accessAtlanta

City & State or ZIP Tonight, this weekend, May 5th...
City & State or ZIP
City & State or ZIP Tonight, this weekend, May 5th...
City & State or ZIP

The AJC’s 2009 restaurant of the year: Restaurant Eugene

Linton and Gina Hopkins in the Restaurant Eugene's dining room/Credit: AJC

Linton and Gina Hopkins in Restaurant Eugene's dining room/Credit: Becky Stein, Special

RESTAURANT EUGENE ****

It’s not unusual for Linton Hopkins to spend the better part of an afternoon making pickles with a classroom full of fourth and fifth graders from Eretus Rivers Elementary school in Atlanta.

The chef and owner of Restaurant Eugene, Holeman & Finch Public House and H & F Bread Co. goes way back with pickles. Born in Atlanta, he was raised on them, along with everything else than comes with Southern cooking, from farm-fresh vegetables to fried chicken. He grew up about a half-mile from the restaurant’s location on Peachtree Road.

He and wife Gina opened Restaurant Eugene in the spring of 2004. Since then, this small, elegant spot has changed and grown into one of the city’s greatest dining treasures. And this year, it joins former honorees Pura Vida, Sotto Sotto, Five & Ten in Athens and Tierra as the AJC’s pick for Restaurant of the Year.

When I began dolling out the honor back in 2005, I was drawn – and still am – to the idea that what our Restaurant of the Year should be about is more than just kudos for great cooking. There had to be more to it than that. It would need to be a chef-owned, chef-driven small spot that puts food first, but one that grew from neighborhood enclave to the stature that Restaurant Eugene celebrates today: One of the finest restaurants not just in Atlanta, but in the Southeast.

Named after Hopkins’ maternal grandfather, Eugene Holeman, Restaurant Eugene has become a dining destination that celebrates the warmth of the Southern table blended with classic cooking techniques Hopkins acquired from formal training at the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park and the kind of kitchen wisdom you pick up along the way, from New Orleans to Atlanta.

Hopkins has become one of the South’s most outspoken chefs, but you’ll hardly catch him on a soap box. He furthers his ideals – preserving Southern foodways, and in doing so forwarding sustainable agriculture – by doing. He is an active member of the Southern Foodways Alliance (an organization that forwards the preservation of Southern foods) and founder, with wife and partner Gina, of the Peachtree Road Farmer’s Market. And he was one of the first chefs in the city to list his local purveyors – some of the state’s greatest small farmers – on the back of his menu.

But he shouts his message loud a clear with the food he prepares at Eugene – vegetables and meats sourced from local farmers, artisanal cheeses and fish from the freshest sources available. The bread he serves is made just up the street at his bakery, H & F Bread Co. Earlier this year, he made a dramatic decision to break the restaurant’s more traditional menu into smaller plates, with designations of “fish,” “vegetables” and “meat and game,” a move that has paid off by making the experience seem less formal, with more options in portion size and price.

“Vegetables,” he almost whispers into the phone, “are what drive Eugene.” A cancer survivor, Hopkins exudes an innate sense of calm when he speaks. “They are truly what give us the ability to play.”

Restaurant Eugene's okra/Credit: AJC

Restaurant Eugene's okra/Credit: Becky Stein, Special

He couldn’t be more right: A recent dinner included a happy sort of study in okra, with spears cut and seared over high heat in a cast iron skillet, served with slightly pickled slices tempura battered and fried, both joined by some of the kitchen’s house-made chow-chow and hot pepper jelly, all over a smear of creamy grits.

His vegetable plate is legendary, and might include anything from seasonal mushroom combinations to grits and baby turnips. And he’s not afraid to cook outside the lines, either – Berkshire pork belly is crisped and at once deliciously fatty and meaty, served with tiny hakurei turnips, preserved apple and a wonderfully sweet-yet-acidic sorghum glaze.

Perhaps Hopkins gets his greatest gift – understanding the importance of food pathways and preserving local traditions – from his Southern upbringing and an anthropology degree from Emory University.

“The idea keeps crystallizing for me more and more,” he says. “Ingredients and where they come from are my language as a chef. So when I ask myself, ‘how should people eat?’ the answer is always that how we bring food to the table is what makes all the difference.”

