Since 2017, he’s continued to hone his crafty cooking at SOS in Decatur, offering an array of dishes with what former Atlanta Journal-Constitution dining John Kessler once described as “wit and smarts to spare.”
Stieber got his start working in fine-dining restaurants such as Abattoir and Empire State South. But he’s always combined a playful and sometimes irreverent attitude with a penchant for serving value-priced food made with high quality local ingredients.
“I never set out to do a pop-up, it just kind of happened,” Stieber says. “But with Eat Me Speak and a few others, we were some of the first people to do it on a regular basis in Atlanta. It will be five years in June and I think what we do still mystifies people in some ways.”
Demystifying his approach, Stieber explains it as both a reaction to his fine-dining background and way to keep himself and others entertained.
“The biggest thing for me is trying to break down the traditional barriers associated with fine dining. It’s a style of food that I grew up cooking. But it’s such a small number of people that understand the terminology and the ingredients, and can handle the price tag, which is the biggest thing.”
“We’re trying to control overhead, source cheaper cuts of meat, and be more vegetable-focused, so we can keep our food costs low to keep our prices low. We want to make the little satirical kind of menu that hopefully puts people in a fun spirit when they come in. You don’t feel like you’re in a stuffy fine-dining place, but you can still get food with that attention to detail.”
Given all that, we wondered if home cooks could learn a thing or two from Stieber, and maybe even try doing a pop-up themselves as an alternative to the same old dinner party.
Thankfully, his answer was an enthusiastic yes. And he even offered up a three-course menu with recipes straight out of the SOS playbook.
“We did a yakitori supper club about once a month that a friend hosted at his house,” Stieber remembers. “People loved that atmosphere. It’s so fun to redecorate your apartment or your house for a night.
“Put a little extra effort into tidying up and curating an atmosphere, whether it’s with some string lights or candles or what ever you like. Get a group of people over, and treat it more like a restaurant service.”
Among the three dishes Stieber shared, the recipe for Brussels sprouts with rice porridge, scallion, peanut and Korean chile flakes can work as a starter or a family-style side.
“It’s something we do during the fall and winter, because it is such a hearty dish,” he says. “But it will work with other kinds of vegetables and even in the summer, because it’s not as heavy as you think it would be.
“We use rice middlins, which are like rice grits in consistency, and that just becomes a very nice vehicle to flavor and put all kinds of different toppings on it. It can also be a hearty option for vegans or vegetarians.”
For the main dish, Stieber gave us a rather unusual favorite, fry bread with braised meat, peas and shaved root vegetables.
“It was inspired by Navajo fry bread,” he says. “But they also call it fry bake in the Caribbean. Almost every culture has a simple fried dough. It’s such a great dish to be just flour, water and salt.
“From there, like the rice porridge, it’s a blank canvas for the toppings. We’ve done Southwestern, North African, and Southeast Asian flavors with it. And it would do well with Italian flavors, too.”
For dessert, Stieber’s Choco Torte is an easy-bake, flourless creation he describes as a “chocolate dream.”
“We always have two desserts on the menu, and this is one of the favorites,” he says. “It does well on its own or with just a few toppings, like a plop of fresh whipped cream and a little sea salt.”
These recipes from chef Jarrett Stieber of Atlanta’s Eat Me Speak Me will help you plan your own pop-up.
Brussels Sprouts With Rice Porridge, Scallion, Peanut and Korean Chile Flakes
Hearty comfort food at its finest, this rice porridge can be made year round but lends itself to cool days and winter produce. You can replace the Brussels sprouts with anything in the same family like broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage. Using Korean chile flakes will give your dish a unique depth due to the fermentation process they undergo before drying, but you can absolutely substitute a medium-hot alternative if you have trouble tracking them down. Serve this dish as a family-style side or plated appetizer, or bulk it up with larger portions or the addition of braised meat or sausage to make it an easy entree.
Fry Bread With Braised Meat, Peas and Shaved Root Vegetables
Stieber fell in love with Navajo fry bread on a father-son trip out West when he was a teenager. The dough is extremely simple but delicious beyond the sum of its components, usually served in the southwest as “Navajo tacos” covered in chile, cheese, shredded lettuce and many of the other usual suspects. At Eat Me Speak Me it’s used as a foundation for tasty stews or dishes made from meats and vegetables glazed in buttery pan sauces so the bread sops up all the goodness.
This flourless chocolate torte is a chocolate dream, with a luxurious texture rarely found in flourless cakes. Baking the cake is nearly idiot-proof, so you should have great results the first and every time you make it. The chocolate is a perfect blank canvas for any garnishes and toppings you want, like whipped cream, peanut butter, Nutella or maraschino cherries.
POP-UP PRO TIPS
If you’re going to do a pop-up at home, be aware, it’s probably going to be a lot more more work than you’re expecting. You’re the cook, and the dishwasher, and the general manager.
Make as much of the food ahead of time as you can. But allowing your guests to see you finishing a dish can add to the evening’s entertainment and fun factor.
The food and drink is important. But making your guests comfortable is the biggest part of hospitality, in a restaurant or at home.
Make your own playlist to match the evening. And if you use Spotify, enable gapless playback so your tracks play back-to-back without any pauses.
WHERE THE POP-UPS ARE
Since chef Jarrett Stieber launched Eat Me Speak Me at Gato in Candler Park in 2014, the Atlanta pop-up scene has grown in fits and starts. But right now, there seems to be a new wave of energy on the rise. Here are some to explore right now.
Eat Me Speak Me — Stieber’s move to SOS Tiki Bar has given new life and added hours to his witty takes on fine dining comfort food. Sometimes there’s a pop-up within a pop-up with special late night menus such as a Vietnamese menu. 6-11 p.m. Wednesdays-Sundays. 340 Church St., Decatur. 404-377-9308, eatmespeakme.com.
Talat Market — Taking over the 30-seat Gato space from Stieber, former Kimball House chefs Parnass Lim Savang and Rod Lassiter present a menu of up to eight Thai dishes made with Georgia-grown ingredients. 6-10 p.m. Fridays-Sundays. 1660 McLendon Ave. NE., Atlanta. instagram.com/talat_marketatl.
ANJU — Chef James Murphy, formerly of Kimball House and Gaja, debuted his south Korean pop-up in early January at Revelator Coffee (formerly Octane) in Grant Park. The Seoul native’s menus focus on the likes of bibimbap, noodles and dumplings. 6-10 p.m. Thursdays; 6-11 p.m Fridays-Saturdays, 6 p.m. to 11 p.m. 437 Memorial Drive SE., Suite A5, Atlanta. 404-410-7437, revelatorcoffee.com/pages/georgia.
Bread is Good — Breakfast pastry lovers are rejoicing over this new weekend breakfast pop-up from Atlanta baker Sara Dodge at Queen of Cream in Old Fourth Ward. Dodge’s crave-worthy biscuits, cinnamon rolls, handpies and waffles are on the menu. 9 a.m.-2 p.m. Saturdays-Sundays. 701 Highland Ave. NE, Atlanta. 404-331-0807. queenofcream.com.
Everybody Loves Ramen — Chef Vas Sanchez brings his ramen pop-up to Muchacho in Reyoldstown for dinner every Sunday night through the end of March. Look for two types of ramen, paired with signature drinks from Muchacho, in a full-service set-up with guests chefs. 6 p.m. Sundays. 904 Memorial Drive SE., Atlanta. 404-748-9254, muchachoatl.com.