Chef Marcus Samuelsson, the restaurateur behind NYC’s famed Red Rooster Harlem, is opening the doors this weekend to his anticipated first restaurant in Atlanta.
Marcus Bar & Grille (525 Edgewood Ave. SE) lands in the Old Fourth Ward with a menu built around comfort food, and a light-hearted dining room decorated with records and roller skates. Marcus B&G is in opening starting tonight with limited walk-ins, and then its first full week starts this Tuesday.
For Samuelsson, this project has been a long time coming. “Atlanta’s been a city where I’ve always wanted to open a restaurant,” he tells Eater.
The location was a key component of his decision to open in Atlanta. “When I think about our restaurants, whether it’s in Harlem or Overtown, I think about job creation, but also where in the city where I think it would make sense for us as a restaurant group to be,” he says. “Working in a historical African-American neighborhood, it’s always been something I’ve enjoyed. I’ve created jobs in the area and I take a lot of pride in [that], and that’s what we are going to do.”
So when the space formerly occupied by the Atlanta location of Adele’s became available, Samuelsson quickly jumped on it. Marcus B&P (Bar & Provisions) in Newark helped inspire the feel of this restaurant, and Samuelsson says the the size of the space leant itself to a Marcus outpost — while not ruling out one day perhaps opening a Red Rooster in Atlanta as well.
He also decided to pick Hannah Young, the chef who previously cooked at Adele’s, to serve as executive chef for his first Atlanta restaurant. Samuelsson knew Young previously, having cooked with her for events. Young and Samuelsson assembled a kitchen team that is majority female, and the restaurant’s sous chefs are all women of color. “With Harlem and Red Rooster, we were really focused on putting Black and Brown chefs in hospitality in leadership positions. I know that that was something that was important and meaningful for Hannah,” he says.
Young’s flair for barbecue influenced the menu at Marcus, with entrees like smoked beef brisket or dry-rubbed pork ribs with berbere barbecue sauce joining dishes that Samuelsson is known for like brown sugar wings and Old Bay crab cakes. “The menu’s a celebration around comfort food,” says Samuelsson.
At Marcus, comfort food staples involve fried chicken and cornbread waffles with chili butter, deviled eggs with chicken cracklins, and shrimp and grits with chorizo gumbo. There’s also an emphasis on seafood, from entrees like miso striped bass to a lighter appetizer like a shrimp ceviche with roasted carrot and avocado. Isaiah Kelsey is heading up the beverages, with cocktails like “All the Smoke” mixed up with Xicaru Silver mezcal, jalapeño syrup, triple sec, and lime juice.
An open kitchen with live-fire cooking and a hearth oven along with an inviting bar are the focal points of the restaurant, which is dressed up with touchstones of Atlanta culture meant to evoke roller skating rinks and recording studios. “This is about joy and celebration and people coming to the restaurant for a great time,” Samuelsson says. The indoor dining room seats 120, a private dining room seats 24, while the outdoor patio seats 40.
“Atlanta is a world city that people know throughout the world for its great entertainment and culture, I think it’s great that diners are super passionate about their city. We as chefs have to really respect that. I know that I do that,” he says. “I know that this is a beginning of our relationship, I’m humbled by the experience to build the best restaurant we possibly can. We are in a neighborhood that we are excited about, we have to really earn it.”