Whiskey Bird, the new Morningside bar and restaurant from hospitality veterans Chad Crete and Anthony Vipond , seems pitched to defy expectations.
The duo took over the former Timone’s space on North Highland Avenue, and expanded into a smaller space next door, hanging a neon bird sign out front, and creating a contemporary atmosphere with an open kitchen and convivial bar area.
The menu offers sometimes surprising Asian-influenced takes on yakitori, sliders and tacos, plus veggie dishes and large plates, all meant to be mixed, matched and shared, tapas-style.
The beverage program features generously poured classic cocktails, along with craft beers on draft, quality wines by the glass or bottle and, of course, an international whiskey list.
Crete, a chef and sommelier, who was one of the founders and the executive chef at Iberian Pig in Decatur, and Vipond, who managed restaurants in San Francisco, Los Angeles and New York, first met during freshman year at the Cornell University School of Hotel Administration.
Last week at Whiskey Bird, Crete and Vipond talked about what it took to get the restaurant off the ground, which took a year and a half, and how they decided on the concept.
“Bringing Spanish tapas to Decatur back in 2009, what I realized is that you really have to be approachable,” Crete said. “When we started to talk about this restaurant, we really wanted to create something new and different that fit the neighborhood.”
“And we really wanted an open space that we could transform, but not be overly designed,” Vipond said. “We did everything from choosing the chairs and the tablecloths to building the tables ourselves. We really like the way it turned out and the way the bar and kitchen are open and a part of the restaurant.”
When it comes to the food, Crete and Vipond said they try to stay away from labels.
“We’re taking inspiration from a lot of Asian mediums,” Crete said. “But, then again, I have my own personal style of cooking, so a lot of the flavors resonate with that. Anthony and I did a lot of the menu development together, and we don’t like to be backed into a corner as to whether it’s authentic or not authentic.
“It’s a style of eating that we enjoy. The idea is get a couple of yakitori, get a couple of sliders, and go from there. The vegetable side is something we’re focusing on more, too. That’s where we highlight some specials and add some new things. And everything is shareable, and meant to be part of the convivial nature of dining.”
As far as specific menu items, Crete points to the 16-ounce Pork Tenderloin with gochujang marinade, braised cabbage, roasted mushrooms, and cherry bourbon mostarda, a large plate item that comes sliced, so it’s easier to serve and share.
“We wanted to make sure that we weren’t just considered a small plates restaurant,” Crete said. “If you want to get a salad and you want to get more of a traditional entree, you can. But this menu allows you to have multiple and different dining experiences, so the portions are sharing sized.”
Another large plate, Whole Roasted Cauliflower with everything bagel seasoning, smoked Gouda-miso fondue, crispy shallots and herbs, is a substantial, vegetarian-friendly dish that’s dramatically served steaming-hot with a steak knife embedded in the middle.
“I think it’s important to have options for vegetarians that are not just sides,” Vipond said. “We wanted dishes that vegetarians could be excited about, just as much as the omnivore sitting down beside them having a rib-eye.”
1409 N. Highland Ave. N.E., Atlanta. 404-600-5797, eatwhiskeybird.com.
More images from a First Look at Whiskey Bird in Morningside