The owners of Roswell's F&H Food Trading Group are reportedly "very close" to signing a lease for the former Aja in Buckhead.
Business partners Fikret Kovac and Hicham Azhari formed F&H in 2008 with the opening of Salt Factory Pub in Roswell. Since then, the group has added INC Street Food in 2010, Little Alley Steak in 2012, Opulent, and later 1920 Tavern, in May 2013 (in place of INC), Salt Factory Alpharetta in 2013, FIX Pizzeria in 2014 and Salt Factory Pub Woodstock in 2015.
Last year the duo sold both 1920 Tavern and FIX Pizzeria to separate owners.
Kovac and Azhari have done very well with their OTP restaurants, so making the move to the hyper competitive Buckhead market is a bit of a head-scratcher for me. Multiple calls placed to Azhari in hopes of getting comment went unanswered. Alan Shaw, who leases the space on behalf of The Shopping Center Group, told me last week that he could neither confirm nor deny my assertion that a deal with F&H was in place.
|A glimpse inside the former Aja restaurant space|
Despite the lack of official confirmation, ToNeTo Atlanta sources close to the property have seen Azhari at/in the former Aja space multiple times over the past few weeks. Additionally, a gentleman previously tasked with registering other F&H businesses, registered a business with the exact address and suite number of the former Aja with the Secretary of State on July 26th.
Azhari is not completely new to Buckhead, as according to his bio, he spent four years at "Atlanta’s renowned Brasserie Le Coze." For all you Atlanta transplants out there, Brasserie was a hugely popular Buckhead restaurant located in the Neiman Marcus wing of Lenox Square. The restaurant lives on today as F&B at The Ritz-Carlton Residence building on Peachtree in Buckhead.
|The patio at the former Aja includes what seems to be a beheaded Samurai|
The approximately 9,000 square foot restaurant space in the lobby level of One Alliance Center was originally opened as Emeril's, from star chef Emeril Lagasse, in 2003. Emeril's closed in April 2008 with Aja debuting in the fall of the same year. In perhaps what could now be seen as a foreshadowing of things to come, Aja closed this past September, followed soon after by the collapse of the entire Here to Serve restaurant group, of which Aja was a member.
Online research done in preparation for this post turned up some interesting tweets from this past fall:
Alan Shaw (@ShawAlan) on September 14th
"Former #aja #restaurant space in #buckhead is available..#Atlanta...who's best suited for the vacancy??"
Shaw's tweet was one of many from the broker in a week's span.
Another on October 13th read:
"#buckhead #restaurant space is available with over 5,000 peeps working within a 3 minute walk..any questions??"
|The restaurant space occupies a lobby level suite in One Alliance Center|
There is no doubt that Buckhead can be a good market for restaurants. There is also no doubt that there are too many similar restaurants, especially steakhouses, in Buckhead. Sources close to F&H indicate the current plan is to open a Little Alley-like restaurant, perhaps not completely a copy of the Roswell eatery, and not just a steakhouse, in the Buckhead space.
What concept do you think makes the most sense in this space? Do you think the F&H group is making a mistake in opening in Buckhead? What is your favorite steakhouse in Atlanta, why?
Please share your thoughts below.