After replacing Brush Sushi in Decatur with casual sushi restaurant Cuddlefish last October, chef Jason Liang and John Chen are transforming the space once again this summer into a spot for chef pop-ups. Cuddlefish closes on Church Street Sunday, July 23.
With the lease in Decatur ending early next summer, and the reopening of Brush Sushi in Buckhead right around the corner, followed by the opening of Lucky Star at Star Metals this winter, Liang says it’s time to focus on the future of their burgeoning restaurant group.
“Decatur was our first ever location, we always try to do our best there for the city, but we want to focus on getting Brush open this summer,” Liang tells Eater. “We want to put all of our resources into that right now and our plans for Lucky Star.”
Those future plans also include a larger location of Cuddlefish headed to Dunwoody’s emerging High Street development in 2024. Cuddlefish in Dunwoody will be open daily and feature an expanded menu of dishes like curry rice, rice bowls, and other offerings found at their Midtown restaurant Momonoki. But sushi will remain the star attraction at Cuddlefish.
Liang and Chen tapped Atlanta bartender and Giving Kitchen systems and impact manager Kirk Gibson to oversee the bar program at Lucky Star and assist them with the reopening of Brush in Buckhead. Gibson was a frequent bartender at Brush in Decatur, alongside Jeff Banks and Bradford Tolleson prior to the pandemic. The trio often hosted cocktail pop-ups together paired with food from roving chefs after the restaurant closed for the evening. Gibson says those pop-ups inspired the idea behind the pop-ups he plans to coordinate at the Cuddlefish space starting in August.
“I reached out to a few friends who do regular pop-ups and home delivery food services, but we couldn’t find anyone to take over the space fully to ride out the lease,” Gibson says. “I chatted with Jeff Banks about the idea of doing pop-ups. We have a history of doing pop-ups together. Let’s do it again and bring on some chef friends to run food.”
Reynoldstown restaurant and bar Whoospie’s recently hosted Banks and his cocktail and vinyls pop-up No Request with food from chef and Dirt Church Ceramics founder Zach Meloy (formerly Better Half). The pop-up was such a success, Gibson asked Banks to consider hosting another one in Decatur. They’re eyeing Sunday, August 20, for the return of No Request. Future pop-ups will likely occur bi-monthly in the Decatur space, with different chefs taking over the kitchen each time. Gibson says he’s still working out the details.
For now, Liang says he’s focused on winding down service at Cuddlefish ahead of its July 23 closure and preparing for the opening of Brush in Buckhead next month. Lucky Star, the buzzy cafe and cocktail bar he and Chen are partnering on with Gibson, should open at Star Metals by February 2024, with Cuddlefish opening in Dunwoody later next year.