A "coming soon" has been posted on the future home of Staplehouse on Edgewood Avenue. (Courtesy Staplehouse)
A “coming soon” has been posted on the future home of Staplehouse on Edgewood Avenue. (Courtesy Staplehouse)

By Clare S. Richie

Atlantan’s love to eat out and love to help one another.

Staplehouse restaurant, which opens this summer in the Old Fourth Ward, speaks to both passions. It will feature refined healthy creations for sharing in an intimate setting.

More importantly, the restaurant fulfills a couple’s dream and provides the nonprofit they founded, The Giving Kitchen, with another stable funding source to assist restaurant workers who experience unexpected hardships. All after-tax proceeds from the restaurant will go directly to The Giving Kitchen.

The Staplehouse dream began in 2009 when chef Ryan Hidinger and his wife Jen launched an underground supper club of five-course seasonal meals in their home. Four years later, with their bricks and mortar restaurant in sight, Ryan was diagnosed with Stage IV gall bladder cancer. The devastating news triggered an outpouring of love and support that would take their dream in a new direction.

In early 2013, when culinary colleagues raised $275,000 at a tasting fundraiser to support the Hidingers, Ryan and Jen decided to pay it forward. Their restaurant would exist to help others in need in the restaurant industry. Before Ryan passed away in January 2014, he had created a legacy of healing.

A rendering of the interior of Staplehouse from Square Feet Studio.

Family and friends are now carrying the dream forward. Jen Hidinger, Chef Ryan Smith (previously of Empire State South), and Kara Hidinger (Smith’s wife and Ryan’s sister) are co-founders and operators. You’ll find Chef Smith in the kitchen, Kara on the floor as General Manager, and Jen handling administration and serving as spokesperson for the restaurant and nonprofit.

Square Feet Studio and Choate Construction are bringing Ryan Hidinger’s vision to life. After a lengthy permit process, construction began in March is on track for a summer opening.

Chef Smith describes Staplehouse’s offerings as “a seasonal, sourced locally when available, constantly changing menu…But for me those are just things we do.” Adding, “We will have a main dining room which will focus on food that is technique driven at a slightly more formal setting while maintaining a casual sense. Our outside patio will be a much more casual setting with food that’s meant to be shared.” A mid summer menu would include beautiful fresh shrimp and “of course tons of tomatoes.”

As you clear your plate, you will also help The Giving Kitchen reach more Atlanta restaurant workers in need.

Jen Hidinger

Since it’s inception two years ago, the nonprofit hired four full-time staff and distributed $350,000 in grants to 250 grateful recipients. Carlin was battling breast cancer and unable to work when she received her grant. “I didn’t realize how relieved I would be,” Carlin shared. For Cameron, who was struck by a car while riding his bike home from work, “the grant allowed me to recover physically, emotionally and mentally. It gave me a sense of community I hadn’t experienced.” Canyon’s manager called The Giving Kitchen on her behalf once he learned of her accident. The grant enabled Canyon to take care of her children while she was out of work. It showed her, “You’re not alone. People actually still love people.”

“In Atlanta there are 200,000 restaurant workers with 1 to 2 percent in crisis at any given moment,” Jen explained. While proud of The Giving Kitchen’s work, she is mindful of the staggering need that remains. “My calling is to encourage potential grant recipients to ask for help.”

So this summer, visit Staplehouse to dine in your community for your community.

As Jen says, “We get to lend a hand and that is healing for all of us.”

For more information, visit staplehouse.com.

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.