It’s the end of era. Empire State South closes after nearly 13 years in Midtown.
Owner and chef Hugh Acheson made the announcement on Instagram, stating that the decision to close his critically acclaimed Southern restaurant took place around six weeks ago and is due to the financial fallout stemming from the pandemic and continued inflation.
Rumors have been circulating since last year that Acheson was looking to eventually close Empire State South, listing the restaurant for sale in 2022. When Eater spoke with Acheson this past September, the Top Chef judge said there was no active deal on the table yet for the restaurant and it would remain open and under his direction, along with chef Sam Herndon. The pair had been leading the kitchen since the departure of chef Daniel Porubiansky, who left the restaurant in September 2022 to return to Bacchanalia.
The kitchen at Empire State South has seen some of Atlanta’s best chefs working in it over the years, including Ryan Smith of Staplehouse, Parnass Savang of Talat Market, Josh Hopkins of Three Arches at the Hyatt-Centric Buckhead, Arnaldo Castillo of Tio Lucho’s, and Jarrett Stieber of Little Bear. It was known for spotlighting Southern food and the farmers who grow and produce the region’s vegetables, seafood, and meats. It also offered up one of Atlanta’s most diverse wine lists, thanks to sommelier Steven Grubbs, and featured an outstanding cocktail program for years under former beverage director and bartender Kellie Thorn.
Acheson’s Athens restaurant, Five and Ten, remains open and is not for sale.
Acheson has been spending more time in Canada recently to be closer to his daughters, both of whom are in university there, and to care for his father, who has late-stage Alzheimer’s. The chef continues to work private catering gigs and events throughout Atlanta and Athens and is working on a possible home economics curriculum with a production company for schools across the country to use.
In 2022, Acheson made two trips to Romania and Poland to assist in coordinating food distributions with World Central Kitchen to help feed refugees fleeing from the Russian invasion in neighboring Ukraine.
After opening Montreal-style steakhouse Mount Royal and rooftop lounge Spaceman at the Hyatt Centric hotel in Buckhead in December 2021, Acheson departed the restaurants last April citing “creative differences” with hotel management. Three Arches, a Mediterranean restaurant led by former Empire State South chef Josh Hopkins, opened in Mount Royal’s place.
Eater reached out to Acheson for further comment on the closure of Empire State South and his future plans. He declined to comment.