Review: Serpas

Scott Serpas steps out in his eponymous solo venture

It'd be silly to assert that restaurant critics don’t come to the job with a certain set of prejudices. Over the years, I’m sure mine have become clear. If a chef stakes his money and reputation on a place of his own, if he gambles on a real neighborhood rather than a gleaming skyscraper, if he finally gets the opportunity to cook his own food rather than something a corporate boss dictates, chances are I'll be rooting for him. These are the stories I relish telling; the success stories where substance wins out over artifice.

It was with this attitude that I approached Serpas True Food. The restaurant is Scott Serpas’ first solo venture after stepping out from under the Concentrics umbrella where he worked for three years as chef at Two Urban Licks. While I love the outrageous drama of Two Urban licks as much as the next proud Atlantan, I always found Serpas’ cooking there a tad too gimmicky for truly serious consideration. So I was excited to see what the chef could come up with on his own terms. Add a renovated old industrial building in the Old Fourth Ward and PR touting the chef’s passion for the “authentic tastes of single ingredients,” and I was ready to believe the hype.

Indeed, the space, in the Studioplex building at the tippy top of Auburn Avenue, is lovely. Exposed brick walls and warm lighting create the base for features such as an open kitchen with bar seating, a wall-sized photo of cotton blossoms, and a convivial bar hugging the corner of the room.

Serpas’ “true food” claim is a tad more confusing. The chef is experimenting with the idea of American cuisine as a melting pot. Much of his menu nods to his Louisiana roots, but there are many flavors represented, including Asian, Southwestern and classic French. Serpas finds the most success when he sticks to one influence per dish.