Rwby, the latest restaurant from Bon Ton and the Waiting Room owners Darren Carr and Eric Simpkins, opened in the former the Lawrence space on Juniper Street in Midtown. The longtime restaurant partners closed the Lawrence in January, promising to breathe new life into the space with a restaurant and bar that better fits the neighborhood as it is today, rather than ten years ago.
“Naming a restaurant is always interesting. Sometimes you have the name of the restaurant before the restaurant even exists,” Simpkins says of Rwby (pronounced “Ruby”). “We all liked the name, the way it sounds. It’s simple and pretty. We liked the idea of using the Welsh ‘W’ with its ‘oo’ sound and it being a play on W, which we pronounce as ‘double U’.”
Rwby reflects where Carr and Simpkins are in their lives and restaurant careers. It’s mature and sophisticated, yet laidback and relaxed. After years of opening buzzy establishments in Atlanta, they wanted Rwby to be more focused and thoughtful and driven by the needs of residents in Midtown, where Carr also lives. They see the restaurant as a comfortable neighborhood spot to become a regular, offering a slower pace, but where you want to bring your friends and family when they’re visiting. It’s a location Simpkins calls “the perfect corner” at Juniper and 8th streets, nestled between the tree-lined residential parts of Midtown and its busy commercial districts.
The design by Wrong Studio reflects this more approachable vibe at Rwby, which now features a covered patio filled with four-top tables overlooking Juniper Street. And Rwby will continue evolving, Simpkins says, into an all-day restaurant meant to service residents and office workers in Midtown from morning until night. This includes eventually serving coffee and pastries in the morning, lunch in the afternoon, and weekend brunch.
Leading the kitchen at Rwby is chef Murad Ghashim, who was introduced to Carr and Simpkins by Zakia chef Mike Schorn. Schorn was the original chef at Top Flr, now home to cocktail lounge the Waiting Room above Bon Ton on Myrtle Street. He initially consulted on the menu for Rwby. Ghashim previously worked for Schorn and has a background in Italian, Mediterranean, and Greek cuisines.
“We like the idea of food crossing borders in countries around Europe, where we’ve traveled a lot over the years, and Murad gets that and brings that to Rwby,” says Simpkins. “No dish or cuisine overtakes the menu, but seasons are important. We do want to find those dishes, however, the neighborhood really loves and make them the hallmark at Rwby.”
Dishes are easily shared, too, including the roasted carrot dip with garlic confit, steamed mussels, and steak tartare. Entrees see seasonality come into play in dishes like roasted acorn squash stuffed with red quinoa, kale, carrots, and fried oyster mushrooms or tangy Flemish beef cheek stew with saison Dupont, oyster mushrooms, and roasted potatoes and carrots.
As with the Lawrence, cocktails are not after afterthought at Rwby. Simpkins became known for his cocktails at the Lawrence, with he and his team serving a mix of classics and innovative originals. He began his cocktail career under pioneering bartender Audrey Saunders at Pegu Club in New York City. The Lawrence is where Simpkins transitioned from bartender to mentor behind the bar.
Expect cocktails leaning less toward heavy, dark, and stirred drinks and into lighter, brighter, and less boozy concoctions. The Amarcord Spritz, for instance, sees Cappelletti aperitivo and melon rind-infused vermouth topped with prosecco and club soda.
“Just like Midtown has changed, I’ve changed. I drink less these days. I still love a heavy stirred drink, and we’ll make you a martini or Manhattan just like we did at the Lawrence, but I also love drinking non-alcoholic cocktails and cocktails using more amaros and aperitifs.”
The beverage menu is still a work in progress, Simpkins says, but he’s enjoying working with Rwby general manager Elizabeth Ward, who is focusing on a balanced approach to the drinks offered at the restaurant, which will include non-alcoholic cocktails and non-alcoholic beer.
“We want to be here for the neighborhood. Elizabeth and Murad bring a youthful sensibility to Rwby and a different point of view,” says Simpkins. “It’s been refreshing working with a team that’s enthusiastic about a restaurant and willing to learn, but share their ideas. They’re definitely making their mark and it’s great to watch.”
Check out the opening food and drink menu for Rwby:
Currently open Wednesday - Sunday, 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. Hours will extend in the coming weeks and include lunch, weekend brunch, and morning coffee and pastries.
905 Juniper Street, Atlanta.