Byline: Rebecca Kleinman

Here’s a first: The words “happening” and “The Ritz-Carlton” can now be put in the same sentence. Sounds like an oxymoron, but that’s what people are saying about the downtown location’s new bar and restaurant, the Atlanta Grill.
For its new dining concept, the hotel decided to trade in its stuffy image for a hipper, more casual, dressed-down feel. Frank Sinatra would have loved this place — all of the class and quality of the Ritz, without all of the pomp and circumstance.
One major change is doing away with the strict dress code. According to bar manager Tabitha Harrison, Whoopi Goldberg was asked to leave once because she was wearing jeans and a T-shirt. That wouldn’t be the case today.
Other cool changes include a nightly jazz trio, a cheaters booth, where six incognito guests can pull a curtain around themselves, a kitchen that’s open until 1:30 in the morning and best of all, an authentic Southern veranda overlooking Peachtree Street.
Southern elements carry over to the menu, which is sprinkled with indigenous dishes. Aside from the standbys like fried green tomatoes, macaroni and cheese, and sweet potato spoon bread, there’s a Brunswick rabbit stew with parsnips, rutabaga, forest mushrooms, apple and smoked bacon. A seafood pot combines catfish, prawns, mussels, oysters and scallops.
For starters, chef Peter Zampaglione recommends the frog legs sauteed in champagne buerre blanc. And for dessert, he mentions the honey pecan tarte with spiced bourbon syrup.
In keeping with the Southern theme, the bar makes traditional mint juleps. Martini lovers won’t feel left out, either. Among its 36 varieties are the signature Cobalt Blue of Gvori vodka, a dash of Blue Curacao and a lemon twist, or the After Eight of Grey Goose vodka, a dash of Rumple Mintze and a mint sprig.
Better hurry up before the kids discover it.

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