Wednesday, February 29, 2012

ToNeTo Atlanta DeathWatch Q1 - 2012

With 2012 well underway, I've taking a good hard look at last year's DeathWatch list, and have added a few, and subtracted a few. These changes were made as I was provided additional details and could  therefore make a better assessment of the business.  These are my own personal opinions and should be taken as such.  It is not now, nor has it ever been, my goal to cheer failures, instead I call out problems and hopefully steer operators and owners clear of poor locations and half-baked concepts.  
Please find Q1's list after the jump....


Artuzzi's Italian Kitchen (Alpharetta)  Artuzzi's was launched by a group of early Moe's Southwest Grill franchisees who sought to create their own concept and franchise it.  At its peak, Artuzzi's had 7 or so locations open, but this is the only one currently in operation.   I'd bet this location does not make it past the summer.

57th Fighter Restaurant (Near PDK Airport) - After opening for the third time, the restaurant seems doomed again. Its greatest asset, its cozy, hidden location next to PDK, is also its greatest weakness, as passersby don't realize it's there. I hope they can turn it around once and for all, but I think they need to do a better job of marketing and promoting the restaurant.

BLT (W Downtown) Bistro Laurent Tourondel's BLT at the W Downtown is hardly the hit they hoped it would be. After the restaurant opened in 2009, I had dinner there before an event. My $45 sea bass was awful, and matched by the (lack of) attentiveness of the staff. The fact that the restaurant serves as the hotel kitchen is certainly helping them. As a restaurant alone, it would have surely closed by now. Recent chatter indicates a change may be in the works, though a timetable for that possible change is unknown at this time.

Big Zhaddy's Zhaddy's Cafe (Inman Park) I was tempted to place this joint on DeathWatch even before it opened, but gave it a chance it clearly did not deserve. Poor service, high prices and a bad location combined with a bad name, will have this eatery closed in less than six months.

Boardwalk Burgers & Fries (Sandy Springs & Midtown) The Maryland-based chain expanded to offer burgers and signed up Michael Coles to franchise the brand in the Atlanta market. While I agree the fries are awesome, the burgers are not, with management insisting that they be cooked well done. Their location in Sandy Springs at Roswell and Hammond Drive is tucked away and not visible from either street and after closing once is being reopened?  (EVOS failure anyone?). Their  midtown location at Ansley Mall is a better location, but will suffer at the hands of locally owned Grindhouse Killer Burgers. I give both locations til the fall to call it quits.  

Cantina Taqueria & Tequila Bar (Buckhead/Terminus)- Lola opened as Italian, then became Mediterranean, then closed.  Now we have a Mexican concept, the cuisine du jour for restaurateurs. I previously suggested Tom Catherall entertain the idea of bringing back his "That's a Burger" concept but I doubt that will happen. While a long term lease was signed for the space, I'm told that if Catherall is in talks to unload the space to another operator rather than trying to reconcept again.  

Der Biergarten (Downtown / Luckie Marietta District) - It's a dumb name, crappy location and a niche cuisine. I went to the opening and took a friend of German descent, we both agreed on one thing: once in a while we might want a Bratwurst or Schnitzel or what have you, but there is no way that this will be a viable concept long term. Legacy Property Group will continue to operate this sad eatery as long as they have the willingness or funding to do so.

Deckard's American Tavern (Ponce de Leon Ave / Midtown) After opening summer of 2010 as Deckard's Kitchen & Kegs, the name was later changed to Deckard's American Tavern. While the pedigree is there: Matthew Deckard, Corporate Chef at Taco Mac, the restaurant's second tier location and only OK food are major obstacles for this concept. As I mentioned, some eateries were subtracted from this list, The Family Dog being one. TFD has a great location and decent food, a location that could save Deckard's, but instead I expect that Deckard's will close soon, possibly in six months or less.

Erbert & Gerbert's (Decatur) - A local husband and wife chose one of the worst possible locations to open Atlanta's first Erbert & Gerbert's. Located along East Ponce de Leon Avenue, the restaurant is not within the city limits of Decatur and is not close enough to walk from anywhere. Its closest neighbor is the adult entertainment club Pin-Ups and something tells me they don't see much business from there. I give 'em props for having the cool new Coca-Cola Freestyle machine that features over 100 beverages, but that alone will not save them. Not far away, IN Decatur, Jimmy John's recently opened and serves (IMHO) better food at a more customer friendly price point. All in all, decent concept, decent food plus horrific location spell failure for this new-to-town fast casual concept. The fact that the restaurant has been featured on multiple deal sites such as Sweetjack provides more evidence of their troubles. As far as I'm concerned, one deal site: good idea... more than one: desperate. One reader even wrote me to make me aware they were offering incentives for shill reviews on Yelp.  Having been featured on both SweetJack and ScoutMob as well as other deal sites, there comes a time when it's not marketing, but looks more desperate than anything.  Based on current intel and market conditions, I'd say this restaurant will be closed by the spring.

