Bon Ton is hard to miss on Myrtle Street. The lavender painted building located across from Mary Mac’s Tea Room is the first indication there’s something a bit mischievous about this midtown restaurant.
Owners Darren Carr and Eric Simpkins describe the mainly seafood-based menu as “Louisiana meets Vietnam paired with stiff cocktails.” Bon Ton’s version of the New Orleans rum-based hurricane is as strong as those found on Bourbon Street. The Crescent City’s earliest cocktail—the sazerac—is on tap. There’s even a section dedicated to frozen drinks, including a Vietnamese meets Irish coffee mash-up.
Bon Ton is here for a good time, and it begins on the Eater Award winner’s Instagram.
“With so many restaurants opening in Atlanta, we needed to stick out,” Carr says of the decision to go the video route. “Flat photos of pretty food have their place, but it’s not us.”
While videos are nothing new to the photo sharing platform, those found on Bon Ton’s account go far beyond the stylized productions usually associated with businesses on Instagram.
Bon Ton’s social feed is an oddly compelling stream of consciousness from its creator Jacob Anderson. The minute-long videos shot and edited on an iPhone are about the weather, parking lots, man-on-the-street reports, and even a music video starring a crawfish.
It’s weird, wild, and most of all, it’s indescribably memorable. Something Carr and Anderson call #BonTonAF.
“Our Instagram is an extension of Bon Ton’s culture,” says Carr. “We want to project a feeling and mood—Bon Ton as an experience. This is its public persona.”
There’s rarely a script for Anderson’s videos, rather giving his actors—a loose term to describe friends he says are “coerced” into starring in them—prompts while on location. He might ask someone to just start talking about whatever’s on their mind or dance energetically on the Beltline. They have no idea why they’re being asked to do so.
“The dreamers series is about what people want out of Atlanta. It’s one of our driest videos— crackling dry,” Anderson explains. “I get people to go out and do a bunch of B-roll. Our camera guy, Charlie, might tell the person on location to start walking and pointing. They have no idea why. Then they come back and do voiceover work.”
Anderson’s most popular Bon Ton video to date was for a crawfish party the restaurant was throwing. He likens it to an episode of the 1990s sketch comedy series “Kids in the Hall”. It stars his then 9-year-old son dancing in a crawfish costume at the pool while a three-piece band plays an original song Anderson wrote.
“My son didn’t know what was happening. I just told him that Darren gave us a bunch a crawfish to eat at the pool and there’s a band. Oh, and ‘Would you mind putting this costume on and dancing the twist?’,” Anderson laughs. “He was like, ‘Sure, Dad. Whatever.’”
“We had bands wanting to cover the song,” Carr continues. “That kind of engagement is priceless for any business, let alone a restaurant.”
One of the pair’s favorite videos happened purely by chance when they were traveling through New Jersey and kept seeing signs for a town called Boonton.
“We came up with the story about how they named the town after Bon Ton but kept messing up the name,” Anderson says of the premise. “We interviewed people in this tiny town asking them about hurricane season.”
Anderson recalls speaking to a person from the mayor’s office who questioned what the film crew was up to in the town of 5000 people.
“I feel bad about this now because they were so excited when we told them we were film students making a video about small towns. It was totally a ‘Parks and Rec’ moment.”
Eventually, Anderson and Carr plan to have some of Bon Ton’s repeating characters meet in order to tie their stories together. The timing on this hasn’t been determined. Like many of the videos, when the idea pops into their heads, they’ll run with it.
All Anderson and Carr say on the matter is, “stay tuned.”
“As much as you want a restaurant to be one thing when you open, it evolves, eventually revolving around the people who regularly patronize it. Our regulars enjoy our weird sense of humor,” says Carr. “The Instagram and these videos are cultivating the culture here. It’s all part of the weird character that is Bon Ton, and we love it.”