Atlantan Adam Berlin has been in food service long before his graduation from North Springs High School, where he met his business partner Juan Calle from Bogota, Colombia. Berlin said, “I have been cooking since I was walking. Being in the family business [like Uncle Scott Rittenbaum’s Huey’s on Peachtree], I was bussing tables and working ‘the line.’”
Calle was bartending at Tijuana Joe’s. After graduating the University of
Georgia in business and marketing, Berlin was well on his way to success, owning and operating Moonshine Bar and Silver Dollar in Athens. Fast forward to 2016 where they started Buckhead’s Big Sky on Cains Hill Place.
Last year, Berlin opened Buena Vida Tapas & Sol in the Old Fourth Ward. Here is a sprawling yet intimate, uniquely decorated indoor-outdoor venue. “We wanted a different vibe of tapas with lighter options, not all heavy and fried. Our menu is one-half vegetarian and about one-third vegan for the “vegan curious.’”
Not traveling during the pandemic? Buena Vida Tapas seats up to 100 indoors (socially distanced with plastic dividers) and 100 outdoors, as well as on a sensational autumnal patio. Interior designer Meredith Perry did a spectacular job creating the feeling of being swept away to Southern Spain and its islands with the Bohemian chic of Ibiza. All points inside show different settings that required a good deal of thought: avante garde décor with polished concrete floors and ceramic tile, and art by Angie Jerez, Laura Esposito and Chris Veal, highlighted with commercial colorized photos of Ibiza. Customers are greeted by a neon wall “Te Quiero Mucho,” expressing love and the legacy left by Juan’s late sister Laura Calle, a local activist who died of kidney disease.The wall mural sets the mood with pastels of ocean blue and pink skies.
What we went crazy over:
Two appetizer sets of “balls”:
Beyondigas ($10) – Plant-based “meatballs” in a flavorful tomato-based sauce with green onions, carrot shavings and vegan cheese.
Confit Mushrooms las Croquetas ($9.50) – Looks like falafel from the outside but quite a different story inside. A rich dark blend of shitake, oyster and cremini mushrooms blended with panko over celeriac puree (the celery flavor really comes through!) with porcini dust and an agava truffle oil sweet touch. Savor every morsel.
Brussels sprouts find themselves on a full spectrum of Atlanta menus. Buena Vida Tapas has mastered the dish over green olive tapenade topped with micro greens and vegan aioli, for which Berlin supplied the mystery ingredients: blended tofu, olive oil, vinegar, garlic, water and salt.
Pan Con Tomate- ($5) – Ciabatta bread loaded with fresh garlic, fresh tomatoes, olive oil and Maldon salt. As good as leftovers the next day as it was on the spot.
Eggplant Montadito ($6.50) – Crispy flatbread, smoked eggplant, thin candied almonds, arugula, cilantro, sesame brittle and vegan aioli. The black sesame was the kicker.
Artichoke Ensalada ($8.50) – Warm artichokes over “just right” firm asparagus spears, olive oil, lemon, local egg and frisée. The latter was heavily salted; otherwise a perfect dish.
Market Fish of the Day (might be pompano or seasonal), but our sample day was super-fresh red snapper. The whole fish was a work of art surrounded by a roasted artichoke stem and blistered cherry tomatoes, fried garlic and mojo verde coulis. Shareable by many.
Must try next visit: Warm beet salad with baby kale, fennel, almonds, Valdeon cheese, truffle mushroom vinaigrette and topped with fried quinoa.
Many items are gluten free.
The menu is extensive with brunch, raciones (large plates), charcuterie and sexy colorful cocktails.
Berlin said, “We considered many details and design elements like importing the handmade Fray Angelica artisan ceramics from Columbia. Come in to try our Canary Island Wrinkly Potatoes, that’s one of my favorites.”
Buena Vida Tapas & Sol is located at 385 N. Angier Ave., a stone’s throw from the east back side of Ponce City Market. Closed Mondays, the hours are 5 to 10 p.m. Tuesday through Friday, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Saturday and 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday.