Joël Brasserie — an elegant restaurant that for nearly a decade has helped define the upper echelon of Atlanta dining — shut its doors abruptly on Friday.
In the morning, the restaurant contacted guests with reservations and told them the news. Later in the afternoon, manager Jennifer Groese sent out a brief note to past customers that read, in part: “As of June 25, 2010, upper management has made the necessary decision to unfortunately close Joël Brasserie. We apologize for the inconvenience that this may cause.”
“It had a great heritage and really led the charge for fine dining in the city,” said veteran restaurateur Bob Amick of Concentrics Hospitality.
“The first thing I thought was we should’ve eaten there more often,” said Anne Quatrano, owner of Bacchanalia.
Joël Brasserie opened with much excitement in 2001 as the showcase retail property at the Piazza at Paces development in Buckhead. Chef Joël Antunes was an internationally recognized chef coming off a stint at the Dining Room at the Ritz-Carlton Buckhead. He won the James Beard award in 2005 for best chef in the Southeast. In 2008 he left the restaurant for a prestigious post as the chef at the newly renovated Plaza Hotel in New York. Antunes had made such a name for the restaurant that his own name stuck, even though longtime sous chef Cyrille Holota took over the kitchen.
In recent years, the restaurant tried to move away from the fine-dining segment by reducing the size of its showy dining room, adding the word “brasserie” to the name and adding more approachable items and prices to the menu.
But times have been tough for upscale restaurants of any ambition nationally. In Atlanta, the closing of Joël Brasserie follows last week’s closing of Repast in the Old Fourth Ward.
“The closing is not reflective of Joël, but of the times,” said Amick.