EscorpiĆ³n (Midtown) Riccardo Ullio needs to just be content with the success of Fritti and Soto Soto and give it a rest. After the failures of Cuerno, Beleza and La Lupe Taqueria, taking over the even less desirable space where El Escorpion opened was a terrible idea. The opening chef left, now (replacement chef) Jose Rego has departed as well. If you asked me, this restaurant should have never opened. While Eno lasted years in the same space, it cultivated a following in the neighborhood, something El Escorpion has failed to do. The 5th Street cafe lasted less than two months before closing and unless Ullio has a deal that gives him free or almost free rent, I see it closing before September.

EVOS (Sandy Springs) - Riddle me this, why would a restaurant concept that fared poorly in Atlanta be bought out and see shuttered stores reopened? The original franchisees opened locations at The Prado in Sandy Springs and Viewpoint in Midtown. Another location was announced for Roswell but wisely never opened. Just as DeathWatch Year End 2010 launched, the midtown location closed. With new franchisees in place, the shuttered location in midtown was reopened.  Now, once again, the midtown location has closed.  It's too niche to be mainstream and therefore will not succeed.  I see the location at The Prado closing in less than three months.  

Encore Restaurant (Lindbergh /Buckhead) Located at the corner of Morosgo and Piedmont near the Lindbergh MARTA station, this location is cursed for anyone. Poorly executed and marketed establishments such as Encore are especially susceptible. The restaurant is, well, not quite sure what it is, as signage describes it as "atmosphere." There are often carryover revelers from Wet Willie's, but I doubt this place will last much more than another six months or so.

Five Guys (Northside Drive /Peachtree Street) Five Guys is a prime example of a fast casual chain getting too big, too fast. It has opened far too many locations, too fast, often opening in poor locations just to have a presence in a desired neighborhood. As a case in point, their locations at Tivoli Tenside on Northside Drive and their recent opening at Spire in midtown. Neither location is easily accessible by patrons driving by, and the Northside location never seems busy. With Spire having just opened, it's too early to call them slow, but that is my prediction. Unless rent is reduced to pennies, I'd say the Tenside location lasts another 6 months or so, and the Peachtree location, not much more than a year.

Genki (Sandy Springs /The Prado) - Genki expanded from its popular Buckhead outpost on Roswell Road to the Prado last year and it could not have been a worse decision. On Roswell in Buckhead, the eatery is on a prime stretch of Roswell just before it merges into Peachtree. I don't know the exact traffic counts, but they are high. Sadly though, in the Prado, tucked in the back of the center near Joli Kobe and 5 Seasons Brewery, there is far less traffic, and Genki is surrounded by EVOS and the now closed Yoreka (soon to be Subway), among others. Larry's Giant Subs threw in the towel in the adjacent storefront.

Gigi's Cupcakes (Merchants Walk) Nashville-based Gigi's Cupcakes is one of the largest franchisees of cupcakes and I'm sure Gigi is doing well as a result. As far as the franchisees go though, I think too many were opened too fast, and in some cases, in poor locations.

HD1 (Poncey Highland)  Richard Blais may have lost his touch with this concept.  Atlantans seem far less willing to overpay for hotdogs as they are burgers.  A great selection of hard to find imported beers and funky sodas will not be enough to save this joint.  A recent appearance on Scoutmob is a sign of trouble leading me to doubt another location may be in the works.  We'll see what happens when Blais and Concentrics open the Spence in midtown but I see HD1 being 86'd soon.  

Mellow Mushroom (Downtown at Twelve Centennial Park) Located not far from the original eatery at North Avenue, this location opened with much fanfare but has never been able to capture customers after the white collars leave for the day and go home for dinner. Its location is far from ideal, with parking located on one-way Spring Street and within the TWELVE condos. Panchero's nearby didn't even last a year and Au Bon Pain across the street didn't last much longer. I dined here recently and counted 4 employees for every customer... and it was trivia night! I'm no hospitality genius, but labor cost is pretty important to the bottom line and if what I saw is any indication, this restaurant will be toast sooner rather than later.

Menchie's (West Paces Ferry) Prior to the opening of Yogurtland across the street in the Publix anchored shopping center, this Menchie's was apparently top three in sales nationally. After the opening of Yogurtland where a comparable fro yo product can be had for 33 cents an ounce, verses 45 cents an ounce at Menchie's, its sales have dropped to the bottom three.

