First Look: Maepole brings a bit of Athens-style healthy dining to Summerhill in Atlanta

Since he started out as an apprentice at Five & Ten, chef and restaurateur Peter Dale has been a fixture of the Athens culinary scene. He has opened popular restaurants, including the National, Seabear Oyster Bar, and Maepole, as well as other ventures such as Condor Chocolates.

Recently, Dale set his sights on Atlanta, debuting an updated version of Maepole in Summerhill. The area has quickly become a dining destination, with Wood’s Chapel, Little Bear, Hot Dog Pete’s, Junior’s Pizza, Halfway Crooks, Little Tart Bakeshop and Big Softie among the storefront spaces lining Georgia Avenue.

During a recent visit, Dale took me on a tour of the contemporary, fast casual-style buildout — which features a neat brick facade, a sleek open kitchen, with colorful signage, and a stainless steel counter, where you can watch as your order is being made. Right now, the only options are takeout or dining on the front patio. But look for indoor dining soon.

Explaining the original Athens concept, Dale said he dreamed up the kind of restaurant he’d want to go to if he were having a busy day.

“Honestly, it came from really selfish reasons,” he said. “I wanted something that was healthy and fresh and quick. I felt like a lot of folks were doing vegetables. The National is white tablecloth, and the veg plate is over $20. I wanted something that was everyday. I needed that in my life.”

The build-your-own menu allows you to customize a plate with one base (such as brown rice, super greens or sweet potatoes), two sides, one protein and one sauce. Or you can opt for a vegetable version with one base, three sides and one sauce. And for those who can’t decide, the seasonal chef selections, which change five times a year, have proved popular.

I really liked the hefty Boxcar, which is always on the menu, and has been a staple in Athens since Maepole first opened. It eats like a hearty Southern meat-and-three, and is loaded with sweet potatoes, mac and cheese, green beans and onions, pulled pork, and Sriracha-honey sauce.

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By Bob Townsend, for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution

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