Restaurateurs Skip Engelbrecht and Nhan Le (So Ba, Octopus Bar) and chef Bradford Forsblom hope third time’s a charm with their seafood restaurant Fishmonger when it opens later this spring in the former La Fonda space on Howell Mill Road.
The restaurant is temporarily taking over the building for two years ahead of its eventual move to the newest phase of Star Metals. The property on which the building currently resides is set to become an apartment tower called Stella at Star Metals. It’s the latest phase of the Star Metals complex taking shape at the corner of 11th Street and Howell Mill Road across from Northside Tavern.
Fishmonger should open on Howell Mill by early June, Engelbrecht says, barring any permitting delays. La Fonda is relocating to East Lake.
Engelbrecht previously indicated they were considering opening multiple locations of Fishmonger in Atlanta, including one on the city’s bustling westside. The trio opened two locations of Fishmonger in 2022 — the first on North Highland Avenue in Poncey-Highland, followed by a second, larger location six months later in Kirkwood at the Pratt Pullman District. The original Fishmonger in Poncey-Highland also features a small fish market.
The temporary Howell Mill location will resemble its Kirkwood counterpart in terms of food and cocktails. It includes a large patio seating up to 85 people, with seating for up to 60 people inside between tables, the raw bar, and the cocktail bar.
Part of the success of Fishmonger on Howell Mill Road, Engelbrecht says, will come down to capturing foot traffic generated by all of the new apartments, restaurants, and offices open or opening in the future in what’s being dubbed Atlanta’s “mini Times Square”. This includes becoming part of the area’s late-night dining scene. Fishmonger will remain open until midnight most nights, possibly until 1 a.m. or 2 a.m. on the weekends, and offer a separate late-night food menu.
In terms of what to expect in the temporary space, Engelbrecht, Le, and Forsblom are doing a quick remodel of the interior of the former La Fonda, including putting on a fresh coat of paint and adding a few distinct decor elements to make it feel like Fishmonger. A movie screen and projector are being installed on the patio, where DJs will spin on the weekends.
Once Fishmonger moves into its new space at the Stella, it will feature a large terrace patio and a bar fashioned out of a shipping container, similar to what Le and Engelbrecht featured on the patio at 8ARM before the restaurant closed in August 2022.
“We’re really excited about being on this side of town. We’ve been working with Star Metals to find a spot for about five months,” Engelbrecht tells Eater. “I think what Star Metals is attempting to do in terms of design, infrastructure, and walkability is just so cool. It’s all stepped up with gardens on every level.”
It’s been quite a year for Le, Engelbrecht, and Forsblom since opening their first Fishmonger together last April and a second location in October. Fishmonger’s success in Atlanta even captured the attention of Barack Obama back in November. The former president was in Atlanta to help get the vote out for Senator Raphael Warnock, who was in a runoff with Republican challenger Herschel Walker. Prior to the Warnock rally at Pratt Pullman, Fishmonger served Obama its wildly popular blackened grouper filet, which the former president ordered atop the restaurant’s Caesar salad. Some people now refer to it as the “Obama salad”.
This particular stretch of Howell Mill from 14th Street to 8th Street has undergone a massive transformation in the last decade with new mixed-used complexes and apartment towers springing up along the crowded corridor. Area residents and Atlanta public transit advocates are calling for dedicated bus rapid transit lanes and more frequent bus service to help ease traffic congestion here and make the area more pedestrian friendly.
All of the planned phases for Star Metals and the neighboring Interlock should reach completion over the next two years. A number of new restaurants are already open at both developments, including Velvet Taco, sushi bar Kinjo Room, Holiday Bar, Puttshack, Humble Pie, and rooftop bar and restaurant L.O.A at the Interlock and Sweetgreen, Wagamama, Hayakawa, and Flight Club at Star Metals.
Kura Revolving Sushi Bar, Pinky Promise champagne bar, the X Pot, Five Guys burgers, and Starbucks open in 2024 at the Interlock. Rooftop bar and lounge Patina, from the team behind the Painted Pin and the Painted Duck, should open by the end of 2023 at Star Metals. A location of Shake Shack opened last summer across from the Interlock in the former Yeah Burger space at Westside Provisions District.
1025 Howell Mill Road, Atlanta. instagram.com/atlantafishmonger.