I've been a fan of Concentrics Restaurants for a long time and was SUPER excited to try their new Atlanta venture The Spence with Executive Chef Richard Blias (if the name rings a bell, you probably caught him on Top Chef All Stars). I don't know if there's any competitiveness among the assorted restaurants in this group, but if there is, I'm guessing the object of envy is The Spence. Let's start with the space. The midtown location near GA Tech dictates a smaller, more intimate space. The ceiling is high enough to feel as though there's room to breath, but there's enough "stuff" on the walls to keep it from being an echo chamber like Watershed. Everywhere there's a noticeable attention to detail. Even the rolls come with a schmear of unsalted butter with Kosher salt (do you remember the trivia about "kosher salt?") sprinkled in one corner. I started off with an order of "Oysters & Pearls" which are raw oysters with a light sauce and frozen "pearls" of horseradish. Even if you're not an oyster fan, these are worth trying. Trust me!For our appetizers, Billy opted for the beef tartare with quail eggs. The meat was seasoned perfectly, and I was ready to steal his plate.I've been known to fixate on one particular food for weeks at a time and at the moment, I'm all about beets. What?? That's almost as odd as Brussels Sprouts (and you know how I love THOSE!), but hear me out. If you've ever thought beets taste like dirt (anyone?) or have had to eat them out of the can, I feel your pain. Beets CAN be awful. However, if you're open to giving them another try (and I recommend that you do), you could do no better than to order the beet salad at The Spence. The vegetable is sweet and served with a little blue cheese to give the flavors a great contrast. Seriously delish!!
If you REALLY want to branch out and try something new, you can follow in Billy's footsteps and order the Oxtail bone-in. At The Spence they serve the dish with the tail left very close to its natural form. Our waiter "warned" us that the dish would, in fact, resemble the tail of an ox. He also said the tenderness of the meat was "off the chain" - and so it was. So it was!I couldn't resist ordering the lamb with the au jus and pea puree. Oh my!!When you go to the website and look at the sample menu, you'll see disclaimers that the menu changes frequently and that the chef goes with whatever he's "into at the moment." I'm fine with that, but I'm hoping that next time I'm there I can try the "Juicy Lucy" - a burger with cheese in the middle or the melon "soup in a can." Unfortunately my stomach couldn't keep up with my eyes!!
One final thing you should know about the spot: they have an item on the menu called "The Family Meal" that is served "at cost." I figured this meant "market rate" because "at cost" would be SUPER cheap. I asked our server to explain. Apparently the chef makes everyone dinner before the restaurant opens for the evening. Everyone eats while they have their meeting and hear about the specials. Whatever that dish happens to be is available to anyone else AT COST for as long as it lasts. The night we were there the Family Meal was a pork sandwich and cost $3.17.
That's no typo - three dollars and seventeen cents!!!
Naturally, they were sold out by the time we got there. However, we noticed some Tech students leaving who looked VERY happy!