First Look: Rose + Rye is open in Atlanta’s historic Castle


 

Rose + Rye restaurant and bar opened in mid-October in the Castle , a unique Atlanta landmark that’s perched on a hilltop above 15th Street in Midtown, and notable for its stone facade and storied history.

The Castle was designed and built in 1909-1910 by wealthy inventor and businessman Ferdinand McMillan, who called his retirement residence Fort Peace.

Later, it became a bohemian hub for the burgeoning Atlanta arts community. And with its prominent location near the High Museum and Arts Center complex, Rose + Rye aims to tap into that energy.

Owner Thaddeus Keefe — a native Atlantan, who owns 1KEPT Kitchen + Bar in Buckhead , and is the former owner of Tuk Tuk and Mosaic — is transforming the Castle’s past lives into an ambitious contemporary vision of drinking and dining.

“We started working on this project about a year ago,” Keefe said, “and knowing the history of the building as a safe haven for Atlanta painters, writers and artists of all kinds, there was a lot of personal overlap with my interests.”

The design focuses on many of the building’s original, often quirky architectural elements, including stacked stone walls and window arches, and ornate chandeliers.

Staircases connect the three primary spaces, with the street-level entry doubling as a bar dubbed the Grotto.

A cozy three-sided bar, a dramatic banquet-like dining room, and an open kitchen occupy the second floor.

The third floor retains a lived-in character, connecting rooms for private dining and events to a series of terraced outdoor patios overlooking the cityscape.

Though Keefe said it wasn’t part of the master plan, Rose + Rye is headed by an all-female culinary and management team.

In the kitchen, executive chef Lindsay Owens and chef de cuisine Anu Adebara oversee a menu described as “refined American fare with a global reach.”

Among the current dishes, there are starters such as glazed Cheshire Pork Belly with pate a choux gnocchi, fennel and green apple slaw, and entrees such as Chilled Rare Yellowfin Tuna with haricot vert, cured olive puree and cold smoked yogurt.

Owens, who is from Texas, moved to Atlanta from Minneapolis, where she worked at several restaurants, including the Lynhall, Tilia, and Unideli.

“I’ve worked a lot in Texas and Minneapolis, and here I’m kind of fusing the two,” Owens said. “Minneapolis is kind of like a smaller Chicago, with amazing talented chefs I learned a lot from.

“I’m mixing some of that fine dining experience with some of the flavors and producers down in Texas. It’s a really interesting mashup. And with Anu bringing in some African influences and really robust flavors, we have some really creative dishes.”

For her part, Adebara said her West African heritage can be seen in dishes such as Joyce Farms Chicken Mole with crispy rice patty, and wilted kale.

“That’s one of my favorite dishes,” she said. “I grew up eating a lot of very spicy food, and mole is one of the things that was created from convenience but can bring a lot of richness to many different things.

“On the lighter side, the cold seared tuna is a play on salad nicoise, which is very approachable. But we elevated it a little bit with the dried cured olives and cold smoked yogurt for a nice contrast. And you get green beans tossed in a red wine anchovy vinaigrette to make a perfect bite.”

In keeping with the food, the beverage program features quality wines and spirits and a cocktail list that takes its names from the writings of Ernest Hemingway.

Rose + Rye general manager Jessica Schilling had a hand in designing the drinks menu.

“For the opening, we really wanted to have some solid, well-balanced drinks with fresh ingredients,” Schilling said. “We wanted them to be approachable, with some twists on the classics, and we’re creating a separate cocktail list for the Grotto.

“We also wanted to take a little twist on the usual wine list, so along with more recognizable things, we’re adding wines from Croatia and Greece and Lebanon to bring in some more global influences.”

Summing up the Rose + Rye experience, Keefe said the Castle presented a unique opportunity, but it also created a sense of responsibility.

“I think everybody on the team understands that it was going to get a lot of attention, just by virtue of being open,” he said. “I’ve opened five or six restaurants in the Atlanta market, and this one feels real different. There’s a sense of importance to this.”

87 15th St. NE, Atlanta. 404-500-5980, roserye.com/

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