Chef's Table - Urban pioneer
Todd Semrau owns the year-old Urban Eats Restaurant Consulting Group.
Creative Loafing: What was the origin of your company?
Semrau: Urban Eats came out of my commitment to community. I opened the Heaping Bowl in 1995 in East Atlanta because people had nowhere to go and show up and hang out. It became a communal watering hole and was extremely successful. A restaurant can be much more than food and beverage — it can be an investment in community, a cornerstone. Restaurants are defining businesses in up-and-coming neighborhoods. Think of Fellini's in Little Five Points or the Flying Biscuit in Candler Park. I love being part of the revitalization of intown neighborhoods.
You just opened the Automatic.
Yeah, it used to be a hellhole — a place to get drunk and get your ass kicked and score a whore.
Who and where are your clients?
Community doesn't necessarily have to show up in the urban center — it can work in a suburban area. The Tuscan Market and Grill, off North Point Parkway and 400 in Alpharetta, is a great little concept. There's going to be a really cool, cool restaurant on Edgewood called Cocoa Bar. Everything will be chocolate. It's going to be the bomb.
Is there any location you think of as hopeless?
I don't think so, not if all six cylinders are running. People will park three blocks away to get there, do whatever it takes, if the concept works, if it's the place to be.
Is there any place that really tugs at you as ripe for revitalization?
The exurbs, the places between intown and the suburbs, such as Clairemont and Oak Grove. In some cases, buildings have been left abandoned but the neighborhoods are mature and they have really great personalities. There's gotta be a way to revive them.
What's your vision for Atlanta in a decade?
The possibility of community realized everywhere. It's a big world. I want to get in it and play around.