Review: Kozmo Gastropub

Former Globe owner gets sexy in the suburbs

I miss the Globe. I miss its sleek, understated design and its modern American menu. I miss its Technology Square location, convenient to Midtown, the Westside and downtown. I miss going there for drinks after work, or as a fallback for brunch or a business lunch. Parking was a pain, but apart from that, I miss almost everything about it.

So I was happy to hear that Oswald Morgan, one of the partners at the Globe, opened a spot in Johns Creek this past January. Of course, it being in Johns Creek, it took me eight months to get out there to try it. 

You can see the Globe’s aesthetic the moment you walk into Kozmo Gastropub. Sparse without being the slightest bit austere, it features the same streamlined, polished angles and surfaces. Black leather booths and blond wood tables form rows, large blackboards denoting weekly specials adorn the the light walls, and huge vases filled with apples and limes provide vibrant decoration.

Kozmo, in its feel, menu and aspirations, is like the Globe lite.
Chef Travis Collum, who also worked at the Globe, delivers fresh, simple food that matches the décor in tone and pared-back style. It’s not exactly bar food, not exactly bistro, and certainly not fine dining. Collum serves food you might make at home if you had the volition — upscale, trendy home cooking.

Large slices of brilliant red tomatoes are served with crumbled blue cheese for a salty, juicy snack. Strips of portobello mushrooms come in a little bucket, are fried golden and enhanced with a whisper of truffle — enough to make you want to gobble them up without being overpowering.

Collum makes a mean devilled egg, one of the best I’ve had during the hors d’oeuvres’ current comeback. His version is classic, with a slight crunch in the yolk, and thankfully not a hint of sugar. I did find the slaw on the fish taco distractingly sweet, and there was an occasional leaning toward too much salt. But for the most part, the food is handled with respect and thought.

Rich and hearty white bean ragout lies under a pan-roasted salmon fillet. Dark green spinach throughout saves it from undue heaviness. The pale, obviously farm-raised salmon kept the dish from being outstanding, but at $14.99 it’s hard to complain.

Even the comfort foods have a smartness to them. Spaghetti with tomatoes is wickedly spicy and smoky, benefiting from copious amounts of red pepper flake and bacon. Short rib meat is shredded and served with a jumble of pappardelle and cabbage for a warming, cozy carb fest.

It’s hard to tell, though, what makes Kozmo a gastropub. Sure, there’s a burger on the menu, and a mighty good one at that, with the beef as the focus rather than any gimmick or noisy toppings. And much of the menu is snack-ish or comfort food, making it good for libation accompaniment. But those libations pose a problem: The beer selection, generally the hallmark of a good gastropub, is so standard I’d call it disappointing. Wine fares slightly better, but if there’s a beverage focus, it’s on cocktails. And while some nice touches grace the cocktail list, including fresh cranberry and lime juice, Kozmo isn't on cutting edge of mixology. There’s a white chocolate raspberry martini. There are some fancified cosmos and margaritas. It’s the one aspect of Kozmo where I suspect some suburbanization has taken place.

“Sexy in the suburbs” is the restaurant’s self-appointed catch phrase, and it’s obvious the owners are trying to capitalize on the urbane style that made Carrie Bradshaw so popular with the suburban set. It’s an admirable, if not somewhat risky idea: Why should people have to drive 45 minutes into Atlanta to find a chic place to eat? Why shouldn’t the suburbs be sexy?

But I fear that Kozmo’s location is indeed problematic. Not just that it’s far from town, but that even out in the land of strip malls, this restaurant's strip mall is decidedly out of the way, tucked off down a side street behind a bigger shopping center. You’d never find Kozmo unless you were looking for it, which is a tall order for any restaurant. There have been nights I’ve been there when the place was completely empty. Which is a shame, because Kozmo is absolutely worth seeking out.