Thursday, May 22, 2008

Wildwood

May 22

Andy Battaglia wondered if Stephen Hanson knew Atlanta very well.
Because Wildwood, which is the name of Hanson’s new Park Avenue South barbecue restaurant, is also the name of the section of the Atlanta metropolitan area where IBM’s offices are. Andy, who was raised in the Atlanta suburb of Marietta, says Wildwood (the suburb) is the sort of place where professional men in short-sleeved shirts jocularly punch one-another in the arm and reminisce about their fraternity days. It’s not the part of town you would go for barbecue.
But then again, neither is 18th Street and Park Avenue South in New York.
I think Wildwood (the restaurant) is Hanson’s third try in this space. He had a good run with Park Avalon, but then he closed it and changed it to a tapas place called Barça 18, which failed to thrive. So Hanson poached Lou Elrose from Hill Country to make him the pitmaster of his new place.
I ate there with Andy last night.
The restaurant’s revolving door had a design element on it made of wood or similar material the color of a brown paper bag. I had to pause, because to me it looked like the restaurant was still under construction. But Andy, who had arrived a few minutes earlier and was waiting for me outside, assured me that it was okay.
The restaurant is about midway between the Union Square W Hotel and SushiSamba, both places for young, well-paid, good-looking, slightly trendy people to meet one another. Park Avalon attracted a similar crowd.
Wildwood’s clientele was more mixed than that, and definitely more casual, with some former frat boy types who might have jocularly punched one another in the arm. The place was packed, which is good on a Wednesday night.
Andy’s the city editor of The Onion’s New York edition, and also a music writer and general lover of all things sensual. So he noticed that the chairs at Wildwood looked like they had been designed by the Eames brothers[rather, the Eames couple, see comment #1 below], and he noticed that the hand dryers in the bathroom were of the new-fangled high-pressure variety that actually work but, in the process, push your folds of skin around and make your hands look like they're being subjected to high g-forces.
Andy handed me a couple of CDs for my birthday — which was last month, but he forgot to bring them to my celebratory dinner at Rhong-Tiam.
Andy’s a big fan of electronica. In fact, he’ll be spending Memorial Day weekend in Detroit for a techno festival. He’s psyched.
“Detroit?” you ask.
Ah, but Detroit was where Techno was invented, you see.
So he gave me a techno mix, as well as a mix that he assembled for idolator.com of songs from 2007 that fit a particular theme.
He had written an article that went with the 2007 mix explaining that his mix is about being an American.
Among Andy’s many skills is his poetic writing. Here’s how he describes being an American: “the mix of indignation, bewilderment, and inspired joy that swerves toward rage while also steering verily against it.”
Andy is an optimist at heart. He is.

What we ate:
a platter of brisket, chicken and pulled pork
another platter, of spar ribs, jalapeño sausage and pulled pork
cast iron skillet cornbread
salt & vinegar chips
kettle cooked burnt ends and bacon baked beans
onion rings
Wildwood’s version of s’mores

2 comments:

Paul said...

Did Andy call Mr. and Mrs. Eames "the Eames brothers" or was that you?

Bret Thorn said...

That was me. He said something the the effect of, “that's an Eames chair!”