By: Nikki Jordan
Walking into King + Duke on opening night, we could feel the excitement and anticipation from the staff as they greeted their first guests of the evening. As we entered we noticed the open space, a breath of fresh air compared to the neighboring establishments in Buckhead. King + Duke’s layout lets patrons in on all of the happenings of the restaurant. There’s an open chef station sporting a 24-foot wood burning hearth, with Executive Chef Joe Schafer and his staff at the helm, and to the left is a striking bar that resembles an impressive library study, not to mention the outdoor patio that extends itself beyond large windows that line the front of the restaurant —a barrier that doesn’t impose on the ambiance, but rather includes its patrons’ in on the excitement.
A vivacious server greeted us, eager to tell us all about the menu and its offerings, suggesting we peek through the beverage list first. We find the extensive list behind a bounded cover with the title The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, which we are told is the inspiration behind the name and concept of the restaurant. Settling on beers to start, a Whale’s Tale Pale Ale and a Bell’s Two-Hearted IPA, we then make our way over to the menu to check out the Bites & Starters section. Chef Ford Fry’s signature Deviled Eggs have made it onto the menu with Virginia Ham and Pickled Celery plus a Crudités with Whipped House Ricotta, Lemon and Toast. After hearing so much about the bone marrow that is strategically placed throughout the menu, we decide on the Roasted Bone Marrow starter with Smoked Mushroom Salad, Short Rib Marmalade, and Toast. When this dish was brought out it was exactly as we imagined, but better. Food has never tasted so good and we came close to requesting seconds! Instead, we were steered in the direction of entrees, Fish, Fowl, and Farm, if you will.
It seems that you couldn’t go wrong with any one of the entrée selections from North Georgia Brook Trout cooked “Boy Scout Style” with a Spring Vegetable Salad, Brown Butter and Almonds to the Bone-In NY Strip aged 28 days, Slow Roasted served with Charred Local Tomato. We went with the Pasture Chicken Leg with Buttered Yukons, Roasted Mushroom & Bacon Lardons with Chicken Jus and the Mississippi Rabbit served with Farro Salad and Rabbit Liver Toast. Both were served with such presence, we almost didn’t want to eat it, but when we did, we didn’t want it to end. The flavors were so subtle, yet very precise, each bite complementing the next.
With Pastry Chef Chrysta Poulos behind desserts at King + Duke, we had to save room for our last course. After being briefed on each dessert, we decided on the Dates & Ale, a dish that Chef Poulos has been perfecting for the last 8 years. The Warm Sticky Toffee Pudding with Sweetwater IPA Cream could not have been a more perfect ending to our meal––A real down-home dish and a standout at that. It encompassed everything about the restaurant by complementing the wood-fire techniques mentioned throughout the menu.
When Chef Ford Fry explains his newest concept he refers to the characters in the classic aforementioned American novel, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, by Mark Twain, the same characters his restaurant is named after. These characters, although poor, are known for putting a lavish spin on their lifestyle. Fry believes this is how they would have achieved their meals, using simple wood-burning techniques while elevating flavors and presentation. After talking with Chef Fry, complimenting him and his staff on their newest achievement, we could tell a lot of time and effort had been put into this amazing culinary project. But with hardship comes great success, and we believe this restaurant is destined for it.
[photo credit: Eater Atlanta]
King + Duke is now Open. If you would like to work for Chef Fry or any other established Atlanta area chef’s check out weand.co for more details