Foodie Family Roots Catapult Nowak’s   
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Foodie Family Roots Catapult Nowak’s   

Blaiss Nowak, son of the eponymous Buckhead classic, Hal’s "The Steakhouse," strikes out on his own with Nowak's, serving American cuisine with Creole influences.

After 35 years with the Atlanta newspapers, Marcia currently serves as Retail VP for the Buckhead Business Association, where she delivers news and trends (laced with a little gossip). On the side, Marcia is Captain of the Senior Cheerleaders for the WNBA Atlanta Dream.

  • Blaiss Nowak strives to be the favorite neighborhood “go to” for great food and cocktails.
    Blaiss Nowak strives to be the favorite neighborhood “go to” for great food and cocktails.
  • The popular salmon salad boasts avocado, pecans, jalapenos and shallots.
    The popular salmon salad boasts avocado, pecans, jalapenos and shallots.
  • Nowak’s warm brick interior was renovated by Tom Murphy. Blaiss visited 12 venues before choosing the North Highland locale.
    Nowak’s warm brick interior was renovated by Tom Murphy. Blaiss visited 12 venues before choosing the North Highland locale.
  • Deliciousness before the entrée (clockwise from top left): Rice flour flash-fried artichokes, asparagus Parmesan, authentic Caesar salad (split in two portions).
    Deliciousness before the entrée (clockwise from top left): Rice flour flash-fried artichokes, asparagus Parmesan, authentic Caesar salad (split in two portions).
  • Nowak's New Orleans origins are showcased with white wine sauce, celery, tomatoes and onions on the American Gulf redfish.
    Nowak's New Orleans origins are showcased with white wine sauce, celery, tomatoes and onions on the American Gulf redfish.

An ingénue on the midtown food scene, Nowak’s opened last May in one of the most sentimental of all Jewish neighborhoods, at 1397 Highland Avenue. Natives can recall the Alterman’s grocery across the street, and the cozy brick bones of Nowak’s was itself the 1960s Tenenbaum’s five and dime.

The real story is owner/chef/maître d’, young family man, Blaiss Nowak (son of the eponymous Buckhead classic, Hal’s “The Steakhouse”) as he strikes out on his own with the achievable goal of serving quality spirits and homemade cuisine to the neighborhood. “Our focus is high quality steaks at affordable prices. But our menu extends to have something for everyone, … pasta, dinner salads, burgers, fish, po’ boys, … we want folks to say, ‘Honey, don’t cook tonight, let’s go to Nowak’s.’ Everything on the menu, except the ice cream, is homemade and mostly from our family recipes.”

Jaffe:  How did you get the “food bug”? Did you have any formal training?

Blaiss Nowak strives to be the favorite neighborhood “go to” for great food and cocktails.

Nowak: At 12, I moved to Atlanta from New Orleans and attended GHA [Greenfield Hebrew Academy] for my bar mitzvah year. On to Riverwood High School, then a degree in hospitality management at the University of Nevada in Las Vegas. After college I worked for two years for Dad at Hal’s.

Growing up in a “foodie” family built the desire to one day run my own place.

Jaffe: Who did the décor?

Nowak: I bought the restaurant from Tom Murphy when it was Morningside Kitchen. Tom totally renovated the space. I looked at 12 restaurants to purchase when we met. It had everything on my checklist: location, decor, parking, fabulous neighborhood and more.

Jaffe: What has been the biggest learning curve?

Nowak: After taking a 20-year break from the restaurant business, I forgot how physically and mentally demanding this is. Don’t get me wrong, all business is hard, but the restaurant business takes a special breed.

Jaffe: You recently started Sunday brunch?

Nowak: In October we launched our first Sunday Brunch buffet. It was amazing, with over 200 people, with very little advertising. The neighborhood thought it was beautifully done and the food was excellent. I think it will grow into a regular 400-plus Sunday brunch.

Nowak’s warm brick interior was renovated by Tom Murphy. Blaiss visited 12 venues before choosing the North Highland locale.

Jaffe: Where do you like to eat out in Atlanta?

Nowak: Glad you asked. Being born in New Orleans, and growing up with two fabulous cooks for parents, I am quite picky, another reason why I opened my own place. My favorite restaurants are Houston’s and Hal’s.

Jaffe: What’s your favorite dessert and cocktail here?

Nowak: Our rich chocolate profiterole, and my favorite cocktail is the Blaiss Haze! Hendrick’s Gin, St. Germain liqueur, grapefruit and lemon juices.

What we went crazy over:

Blaiss as a host: Reminiscent of Atlanta’s most vivacious and gracious hosts, like Pano Karatassos, who started by going from restaurant to restaurant and table to table to check on guests à la Harry Baron, who ran his Phipps Deli like a charmed Swiss clock. Blaiss greets entering guests, finds just the right table, and circles throughout the night to assure that everyone and everything is in good order. Therein lies the heartbeat of the successful restaurateur.

The wine: Our server steered us to Zironda Ripasso, Corvina Veronese from Valpolicella, Italy… slipped down like silk; no sugary, earthy or tannin taste.

Asparagus appetizer: Just the right crunch and size, … topped with parmesan shavings.

Artichoke hearts: Flash fried in rice flour, crispy without heaviness. Intense flavor, maybe a bit too much salt, but still a captured delicacy.

Caesar salad: Homemade dressing zinged with garlic, lemon and pureed anchovies; large square, toasty croutons topped it off.

Nowak’s New Orleans origins are showcased with white wine sauce, celery, tomatoes and onions on the American Gulf redfish.

Red fish: Our overall favorite, reminiscent of the French Quarter. The substantial American Gulf portion reigned in a light, but robust wine sauce alongside tomatoes, celery and onions.

Cauliflower mash: Subbing for potatoes can be a good thing with a dash of cheddar and cream.

Mushroom side: Surprisingly firm when left whole and plumped without much heat or jazz.

Tiramisu: The boozy soaked layered ladyfingers were light as air.

Our server: Energetic, accommodating, quick without rushing, attentive without being fussy, Nowak’s would do well to keep him happy.

Cheers to Blaiss! May he thrive and bask in the success of one who knows his craft. Do we hear echoes of The Brickery?

Nowak’s also accommodates vegetarians and gluten-free diners.

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