Restaurant Eugene, 2277 Peachtree Road, Atlanta, 404-355-0321

Overall rating: ****

Food: Contemporary American/Southern

Service: Like the rest of Restaurant Eugene’s team, the wait staff prides itself on professionalism.

Price range: $$$

Credit cards: Visa, Mastercard, American Express, Discover

Hours of operation: Open for dinner Monday – Thursday from 5:30 – 10:00 p.m. and Friday – Saturday from 5:30 – 11:00 p.m. Sunday supper, with a special menu, is from 5:30 – 10:00 p.m.

Best dishes: Frequent seasonal changes make it hard to pick favorites, but Hopkins’ vegetable plate, no matter the season, is a must have. Others to enjoy now: Berkshire pork belly with hakurei, apple preserves and sorghum glaze; matsutake, chanterelle and little pig mushrooms over soft rice grits with lemon and parsley; American red snapper with peanut gnocchi, Russian kale and citrus marmalade; duck breast with peach preserves, carrots and little pig mushrooms

Vegetarian selections and special needs: Many dishes offer meatless options, but some may be cooked with meat stocks, so ask your server.

Children: Restaurant Eugene is a perfect place for children to experience fine dining, though older children will enjoy it more, and early evening hours or Sunday suppers are the best times.

Parking: Complimentary valet

Reservations: Yes

Wheelchair access: Yes

Smoking: No smoking

Noise level: Low

Patio: No

Takeout: No

Address, telephone: 2277 Peachtree Road, Atlanta, 404-355-0321

Web site: www.restauranteugene.com

55 comments Add your comment

A.S.

October 29th, 2009
9:46 am

Well deserved award for the Hopkins family.

Linton and Co. have transformed that small atrium on Peachtree road into a culinary haven! First Eugene, then Holeman and Finch! Both restaurants are masterpieces, its a shame Linton did not get Southeast Chef of the Year (per James Beard).

Jeremy

October 29th, 2009
10:02 am

The best meal I have had in Atlanta was at Eugene; probably the best I’ve had at all. And it was definitely an experience enriched by the sum of it’s parts. The food was exceptional, and the service and the pairings of wine on the chef’s tasting were thoughtful and carefully explained. Excited for the whole crew!

[...] Elementary parent/supporter and rock-star chef Linton Hopkins had his Restaurant Eugene named the AJC’s 2009 Restaurant of the Year. (Guess they’d seen enough after 10 [...]

Ben

October 29th, 2009
1:55 pm

Pretty disappointed by Eugene. Went for Valentine’s Day this year and when I made the reservation there was no mention of a pre-fixe menu nor was it on the website. We had waited for 3 weeks to go and had perused their menu many times only to get there and no be able to order hardly any of it and get GOUGED on the pricing. I can’t knock the food because what we had was great but the experience was a little disappointing. As for Holman and Finch…….horrible. Food was good but overpriced and I’m not a fan of public houses in general. If I’m going to end up paying over $100 for drinks and several tapas dishes, I’d rather just go somewhere I can have my own booth.

foodfight

October 29th, 2009
3:28 pm

Ben, we agree with you. Went to Eugene’s one time and have never been back. Talk bad about them every time I can. Poor service(very impressed with themselves) and the food was marginal, at best. And overpriced. Back to old favorites.

Sean

October 29th, 2009
3:30 pm

I’ve never eaten there, but I was wondering what the haters would suggest? it’s kind of annoying when people trash a place and don’t offer much else.

foodfight

October 29th, 2009
3:49 pm

Sean, I think you should try Eugene’s. It sounds to me like you were made for each other.

Phil

October 29th, 2009
3:50 pm

Ben,
It sounds like you like the food, but in your opinion it was poor value. Not sure how you can say Holeman and Finch was ‘horrible’ and then say the food was good. If you can’t afford to eat there or think its too expensive for what you get then don’t eat there. Both of the restaurants, IMHO, are some of the cities best. No reason to bash them.

hobberskins

October 29th, 2009
3:51 pm

Ben – Valentine’s Day is not a great day to try a restaurant. It is considered by many who work in restaurants as “amateur night” along w/ New Years. I’d try them again on a day w/o all the whoopla.

