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Review: Restaurant Eugene (1)

Full marks for Linton Hopkins' flagship restaurant

The beginning of the end for many chefs is the moment their success convinces them to expand. A second location or a secondary concept often marks the point at which attention becomes divided, profit becomes the focus, and expansion for the sake of expansion kidnaps the good sense of otherwise great restaurateurs.

It seems just the opposite occurred when chef Linton Hopkins branched out from his original eatery, Restaurant Eugene. Last year, he partnered with some of his longtime employees and friends to open Holeman & Finch Public House, and shortly after (the now wholesale-only) H&F Bread Co. But rather than distracting him from his original restaurant, it appears that his new ventures have only served to inspire Hopkins.

It’s possible that the passion and energy it takes to open a new restaurant seeped across the breezeway at the Armour building and imbued Restaurant Eugene with some of the freshness exhibited by Holeman & Finch. (And a ton of passion and energy must have gone into Holeman & Finch, because it continues to be one of the city's most exciting eating and drinking experiences, exhibiting a boyish exuberance that’s damn near impossible to resist.) Whatever the reason, the food at Restaurant Eugene over the past year has become brighter, bolder and more accessible. Hopkins is now cooking on par with the absolute best chefs in the Southeast.

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(Photo by James Camp)