Buttermilk purchased in supermarkets bears little resemblance to traditional buttermilk, the thin liquid byproduct of butter-churning. Commercially available (or cultured) buttermilk is created by fermenting milk with bacteria.
The concept of traditional buttermilk, of leaving nothing to waste, inspired both the name and philosophy for Buckhead’s newest breakfast and lunch eatery, Buttermilk Kitchen.
Even the design of the space, a 1930s home formerly occupied by Cafe at Pharr, was driven by this mind-set with liberal “upcycling” of materials. The decor includes original hardwood floors, a bar made from reclaimed wood, corrugated metal accents and a ceiling made entirely of old shutters. Yet it has an unfinished, somewhat discordant Pottery Barn-meets-Pinterest-project vibe.
Buttermilk Kitchen translates this philosophy into making its own lard, butter, mayonnaise and more. The restaurant buys local products when possible and organic when not. It sources goods from like-minded local vendors including Pine Street Market, Emily G’s Jams, AtlantaFresh Yogurt and Batdorf & Bronson coffee.
Chef Suzanne Vizethann, an Atlanta native, opened Buttermilk Kitchen sensing Atlanta’s need for a chef-driven breakfast/lunch spot. And positioning itself as such brings a high level of expectation.
To this endeavor, Vizethann brings her training from the Art Institute of Atlanta, experience at One Midtown Kitchen, stages at 15 different restaurants including Le Bernardin and wd~50, and ownership of The Hungry Peach, a cafe at the Atlanta Decorative Arts Center.
This talented chef needs to drive the young restaurant with the same bravado she used to win Food Network’s competitive cooking show “Chopped.” While memorable dishes come from the kitchen, so does a certain timidity seeping like water through minuscule cracks in a foundation, threatening to undermine the entire structure.
Chef-y items include the house-cured lox ($13), colored a velvety red hue by the grated beets layered on top during the three-day cure in a dill-sugar-salt mixture. The buttery wild salmon, some of the best lox I’ve had, rests in folds over a tangerine-oil-dressed watercress salad and a toasty seeded Jerusalem bagel with house-made veggie cream cheese, briny capers and sharp red onion slices.
The vinegary Brunswick stew ($5 cup) also rivals many around town. Made with pork belly and smoked chicken, the thick stew sits beneath corn bread croutons that crumble themselves as they melt into the liquid.
Vizethann also brings popular dishes from The Hungry Peach, like the cheddar-and-feta pimento cheese ($7) and the blueberry cobbler pancakes ($8) inspired by a peach cobbler cupcake. The sweet blueberry cobbler pancakes begin with a neutral pancake batter enlivened with a house-made blueberry compote, cinnamon-sugar crumb and white chocolate whipped cream. Can we say sugar rush? I’ll just take a plain pancake and a vat of Vizethann’s blueberry-cider syrup made from a reduction of a blueberry-muscadine juice mingled with maple.
With other dishes, the devil is in the details. I delight in the tangy sourdough waffles ($7.50) made from the 104-year-old starter, but despair that they lack the heat to melt the creamy house-made butter. Making it Dad’s Waffle ($14) solves this problem with the addition of a steamy medium-rare grass-fed burger on top. I savor the greasy juices that melt into the sourdough. If only the burger were seasoned …
Similarly, the shrimp and grits ($15) is a savory melange of Georgia shrimp, brothy sauce and crispy fried scallions with the perfect crunch. Though well-seasoned, the Anson Mills grits congeal into one large mass.
Wondering whether dinner might reveal more of Vizethann’s skill, I attended one of Buttermilk’s reservation-only (credit card required) BYOB fried chicken dinners ($35, $5 upcharge for all white meat). The four-course meal started well with seared pork belly scallops sweetened by an apricot-
dijon gastrique and warm radicchio-bacon slaw. Yet, the main attraction, the fried chicken, has me pining for an alternate protein. The pastured chicken (wing and thigh) from a Georgia farm has chewy skin and wields a heavy, grease-laden, unseasoned buttermilk batter.
Like the decor, Buttermilk Kitchen seems unfinished, a work in progress awaiting a personal stamp. Vizethann’s market analysis was spot on: The area needs a chef-driven breakfast/lunch spot. And we’re counting on her to give it to us.BUTTERMILK KITCHEN