Andrea

October 29th, 2009
4:03 pm

I have been to both Restaurant Eugene and Holeman & Finch (on non-”holiday” evenings) and found the food to be of high calibre, and the environment to be enjoyable. The biggest constructive criticism is on the service. At RE, the timing between courses was interminable and the waitstaff did not check in on our table or update us. 3 courses took 4 hours. We had to request water refills for the table not once, but twice! I’m all for not being rushed at a restaurant, but I don’t expect to get hungry while I’m between courses. At H&F, I would just say that the staff was abrupt, rushed, and are taking the “casual” theme too far. For high quality food and much better service, I would recommend Cakes & Ale or 4th & Swift.

mike

October 29th, 2009
4:12 pm

Saying servers are impressed with themselves and then say you talk bad about them everytime you get a chance? Now who is impressed with themselves? I also heartily agree that evaluating a restaurant on Valentines Day is lame.

Holeman and Finch and Rest. Eugene aren’t for everybody. If you don’t appreciate the farm to table concept; that fresh and local are better, you won’t be a fan. Small farmers charge more for their products than food factories. If you have ever priced Benton Farms pork, Berkshire hogs, specialty mushrooms, etc., you would understand that the restaurants won’t be cheap. Go back on a Monday night. Relax. Then you may get it.

Jim

October 29th, 2009
4:13 pm

I think this is well deserved for Hopkins. I have been there several times and the food is of the highest quality and always perfectly prepared. The food is delicious with out being silly or just weird.
I have eaten in most of the “nice” places in town more than once and eventually you catch a restaurant on a bad night and for some that is enough to keep them away. It is a tough business. That said, I would suggest that any poor service at either of Hopkin’s establishments is more the exception than the rule.

WilliamG

October 29th, 2009
5:16 pm

Eugene would have to get better to rate horrible. I was amazed to read this article and had to wonder if the reviewer actually ate there. I am not intending to be mean spirited and all places have off days but Eugene specializes in off days – at least based on the three times I tried the restaurant. Maybe it’s me but I think I have a reasonable palate and at least average experience with restaurants – the food is bad and the service is somewhere between mediocre and awful. Just for fun, maybe the reviewer should go back to this place a few times – or perhaps, here in print, offer an explanation.

Jimmy

October 29th, 2009
9:28 pm

I’ve have eaten at Restaurant Eugene several times and H&F more times than I can count, and both are exceptional. My best experience at RE beats out my second best meal in ATL (at Seegar’s). H&F is where my 6-year-old learned to love sweatbreads. Both are kind of aimed at foodies, which may explain why some people have had sticker shock. But if you love top quality ingredients and are into food (or would like to learn) then you can’t go wrong with either one. Great call by AJC (and Food and Wine).

ChrisR

October 29th, 2009
10:13 pm

@SEAN The haters would suggest CANOE. Also I’m not surprised to see that half the people on here report a so so experience when the AJC throws a bone to some amateur ’southern’ cooks place (or several in this case). Canoe has a real kitchen which is run brigade style and reasonably priced, the food is excellent. They will re-open in NOV 2009

Cindy

October 30th, 2009
4:56 pm

This restaurant and its owner are overrated. He has a lot of “PR” connections that get him into the paper faster than the paparazzi can for a celebrity. He paid for “restaurant” of the year. There are Briliant Chefs around the city they do not get into magazines like this because they simply couldn’t care less about fame, but rather producing a good product and making their restaurant well known. As for their bread, I tasted it at Restaurant Eugene and immediately had heartburn, don’t know what they put in their, but it’s not all “natural” as they make it out to be.

I think Atlanta people are far smarter than believing a headline, we’ve learned what the media does. Puffs up everyone, especially when they are paid. Atlanta, its your choice who to believe, your heartburn or the media.

Jason

October 30th, 2009
5:34 pm

Thanks, Cindy, for the worthless commentary and waste of bandwidth.

Lauren

October 30th, 2009
6:28 pm

BRAVO! The crispy kale will change the way you think of vegetables. Many congratulations to Gina & Linton.

