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What’s Cookin’ at The Battery Atlanta

Peanuts and Cracker Jacks may be fun snacks for the seventh inning stretch, especially when paired with an ice cold Coke or hoppy brew, but at the new Atlanta Braves SunTrust Park in Cobb County, the culinary options go way beyond traditional ballpark fare.

From elevated dining choices inside the park, to an entire entertainment district and lifestyle destination (called The Battery Atlanta) just outside its doors, get ready to be amped up by an immersive experience unrivaled in the world of professional sports.

We spoke with five of Atlanta’s culinary icons about their new endeavors at The Battery. Here’s what they had to say:

EL FELIX

Award-winning Atlanta restaurateur Ford Fry is something of a local legend. A graduate of the New England Culinary Institute in Vermont, Fry hopscotched the country as a fine dining chef before a corporate chef job brought him to town — and, man, are we glad it did! Fry is the mastermind behind some of Atlanta’s most acclaimed eateries, including Beetlecat, Marcel, Superica, St.Cecelia, The Optimist, King + Duke, No. 246 and JCT Kitchen. He’s bringing the second location of El Felix to The Battery.

How did you get involved in The Battery Atlanta project?

They reached out to us, and we did a lot of talking about it because it’s not the normal intown thing we’ve normally done. I love trying things out, and I have no doubt it’s going to be great. The first El Felix was in Alpharetta, but this one is going to be different.

What attracted you to it?

The excitement of walking out the door and looking at a massive stadium and having those days where there are thousands of people walking by. I like projects that I would want to go to and are things the neighborhood really needs. I consider The Battery a neighborhood, and we’re carving out a space for those going to the game.

What is your inspiration for the new restaurant?

I grew up in Texas, and Tex Mex has this interesting history. Most people feel like it’s just bastardized Mexican food, but it’s really its own thing and kinda cool. It had a lot to do with immigrants moving into Texas and cooking with ingredients they had around them. El Felix is going in the direction of a small town café. In Texas, no one calls it Tex Mex. It’s just a café, and that’s who was cooking. We’re going to highlight the dishes that are more grandma-like. I really want to highlight how Tex Mex has evolved and that it’s a real thing.

What is your connection to The Braves?

They’re my team even though I have no connection to them. Baseball was one sport I didn’t play as a kid. I remember trying out, and it was so cold I couldn’t hit a ball. The Astros were around at the time, but the Braves were my team. Atlanta has been a great spot [for me]. It’s where I landed and started growing roots.

What are you most excited about in the new space?

We’re buying a vintage food truck and putting it in our space to serve quick things. On non game days, the location is still great because the neighborhood could use more great restaurants in the area. I just love doing things that make people happy and they enjoy. I don’t even think about the monetary return. It’s really about watching little kids eating their queso and chips. I’ve always wanted to be inside the stadium too.

NEW STEAKHOUSE

Atlanta native and James Beard award-winning chef Linton Hopkins is no stranger to The Braves organization or to downright delicious cuisine. You may have had his mouthwatering H&F Burger at The Ted (don’t worry, H&F is back at SunTrust Park), but you may not know he’s also the chef-founder of other Atlanta staples, including Restaurant Eugene, Holeman & Finch and even the Peachtree Road Farmer’s Market. No matter the project, Hopkins’ zest for ingredients always shines through, and we expect big things from his new steakhouse concept, C. Ellet’s, slated to open later this summer!

How did you get involved in The Battery Atlanta project?

I had H&F Burger in Turner Field, and that was based on me reaching out. When they told me they were moving and described The Battery, we started going over what’s going on in the restaurant culture. They wanted to bring local, independent and national in a blended mix and asked what I thought. We talked about style and decided, because of the environment and its approachability, you have to have a classic American steakhouse. They agreed and said they wanted me to do it.

What attracted you to it?

I love steakhouses but needed to talk to my wife (Gina). Steakhouses are a very special kind of restaurant. They’re almost comfort food. They speak my language. I love baked potatoes, beef carpaccio, lobster bisque, big chopped salads. I get excited about that kind of food. I talked to Gina and it was pure excitement for us. Then we had to figure out how to make it ours. What’s the next generation steakhouse? We cook steaks at home all the time, and I cook them in a cast iron skillet. There’s something so wonderful about cast iron carmelization — that good char crust and that flavor. It’s so American, and I’m a big patriot.

What is your inspiration for the new restaurant?

Mark Twain is one of my big heroes and he wrote a book called “A Tramp Abroad.” He was in Europe bemoaning European food. I’m trying to channel this homage to American food. Our artisans and farms are tremendous — Gulf seafood … I just talked to a rancher in Texas who has the best Angus in the country. We’re also going to have some great Georgia beef. Building a restaurant is a little dangerous. I’ve been obsessing over black pepper. I’m through my 17th type of black pepper. It’s not all the same. I have a pepper problem. (This kind of attention to detail) will come across in the flavor. I’m looking at an American South steakhouse (concept).

What is your connection to The Braves?

The Braves and I go back. Growing up here, I’ve always been a huge fan of the team. I was born in 1966, and that’s the year the team came to town. My father’s family is from here, and my son is a ninth generation Georgian. Part of what I love as a chef is exploring who I am through our food and those relationships. We believe in Georgian food for Georgians. The Braves are my team. I’m a true believer. I don’t want to just go there and have a restaurant — I want to win the World Series. Baseball is a special game for me. Closing Turner Field was sad. I saw Hank Aaron hit 755 at the old stadium, and I have a plaque with the paper from that day I’m going to hang in the new space.

What are you most excited about in the new space?

