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The resto’s rich mussels are served in an addictive broth that’s good enough to drink!

Get Inked

by Kate Abney | Chris Watkins of Ordinary Photography and Chris Little Photography | Jezebel magazine | September 27, 2013

Midtowners who don’t want to drive as far as Decatur—and Decaturites who’d rather not venture all the way in-town—finally have common ground with Ink & Elm, Druid Hills’ new four-in-one resto for fine dining, drinking, lounging and private event-ing (fireplace and all). It’s not a college bar by any means, but it is plunked right down in Emory Village, where the built-in patronage ranges from perky undergrads to choosy college professors.

A two-year passion project of HKN Restaurants partners T. Hunter Jefferson, Keith Osborne and Nick Chaivarlis, Ink & Elm was designed with ai3 in homage to Frederick Law Olmsted, the legendary landscape architect who not only planned Druid Hills, but also a little spread in NYC called Central Park.

That’s why the dining room and lounge (the “Elm” part of this operation) features soaring ceilings and a kitchen partition screened with a photo of a lush elm canopy. From the dining room’s sound-canceling panels to the amber glow of bourbons in the tavern beyond (hence “Ink,” a nod to Olmsted’s drafting studio), the space envelopes you like a contemporary-cozy living room, where it just so happens that Bar Manager Chaivarlis is happy to make you a drink! We love his pineapple-sweetened lemongrass drop as much as sommelier Osborne’s oenophilic wine selections—best enjoyed with oysters in the 1920s-esque lounge.

And then there’s Executive Chef Stephen Sharp—the reason we’re all here. The 36-year-old gourmand honed his chops at F.A.B. and Blue Ridge Grill, quietly and dutifully working his way toward just this sort of culinary opportunity. Now, free to design daily seasonal menus from scratch, his dishes might just be the haute couture of new Southern cuisine. Elm hosts one of his best apps—a velvety wild Alaskan salmon crudo with toasted sesame seeds, snap peas, local olive oil and eggplant puree. There’s also the lamb two ways, which, lucky us, hit the menu the first night we were there and tantalizes with perfectly prepared crepinette sausage and tender medallions on a bed of celery, farro, maitake mushrooms and sweet dates. Feeling adventurous? Anthony Bourdain types can try the veal sweetbreads with Pantelleria capers, sweet-potato greens and Meunière sauce.

Those hankering for laid-back fare of the tavern, which has its own entrance, should most definitely order the mussels (warning: gulping broth may ensue), which mingle with fluffy, crusty bread, pickled banana peppers and tiny discs of chorizo sausage in a pungent, Pernod-tinged liquid. Though you can grab a sandwich or two, Sharp’s ribs are pretty epic—glazed in Mexican Coca-Cola and finished with peanuts and freshly sliced scallions.

Meanwhile, punky young Pastry Chef Elodie Westover does her part to pamper the palate with desserts such as a salted chocolate tart with Duck-Rabbit Milk Stout ganache. She’s also developed the pastries for a barista program that begins at 7am, six days a week (when these folks sleep is anyone’s guess) and serves Chicago’s celebrated Intelligentsia coffee along with treats like a cinnamon bun with sorghum syrup and an almost imperceptible film of aged white cheddar. Who needs an A-Town Cream or Alon’s chocolate croissant when you have these?

Actually, with all Ink & Elm has to offer—morning till night—who needs to leave?

Ink & Elm
1577 N. Decatur Road