“It really is transformed. You’ll recognize the familiar layout of JCT, but walk into rich colors and textures and an entirely new experience,” Ford Fry says of his latest restaurant, Little Sparrow, opening Monday, October 2, at Westside Provisions District.
Little Sparrow is one of a pair of restaurants Fry is opening in the former JCT Kitchen and Bar spaces, a sort of companion to his Westside Provisions District steakhouse, Marcel. While Little Sparrow transforms JCT Kitchen into an old-school brasserie downstairs, Bar Blanc brings a French-themed cocktail lounge with a prix-fixe food menu to the former JCT Bar upstairs. Bar Blanc should open in the next few weeks.
The name Little Sparrow is a reference to French singer Edith Piaf, an affectionate nickname given to the songstress due to her diminutive stature at just under five feet. Piaf sung in cabarets around Paris and became famous during the 1940s for passionate French ballads like “La Vie En Rose” and “Non, Je Ne Regrette Rien”. She was also the lover of 1940s boxer Marcel Cerdan, who is the inspiration behind the name of Fry’s steakhouse across the train tracks from Little Sparrow at the Howell Mill Road complex.
The design for Little Sparrow taps into the styles of the cabarets and brasseries of Paris with design elements like leather, marble, zinc, and steel set off by warm woods. In the main dining room, seating includes marble- and wood-top tables surrounded by dark leather banquettes and bistro chairs imported from Europe, a bar crafted by local woodworking company Wood Mill Lab, and flooring designed in a historic pattern with cream, black, and deep chocolate red tiles.
Plastered walls are painted in cream. The wood-molded ceiling is lit by candlelight and custom designed chandeliers and wall sconces. Handmade glass pendants hang above the bar. The 1920s bar back includes vintage zinc. Several vintage speakers are placed around the dining room and a mural, painted by Tommy Taylor and Daniel Biddy of Super Delicious Walls, depicts the French countryside. It’s all part of the design by Atlanta-based Smith Hanes Studio.
Little Sparrow is meant to feel like a bustling brasserie in Paris.
Music is an integral part of the experience at Little Sparrow, which ranges from old French and Italian love songs and indie Americana to French disco, Spanish pop, and hip-hop.
“I really love how we addressed the sound quality in the room. We have these beautiful exposed speakers to allow us to control the volume of the music to fit each space of the restaurant,” Fry says. “The soundtrack itself is very thematic. As you walk, it really feels like you’re walking into a whole different era, and the soundtrack helps highlight that.”
Food served at Little Sparrow is “free from pretense”, says Fry. In fact, a section of the menu is dedicated to frites, which come served with aioli or bearnaise sauce and even raclette service. The love for the potato continues in dishes like pommes aligot (Think silky smooth, cheesy mashed potatoes.)
Like Fry, chef Bob Ryan is equally excited about the frites offered at Little Sparrow. “They are cooked three times, which makes them very soft and fluffy on the inside and extra crisp on the outside. They actually get crispier as they sit at the table,” he says.
For those who love the Marcel burger, a “simple, and very indulgent” dry-aged beef version at Little Sparrow is topped with onions, American cheese, and aioli on a buttery brioche bun. The poulet frites stuffed with black truffles and brioche is prepared table side, as are desserts like the creme caramel, Basque-style cheesecake, and cherries jubilee.
“There are tons of table side elements and service elements for guests to feel pampered,” says Ryan, including caviar spooned over scallops and Dover sole meunerie fileted at the table right before serving.
Cocktails at Little Sparrow come with a French bistro twist, too, such as a take on the Manhattan in the Pigalle with bourbon and calvados or the armagnac and rye-based La Boheme mixed with benedictine, combier, and chocolate bitters. There’s a nod to Piaf in the Le Petit Martini, described as a “small yet truly exceptional ice-cold” drink made with either gin or vodka. The pastis service features a neat pour of Pernod Ricard with a sidecar of chilled mineral water. Wine and beer are also available, along with brandy and eau de vie and a small selection of non-alcoholic cocktails.
Fry plans to open Bar Blanc once Little Sparrow settles into service. He describes Bar Blanc as a cool and energetic spot, sporting plush velvet and leather seating, big speakers, and a mosaic tile floor. Fry considers it a “steak friterie”. Bar Blanc’s prix-fixe food menu includes a levain baguette and salade maison for the table, followed by steak with a brown butter bearnaise sauce and unlimited frites. Cocktails lean into classic recipes and other after-dinner drinks.
Take a look at the food and drink menus for Little Sparrow below:
Open Sunday and Monday - Thursday, 5 p.m. to 10 p.m.; Friday and Saturday, 5 p.m. to 11 p.m.
1198 Howell Mill Road, Atlanta.