Atlanta Orders In: The Alden is evolving to survive

I first wrote about the Alden not long after it opened in early April, 2018, in the Parkview on Peachtree mixed-use development in Chamblee.

In many ways, the tiny but elegant fine-dining restaurant marked the return of chef Jared Alden Hucks, who grew up in nearby Brookhaven, but had traveled the world for many years, working for renowned chefs in Australia, Thailand, Italy, Spain and Denmark.

At that time, Hucks told me it was important to have a small space, so he could manage the concept and the quality (including a tasting menu available by reservation). And, he said that the design, centered on a convivial open kitchen, was inspired by David Chang’s New York restaurant, KO.

But, because the Alden is decidedly ambitious, the pandemic has made it even more difficult to execute his vision.

On March 16, Hucks and his team switched to a takeout-only menu, with limited delivery within a 5-mile radius. Over the next couple of months, they also delivered boxed lunches to health care workers and first responders.

Recently, though, Hucks decided it was time reopen the patio, and then the dining room, offering a $39.95 pre fixe menu for dine-in only.

“Something very important is that we have a regular who’s been very supportive,” Hucks said. “He’s an infectious disease doctor, and so he has helped guide us through a lot of things. He’s done some courses, and we’ve stayed abreast of all the guidelines. Everybody’s taken the Servesafe courses online, and we take it all very seriously.”

Hucks explained that the small footprint in the dining room posed a particular problem, when it came spacing tables 6 feet apart for social distancing. But, he was able to expand the patio, to provide more outdoor seating.

Another big change is the a la carte menu, which is more casual, with less complicated dishes, like fresh pastas and katsu fried chicken, and the addition of homey side dishes, like mac and cheese and broccoli. The price points are lower, too, going from an average of $12-$50 to $7-$28, Hucks said.

They’re also making “more box-friendly food,” he said, “but that’s just not what people know us for. We’re obviously a dining experience. We’ve done well with the dine-in, surprisingly, though we’re still only at half-capacity.”

Looking ahead, Hucks is determined, but realistic.

“We’re going to keep pushing forward in any way we can,” he said. “But, obviously, a restaurant can’t survive at half-capacity. Just like so many small businesses, we’re basically surviving on government funds with PPP. So, we’ve got to work through it, however we can. Our business model is going to have to continue to evolve in order to survive.”

THE ALDEN

Menu: a la carte menu for dine-in or takeout, with seasonal salads, soups, entrees, sides and desserts; daily three-course pre fixe menu ($39.95) for dine-in only

Alcohol: beer, wine and cocktails for dine-in or takeout, per the city of Chamblee, until further notice

What I ordered: summer salad, with baby lettuces, berries, chèvre, hemp hearts and shallot vinaigrette; sea scallops a la plancha, with sweet corn, sunchokes and preserved Buddha’s hand; side of asparagus; strawberry crepes, with rhubarb caramel. The salad was a bright mix of greens, hemp hearts and blackberries, blueberries and raspberries, with separate containers of vinaigrette and goat cheese to top it off. The seared scallops and sunchokes required a bit of reheating, along with the sweet corn, but, with the aromatic citrus flavor of the Buddha’s hand, it proved a substantial entree, especially for $21. A pair of creamy folded crepes came garnished with sweet bits of strawberry and rhubarb, and fresh mint leaves.

Service options: order via phone and pay with credit card for curbside pickup; for on-site dining, use Resy on the website, or call to make a reservation for limited seating on the patio or in the dining room

Safety protocols: adhering to current guidelines from the Georgia Department of Public Health and the CDC; team is Servsafe-certified and trained in COVID-19 precautions for dine-in, takeout and delivery service

Address, phone: 5070 Peachtree Blvd., Chamblee; 678-395-6982

Hours: 5-9 p.m. Tuesdays-Saturdays.

Website:thealdenrestaurant.com

Is there a restaurant you want to see featured? Send your suggestions to ligaya.figueras@ajc.com.

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