AJC.com | Atlanta Orders In: Inside the mind of Little Bear chef Jarrett Stieber, pandemic edition

Chef-owner Jarrett Stieber ticked off the latest tweaks to the ever-changing menu at Little Bear.

On the way is bubble and squeak, a winter weather British dish featuring pot roast leftovers mashed into patties and fried.

The chocolate torte is leaving the dessert list, to be replaced by a ricotta tart or a sweet potato parfait.

There are certain constants (some sort of lettuce salad, a dry-fried veggie, a charcuterie offering), but enough switcheroos that, “in theory, you could come by every week and get new dishes if you want to be a regular,” Stieber said.

The nine pandemic-filled months that Little Bear has been in business in Atlanta’s Summerhill neighborhood have seen Stieber and his skeletal crew of six staying as scrappy and nimble as when he orchestrated Eat Me Speak Me, the pop-up that garnered him a James Beard Award nomination as a rising star.

When takeout became the new service model, the process for developing innovative small plates logically shifted to “not just what would be a good dish, but a dish that would travel well.” 

As the weeks and months of takeout-only dragged on, he said, the focus became “finding a specific format that worked for us.”

Initially, it was a prix fixe for two that catered to couples who wanted an at-home tasting-menu experience. For a time, the kitchen produced themed menus that paid homage to cuisines from around the world. “When we were doing rotating countries, it was a lot of fun at first, then it became kind of limiting,” Stieber said.

They since have widened their focus to better attract individual diners, but there’s no rule except one: Build dishes layered with flavor.

He also is sticking to his guns when it comes to reopening for dine-in customers. “Right now, no one on my team wants to reopen. I want to listen to them as best I can,” he said.

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By Ligaya Figueras, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Photo by Chris Hunt

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