I used to cook in New Orleans, so I know those dishes and am bringing a little NOLA too. There’s a term there, “lagniappe,” which means a little bit extra. There’s a generosity to that spirit. The Braves are building a mini French Quarter with entertainment, crowds, events, live music. It’s really exciting. Expect a tremendous bar. It’s separate from the main dining room, more casual and opens onto the Main Stand plaza. The dining room is more fine dining steakhouse, and my wife is a sommelier, so expect a very robust, nationally-ranked wine list. We’ve also got a great private dining room. It’s an a la carte steakhouse with a great seafood program including an oyster bar.

BBQ & BEER

Is there anything that goes better together than barbecue and beer? We don’t think so, and obviously neither do The Braves. Twin brothers Justin and Jonathan Fox have helmed Inman Park’s Fox Bros. Bar-B-Q for years and are activating their wonder twin powers in conjunction with Terrapin Beer Co. at The Battery. They’ll be serving up savory slow-roasted goodness, Southern sides and a finger-licking golden age of barbecue just in time for the season opener — and all year long. If you’ve never had their signature brand of barbecue, you won’t believe what you’ve been missing!

How did you get involved in The Battery Atlanta project?

We’ve been talking with the Braves for about two years now about their operation and bringing in local flavors — brands people are familiar with and love.

What attracted you to it?

This area of town needs representation, but the big thing is that we’ve always been a destination barbecue spot. This allows people to have a quicker experience closer to them. As busy as we are and as many people love us, there’s still a lot of people out there who don’t know who we are, so it’s exciting to open up to a whole new audience. Also, while we’re in the stadium, we have access from inside and outside, so we’ll be there close to 365 days a year.

What is your inspiration for the new restaurant?

It’s going to be a smaller menu instead of our entire menu — our greatest hits and some specials. The FRITO Pie we serve is a dish we grew up with. It’s a Texas little league dish that you get a ticket, a FRITO Pie and go watch the game. To take that full circle and serve them at SunTrust Park is a cool feeling. We’re going to have some barbecue nachos and things like that we don’t serve at this location. It’s really sports event minded dishes.

What is your connection to The Braves?

We’re so close to the old stadium, so we’ve always had players, management and coaches come in here. We’ve gotten to know them over the years.

What are you most excited about in the new space?

Being a part of the new stadium. It’s a really nice stadium, and people are really going to like it. We’re just proud to be there. We’re also excited about partnering with Terrapin. They’re brewing beer on-site. It’s going to be a huge space — two levels and seats about 300 people. There’s a huge glass wall to see the beer vats, and you can see the ballpark from right there.

ANTICO PIZZA

The renowned Zagat dining guide has called Antico’s pizza a slice of “Nirvana,” and this piece of Napoletana Heaven may be the most decorated pie on the planet. Owner Giovanni DiPalma takes pizza seriously, and it’s easy to see why since he still makes it from his family’s generations old recipe. The original Antico Pizza is located near Georgia Tech in Home Park, but DiPalma is bringing his custom made pizza ovens, delectable imported ingredients and secret heirloom recipes to The Battery for opening day and beyond. Get ready Cobb, you’ve never had a pizza quite like this before.

How did you get involved in The Battery Atlanta project?

Fortunately, the Braves management team reached out to me directly, wanting the best of the best of local Atlanta restaurants for their new stadium.

What attracted you to it?

I’ve always been an avid baseball fan and The Battery is a re-creation of Wrigleyville or the true Fenway experience. It’s an honor to have been hand-selected to be a part of this project.

What is your inspiration for the new restaurant?

To recreate the same feeling of an old-school neighborhood pizzeria and drop it into a new development. The Battery location will have the same authentic feel and same traditional ovens.

What is your connection to The Braves?

The original Westside Antico has been serving Braves fans for years, and we always see pre- and post-game fans in our kitchen and neighborhood. In light of their support, I believed I owed fans and the organization a debt of gratitude to be a part of The Battery.

What are you most excited about in the new space?

We’re on the street corner, and it feels very similar to the Westside location. Customers will be able to hear the fans cheering and the crack of the bat! We will also have an open cocktail bar with a terrace called Bar Antico. Here, guests can enjoy cocktails and Italian small plates, including sausage, sorrentina, grilled balsamic chicken and Italian street corn. This will be open to the public every day of the week, even when there is no game. The new space will include Antico Pizza, Bar Antico and a gelato bar.

TODD ENGLISH TAVERN

Atlanta native and James Beard award-winner Todd English is coming back to his hometown for the first time since childhood with his new chef-driven neo tavern at The Battery. The Todd English Tavern will be the celebrity chef’s first project in the metro area, and we hope it won’t be his last! English is widely acclaimed for his culinary brand, Olives, but his enterprise also includes numerous other celebrated dining establishments. Other culinary-inspired projects include several cookbooks, a line of cookware and lifestyle products and a television show on PBS called Food Trip with Todd English.

How did you get involved in The Battery Atlanta project?

I was approached by the group. I didn’t trip over anything and fall into it.

What attracted you to it?

I’m a big fan of the entertainment business, and sports is entertainment. That’s why I really like this project. There is a demand for better food. Customers are more sophisticated and educated (about food) and want a better experience. I used to work with Julia Childs in Boston, and I remember her being asked what she eats at Fenway. She said she usually eats a hotdog but never after the seventh inning because of the stinky water.

What is your inspiration for the new restaurant?

It’s a fun play on tavern food. I call it “neo tavern.” It’s a new look at old stuff and bringing in other flavors from around the world. We’re doing interesting, sophisticated food in a more casual setting.

What is your connection to The Braves?

I grew up in Atlanta and have been a huge fan from way back.

What are you most excited about in the new space?

It’s going to be fun and different all the time. The environment is fun, and I really believe that people want to have fun in this environment. That’s what we’re trying to create … really fun Instagrammable moments.

*Originally published in the April 2017 issue of Cobb Life magazine.

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