NAVA (Buckhead) Buckhead Life Restaurant Group may finally be showing signs of the struggles of operating so many separate restaurant concepts. I mentioned earlier this year that as many as three of their concepts would either close or not have their leases renewed. Bluepointe was one of those three with the next most likely being NAVA. The third is up in the air but one their two Italian concepts, Veni Vidi Vici in midtown or Pricci in Buckhead, changing hands or closing would not shock me. Based on current intel, look for there to be changes at NAVA by early September.
O.M.G. Taco (Little Five Points) Not much to say here. The food is not great, the location is. The concept is cool, the prices are not.

Park's Edge (Inman Park) Not even Kitchen Nightmares could save this restaurant. I have not a clue how it has stayed open for as long as it has but it will surely not last much longer. I'm not sure there is a line of people waiting to take over their space but I am sure they will not be open next fall.

Pita's Republic (Midtown) Florida-based Pita's Republic entered the Atlanta market with its midtown location. After many delays, the eatery opened in July of last year. A falafel enthusiast, I was eager to try theirs. Boy, was I disappointed. They use pre-made falafel balls and wraps made for burritos rather than, dare I say it, PITAS! The space has been a few things, even a Gyro Wrap (Great Wraps) back in the day, and even they couldn't make it. While plans are on the books for a second location in Sandy Springs, I say, go back to Florida and save some money. I'll give this place till April to call it a wrap. For the record, awesome falafel are available in Buckhead at Al's Cafe Agora, near Emory at Pita Palace, and in Sandy Springs at Cafe Posh.

Pizzeria Venti (Buckhead) - Atlanta-based Pizzeria Venti is in a tough spot, in more ways than one. Located on Lenox Road, in Lenox Village Shopping Center, the center and road outside it always cluttered with "Pizza" signs but the place is rarely busy. Its location is far from prime and not convenient or known for that matter, by most Buckhead residents. Given the chain is still new, having started in 2003, and only has a handful of locations, they can't be taking lightly the thought of seeing this location close, so perhaps corporate will assist either financially or in a relocation effort.

Pizza Vesuvius (Edgewood) This restaurant space has played host to a number of concepts of the past few years, none of which have lasted very long. It's surprising PV has lasted along as they have, but something tells me the heat is getting to be too much and they will be closed in less than six months.

Ringside (Buckhead) Clay Harper and friends opened Ringside in the space left vacant when they closed Three on the Tree frozen yogurt. While pizza (Fellini's) and Mexican (La Fonda) tend to be popular in Atlanta all the time, Harper's recent foray into the food fads seem to be far less successful. Harper opened Three on the Tree in Buckhead and about a year later, closed it. This past June, he opened LeRoy's Fried Chicken with chef Julia LeRoy, it closed a few weeks ago. Not a huge fan of gourmet hot dogs, I will say the dogs at HD1 beat Ringside any day. The fries however, are quite good at Ringside but that alone will not save this eatery. To pay upwards of four bucks for what appears to be a standard dog on a standard bun is not gonna fly and I doubt this joint last much longer than its prior cuisine.

Rise Sushi (Downtown) - Located within David Marvin's Luckie Marietta District, the restaurant has been on life support for over a year. Given their lack of sales, I'm not sure how they continue to operate but surely they will close by May.

STK ( Midtown) Have out of town restaurantuers learned nothing from the failures of those before them?  B.E.D. , Maxim Prime, Aquaknox, Craft,  Emeril's and Wolfgang Puck Express have all opened in Atlanta and not long after, closed.  As popular as Atlanta is, and as many films and stars it attracts, it's still not New York or LA or even Miami or Chicago, it's just good, old Atlanta.  A southern city that for the most part supports its own and not out of town (high end chains)  Local talent such as Kevin Rathbun, Anne Quatrano and Guy Wong have each found success in their own respective restaurants.  To simply open in a "hot" part of town like midtown or Buckhead is not enough to make a successful restaurant.  STK has done well thus far and it will continue to do well for a few months, maybe even a year or so.  In the end, STK is overpriced and out of place and I doubt it lasts and longer than 2 years.  

Southern Art (Within the InterContinental Buckhead Hotel) The restaurant is yet another ill-conceived concept with an out of town chef as its figurehead and little else exciting about it.  The food is just ok, nothing special, and the service continues to be subpar for such a high end environment.  My one visit included a number of mis-steps including being charged a higher amount on our tab than was quoted on the menu.  The management of both the restaurant and accompanying hotel have both changed, and it shows.  The property went from being a corporate jewel to just another hotel, far too focused on the bottom line than the customers it's supposedly serving. Southern Art has racked up one star reviews from both the AJC and Creative Loafing, so I'm not alone in my thinking that this is one of the worst additions to the local dining scene.  The fact that the communal table in the lobby is the same table from the now defunct Au Pied de Cochon, complete with trotter (pig feet) as its legs, is a sad example of what a cheap, half-assed makeover occurred to create just another restaurant.  Who knows how much time or money new owner Pebblebrook wants to dump into this eatery, but if they have a clue, they'll pull the plug within 18 months.  

