Occasionally a restaurant must reinvent itself to stay current and viable, particularly in places where new restaurants continually spring up to steal all the buzz and some of the clientele.
Parish is one of those restaurants. Housed in a century-old, stand-alone brick building situated just over the bridge in Inman Park, Parish began its existence as a Creole restaurant. It later switched chefs and trended towards a more traditional pork-centric Southern menu.
Now, with new chef Edward Russell, who joined the team last spring, the restaurant describes its food as regional American fare with local influences.
Parish is owned by Concentrics Restaurants, which also owns One Midtown Kitchen, Two Urban Licks and, mostly recently, The Spence. Like its sister restaurants, Parish has a highly styled interior. Its neutral color palette composed of exposed brick and weathered tin ceiling tiles provides a backdrop for the brilliant glowing red lamps set at regular intervals down the length of the bar.
To this slick spot, Russell, once a clinical psychologist, brings his Southern roots and experience from working in the kitchens of 5 & 10 and Farm 255 in Athens. Chef Russell was also involved in the creation of the Four Coursemen Supper Club, a nationally publicized endeavor.
While some former menu items remain (with Russell’s tweaks), others have been added and Russell’s overhauled menu will roll out later this fall. Pork still plays a prominent role in Parish’s fare. The French onion soup ($6) with hyper-concentrated onion flavor uses house-made pork brodo (broth) instead of the traditional beef. You’ll also still find (not-at-all) crispy pork shoulder ($25) at dinner. Yet, the pork, sourced from Georgia’s Gum Creek Farms, has that wonky flavor I associate with meat that’s been zapped for a minute and half.
To the contrary, I’d return for the actually crispy Springer Mountain fried chicken ($18), twice dredged in buttermilk and flour. Golden, nutty and sweetened with a touch of honey, it comes with vinegary collards made with bacon and pork bones. Russell also switched out the grits paired with the chicken, substituting a surprisingly savory honey-roasted carrot and sweet potato puree.
The chicken far outshines other entrees. The clams and bacon dish ($18) is a forgettable montage of Sapelo Island clams, miniscule bits of bacon and a broth much like tomato concentrate. The gnocchi ($20) was overcooked and tasted as if it, too, were reheated.
I’d steer you towards some of the starters like the raw-marinated squash salad ($9) with a nice crunch, shaved grana cheese and more texture from the chopped Marcona almonds. Or get a plate of boquerones ($8), marinated anchovies starring in a playful but balanced dance with acidic grapefruit sections, creamy avocado and pickled fennel.
Sit on the quiet patio in this nice fall weather with a cocktail like the Horse’s Neck ($9), a bright, citrusy bourbon-based libation with ginger beer and orange bitters, and make a meal of these appetizers. Add the Pine Street Market charcuterie plate ($19) and a cheese board ($12). Pick your way through the cured meats like dry-cured coppa and paprika salami and cheeses like the mild and creamy Blu di Bufala. House-pickled fennel, beets and radish and tangy apricot mustard add dimension to the meat and cheese.
To finish, pastry chef Deborah Craig offers a range of desserts, many including house-made ice creams. I’d love to see an ice cream tasting menu here, as these seem to be Craig’s sweet spot. The vanilla bean cheesecake ($7) is slightly soft and cheesy for my taste, but I adore the Mirabelle plum sorbet, sweet, tangy and all plum.
On one visit, we skipped the plated desserts and tromped downstairs to the charming market with cushy chairs and a long wooden communal table for an espresso, a wedge of German chocolate cake and fat homemade Nutter Butter rounds.
This is a restaurant in transition. It continues to try to mold itself to the needs of a neighborhood bustling with restaurants. In the meantime, if you’re in the area and don’t want to wait 30 minutes for a table or elbow your way to the bar at another Inman Park hot spot, grab a drink and make a nice meal of a few appetizers and a shared fried chicken entree.PARISH