Mediterranean restaurant Kitty Dare takes over the former One Eared Stag space on Edgewood Avenue in Inman Park later this fall. Owned by Jamshad “Jaamy” Zarnegar, former general manager and co-owner of Athens restaurant Last Resort Grill, Kitty Dare celebrates not only the cuisines of countries found throughout the Mediterranean region, but the life of a dear friend and the building’s past.
Zarnegar, who was born in Iran and has lived all over the world, calls Atlanta one of his favorite places to live. He went to college in Greensboro, North Carolina, eventually settling in the area and working in restaurants like Spinnaker’s and Southern Life. Zarnegar says he’s held just about every restaurant position there is, from dishwasher and bartender to sous chef and general manager, and then as co-owner of Last Resort Grill.
With a restaurant career spanning three decades in multiple cities around the country, Kitty Dare is his first solo venture, and one that holds deep, personal meaning for Zarnegar. The restaurant is named for his longtime friend and industry colleague Kitty (middle name Dare), who Zarnegar first met in college. It’s a relationship he describes as that of brother and sister, until her death from ovarian cancer in 2017. She and Zarnegar had always talked of opening a restaurant together. Kitty Dare is his homage to her and a promise kept.
“She was just a really incredible woman. She was powerful, talented, and opinionated. A true friend,” Zarnegar says. “I told her I would do something really special for her and we would always do a toast at dinner parties. When I decided to open a restaurant, the name was an easy choice.”
The front door at the corner of Edgewood and Hurt Street will serve as the entrance to Kitty Dare, leading into the 60-seat restaurant and bar bathed in white walls and accented by Mediterranean-style tiles and Santorini blue. Zarnegar has been granted permission by the owner of the loft next door to maintain a shared alleyway, which includes a working fountain. He plans to play up the restaurant’s 40-seat patio in back, too, with blue umbrellas at each table providing shade from the sun during the spring and summer and heaters providing warmth during the fall and winter.
Italian-born and trained chef Giuseppe Esposito, who has worked in restaurants in Italy and Australia, leads the kitchen at Kitty Dare. Expect dishes here infused with the ingredients and flavors from countries of the Mediterranean region. This includes much of North Africa and portions of the Middle East. Gnocchi on the menu, for instance, could incorporate Moroccan flavors and ingredients, while the steak frites might take cues from Lebanon.
Drinks at Kitty Dare may also pay tribute to the restaurants that once called the building home. The property has been a restaurant in one form or another for several decades, starting with soul food restaurant Deacon Burton’s Grill.
“We were putting some more HVAC in the building and the workers were in the attic and found the original sign for Deacon’s,” says Zarnegar. “It’s beautifully etched on words and has the telephone number without an area code when everybody was 404 [in Atlanta] way back when they opened in 1983.”
Later, the Patio opened in the space, before closing around 2005. Bantam and Biddy chef Shaun Doty’s eponymous restaurant Shaun’s opened a year later. It closed in 2010. Chef Robert Phalen took over the property in 2011, opening critically acclaimed One Eared Stag. For nearly a decade, Phalen served an approachable menu of Southern ingredient-driven dishes and popular weekly menu specials from 1029 Edgewood, like Monday fried chicken, the meatstick cheeseburger, and the chef’s breakfast on weekends. Phalen and partner Frank Bailey opted not to renew the lease on One Eared Stag, closing the restaurant earlier this spring.
Zarnegar called his real estate agent soon after the building was listed for lease again.
“I’m extremely conscious of this building’s past and want this restaurant to be a part of that and this great neighborhood,” Zarnegar says, who plans to be at the restaurant every night during its first year.
“Being a neighborhood restaurant is very important, and we’re hoping to have a little bit for everybody, even families,” he adds. “I don’t think anyone will forget the name, and when people ask me about it, I’ll tell her story.”
1029 Edgewood Avenue, Atlanta.