Tuesday, September 21, 2021

[EXCLUSIVE] Cali-Based Mendocino Farms Buckhead Bound

Mendocino Farms plans to make Georgia its third market with a location planned for Buckhead.  The restaurant, described as featuring "chef-driven sandwiches, salads and more, offering unique twists on classics and globally-inspired flavor combinations," will open at the new Modera Prominence apartment development at the corner of Lenox and Piedmont Roads.  The new restaurant will occupy a 3,100 square foot space along Lenox Road that will also include a roughly 800 square foot patio.   

Co-founders (and husband and wife team) Mario Del Pero and Ellen Chen created the concept in 2003 and opened their first unit on Bunker Hill in Downtown Los Angeles in 2005.  In 2019, the couple enlisted the help of restaurant veteran Kevin Miles to grow the concept beyond what was then a 27 unit chain.  Miles, who spent nine years at the helm of Zoes Kitchen, taking the Birmingham chain from 21 locations to more than 250, was hired as CEO of Mendocino and since joining the company, has overseen growth of the concept which now has 39 units open plus a delivery & pickup only location with two more standard locations and another delivery & pick up unit in the immediate pipeline.  

"As a restaurant rooted in crafting unexpected flavor combinations that wow, we've always been drawn to and inspired by Atlanta's rich, diverse culinary and cultural legacy," said Kevin Miles, chief executive officer for Mendocino Farms. "Expanding our presence beyond California and Texas marks an exciting point in our history, and we're thrilled to call Atlanta – and specifically Modera Prominence in the heart of Buckhead — our new home. We look forward to adding our unique 'eat happy' experience to the community's vibrant dining scene." 

We had heard great things about Mendocino and made a point of grabbing dinner at the chain's Rice Village outpost in Houston last fall.  The look and feel of the restaurant is definitely "Californian," with coastal colors and playful messaging.  Having then recently adopted a largely plant-based diet, we were pleased with the variety of non-meat options beyond the typical salad.  Also impressive was the presence of separate receptacles for compost, trash and recycling.  We have encountered very few restaurants that separate all three - we just hope they actually follow through on the backend.  

Sources familiar with the restaurant's plans tell ToNeTo Atlanta that the company is scouting metro Atlanta for at least two more locations.  

Mendocino Farms Buckhead is expected to open in the fall of 2022, according to a representative for the development.  When they do open, they will join previously announced tenants Zakia and The Yard Milkshake Bar.  Zakia is a restaurant from Chef Ian Winslade alongside business partners Jonathan and Ryan Akly, who co-created and operate the nearby Mission+Market restaurant and the newly opened Tre Vele in Sandy Springs.  Zakia, which is expected to open in February, will feature modern Lebanese cuisine, specializing in shareable mezze and charcoal grilled meats and seafood.  The Buckhead outpost of The Yard Milkshake Bar will be the second in Georgia for the Gulf Shores-based franchise made popular on Shark Tank.  The original Atlanta area location opened last summer near the Georgia Aquarium downtown.  The Yard Milkshake Bar Buckhead is projected to open "sometime in the first quarter of 2022." 

In addition to Mendocino Farms, Zakia and The Yard Milkshake Bar, CT Reforma, a contemporary Mexican cantina and restaurant, is also expected to open in the development.  The eatery, which will serve as the sibling eatery to CT Cantina & Taqueria at Halycon in Alpharetta, is also expected to open in February.  

Phase one of Modera Prominence began leasing in 2020 and includes 312 luxury apartments with the property currently occupied at roughly 73 percent and pre-leased at roughly 83 percent.  A second phase of the development, a high-rise, is currently under construction and will feature 398 luxury apartment homes and is projected to open in 2022.

Have you ever been to Mendocino Farms?  What is your favorite fast casual eatery in Buckhead?  Where else would you like to see Mendocino Farms open in metro Atlanta?  

Please share your thoughts below.

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