Sprig (Oak Grove) I should love this place, my whole neighborhood should, but alas, I don't, nor do most on Yelp and elsewhere. The restaurant is located on LaVista Road in Oak Grove, within walking distance for many families, myself included. An overpriced menu and lackluster service make this joint destined for doom. I'd like for them to get it together and stay, but the writing's on the wall and it reads CLOSING SOON. I'd give 'em til the summer, at the most.

STEEL (Midtown/Plaza Midtown) Dallas-based STEEL has somehow stuck around for a number of years at the corner of West Peachtree and Peachtree Place. A number of boutique, bank, apparel and restaurant closures at Plaza Midtown have finally taken their toll on STEEL. With decreased hours and talk they are in trouble financially, I'd expect them to within three months or so.

Swirlin' Twirilin' (Decatur) With basically zero barriers to entry, seems like everyone and their mother is opening a yogurt shop (or burgers, or hot dogs). Swirlin' Twirlin's other location is in Flowery Branch, and from what I can tell, it does well there. In the less competitive market of Flowery Branch, they are able to get away with charging 43 cents per ounce whereas in Decatur, they adjusted their pricing to meet that of neighborhood favorite The Yogurt Tap. A bit of a yogurt snob myself, I would say that The Yogurt Tap has a superior product and a more prime location. Neither shop has very much easily accessible (or free) parking, but head to head, I think The Yogurt Tap wins overall. That said, and the fact that it is run by locals from the area, not OTP'ers, I think Swirlin' Twirlin' will last no more than a year, but likely less.

Swirll (All Atlanta area locations) By far one of the weakest yogurt shops to open in Atlanta since Yoreka, this Texas-based chain is not gonna last. I walked in one, and walked out. Anyone who knows me knows that I love frozen yogurt. This place has only decent yogurt in combination with pushy employees. The interiors look cheap and the the location on Wieuca, hidden from Roswell Road, has got to be one of the worst locations known to man! I give this crappy chain 'til early spring, unless they don't care if they make money or not.

Tantra ( South Buckhead) Having been featured on what seems like every deal site in Atlanta, this joint is in trouble. Not the best of locations or food, this restaurant and lounge is bound to be closed within six months.

The Cup (TOWN Brookhaven) This independent cupcake shop was one of the first eateries to open in TOWN Brookhaven and that alone could have done them in. Instead, in addition to that, their offerings are basically all overpriced and their cupcakes, undersized, especially given what you can get at Cloud 9 or Smallcakes. Given their location away from the new CineBistro, they will not get much business from even theatergoers, so I'd say they are up a creek. If nothing changes in terms of size or price, I think they could be closed by the end of April.

The Great Cupcake Company (Buckhead) With a few too many cupcake shops in Atlanta, and especially in Buckhead, this bakery is the weakest link. Goodbye.

The Nest (Clairmont) Opened by Emory students, this location seems cursed, and I'm doubtful these amateurs will have any better luck. Athens Pizza was originally located here before relocating to a larger, free standing space nearby. In recent years, Moya and Selam have both opened and neither had done well with Selam lasting less than a year. The space seems to be the resting place for failed concepts, the Nest being the latest example, my money is on them closing by next summer, if not sooner.

The Real Chow Baby (Ponce de Leon location) Need I repeat myself? The food is good, the location awful.

{three} sheets (Sandy Springs) - Located at City Walk, this restaurant was opened by the children of RCG's (Restaurants Consulting Group) owner Tony Akly and it's my impression they have a long lease. That said, it's unlikely they will close until someone comes in to buy them out. The restaurant is busy but only for monthly special events such as the grilled cheese dinner and flavor tripping parties. It's hard to imagine the restaurant making sufficient profit if they are only busy a couple days each month. This place will last as long as daddy Akly continues to foot the bill.

Tre'za ( TOWN Brookhaven)  This so-called fast casual concept has improved a number of things since opening last fall but I don't think they can save it from failure.  Among the noticeable changes, non branded napkins, preparing six rather than twelve of the restaurants 50 rotating gelato flavors saved plenty from being thrown out nightly.  Additionally, three large TVs in the restaurant that used to display rotating non professional photos of select menu items are now often in the off position, thus saving energy.  Also, the exterior doors used to be cluttered with flyers about trivia and their social media presence but have been cleared of most of the excess signage of late.  The largest change I've noticed was a decrease in menu items across the board from the pizzas to the salads, all were tweaked between 50 cents and a few dollars from what I saw.  All this to say it's evident they are trying to right their wrong, but I don't think Atlanta can or will support this concept.  It's an interesting idea and if properly executed at the onset and in another location, it might have succeeded but TOWN Brookhaven has not been friendly to new or out of town restaurants like Slacks which closed earlier this month.  I don't want to give this place a timetable for demise cause I do have hope for them, I just don't think it will happen.

