After closing in Roswell two years ago, Foundation Social Eatery finally returns to the dining scene, reopening Friday, December 9, in downtown Alpharetta.
“I’ve been out of the kitchen for about two years. And I will say there has been a bit of pressure to come back better than before,” chef Mel Toledo says of reopening his restaurant. “But after the soft opening and friends and family nights, I’m feeling confident we are going to do extremely well.”
He credits his team of chefs, including longtime chef de cuisine David Williams, and operating partner Nick Hassiotis for sticking by him over the last two years during construction and embracing his vision for the restaurant at its new Alpharetta location.
Toledo first announced the closure of Foundation Social Eatery in 2020. Its closure came as a shock to regulars, many of whom had been dining at the restaurant since it opened on Holcomb Bridge Road in 2014. But Toledo promised he was searching for a new spot to reopen Foundation Social Eatery. Five months later, in May 2021, Toledo found it on Roswell Street in downtown Alpharetta.
The Alpharetta location features a similar layout to the Roswell restaurant, and even includes a few familiar design elements from the former location Toledo kept and stored.
“We wanted to give that same familiar feeling of the other restaurant to our regulars, but with higher end finishings. It’s much more refined,” Toledo says of the design by ai3. “But those things we kept from the old restaurant location bring in that sense of familiarity. That was very important to us.”
With seating for up to 160 people and two patios, one of which is covered, the physical footprint of Foundation Social Eatery expands in Alpharetta. The patio spaces were key to the decision to open in this location, Toledo says, to capture foot traffic in the suburban city’s now bustling downtown dining district. The covered patio offers table seating for the restaurant, while a second patio features lounge seating for people waiting for a table or who want to grab drinks and hang out.
Part of that expansion in Alpharetta includes a Parisian-style market and daytime cafe called Petite FSE, located at the front of the restaurant. Toledo hopes to open Petite FSE in January, where he will serve coffee, fresh breads, grab-and-go charcuterie boards and pastas, and a light menu of cafe fare throughout the day.
Regulars to the Roswell location will see more than a few of the restaurant’s most popular dishes on the menu in Alpharetta, including the crispy Spanish octopus, pate, PEI mussels, the burger, and chicken bolognese. And Toledo is upping the ante in Alpharetta, adding caviar service, crudos, escargot, and entrees such as leek dusted flounder with caviar beurre blanc and a confit lamb neck for two. There’s a sense of joy on this menu, punctuated further by Toledo’s excitement about the food he’s now serving at Foundation Social Eatery.
The salt and sugar cured scallop crudo comes served with warm brown butter vinaigrette, fried capers, and lemon. It’s a play, Toledo says, on hot and cold flavors, noting that any time he puts scallops on a menu, it’s always presented as a sort of surf-and-turf style. The brown butter vinaigrette combines brown butter and chicken stock.
“I really wanted to have fun with the menu and have a lot of vegetable and vegetarian options. I do a wood oven-roasted maitake mushroom and treat it like a piece of meat,” he says. “We put some garlic in there, baste it with butter, and put it inside a wood burning oven to get that smokiness from the char. It’s served with mini breaded foie gras, almost like chicken nuggets, and celery root puree.”
Entrees will rotate throughout the year, and Toledo dedicates an entire section of the menu to his pastas. One of his favorite pastas currently on the menu is the turnip and ricotta tortelli filled with duck confit and pickled mushrooms.
As much as Toledo’s restaurant is known for its food, Foundation Social Eatery is equally known for its cocktails, especially classics like the Manhattan and less well-known drinks such as the Prohibition-era Lion’s Tail made with bourbon, allspice dram, and fresh lime juice. That continues in Alpharetta, with a cocktail list created by Hassiotis, who now has an ownership stake in the restaurant after 22 years in the industry. His most recent stint was overseeing the food and beverage at Hotel Clermont and its critically acclaimed restaurant Tiny Lou’s.
“This is a progressive cocktail list, from lightest to more full-bodied and intense flavors,” says Hassiotis. “Cocktails and wine are the bread and butter of the bar. Cocktails are where you’ll see technique, skill, and thoughtfulness. It’s an evolving menu.”
Hassiotis says the bar is built for speed and ease for the bartenders, using cocktail techniques like clarification to create batched ingredients that are shelf stable and ready to use. He points to the Ghosted cocktail made with bourbon, lemon and a float of cabernet sauvignon. It’s a take on a whiskey sour inspired by videos he watched during the early months of the pandemic where bartenders were creating clarified milk punches.
“It’s a clarified New York sour. The bottom will be pretty crystal clear with tints of yellow and brown from the bourbon and lemon juice,” he says. “Then we float a little Alexander Valley cabernet to cut through and give it a bit of dryness. The Nelson Brothers bourbon is high proof, so when you clarify it through milk, it helps round out those harsher notes. It’s a well-balanced cocktail and easy to execute for the bartenders.”
Like the cocktails, non-alcoholic options aren’t an afterthought, including drinks like the Grey made with Earl Grey tea mixed with oleo saccharum (another shelf-stable mixture of sugar, citrus oils, and citrus peels,) egg white, tonic, and thyme.
“Throughout the entire restaurant and the menu, we try to be very thoughtful,” says Hassiotis. “This also goes through the entirety of service. Everything is intentional. We want people to just sit back, relax, and enjoy.”
Check out the menus for Foundation Social Eatery below:
Open Tuesday - Thursday, 5 p.m. to 9 p.m.; Friday and Saturday, 5 p.m to 10 p.m. Petite FSE and Sunday brunch launch in the coming weeks.
55 Roswell Street, Alpharetta. foundationatl.com.