Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Dante's Tale

Documentary chronicles the end of Dante's

Jef Bredemeier, a thirteen year employee of Dante's Down The Hatch, made a documentary about the historic Atlanta area restaurant and has taken to Kickstarter to finish the film.  The documentary, called simply "Dante's Down The Hatch" was filmed in the days leading up to the restaurant's July 2013 closure.    

The land on which Dante's was located is today home to a 329 unit luxury apartment building known as CYAN on Peachtree.  

Situated on Peachtree Road, across from Lenox Square in the heart of Buckhead, Dante's benefited from a stellar location but it was its patrons who benefited from the unique environment created by owner Dante Stephensen.  Dante's, which operated for 43 years, was different than your typical restaurant, very different.  

Stephensen, a former military man and avid skier, had visited both Switzerland and Austria and was introduced to fondue.  Eventually, all the pieces came together and Dante's was born.  In addition to fondue, Dante's was a pirate themed restaurant complete with an old pirate ship and live crocodiles swimming in a moat beneath your feet.  Stephensen eventually convinced the Paul Mitchell Trio to leave Atlanta's former Playboy Club, and play jazz at his new restaurant.  The rest, as they say, is history.    

The documentary has been filmed but is seemingly in need of "finishing" and distribution.  Bredemeier has set a goal of raising $20,000 by October 6th of which about $3,400 has been raised thus far.  Among the "rewards" offered to those who pledge funds are genuine Dante's restaurant memorabilia like fondue sets and commemorative glasses, as well as copies of the movie and signed prints of Dante in the restaurant.    

It's worth noting the film has previously been screened at a few film festivals where it  collected a number of accolades including the 2015 Spirit Award Audience Winner at the Atlanta Film Festival.    

In a city so busy tearing down the old and building largely unexciting and generic new, I encourage everyone to take part in this fundraiser to remember and commemorate the originality that was Dante's Down The Hatch.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for this report. It is great story.

Ham said...

Yes, I hated to see Dante’s close, but the real estate was simply too good for one individual business. I always wondered with all the new centers opening or being redeveloped why someone didn’t try to lure him into a new location. However it probably wouldn’t have been the same and what seemed eclectic at the old place would have just been odd in a new location. Sometimes places like that have to evolve organically and when it’s over sadly it’s over.

Anonymous said...

I think he was ready to retire and was sitting on a gold mine. Good for Dante! Sure do miss that place. I remember going there to celebrate getting my current job 19 years ago!

Anonymous said...

Found memories of that legendary dirt ball sitting at my table and hitting on my date.

Anonymous said...

I actually went to high school with this guy. great to see him doing well and working to preserve a piece of atlanta history. dante's was my favorite restaurant for years.

Unknown said...

Thank you so much for this wonderful write up Atlantan99. Its a long goodbye when dealing with someone who has done so much for this city. - Jef Bredemeier

Anonymous said...

I was a member of Buckwheat Cloggers. Dante built a stage at Underground outside the entrance to Dante's for us to perform for his clientele. We danced 3 shows/night for 2 nights a week for several years in the late 1970s. We also danced in many downtown parades alongside or on Dante's old fire engine. We all went down for dinner a week before he closed his last location. It was great seeing Dante. Always such a nice man:-)