Truva (Downtown) - They recently added outdoor dining, but I doubt that will save them. Their Mediterranean cuisine is OK, but not the best by any means. They did what they could with the former Steak and Ale space but it just does not "seduce your senses." One reader predicts they will last no longer than next spring.

Tuk Tuk Thai Food Loft (South Buckhead) - After opening November of 2009 in what was my favorite SoBu eatery, Taurus, Tuk Tuk Thai loft has been anything but impressive, let alone busy. The second level restaurant went through a total makeover. Charlie and Nan Niyomkul created successful restaurants in Nan Thai Fine Dining and Tamarind Seed at Colony Square but this newest concept may be a sign that they have lost their magic touch. A colleague of mine dined here shortly after opening, and remarked it should be called "Yuk Yuk" (Yuck Yuck). The food is overpriced for being billed as "street food," and it's just not as good as the Niyomkuls' other concepts. The decent food and poor location leaves little room for success. I predict a closure or rebranding of some sort to take place by the fall. 

Urban PL8 (West Midtown) - Pangaea, Milk & Honey: this space is not meant for a restaurant. Try as many have to make it work, it does not have the space to do the number of covers necessary to make a go of it. I went to the opening and loved the nut burger and if the place were not so far off the beaten path, I think it could work and might even exceed expectations. To rely on Turner employees and word of mouth marketing may work for Antico Pizza, but this place is in trouble.  A friend actually told me she witnessed a man get hired here during her dinner without any interview or background check.  I'm no genius but if that's how naive management is, how on Earth has it stayed open as long as it has?.  I give em til the summer to call it a day.

U.S. Cafe (Lindbergh)  Being on Scoutmob for a second time is never a good sign.  The fact that Smashburger opened across the street from them can't have helped things.  Their product is good but they should have remained in Smyrna and not dumped a small fortune into the buildout and rent of a Buckhead location.  I doubt they last till late summer.  
Zuma Sushi & Saki Bar (Toco Hills)  Zuma at Tco Hills, along with with its sister location on Highland Avenue, have been on  Scoutmob which by itself is not that bad it,  but they have been featured repeatedly on the deal site, which spells trouble in my eyes.  The Highland location has done well for years whereas the Toco location was a rebranding of the Maldives restaurant.  Service issues and increased area competition  will undoubtedly lead to a Toco Hills closure in the coming months.  


7 For All Mankind (Buckhead /Lenox Square) I can't make sense of it, but this store has not done well. Rock & Republic filed for bankruptcy last year, True Religion opened a second Atlanta area store at Perimeter Mall, and somehow 7 has not fared well. Parent company VF also opened a large The North Face store in the Whole Food Market anchored shopping center at West Paces, not far from arch rival Patagonia, and it has apparently done well. With so many stores carrying 7 FAM jeans at retail price and less, perhaps over-abundance of the product has done the store in. I see the line as being the new Levi's in a sense, but you wouldn't think that walking by the store basically any day of the week. As sad as it is, it would not surprise me to see them close in the next six to nine months.

Barney's New York CoOp (Buckhead - Phipps Plaza) - Similar story to that of fellow (recently defunct) Phipps retailer Jedal, Barney's is lucky enough to have deeper pockets by way of Istithmar, a private equity firm that purchased Barney's from Jones Apparel Group for $825 million in 2007. Although Atlanta was once rumored to be on the map for a Barney's New York flagship, Atlantans have proven they won't support such high end and cutting edge designers by the lack of sales for even the CoOp. With mounting losses and closures of many other better performing stores, I'm amazed this store has stayed open as long as it has.  One reason may be that while they want out, and SIMON presumably does too, there is no retailer, or restaurant for that matter, willing to take over the Barney's lease. As the company itself is not in bankruptcy, they can't just up and leave without another interested party waiting in the wings to move in.

Coposhi (Buckhead) - I included this new Buckhead boutique in the DeathWatch in 2010 and  since then, he has added me to his stores "VIP" email list. I guess I was unclear: I don't like your clothes, I think you have an awful location,and a goofy name and will be closed soon. Oh yeah, please remove me from your mailing list, as I am not interested!  I see this joint closing in less than six months.  

Gregory's (Buckhead - Lenox Square) What a joke! Jedal, a member of the DeathWatch up until this edition closed late last year and was basically a mini version of what Gregory's is, with many unheard of Italian designers at outrageous prices. Even at liquidation prices, Jedal's prices were above others' more well known designers' regular prices. In Atlanta, like it or not, the consumers with money (and even those on credit), know what they want and buy it, not up and coming designers without an established and visible brand. Despite hearing the store has been well received with local sports athletes and their spouses, I see Gregory's lasting a year or so, max.

