Confession: when I got the email inviting the Woblet team to Big Sky Buckhead’s grand opening party, I did a not-so-surreptitious happy dance at my desk. The new restaurant, built from the ground-up in the West Village of Buckhead, boasts Hector Santiago as one of its culinary creative forces. Santiago’s impressive resume would list him as a former Top Chef contestant, the former owner of Pura Vida and Super Pan, and the current executive chef at Abbatoir. Those are all impressive titles, but in my mind, he is the man who makes the much-loved coconut buns that
I never got to try are now available at Santiago’s newest venture, Big Sky Buckhead.
The coconut buns were one of the most popular dishes at Santiago’s widely mourned restaurants. The buns are a Latin riff on Chinese pork buns, which have a similar shape and structure, but are in no way coconut flavored.
Though the bread itself is substantial–it’s sticky and there’s a lot of it–and flavorful, it doesn’t overpower the bun’s filling. Rather, it provides a nice textural contrast to the crisp slaw and the crunchy flash-fried crust on the pork belly. The bun also adds a subtle coconut flavor to the entire dish, enhancing the Latin flavors already prevalent in the meat and slaw. I finally understand what Atlanta’s been going crazy about–these buns are divine.
Of course, the coconut buns aren’t the only thing on the menu at Big Sky Buckhead, which seems dually focused on two different, but related, missions. First, the restaurant wants to become a go-to spot for the legions of people who work in the area and want a fast and a exciting lunch or dinner. This is reflected in the entree section of the menu, which includes the coconut buns, as well as salads and rice bowls; all three entree options are filled or topped with the same meat offerings–like pork belly, ginger battered chicken tenders, & BBQ beef. All of the entree options, which also includes a burger and a turkey sandwich, can be served quickly; the ingredients that go into the dishes are prepared with a lot of time and care–you don’t hire a chef like Santiago if you’re not prepared to slow-cook the pork belly–but the actual plating is fast and easy. The restaurant’s fare may be upscale, but it’s still accessible to the ever-busy Buckhead worker.
Secondly, the Big Sky Buckhead’s menu belies the restaurant’s desire to become one of Buckhead’s many bustling late-night bars and clubs. The starters, snacks, and sides portion of the menu is speckled with typical–but still elevated–bar food, like sriracha wings, wasabi and ginger laced guacamole, and french fries. It’s not all bar food–the pan de queso is as typically Latin (and tasty) as you can get, and I’d never call the endive salad bar food (it’s far too light and elegant to be demoted to bar food, however nice the bar).
Though food isn’t served after 8:45 pm Thursday through Saturday, the bar food on the menu is a testament to the fact that the restaurant is also a bar, and they want you to know it. There were free drinks at Monday’s grand opening party, and let’s just say that the title of this blog post isn’t as hyperbolic as it may sound. Big Sky Buckhead’s cocktail menu is designed to appeal to those Atlantans who enjoy our city’s thriving, upscale cocktail culture, while still allowing for crowded nights and a busy bar. We
drank too much of tasted the Cool as a Cucumber–made with Right gin, St. Germaine, and lemon– and the Buffalo Toddy–craft bourbon blended with homemade tea simple syrup and a lemon wedge. The Cool as a Cucumber was crisp and refreshing, while the Buffalo Toddy was sweet with a tart lemon finish. It’s clear that neither are craft cocktails, but they’re miles ahead of the gin & tonic I usually order at the bar.
And if you needed another reason to visit–which you shouldn’t, since the food & drinks were excellent and they have those really adorable Solo cup shot glasses (as pictured above)–just check out this view from the upstairs bar. I’m sold.