By Sandy M. Tyler

I live in Southeast Atlanta, and between my neighborhood and Decatur just to the East, I have an amazing choice of restaurants to choose from just about any night of the week. So, when Atlanta INtown’s publisher, Wendy Binns, asked me to attend the media preview for Fig Jam Kitchen & Bar in South Buckhead, I was skeptical. Though there are a few stellar exceptions, I think of the Buckhead and Midtown areas as the land of uninventive restaurants whose owners spent more time picking out their enormous light fixtures than developing the flavors on their menu, a part of town where business travelers mix with 20-somethings in search of apple-tinis. Yikes.

I was more than pleasantly surprised by Fig Jam, the latest offering by the C&M Gastronomy Group, which also owns Baraonda and Publik House. The restaurant’s owners and the executive chef, Constanzo Astarita, are from Italy where serving food made of fresh ingredients sourced from reputable purveyors is a matter of national pride. The food at Fig Jam certainly has some nods to their Italian roots, but it’s much more in line with the New South’s desire for American fusion food and combinations of various sized snacks and entrees that allow diners to mix and match a variety of flavors and textures. Restaurant owners in town are also too aware that if they don’t offer some hand-crafted, signature drinks, the crowds won’t come, so Fig Jam has come up with some of their own, delicious drink combinations.

The evening’s signature drink was, no surprise, called Fig Jam, and consisted of vanilla vodka, fig preserve, lemon juice, maple syrup and rhubarb bitters. None of the varied ingredients overwhelms the others and the results are a delicious, fruity lemonade taste without the cloying sweetness and a definite kick. You’ll absolutely enjoy this concoction as the weather warms up. We also sampled the Brown Derby consisting of Marker’s Mark, grapefruit juice and honey syrup. This one has a heavier taste and bigger kick, but it’s also delicious. Both drinks were well made, and the restaurant’s drink menu is indeed well thought out and makes me want to go back for more.

Given the crowded nature of the event, Wendy and I did not get a chance to sample much of the menu, but what we did have was incredibly solid. We sampled the Apple Curry Chicken skewers with mango salsa, a great combination of spice and mild sweetness that didn’t overwhelm the chicken. We also sampled the spring rolls with vegetables and some perfectly cooked steak with the restaurant’s signature, made-in-house barbeque fig jam. They were giving away small jars of the stuff when we arrived, and I must admit that I initially took one just to be polite. After trying it, I think I showed amazing restraint by slipping only one additional jar into my purse on the way out the door.

Fig Jam appears to be starting out on the right foot by offering a limited menu – always a good sign in my opinion – of small, medium and large plates, flat breads made in a wood burning pizza oven and a selection of cured meats and cheeses, artfully displayed in their salami cellar in the main dining room. The interior has had a rustic-chic makeover featuring lots of natural wood and cast-iron accents. I wouldn’t necessarily recommend the patio, which sits directly on busy Peachtree Road, but I would happily stop by the bar where Gregg, a self-proclaimed “intoxicologist”, serves up their great signature cocktails and a variety of well-priced wines, many of which are available by the glass.

If you live or work in the Midtown or South Buckhead area, I can highly recommend Fig Jam for lunch, dinner or after-work drinks. And for those of us a little further afield, it’s the perfect place for a meal or a snack when running Sam Flax “errands” or meeting clients anywhere near the Brookwood Square Shopping Center. For more information, go to www.figjamatlanta.com, or better yet, stop by and let me know how the charred octopus is.

 

Collin Kelley

Collin Kelley has been the editor of Atlanta Intown for two decades and has been a journalist and freelance writer for 35 years. He’s also an award-winning poet and novelist.