Valentino (Buckhead /Phipps Plaza) It's sad to say, but this is just not a store Atlantans will support. With couture designs and a select clientele, I'd be surprised if this store has made "plan" a single month since opening. This couture label is past its prime and unless Buckhead Betty's grandmother is in there more often than I realize, I doubt they will be in business much longer.

Versace (Buckhead/Phipps Plaza) Once a favorite in Atlanta and elsewhere, the store's glitzy makeover (and size reduction) last year could not save this store. Its sales are down and it's lost its luster and relevance to Atlanta shoppers. I doubt they will be around next holiday season.

VINCE (Buckhead / Phipps Plaza) A day does not go by that I can't locate multiple VINCE items for women, and at times, for men, at deeply discounted prices at the likes of Marshall's and T.J. Maxx. Those who know the brand can easily find it cheaper elsewhere and those unfamiliar with the line are turned off by the simple clothing with a relatively high retail price. I'd say all the Vs of Phipps (Valentino. Versace and VINCE) all close around the same time, and all by this fall.

Von Maur ( North Point & Perimeter Mall )  Davenport, Iowa-based Von Maur entered the Atlanta market last year with a location at North Point Mall in Alpharetta and less than a year later has announced it will take over the Bloomindale's when it closes in Perimeter Mall in a few weeks.  At the time, Jim von Maur said that sales at the North Point store have exceeded expectations and they were therefore going forward with their expansion plans and would open store two in Perimeter Mall this fall.  The one glaring issue with this being that Von Maur's North Point store replaced what had been a vacant Belk / Lord & Taylor and it opened during the fourth quarter of the year.  The fourth quarter is usually busiest for many sectors, chief among them: RETAIL!  For Mr. Von Maur to base his expansion plans on the performance of a store that replaced an empty storefront leading up to the holiday shopping season is ludicrous.  Many businesses, retailers among them, report on their earnings and sales based on results from "stores open at least a year" or "same store sales", thereby getting a better idea of the success of the business and not take into account the immediate boost a business might feel as a result of a new store opening.  Location aside, Von Maur's "Good, better, best" brand strategy is not gonna fly in Atlanta and their overall branding and signage is pretty poor within the North Point store.  It's as if they did no research into the local market and just said to themselves "it'll work."  Their store store design is dreadful not to mention the dated emerald green carpeting.   OTP billboards proclaiming "we know all the same people" are cute, but that ain't gonna get me to buy anything, especially at Perimeter where Nordstrom is.  Could they succeed in Perimeter? Maybe, but opening so close to Nordstrom will hurt them.  People know Nordstrom and know they have great service and great products.  Atlanta is not the market for Von Maur.  I think they will do OK in their upcoming Riverchase Galleria Mall store but in Atlanta, their chances for success are slim. I doubt either location is open in 24 months.  


 OTB or On The Bubble ; These businesses are questionable but not so much so that they've earned a place on the DeathWatch. As with the DeathWatch, please feel free to weigh in and share your thoughts on any or all of the listed businesses.

Amuse ( Midtown)

5 Napkin Burger (Midtown)

Bad Dog Taqueria (Emory Village)

DBA Barbeque (VaHi)

Decatur Diner (Decatur)

do Pizza (Westside)

Nacho Daddy's (Duluth)

Noni's (Edgewood)

P'cheen (Old Fourth Ward)

Peter Chang's (Sandy Springs)

Sweet Georgia's Juke Joint (Downtown)

Twisted Taco ( Buckhead )

Know something I missed or think I'm way off? Leave me a comment and share your thoughts.

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Anonymous said...

I agree with you on Tuk Tuk. Went there for dinner. Got an appetizer and entree and left hungry. My entree and my boyfriend's were just ok. We won't be going back.

Chloe said...

Peter Chang's should be on Death Watch already!

Darin said...

That downtown Mellow Mushroom at the Twelve building gets slammed at weekday lunch regularly -- both the bottom and top floors were filled on my last visit. But then they're dead at dinner unless a convention is in town. So it's a toss up, but it's possible that they could stay afloat on their daytime covers.

I have no idea how Der Biergarten and Rise Sushi stay in business. Neither has had regular dinner business since they opened. Bizarre.

What are your thought's on Max's Coal Oven Pizza? My family loves that place, but business is spotty. I hope it can hang in there. It's been hard to keep a hold of many good restaurants near our downtown home.

Atlantan99 said...