Jeanne

October 30th, 2009
9:56 pm

I am sorry but I have to strongly disagree, my last meal here was terrible. I recently went there for my birthday (2 weeks ago) and have to say I was sorely disappointed. My appetizer was very good (and the only thing we had that was good) but my husband had the crab cake and it tasted like the crab had gone bad. Our entrees were also horrible, I had the red snapper which tasted like it had been caught last year and my husband had the NY strip which also tasted rancid. I have been here a few times and each time it had been wonderful until now. Our meal was so bad I have to say I will not be back. Time to find a new favorite place.

Common Sense

October 31st, 2009
10:14 am

I’ve never eaten at Restaurant Eugene, but am taken aback at the level of vitriol shown on some of the postings. Many seem to have an elitist, “I know more than you do” feel about them. Lighten up, folks. If you like the place, great- support it by patronizing it. If you don’t like it, shut up and don’t go back. Nobody is impressed with your snobbish comments.

no common sense

October 31st, 2009
11:13 am

Common sense has no sense. if you don’t like a restaurant, do NOT shut up, but please let others know. That’s what these posting are for – to share all opinions. The snobs are the ones who only want to hear those who agree with themselves.

Steve

October 31st, 2009
11:15 am

Good post Common Sense. Just because someone doesn’t like a restaurant doesn’t give all the backers the right to trash them. I haven’t seen a detractor for the restaurant attack any of the other posters from the get go, just talk about the flaws of their experiences at the restaurant. Why is there so much hate from the people that like it? I just don’t get it.

I have never eaten at the restaurant, but jsut by all the elitist hate being spewed by the supporters on here it doesn’t sound like my kind of place. You certainly aren’t helping the restaurant by slamming everyone who posts about a negative experience.

Steve

October 31st, 2009
11:17 am

oops .. meant good post ‘no common sense’. Common sense started out good, but the ’shut up and don’t go back’ is annoying.

Rock Top

October 31st, 2009
11:33 am

Way to go Floppy & Gina!!! You deserve this and more – congratulations! BJF

All We Need is Love

October 31st, 2009
11:37 am

To summarize: Some folks don’t like this particular restaurant. Other folks who like the restaurant call the first group “haters” and then begin to rain down, er, hate on them.

Where is Rodney King when we need him? Group hug, gourmands.

Tyree

October 31st, 2009
11:41 am

Check out ” Yelp ” if you want to see a bunch of cry babies. People will slam a restaurant for anything trivial. One post last week was critical because the location did not show up on her vehicle’s GPS.

No restaurant will get it right 100% all the time. However, remember before you slam a business, be realistic and take emotion out of your review. Visit twice before making a final conclusion. Real jobs are at stake.

Kirk

October 31st, 2009
12:52 pm

Good or bad, I love reading about “cutting edge cuisine”. Since I no longer can afford to eat out, I now live vicariously through reviews. My own cooking is stepped up a by reading about what others are doing. I can’t understand all the vitriol. If you like it , you eat it, If you don’t, send it back. If the service is bad, tell them. If it is too expensive, tell them and don’t go back. Yelling and hating should be reserved for politicians.

WayDog

October 31st, 2009
1:02 pm

Well, that explains it. If you really think of Canoe as being on this plane then your not going to get places like this AT ALL. Why not stick with Outback and Applebee’s?

Unfortunately our palettes have been burned away by over processed, industrial fodder. Too many people can’t appreciate grass feed beef or vegitables that have not had the flavor bred out of them for the sake standing up under long distance shipping. It’s really sad, but that’s what it’s come too.

Kudos to those who can appreciate local, true orgainic (not fake organic) and keep up the good fight.

C

October 31st, 2009
1:49 pm

@Waydog “Well, that explains it. If you really think of Canoe…” really?? you can’t be serious, every bit of food I’ve ever had there has been absolutely par excellence.

“Too many people can’t appreciate grass feed beef or vegetables…” if the place really uses fine ingredients properly then the food could be instantly appreciated by anyone for its quality, individual tastes non-withstanding. Simply put, you don’t need a palette to appreciate really good food.

I think that two things are going on here: one is that people feel embarrassed for going to trendy expensive restaurants thinking that they are getting the best product and service in the city only find the same place soundly trashed on this semi-anonymous public forum. And secondly people, like me for one, are just tired of ajc reviews which aren’t objective.

