South Florida-based Pollo Tropical is giving the Atlanta market a second try. The fast food chain franchised three locations in Atlanta that opened in 1995 and closed in 1996. The chain, owned by New York-based Carrol's Corporation, plans to re-enter the Atlanta market early next year with a handful of restaurants, the first of which is planned for North Buckhead. The restaurant will open near the intersection of W. Wieuca and Roswell Roads at 4402 A and B Roswell Road. The land is currently home to small businesses, Lucy's Market, in a shuttered Just Brakes in A, and JW Glass, Paint & Body Shop, in B. Both buildings will be torn town within the next few weeks and I'm told that construction on Pollo Tropical will begin sometime in the first quarter of next year.
The battle to build on this land has gone on for years with earlier plans for a CVS Pharmacy and a high-rise residential building both dying in the proposal stages. It took multiple NPU-B (Neighborhood Planning Unit-B) meetings to finally approve the planned restaurant. Many residents of nearby Lake Forrest Lane and dead-end extension Wieuca Road voiced opposition to the increased traffic and noise they feel the restaurant will bring. The fact that the restaurant will have entrances from both Roswell and Wieuca Roads confuses me as this means there will be added traffic on the dead-end extension of Wieuca Road, but in the end, the permitting was approved.
While I'm not terribly concerned about the closure of a body shop, Lucy's proprietors' Kim Wilson and Hope Goins have been happily serving the North Buckhead / Chastain Park community for about 18 months and will now have to relocate. Among other things, Lucy's sells local produce, pinestraw, assorted baked goods and various ready-made sauces and pies. Lucy's will close in its current location November 24th and re-open in its new location November 29th. That new location is not far, just about 3 miles away, at 102 West Paces Ferry, but it's still a disruption. Lucy's will open in the front portion of the former Mercedes- Benz of Buckhead / Sears Automotive showroom adjacent to the St. Regis Hotel. (Original plans called for this and this to open on the same property but those plans appear on hold indefinitely) Though not far away, I just hope their customers will continue to patronize their market in its new location. My favorite new Fro-Yo, Three on the Tree, sources some of their fresh fruits from Lucy's and I hope this continues.
As many of you are aware, I revealed plans for a Zaxby's to open on land not far away where currently sits an abandoned car wash, and I see the Zaxby's as positive redevelopment. But with Pollo Tropical on the other hand, its opening and the forced relocation of Lucy's, I see as just the opposite. As I stated, this is not a new chain to Atlanta. They were already here, and they failed. While yes, tastes and preferences and demographics have changed since those franchised Pollo Tropicals years ago, Buckhead was not then, and is not now the right area for such a concept. Zaxby's is a Georgia-based company that is found around countless southern college campuses so to locate in Buckhead near Galloway, Pace and Lovett seems like a wise decision. While I have heard some less than favorable things about Zaxby's upper management, there is not a doubt in my mind that when they open on Roswell Road, the restaurant will be a success.
Latin chains such as Pizza Patron and Pollo Campero have found success along Buford Highway and in Norcross, intelligent places for such ethnic and affordable establishments. Buckhead does not happen to offer the same demographics, nor does it need another failed restaurant on its hands. (Chima and Bertucci's / Bridgetown Grill still sit empty on Peachtree and Piedmont respectively.) Pollo Campero decamped in Gainesville mere months after opening, as it was not the right place for such a concept. Similarly, Buckhead is not the right place for a Pollo Tropical. Buckhead residents do support La Fonda Latina, a moderately priced Latin restaurant just a stone's throw away, but I highly doubt Pollo Tropical will experience anywhere near the acceptance that La Fonda does.
During its previous stint in Atlanta, Pollo Tropical had a location in my neighborhood, a former Gulf gas station at the intersection of LaVista and North Druid Hills Roads in Northeast Atlanta. I ate there as a youngster a couple times and at that early age knew it would not be open when I grew up; sure enough, it closed. Not long after its closure, Einstein Bros. Bagels and Caribou Coffee opened, both of which remain open today. Worse still, Pollo Tropical already failed in Buckhead! Another of their shuttered locations was at 2271 Peachtree Road in South Buckhead. The restaurant closed and became MacArthur's Chop & Crab House which in turn failed and after sitting vacant for years, was razed for the construction of Mezzo, home to Varasano's Pizzeria.
On a trip to South Florida this past January, I gave Pollo Tropical a second try, having not tried it since the 90s at Toco Hills. As many of you are well aware, I'm no food snob or critic but the food was just plain bad. It did not leave me full or satisfied. I have since tried Pollo Campero at their new Buford Highway location and thought it was way better than what I had at Pollo Tropical.
This story was precipitated by the enormous interest in the Zaxby's story and emails and questions that followed. As I don't live in the area discussed, my opinion may be of little interest to some.. Whether you agree with me or not, please use the comment section below to discuss this upcoming development. ToNeTo Atlanta