefit The Giving Kitchen, an organization that provides emergency funds to hospitality-industry workers in need. Staplehouse was one of five nominees for the James Beard Foundation’s 2016 Best New Restaurant Award, and Eater national critic Bill Addison recently listed it among his picks for the 21 best new restaurants this year. In March, Atlanta Magazine critic Corby Kummer awarded Staplehouse four out of four stars, the first such rating from the publication since Bacchanalia was reviewed in 2010.
• All Staplehouse Coverage [EATL]