To those in the know, the pulse of Atlanta is undeniably Peachtree Street—a stretch of downtown bustling with dazzling retail, towering businesses, and a rainbow of entertainment. Wherever you land on this happening strip, you’re mere blocks away from iconic hotels like The Atlanta Marriott Marquis, The Hyatt Regency, and the W Atlanta, while landmark institutions Hard Rock Cafe, the Georgia Aquarium, and the Coca-Cola Museum are easily accessible by foot.
With all of this activity, where better to open a world-class restaurant? That was Anthony Fortson’s thought, anyway, when he converted the ill-fated Scales 925 to destination restaurant and event center The League Tavern. “When I heard that the space was available, I realized I had to do something with it,” Fortson recalls. “The area is perfect, and while I had dabbled in restaurants and nightclubs around Atlanta before, I wanted this concept to be completely different.”
Fortson’s vision was simple: Craft a multilevel lifestyle hub with unquestionably delicious food and an atmosphere so comfortable, guests would linger for hours. To that end, he delivered what downtown Atlanta needed most—a venue ringed with soft earth tones, cozy banquettes, and dozens of high-definition, big-screen TVs. “We’re not really a sports bar,” Fortson is quick to point out. “Of course, we’re set up perfectly for that if guests want—we even have a nine-screen, 4K TV wall behind the (full) bar on the first floor, after all—but people are just as likely to come for a leisurely meal and conversation.”
The first floor, by the way—including an 800 square-foot patio—is only one part of The League Tavern adventure. Private events, organized by the tangential business The League Events, will spread over the second, third, and fourth floors, marked by specialty menus, full bars on each level, and custom luxury touches. The fourth floor—a rooftop patio—will be particularly in demand, as views mingle with high-end cocktails, enjoying exclusive amenities and updated American fare, created by Executive Chef Robert Waller.
While Waller has been keen on crafting specialty menus for private events, his focus is equally on the public-facing League Tavern. “The menu is all about fusion fare,” Waller paints, “but the food will still be familiar and comfortable.” Case in point: The visionary Steak Roll that blends traditional sushi preparation with classic Southern ingredients. A lean cut of prime beef is glazed with lime barbecue sauce before rolling up tender julienned veggies.
In addition to the fusion, Waller insists that creative whimsy will be happily balanced by small plate offerings and main dishes that have long been hits in Atlanta. Leaning on his unique talents and Southern roots, Waller is blending new ideas with traditional Southern flavors. “Our Cajun Chicken Pasta is a great example of a classic dish,” Waller says, “but it’s not boring. Far from it—we’re keeping it light with well-executed flavors so that it’s satisfying without being too heavy.”
Waller says he’s also currently working on building purveyor relationships so that the menu’s weekly specials showcase the best Atlanta has to offer. “We’re reaching out to butchers and farmers to help us build an inventory of local product,” he says. But perhaps one of the most endearing things about the menu—and certainly a feather in Fortson’s cap—is the price point. Full entrées top out at $16, while smalls plates run an eminently reasonable $5 or so. “This really gives guests flexibility when they order,” Waller affirms. “You can mix and match small plates, share an entrée, or get an appetizer, main, and dessert without breaking the bank.”
If you’re sliding into a League Tavern booth for the first time, both Fortson and Waller recommend some signatures to get you started: the Chicken and Waffles are a must in a Southern kitchen, while the Wings and Fries fit any sports-viewing festivity. “And I have to add the Macaroni and Cheese and Deep-Fried Baby Back Ribs to the list,” Waller grins. “They’re irresistible.”
To anyone in tune with the complexities of getting a concept like this off the ground, the key to its success is passion. And as Waller describes, The League Tavern has it in spades: “I’m really proud of the guys in the kitchen,” he gushes. “They’re really passionate about making the food, and it shows in everything from prep to plating.” If the kitchen shines, then the front-of-the-house team gleams. Led by hospitality expert—and The League Tavern’s General Manager—Josh Black, every server, bartender, and host in the dining room is committed to making an experience at the Tavern a memorable pastiche of smiles, laughter, and detail-oriented service.
With four sprawling levels spanning 14,000 square-feet, an enviable location in the heart of downtown, a menu pulsing with creativity from an energetic kitchen team, and Atlanta’s warmest hospitality, could there be anything else to ensure The League Tavern’s success? “Well,” Fortson nudges, “we do have a few more things in the works. We’re hoping to open a luxury cigar bar for League Tavern members at some point. And we’re looking forward to offering live music and doing periodic liquor tastings. Oh, and did I mention we’re open for lunch, and will soon offer delivery to the neighborhood?” Such ambition is often rewarded with success. And for Fortson, Jackson, and their team, that success will be undoubtedly well-plied with good food and lust-worthy drink.
By Jeffrey Steen, Editor in Chief