I agree with you on MM being a toss up but I'm leaning towards the glass half empty given the other nearby failures. ( Au Bon Pai & Panchero's)

Der Biergarten and Rise are within Luckie Marietta as is Max's and I doubt any have done well but David Marvin won't let too many more failures happen in his complex, profitable or not.

Glenn's Kitchen is prety bad but the hotel needs a restaurant. I have not been by lately, is Baja Fresh doing well in the former Starbucks?

Thanks for the comments and for reading the blog.

Anonymous said...

Can you tell us how you come up with this list other than just opinion? It seems as though you nearly named every restaurant in town. Some of these I frequent and they are packed, every week.

DBA for example has more than once closed early (10pmish) on a Friday or Saturday for being so busy that they ran out of food. There clearly can't be any reason other than opinion for Von Maur as they have barely been open and have already added another store. If you really do understand retail then you know that places like Versace don't make their money from retail sales and their stores serve as much as a billboard as they do some place to actually buy their clothing. They may close but it will be because Phipps is no longer their clientle, not because of sales. Lastly, STK? again they have barely been open and have been jammed up every weekend.

Why don't you wait until sales are actually lagging before adding them to your death watch. If you are putting businesses that right now are making money then its merely a "hater list" not based on any sort of fact.

Lisa said...

I actually like Tuk Tuk - eat there frequently. *But*, it is never that busy. Could you notate which are new additions to list as well as list the removals? Love the DeathWatch!!

Anonymous said...

This is truly destructive,and selfish to the point that it is only gratifying to the website author who can boast, "see, I told you so."

Go out and start a restaurant and see how difficult it is without some interloper coming along and shouting "you're going to fail!"

If you have the credentials to cite valid food and service criticism, go ahead and spout off. But this "deathwatch" label is bullshit from an amateur.

Do something productive! I hope you have the guts to post this.

Sarah Pearse said...

I think you are WAY off on Noni's - that place does enough business on Thurs/Fri/Sat nights to never have to sell another meatball sub again (and yet it does)...

I, too, have been wondering about P'Cheen which seems to be pulling out all of the tricks- from BBQ and Oysters, to all you can eat Crab and other specials. They have a few 'Mob appearances, too.

I also agree with Zuma - both locations- although due to the curse of the mob it is always packed.

Vesuvius can't be long for this world...

Darin said...

Baja Fresh would be doing a lot better if they could ventilate the place. It always reeks of fryer grease. We've been several times (it's pretty decent fast food) and I've never seen it full, but it always has a steady stream of customers.

That area of downtown west of Centennial Park is a really tricky location. It's separated from the rest of the city by the train infrastructure and the mega events spaces. It's this weird little island. Which is a shame because the old buildings around Rise Sushi and all that are really nice structures.

Anonymous said...

Big Tex Cantina and Sun in my Belly need to be on this list too. Can you say Scoutmob?

SB said...

Sun in my Belly is pretty solid place but I agree I wouldn't be surprised to see it close.

DBA does pretty well from what I've seen. Only reason they'd close is if "the rest is too damn high." They have a good following.

I agree with Sarah on Noni's, that place does great.

396 said...

What are the criteria for getting off the list? A few places seem to have been on there list for a couple of years already. When does it go from "I knew it all along" to "Could have happened to anyone"?

Whatever they're doing or giving away at Encore, that place is hopping every time I pass it. They must have the fittest valets in town. They have to park cars way down at the other end of Morosgo and they spend Saturday and Sunday night running all the way between there and the building.

Also, I was walking by Caposhi the other day and they've "moved," but they don't seem quite sure where.

Anonymous said...

Pinkberry Buckhead needs to be on this list.

Anonymous said...

Big Tex Cantina is terrible and should definitely be on this list. I can't believe the Fox Bros brain trust came up with a restaurant that is worse than Chili's.

Also while I enjoy Deathwatch as a feature (even if it was swiped from Eater), you really need a logo that doesn't look like it was made on MS Paint.

Anonymous said...

I think you're way off base on Ringside. It's in a decent location with a lot of car traffic. Food is decent and 4 bucks is more than reasonable to pay for a good hot dog, considering the other options nearby in pricey Buckhead. Good to support a local business over a soul less chain.

Anonymous said...

I'd really like to see US Cafe on Piedmont survive. That whole area of Piedmont is in desperate need of some street life, especially with all the people living in the nearby apartments. People need some place to go and eat. Food is pretty good at US Cafe. Smashburger is in a tough location with very busy traffic. Their service also sucks. I went on a Sunday with 10 people in front of me. 5 minutes later the line had not moved and the cashiers were completely indifferent. I left and went over to US Cafe.

Collin Kelley said...

P'cheen always looks busy to me, especially on the weekends where the outdoor eating area is packed - even on the cooler evenings we've had lately.

Anonymous said...

