For chef Linton Hopkins, there’s no doubt who fueled his passion for food. It was his Grandfather Eugene Hopkins, who grew up on a farm outside Memphis, worked as a chemist and shared his appreciation for farm-fresh food. His story is framed and hangs on the wall of the five-year-old restaurant in Atlanta’s upscale neighborhood of Buckhead. In the kitchen and on the plate, Restaurant Eugene celebrates the role of the farmer and produces some of the most refined Southern food in the Southeast.
As President of the Tennessee Food & Drug Administration, Eugene Hopkins would take young Linton on trips to inspect farms. “Many were small family-run operations, others weren’t much larger,” recalls Chef Hopkins. “My grandfather taught me early on that food comes from someone – a person…At home, he loved his garden and cooked everything. His peach ice cream in the summertime is one of my fondest memories. I learned from him that cooking goes hand in hand with bringing the food to the table. This combination of cooking and graciousness shapes our vision at Restaurant Eugene.”
Hopkins and Chef de Cuisine Ryan Smith continue to display a commitment to local farmers, listing 23 purveyors on the back of the menu, including Blackberry Farm, Benton’s Hams, Mudcat Farm and Sweetgrass Dairy. Even E. Rivers Elementary gets a shoutout.
We were at Restaurant Eugene for the popular Sunday Supper, a three-course prix fixe menu that costs $29.50. It’s a great value considering the restaurant is normally on Atlanta’s higher end, and they still serve full portions of market-fresh food.
We weren’t planning to order drinks, but Mixologist Nick Herrin enticed us with his enticing Signature Cocktails and Seasonal Libations. Herrin wasn’t in the house, but he trained our server/bartender well.
The Country Dime ($11) was an excellent Southern inspired cocktail made with Willett Bourbon, orange juice, Obsello Absinthe and sorghum, a natural sugar substitute that contributed a molasses-like flavor to the vanilla-tinged bourbon.
Mary Randolph’s Fried Chicken relies on a recipe from (you guessed it) Mary Randolph, who wrote the Southern Living Cookbook. The seemingly simple preparation – a buttermilk brine, light flour, salt and pepper seasoning – resulted in juicy free-range bird with crispy skin and very little residual grease. It’s no wonder this fried chicken has stood the test of time.
Pastry chef Kathyrn Wharton prepared a prescribed dessert that I wouldn’t have normally ordered, but was still plenty satisfying. Her Cranberry White Chocolate Bread Pudding was a mix of crusty and custardy brioche, a generous dollop of whipped cream and a pool of apple caramel sauce that was great for dipping.
Restaurant Eugene delivered with their Sunday Supper. Our server was smart to pass out the regular menu, which featured plenty of other enticing options. A return trip could easily be in order. Then again, it’s also tempting to eat next door at Holeman & Finch, Linton Hopkins’ Southern gastropub.