Photos by Jacob Nguyen

Maybe the fifth time will be the charm for what has been called the cursed restaurant space on the ground floor of the Highland Walk apartment building in Old Fourth Ward. Chef’d Up, a new soul food restaurant, opened by Chef Bryan “Baul” Williams – who recently served as private chef to hip-hop trio Migos on their world tour – is already proving popular and it’s not even officially open.

Chef’d Up had a soft opening in October and plans to have a grand opening on Friday, Dec. 6, starting at 5 p.m.

I’ve been witness to all of the restaurant spaces former occupants: P’cheen, Last Word, Cast Iron and most recently The Barrelhouse. The latter two seemed like no-brainers, and yet neither lasted a year. I’ve heard some folks say parking was the issue, but that’s never really been a problem. There’s valet service just past the restaurant in the Highland Walk leasing office parking if no street parking is available.

The City Burger with fries.

The restaurant has already been packed just by word of mouth and social media, and we grabbed the last available booth on a Saturday night in mid-November for an early dinner. The restaurant space hasn’t undergone any major changes since its last two or three incarnations but remains comfortable and understated. There’s good music playing, lots of chatter and a TV over the bar turned to whatever game might be playing.

But let’s get to the food.

Our server said the menu was still a work in progress (there was no dessert on offer during our visit), but what was there was simple, savory and, most of all, delicious. If you’re vegetarian – rejoice! Chef’d Up not only has an Impossible Burger on the menu, but also an “It’s Possible” plant-based steak.

I opted for the City Burger, the basic hamburger option and was delighted by what arrived at the table. You could instantly tell it was hand-pattied just like your momma made in the kitchen. I ordered it medium but there was still a tiny amount of char on the outside that only added to the flavor. The bun was buttery and light. But the secret ingredient: gouda cheese mixed into the patty. Spectacular.

The Deep End – lobster and shrimp

The burger came with a generous portion of fries that were obviously house-cut and fried to a perfect golden brown. I could have a second helping of those.

My dining companion went for one of the main entrees called the Deep End featuring lobster and shrimp served with a lemon garlic herb butter sauce, smoked gouda mashed potatoes and asparagus. He declared it one of the best meals he’d had all year.

We also enjoyed the $5 “mystery shots” from the bar. We both had pineapple-infused vodka with tiny little cubes of the fruit floating in the bottom. Cheers!

Variations of surf and turf – salmon, ribeye steak, chicken and lamb – are staples of the menu, but there’s also a good appetizer and salad selection. It will be interesting to see how the menu changes once the restaurant it officially open.

Chef’d Up is located at 701 Highland Ave. NE and is open for lunch and dinner, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Tuesday through Friday, brunch from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays, and 4-10 p.m. for weekend dinner service. Find the restaurant on Instagram @ChefdUpAtl.

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.