Jumped into Von Maur on my way down 400 to home(Buckhead). It was a ghost town- a ton of Burberry and other jewelry lines that are easy knock offs- nobody friendly, think they see the gloomy outlook. Opening @Perimeter is a waste of time

widmerpool said...

Isn't HD1 popular? I didn't think it was anything special but I see people there. Hope this doesn't become another Yeah! Burger where it's just a personal grudge for the author.

Anonymous said...


Way to have enough guts to post the comment from somebody who doesn't have the guts to put something better than Anonymous. That guy made me laugh.

Anonymous said...

coposhi closed already!

Atlantan99 said...

@ Anon RE Caposhi.

I heard that earlier this week. Thanks for the update and for reading the blog.

Anonymous said...

I agree with most of these, especially Von Maur inside North Point, so out of its element, and Southern Art/STK, they just don't seem to realize the economy right now is so low people don't want or need these huge overpriced fine dining establishments.

I do believe Burger Tap in VaHi needs to be added, and 5 napkin burger should be pushed over the bubble. There are too many GOOD burger places, like Flip and Farm, that these can't compete.

Anonymous said...

I was shocked to see Barneys on your list. My mom and I were in there the other day and the store was busy and product looked great. If Barneys wanted to leave, they would just let their lease expire and part ways with SIMON. Wouldn't be Barneys's problem if SIMON couldn't fill the space. Seems this partnership is still going strong. Happy about that.

Anonymous said...

Escorpion is packed every night. I live across the street. Eat there all the time. Excellent food (especially the carne asada) and tequila selection. Why all the hate? It's doing great. Remember to publish an apology and retraction when they're still open next year. Your deathwatch is lame.

Anonymous said...

I'm not so sure about Urban Pl8. They've been on your list for a bit now, but they seem to be quite busy whenever I go in. They seem to have carved out a niche with the healthfood/Crossfit crowd in town that is working well for them.

Anonymous said...

Agree with you for the most part except Urban Pl8 and Escorpion. Urban Pl8 does well hosting private events - the crossfit paleo dinner is ALWAYS packed house to the point that the gyms have to make the reservations way ahead of time and they reject people. Also Escorpion is always packed - the only issue is how loud it is but the patio and everything is great... and the food is reasonably priced - good balance with the expensive, but delicious, drinks.

Also - 5 napkins, great burgers and it seems to be packed now on a few weeknights and early dinner crowd due to all the park goers heading home.

Anonymous said...

You might be right about Tantra, but I hope not. The food is excellent, the service is attentive and the location is easy to get to right off 85. Pull in the valet takes over and your right in, there's never a wait when I arrive at 7PM (Maybe that's why it's on the list). The bonus is Cami Cakes is right down the road.

Anonymous said...

You couldn't be any further off in regards to Der Biergarten. Between convention business, The Dome and Phillips Arena events, and the aquarium, the restaurant does very well. This "crappy location" is the reason it thrives! Don't forget the German community in ATL is larger than you might think.

Anonymous said...

These restaurants should be on next quarter:

Czar Ice Bar- It can't last much longer based on the current business. Dead.

One Eared Stag- Pride is keeping this place open. Great food and drinks but business is slower than slow.

Sauced- Another cool place with barely any business.

Cardamom Hill- Fabulous people. Terrible location.

Flip Burger Buckhead- You can hear crickets.

Deckards- Never been busy.

Double Zero- Too big of a space. Not enough business.

Three Sheets.

Tuk Tuk


Fifth Ivory

OMG Taco

MB said...

Thank you for loving Taurus. I worked there and loved it too.

Rise is run by a bunch of crooks and I honestly don't know how they have survived this long, either.

Anonymous said...

Der Biergarten isn't going anywhere! It gets brisk business from tourists and conventioneers. Plus it's the only place anywhere near the city to get authentic German food, not everyone wants to drive 40 miles out to the Suwanee area to go to Vreny's.

Urban PL8 may be off the beaten path for most people but in the last few years, the area has grown quite a bit and those people who live out there are thrilled to see anyplace that is actually open for dinner and isn't a chain and doesn't focus on mexican or bbq.

Plus there's nowhere on that side of town serving vegetarian/vegan food other than the standard veggie burgers and wraps, except maybe The Real Chow Baby, and, well, I'm surprised that thing is still there.

Anonymous said...

I have told by a anonymous source that Menchies will have closed 4 of their stores in Atlanta soon, and possibly 6 by the year end. Franchise problems are the cause according to this anonymous source.

Anonymous said...

3 menchies closed in Johns Creek, West Paces and one more I am not sure. Curious to know which others are closing and why????

Anonymous said...

So, you just linked to this post. Kind of fun to look back and see how wrong you were about a lot of places and how many were obvious fails that anyone but the owners could have predicted.

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