Chamblee has come on as one of Atlanta’s hotspots for trendy, close-in living, with apartments, art galleries, restaurants and a whopping Whole Foods.
Mid-August brought BlueTop, a fast-casual eatery from businessman and restaurateur Andy Lasky. Seven days a week, it is a foodie hangout with American fare, adventurous drinks and an eclectic crowd.
Paul Sidener, formerly from Portofino, is the executive chef.
Located at 5362 Peachtree Road, the place is just plain fun, offering multiple venues to eat (indoor and outdoor), two bars, and a back yard with bocce ball, cornhole, picnic tables and occasional live music.
It works because the kids playing within clear view of the adults do not distract from the dining experience.
I’m a healthy eater and always order the same things, which I can’t get anywhere else, starting with yummy green avocado gazpacho and a kale salad with milk-blanched garlic, dried blueberries, toasted oats and a fermented hemp nut vinaigrette. My entrée is the veggie ban mi — French bread layered with collard kimchi and grilled tofu. The grilled cod and smoked salmon also do well on salads.
Jaffe: How do your roles and responsibilities play out?
Lasky: Paul has responsibility for the kitchen; however, all of our management team works together to do whatever is needed. I handle most of the boring business aspects, but when it comes to the day-to-day operations, we all pitch in equally as a team.
Jaffe: You originally stated that you would have a broad appeal — families, foodies, neighborhood locals, baby boomers. Has that proved to be the case?
Lasky: We have all stages of the lifecycle at BlueTop. I have seen guests from a newborn to a 93-year-old great-grandfather.
Jaffe: What have been the hottest menu items? Are you taking anything off the menu?
Lasky: We serve a lot of burgers and angry fried chicken. We eliminated lobster corndogs and fried pickles due to consistency. We want the food to be culinary but approachable. Customers love the lamb Sloppy Joe. Although we don’t have fine china and silver, our food costs are very high because of our quality ingredients.
Jaffe: What are some menu items you hope to roll out?
Lasky: We want to get more vegetable-focused. We have a tremendous support system from farms and would like to use their surplus. We will be adding a corned beef Reuben.
Jaffe: Is it a drag having such long, seven-day-a-week hours?
Lasky: Originally our hours were 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. We have cut that back to 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. close. We close the kitchen from 3 to 4 p.m., when we serve soups, salads and raw oysters to give the kitchen an opportunity to restock and get ready for dinner.
Jaffe: Is it true that you did the interior design yourself?
Lasky: I didn’t pick up any hammers myself, but I was here all day during the nine months of construction, as well as the first two months we have been opened. My father-in-law of blessed memory, Buster Oxman, called it “can’t to can’t”: “Can’t see outside when you go to work, can’t see outside when you get home.” He was a great role model for me.
Jaffe: You have done a lot of recycling and repurposing.
Lasky: We bought a 1969, 45-foot Global Van Lines moving truck for $500, then retrofitted it into the kitchen. The van was a quarter-mile down the road at Rust N’ Dust in Chamblee for 25 years. We used barn and reclaimed wood everywhere in construction.
Jaffe: It’s a bit odd paying upfront and not knowing the service level (or connecting to the server) to be able to anticipate the gratuity level.
Lasky: It really is. Originally, I was undecided how it would work out. So we compensate our staff with a much higher hourly wage than the typical $2 to $3 an hour. For that reason, our tipped employees make great money and deserve it. No one has left since we opened, which is rare in this industry. We are now encouraging guests to pay at the table.
Jaffe: Any plans for another location?
Lasky: Initially, I created BlueTop (named after a taxicab company) to keep busy. It certainly has done that. I don’t have major hobbies, so I missed interaction with the folks. Having worked in the hospitality business in the early ’80s, I always loved the industry. It has been very rewarding to have my wife and daughters’ families share and enjoy this journey with me.
As far as opening more locations, check back with me on that.