@COMMON SENSE ” If you don’t like it, shut up and don’t go back. Nobody is impressed with your snobbish comments.” No to the former and yes to the latter. Why? Because articles like this one are misleading, and if people only let friends post glowing exaggerated reviews then that means that other folks will get to waste an evening and some cash on a sub-par meal.

Learn Something Daily

October 31st, 2009
3:07 pm

Palette is: a rigid, flat surface on which a painter arranges and mixes paints.

Palate is: a usually intellectual taste or liking b : the sense of taste

lski56

October 31st, 2009
3:28 pm

I have to say that I have gone 3 times there. Once was very good and the last two times it was almost uneatable. I have been to some of the finest restaurants in the country (San Fran, NYC Chicago) and I do feel this is highly over rated. To be more specific the filet I ordered the last time was tough and undercooked. I had to return it and they tried to fix it but could not. They offered me $10 off my meal. ? What’s that about? The wine pour is pathetic though their selection is good.
Over all I don’t think I will go back again, there are many other fine restaurants in town (Nan, Hal’s for a great steak, Rathbuns for great southern based food with a twist. ) I wish them luck but restaurant of the year…. I don’t think so.

Jim.

October 31st, 2009
8:14 pm

Meredith has her favorites(Joel) and hates some others(Emeril’s) . She’s almost always wrong. The best food, service, and restaurant I’ve been to was Emeril’s. Can’t comment on Eugene because I’ve not eaten there, but if Meredith just falls all over herself over it, it probably isn’t good. I’ll decide when I go.

Jim.

October 31st, 2009
8:15 pm

And why are all the pictures always halfway out of focus? Really annoying. Not trendy . Not cool. Just dumb.

notaracist

November 1st, 2009
9:16 am

People trash or praise a place usually because of their personal experience. I welcome all comments. Every one’s experience is obviously not the same. Either listen to the pos post and go, or go with the neg post and do not go. Or ignore all the post and see for yourself. Lastly everyone is entitled to their opinion and are free to comment on their experiences.

Jack o Latern

November 1st, 2009
10:13 am

Jeanne, you ignorant slut!! Just kidding.
Wow, lighten up.

Jared

November 1st, 2009
12:56 pm

My vote for restaurant of the year, Pricci!!!

Ratliff

November 1st, 2009
3:40 pm

I have been twice, The first time I was disappointed because I had high expectations, The second time I was disappointed with no expectations. The service was inexcusably slow both times. I had the same experience as Andrea. The food was just not that good( the second time it was cold). The price was absurd for what was delivered. Reading the comments I can only conclude that the resturant is hit and miss and I am 2 for 2 on misses. There will be no strike three.

There are so many good resturants in Atlanta that I find it incredible that RE could be named resturant of the year. Better food and service can be found for 1/3 the price at Top Flr on Myrtle (of course you will have to deal with the mod squad decor but I can tolerate almost any decor if the food and service are great).

susiross

November 1st, 2009
6:44 pm

I am no food snob. Because of my job I do end up eating out a lot – both here and other places. This is not a good restaurant. It’s nothing to do with being some great genius of food – it’s just not very good. I have to wonder how someone who does this for a living – review restaurants – would think differently. I would just keep quiet if this was a judgment call – truly it isn’t. I’d say “go there and see for yourself” but honestly I can’t wish that on anyone.

hawesg

November 1st, 2009
9:35 pm

Congratulations, Linton and Gina. Both meals we’ve had there were as good as any we’ve had anywhere. You’ve created Atlanta’s version of the Grammercy Tavern. Well done and well earned.

And to think I once ate your fried balogna.

fatkid

November 2nd, 2009
3:33 am

Sweetbreads w duck fat biscuit,foie gras,lamb saddle just go do not listen to these idiots!

[...] Eugene was just named the Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s 2009 Restaurant of the Year. This is a prestigious honor and one that is deserving of Restaurant [...]

Mark

November 3rd, 2009
8:32 pm

Love HF! Good atmosphere, drinks, food etc. Regan is the best.

Well,

November 4th, 2009
9:24 pm

Overrated and overpriced.

