Chef’s Counter at no. 246 (Decatur, GA)
I’m often asked about my favorite restaurants in Atlanta. My answer is never very straightforward because there is a whole list of places that I love, depending on type of food I’m in the mood for. However, one place that I almost always bring up in these conversations is the chef’s counter at no. 246 (“number two four six”) in Decatur. My husband and I don’t usually frequent the same places, but this has become a bit of an exception.
The five-course tasting menu is different every time, which certainly makes the experience unique. But the experience goes far beyond the food (more on that in a minute). The counter is slightly removed from the rest of the restaurant, making the setting a bit more intimate. You’re seated on stools lined in front of a window that looks into the kitchen. If you’ve ever worked in a restaurant, it’s fun to watch the way things are done in this kitchen; and if you’ve never worked in a restaurant, it’s fun to get a glimpse behind the scenes. Chef(s), line cooks, dishwashers, and servers are in and out. Food is fired and plated and sent on its way. It’s almost mesmerizing to watch–and that’s all before you even take your first bite of food.
Now, onto the food, which is what makes this experience really special. Each course is a unique dish not found on the restaurant’s menu–perhaps something chef Andrew Isabella is considering putting on the menu or maybe something inspired by the fresh ingredients delivered that day by a local farmer. A chef having total freedom (unless, of course, you have specified dietary restrictions) is a fun thing to watch! Andrew serves each course himself and explains the ingredients, inspiration, and/or processes behind the dish. The restaurant’s cuisine is Italian-inspired and driven by local, seasonal ingredients, some of which they grow on their back patio. We’ve had everything from sausage in a squid “casing” to pasta dishes based on an Italian grandmother’s recipe to smoked and braised porchetta made from a suckling pig. I can truthfully say that I’ve loved every single dish they’ve ever served me, which is quite a few at this point.
Obviously the food is the star of the show, but my other favorite part of the experience is chef Andrew Isabella himself. The first two times we dined at the chef’s counter, he was still working under then-executive chef Drew Belline, who has now graduated to Creative Director for Ford Fry’s restaurants. Working the chef’s counter back then was Andrew’s chance to experiment and to shine, and we were the very happy guinea pigs. It was absolutely no surprise to us when we heard that he got promoted to executive chef. Andrew loves what he does, and that is so, so evident. He is incredibly kind, creative, talented, and humble, but what impresses me most about Andrew is his leadership. During the time we’ve gotten to observe him in the kitchen, it’s become apparent that he is really invested in helping his team grow–by both patiently coaching them when something goes wrong and affirming them when they do well. There he was prepping, cooking, plating, and expediting alongside his staff and encouraging them all the way. What more could you ask for from a leader, a chef, or a human being?
So next time you are celebrating a special occasion or craving a culinary adventure, consider the chef’s counter at no. 246. It’s worth a trip (or two or three)!
For the record, I didn’t receive any compensation for this post. I just love the experience so much that I want to share about it! Below is the practical information (location, contact info, etc.), and here are some photos from our most recent visit:
What? A custom 5-course tasting menu at the chef’s counter from executive chef Andrew Isabella. Trust me: you’ll get plenty of food.
Where? 129 E. Ponce de Leon Ave, Decatur, GA 30030. Public parking is available in nearby paid lots. No onsite parking.
When? Sunday-Thursday at your desired time; Friday-Saturday seatings at 6:00 and 9:00 pm.
How much? $50 (plus tax + tip), wine pairings extra. (I think that’s incredible value for this meal!!)
How do I book? Call (678) 399-8246 and request seats at the chef’s counter.
How many people can I bring? Reservations are available for 2 or 4 people (there are 4 seats total).
What if I have a food allergy or aversion? Dietary restrictions are noted at booking.
For more info: www.no246.com