Patrick La Bouff loves Midtown. "I'm not a Westside kind of guy," he says. "And I've been to the east side of town about five or six times in the five years I've been in Atlanta. There's something about Midtown that just clicked with me."
Along with this love for his chosen neighborhood comes a sense of mission: to haul the neighborhood into the midst of Atlanta's dining revolution, a revolution that's currently taking place mainly outside of Midtown.
La Bouff is a schemer, a salesman, a talker. He's a former waiter who's about to open a restaurant in the heart of Atlanta, who counts George McKerrow Jr. — Ted Turner's restaurant business partner — as a personal mentor. He talks a good enough game to bring in financing, even in this economy ("It's passion," he says, when asked what his secret is). His grand plot a couple of years back was to open a restaurant on the top of the Clermont Hotel, and it's a plot that almost came to fruition. Instead, he and his partners began Dinner Party, a supper club that has pushed the boundaries of what and where dinner can take place (an airplane hangar, for instance, or center court at Georgia Tech's basketball coliseum). And now they're getting ready to open a restaurant in the heart of La Bouff's favorite neighborhood.
Originally from Southern California, La Bouff came to Georgia to be near family who had moved here. He met and fell in love with his wife in Savannah, and they moved to Atlanta in 2006. La Bouff ended up working as a server at Top Flr. It was here that he met and hit it off with one of the owners, Darren Carr. Carr has been integral to Dinner Party, and is also a partner in the Lawrence, the restaurant that will open in mid-January at 905 Juniper St., the space formerly occupied by Riccardo Ullio's Cuerno, and then Lupe.
The Lawrence will share a chef, Shane Devereux, with Top Flr, the Sound Table, and Dinner Party, but it won't necessarily share a genre. Where Top Flr and the Sound Table have deconstructed the dining experience to a certain extent, the Lawrence aims to be more polished. The menu is more ambitious. Eric Simpkins, one of Atlanta's original rock star bartenders (he developed the program at Trois and then helped open Drinkshop), will helm the bar. The restaurant will serve afternoon tea as well as dinner. La Bouff says he already has his eye on another Midtown spot, and has no plans to stop there. "I want to define what's changing about Atlanta and this neighborhood."