Randy Adler’s 35-year career of feeding Atlantans dovetails into perhaps his most meaningful moments yet. After his Brooklyn upbringing and graduating from The Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, N.Y., he earned his “food cred.”
Adler headed to Atlanta in 1983 to open The Ritz-Carlton’s high-falutin kitchen. Subsequently, he worked at Affairs to Remember (where he still has an office), then his own The Preferred Cater & Preferred To-Go retail store, to open Babs restaurant Midtown 18 years ago, which now serves as his headquarters.
COVID barreled in, and Adler pledged to help those who might fall through the cracks. In April 2020 he launched the nonprofit The Tzedakah Project to provide meals and services to those who became jobless during the pandemic, especially people in the hospitality industry where large-scale events folded like a deck of cards.
Adler knows about “doing the right thing” after serving as a member of the board of Jewish Family & Career Services and the boards of the planning and allocations committees of the Atlanta Jewish Federation.
After recently losing his mother, Adler took another leap.
“My parents were role models where giving was emphasized despite our own limited resources. We just launched The Tiger Lily [Memorial] project in memory of my mother Marcia, with a city block” for the memorial and community garden in East Atlanta, he said.
Adler knows how to organize and move projects along quickly for The Tzedakah Project. “We got legal fees donated and helped fight isolation and loneliness by connecting through yoga, BeltLine tours and beer trivia. Everything is gratis. We started from basically nothing.”
Adler is based out of Babs, an a la carte kitchen with chef-crafted specials, takeout and frozen to-go items. “We can seat 29 inside, 23 outdoors and 75 for a stand-up cocktail party. The bistro atmosphere has great al fresco patio dining with a bohemian, yet quaint flair. Some of the recipes like Blueberry French Toast are Mom’s. We are doing a huge frozen takeout business. Our frozen food line has helped keep our staff of seven employed and has been a great way to spread our brand.” Adler is also a proponent of composting and recycling.
From the freezer, Babs stocks homemade soups, such as matzo ball, beef barley and smoky split pea. Then there’s butternut squash lasagna, with goat cheese; corn beef and cabbage; quiche Lorraine; risotto; Lebanese roasted eggplant and chickpeas; macaroni and cheese with caramelized squash; “Slap your Mama” corned bread and buttermilk biscuits, and much more. Our favorite soup was the Pasta Fagioli, a full- bodied combination of hearty firm dark and light beans in a mellow, not too salty tomato base with lots of bay leaves. One container was four servings.
The restaurant menu is wholesome and progressive: Sweet Potato Hash with Brussels sprouts, leeks and spices; Tunisian Style Shakshuka; Wild Mushroom Peppery Arugula Mozzarella Omelet; Venezuelan Style Corn Pancakes; Harissa Eggplant; Tostados; Moroccan Stew; Bagel Omelet; and “Eggslut,” a Babs Classic on brioche, chived, whipped eggs and caramelized onions with sriracha drizzle. Many items offer “Put an egg on it” and entrees range from $9.75 to $15.95.
Bubbles (drinks) are a fun addition: Classic and creative Bellinis, sangrias and saki. And you can’t leave without dessert: Brooklyn style crumb cake, red velvet cake with cream cheese icing, cream cheese brownies, jumbo black and white cookies.
Babs could just as easily be in Midtown Manhattan, for all its character, variety and quirkiness. Adler is well-known for saying, “We are the company we keep.” He does, indeed, live up to his tzedakah roots. “My 93-year-old father is still alive and thrilled with all this activity.”
Babs is located at 814 Juniper Street, open 8:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday, closed Monday and Tuesday, and available for private events and catering, https://www.babsmidtown.com. Check Facebook for updates and specials, https://www.facebook.com/BabsMidtown.