Fat Richard

November 5th, 2009
9:10 am

H&F rules. It’s nice to see a decent restaurant in ATL that is one of the 1000-table strip-centeresque douchebag conventions (e.g. one of the B’head Life Group cafetoriums).

Pito

November 10th, 2009
12:57 am

I think most true diners (and by true I’m not speaking of the “foodies” that watch top chef or the food network but don’t truly know what makes a great meal) would agree that both RE and HF are quality restaurants regarding food. Service while always objectionable is good as well. Know what you want when you go out. Do you want to be treated like a snob or like a friend. When I go out I want to be left alone with my company and not have to ask for anything. When a server is confident or as one person said sure of themselves, that is great I too can be confident in their descriptions of the food giving me the choice of what to order based on my likes and dislikes. Go for yourself. Everyone is different and no one on this forum should influence your decision. How old are all of you people? Is peer pressure still alive? I think so reading these posts.

[...] Restaurant Eugene was recently named 2009 Restaurant of the Year by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Long since considered to be one of the southeast’s best dining spots, Restaurant Eugene is [...]

sonot

December 22nd, 2009
10:24 pm

Disappointing that the AJC would choose Restaurant Eugene as it’s best restaurant. It doesn’t come close to so many of Atlanta’s great restaurants. The food is just okay and the service is the worst I have experienced ever at any Atlanta restaurant. Bacchanalia is still Atlanta’s best hands down.

Decatur Has It Hands Down

December 22nd, 2009
11:26 pm

Wow! What a disappointment. RE is a fool’s paradise. Would much rather spend my money at Watershed any day. RE is pretentious. Service takes way too long. I mean way too long. Will not go back there regardless of how you may rate them. Give me Watershed any day of the week.

wankblog

December 23rd, 2009
2:01 pm

Atlanta has only one or two “great” restaurants because people in Atlanta just don’t appreciate good food. We said good bye to Seeger’s, The Dining Room, and Soto. Linton is one of the best chefs in Atlanta weather you like his food or not! I for one don’t like what some people call good service, I don’t care to know my servers name or what planet they come from. Do I have water, wine and food yes well that is good service. H&F and RE are both great concept’s with a quality wine list, great drinks and real food. If you can’t afford to eat Linton’s food and drink his wine don’t go so I will always be able to get a table.

Jeff

December 25th, 2009
8:36 am

The most satisfying dining experience in Atlanta can be had at Sushi House Hayakawa.

Sid

December 26th, 2009
7:57 am

E. Rivers Elementary School was named for former Georgia Governor Eurith D. “Ed” Rivers. He was elected Governor of Georgia in 1936. He was the first Governor to provide free textbooks to all students in the state. He also increased education spending during his terms in office. Your story has his first name listed as “Eretus.”

Betsy Carnathan

December 26th, 2009
10:45 am

Thank you, Meredith for correctly naming our school ERETUS Rivers (not Ed, not East). It was named for the previous landowner where the school site now sits.

Food Critic....

December 26th, 2009
11:26 am

Why can’t someone bash a restaurant if they must? If they had poor service and the food is so so that’s their opinion. I like to see both sides myself. It’s easy to go with the AJC critic and try out the restaurant. But in my opinion, I won’t be surprised if I get poor service or a mediocre meal. A restaurant should shine on Valentine’s Day like any other day. And this “Farm to Table” concept is just some more B.S. It’s just a trend that will fade just like any other gimmick that comes to Atlanta. Look at the list of restaurants that has failed over the years. People get over yourselves and just eat……

New Yorker that dines in Atlanta

December 26th, 2009
1:53 pm

I am very surprised that the AJC chose this restaurant as the One for the year. The couple looks very nice and loving in the photo, but their restaurant leaves much to be desired. I travel to Atlanta for business and was invited to a dinner at Restaurant Eugene. I found the food to be OK but small in portions. It reminded me of the tiny dinner plates served with shaved truffles at the now-shuttered Seeger’s. I don’t mind spending money for a good dinner, but this restaurant does not offer good value in my opinion. I have found Bacchanalia or Paul’s a much better dining experience. Better value, service, and a more welcoming staff. I look forward to hearing about the restaurant of the year for 2010.