Howard and Anita Hsu, the brother and sister team behind Sweet Auburn BBQ, plan to open Lazy Betty with their brother chef Ronald Hsu, What Now Atlanta first reported. The restaurant is named for their mother and will be located in the current Soul Vegetarian No. 2 space next door to Sweet Auburn BBQ in Poncey-Highland. Ronald is taking the lead in the new restaurant venture which hopes to open by the end of the year.
The design of the small, 37-seat restaurant includes a banquette in the dining room, a bar, a section for private events, and a five-seat chef’s counter where diners can watch Ronald and chef de cuisine Aaron Philips in action. The pair worked together at chef Eric Ripert’s Le Bernardin in New York City.
Ronald, who was the executive sous chef and creative director at Le Bernardin for years, tells Eater Atlanta the restaurant’s menu will be comprised of three tasting menus. Both the vegetarian and the “Lazy Betty” (a mix of meat and seafood) are six courses each. The nine-course chef’s tasting menu will include more extravagant dishes such as foie gras, lobster, and sea urchin.
Ronald plans to pair his decade-long kitchen experiences working in New York City with the cross-cultural meals he recalls from his childhood in the dishes he creates for Lazy Betty.
“My mother represents a lot of the food I’m cooking. She grew up in Malaysia but was from China and came to the United States in the 1960s,” the chef says. “She acclimated to American culture and started cooking dishes like chicken fried steak for us as kids but then we’d also have Asian dishes at dinner. It was a real hodgepodge.”
The brothers say their mother is far from lazy. Betty Hsu owned and operated several Chinese restaurants with her husband George. In her retirement years, Ronald recalls many times arriving home in Atlanta from New York to find his mother fast asleep on the couch after a day of cooking, cleaning, and looking after grandchildren.
In response to earlier reports that Lazy Betty would serve “new Southern cuisine”, Howard says this description was only meant as a placeholder for Facebook.
“The food at Lazy Betty is Ronald’s journey as a chef with some Southern and Asian influences, because it’s who he is, and who we are as a family.”
A dish likely to be on the “Lazy Betty” tasting menu is Ronald’s version of steak and eggs using wagyu beef he sous vides and sprinkles with grated wasabi. The chef then wraps a sous vide egg yolk in a wasabi leaf (like a ravioli) and places it atop the steak.
His mother’s weekly, midnight trips to Waffle House after one of her restaurants had closed for the evening served as the inspiration for the dish. Betty’s post-shift order was always steak and eggs. Those Waffle House meals often served as the family’s dinner together.
The Hsu’s are currently in the permitting phase for the restaurant with the city. The family owns the building in which Sweet Auburn BBQ and Soul Vegetarian No. 2 occupy.
“We’re not sure what Soul is planning. They have been there a long time and are on a month-to-month lease,” Howard says of their current tenant. “I know they’ve been looking around Atlanta for a while. We aren’t forcing them out. They didn’t really renew their lease so, this is a mutual decision.”
In the meantime, Ronald and his chef de cuisine Aaron Phillips are hosting monthly pop-up dinners at Sweet Auburn’s neighbor The Poncey-Highland Cafe & Coffeehouse next door to the Highland Inn. The seven-course suppers are meant as practice meals for Lazy Betty.
“We give out a questionnaire asking for feedback at the end. Based on that feedback, we choose the dishes people enjoyed the most that evening and refine them.”
The 14-seat dinners take place on the last Sunday of each month. The chefs plan to continue the pop-ups through August. Howard and Ronald are hoping to have a simple website up soon for the dinners. Tickets are currently being sold through Eventbrite.
652 North Highland Avenue NE, Atlanta.