Lyla Lila is a self-described southern European restaurant in the heart of Midtown. Experienced restaurateurs Billy Streck and Craig Richards, who is also the chef, are navigating the bumpy road impacted by COVID and seeing a way out to fulfill their mission of a creative menu based on seasonality, made-in-house pasta, wood-fired entrees, fresh seafood, unusual desserts such as affogato corretto rhubarb amaro gelato with chantilly cream and well-chosen wine slanted towards “old world” flavors.
Think Midtown Peachtree; think Midtown Manhattan.
The name of the restaurant comes from the coincidental and alliterative names of the owners’ daughters: Lyla and Lila.
The restaurant is located on ground level with indoor and outdoor dining in a converted apartment building a few short blocks north of the Fox Theatre. Currently without valet parking, we parked by a side street meter, while there are surrounding Fox parking lots. Certainly, when concerts and events resume normally, Lyla Lila would be a wonderful dual evening walking plan. The interior is bohemian and chic with wood textures, imaginative lighting and well-positioned art. The bar is front and center upon entering. Part of the fun is people watching. This parade did not disappoint on a Saturday night. Motorcycles, tattoos, magenta hair and more traditional tourists sauntered by.
Chef Craig noted, “Things were going really well before COVID; we were exceeding sales goals; then the pandemic hit. In hindsight, I think we handled it well and held onto a lot of regular clientele. With more people vaccinated and the weather improving, we’re certainly busier. The Fox reopens Aug. 25, and we’re eagerly awaiting that. With 10 percent takeout, patrons are mostly regulars and neighbors while business travelers during the week are picking up.” They rent out a private room with food and beverage minimums.
Lyla Lila employs 19 people with a smaller kitchen team executing the same number of dishes before COVID. Chef de Cuisine Stuart Rogers normally “runs the pass” during service, and Richards floats between the dining room and kitchen, working about 60 hours a week. They are having trouble hiring new employees.
Richards mused, “We’re not getting much response to our ads, but we’re slowly growing our team. What’s surprised me is how difficult it has been to hire new employees. I don’t think it’s just unemployment, … much more complicated than that. We’ve seen diners prefer more comfort food dishes, and we provide that. We don’t have any plans right now to reopen for lunch.”
What we went crazy over:
Wood grilled tuna, yuzukōsho aioli, watercress, strawberries, radish, sorrel, $18. Favorite preparation worth fighting over!
Crispy artichokes, lemon-mint aioli, charred lemon, petite greens, $15. Intense and rich, perfect for sharing.
Artichoke caramelle ravioli, mushrooms, ramp salsa verde. Light yet filling, certainly not a dish one could make at home, $26.
Red snapper in squash, basil-pistachio pesto, meyer lemon butter. An artistic bundle; think ribbons of zucchini, $34.
Wood grilled asparagus, black truffle aioli. We “86ed” the cured egg yolk topping.
Passion fruit sorbetto, $8. Not normally a fan of passion fruit, this was a mind-changer with intense sweet tart flavors.
French lemon cake: lemon glaze, strawberries, black pepper. Worry not, the pepper speaks softly.
On the list to order next time:
Snapper crudo, satsumas, chilies, carrot, aji amarillo, carrot, radish, thai basil, $18.
Roasted baby carrots calabrian chili honey, smoked ricotta, $10.
Olive oil cake, mandarin oranges, wildflower honey cream, $8.
Note that the menu changes with seasonality and best of market choices.
Chef Craig shares cooking tips:
- Always salt your pasta water; don’t add any oil, just salt.
- If you’re sautéing onions, add salt right away to prevent coloring and so they release their water quickly.
- We grill our tuna over high heat for about a minute on each side for a crispy exterior and rare middle.
His advice on oils: “We use three different kinds of olive oil. One bulk Italian oil for vinaigrettes, a Tuscan oil for finishing grilled items, and a Sicilian oil for finishing more delicate items, like raw fish. We do our high heat cooking with a canola/olive oil blend.” His favorite dessert is tiramisu, and favorite cocktail is Monk’s Repose.
Lyla Lila is located at 693 Peachtree Street and its hours are Tuesday through Saturday 5 to 9 p.m.