Chef Anne Quatrano is no stranger to busy mornings—it’s a wonder she has time to sleep, let alone eat breakfast. The James Beard award-winning Atlanta chef, who pioneered the city’s farm-to-table movement in 1993 at her flagship restaurant Bacchanalia, also helms four other ATL institutions (Star Provisions, Little Star, Floataway Cafe, and W.H. Stiles Fish Camp), has authored a cookbook, and grows much of the produce for her restaurants herself on her 60-acre farm in Cartersville. “I usually have about fifteen minutes to get from the shower out the door,” she says. “Somehow, breakfast is never in that picture.”
Her solution? Stop defining the most important meal of the day by its standard timeslot. In early March, Quatrano will open Pancake Social, a breakfast-all-day joint in Atlanta’s Ponce City Market that will offer traditional flapjacks along with savory varieties like whole-grain and sourdough, plus breakfast burgers, homemade English muffins, porridges, and acai bowls. “We’re trying to keep it local, and use the best ingredients,” she says, citing Banner Butter and heirloom grains purveyor Anson Mills as essential building blocks of the menu. Her homegrown approach goes beyond the plate, too. “My cousin made all of the furniture for the restaurant,” she explains before pausing the conversation to direct delivery traffic as a bench finds its new home. “He lives up in Cartersville where we live, so every morning I load up my truck with furniture and bring it in.”
Quatrano sounds excited—about the bright new space, about the eclectic menu, and even about the knitting habit she’s picked up as a way of staying sane through it all. Catch up with Quatrano below and sample her pecan praline pancake recipe here.
Why open a breakfast restaurant?
I think all chefs love breakfast because you never get it. You’re almost always working late, and you’re never up in the morning in time for breakfast, so it seems like this huge luxury. When I was approached by a couple of people [about a breakfast spot], one of them was Tony Riffel of Octane Coffee, who was a pioneer on the whole boutique-coffee thing here in Atlanta. I’ve always had huge respect for him, so when he said, ‘We want to combine food and coffee,’ I said, ‘Let’s do it.’ We did a bunch of research. We traveled, mostly on the West Coast, and saw that breakfast culture is booming. I was fascinated by people, especially in Los Angeles, who will have breakfast at 11, and lunch at 3. I was also fascinated by just how great the breakfasts were, from a bowl of grains with a poached egg to an heirloom-grain pancake. So we started experimenting with pancakes ourselves, and everybody seemed to love ‘em.
What are some of the ways you’ve been able to expand on the sweet pancakes most people think of?
We have a real range. We have potato pancakes, and we have some savory hoecakes. We have sourdough waffles—our starter dates back to when we started Bacchanalia, so we’re making our sourdough waffles with a twenty-seven-year-old starter. We also have some really decadent pancakes: a pecan praline, which is a really thick pancake with gooey pecan praline syrup; a Japanese-style, almost souffle-like pancake, with lemon and lemon relish; and then we have the whole grains and corn pancakes. It’s really fun. We’re thrilled about breakfast all day.
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Do you think eating breakfast food for lunch or dinner is something people will immediately be drawn to?
We’re gonna find out. Here, you can have a burger at seven in the morning when we open if you want it. So why not have pancakes at nine at night? But I think the best restaurateurs and chefs are flexible, and they give their guests what they want. So if we see that there is a need for, say, a blue-plate special or a plated dinner, then we’ll try it.
You already have one restaurant in Ponce City Market, one of the many food halls that have popped up all around the South. What drew you back to the space for another opening?
Being at Ponce City Market has been extremely freeing. At our seafood restaurant, W.H. Stiles Fish Camp, we don’t have any other protein—fish and shellfish is it. That’s the glory of being in that space. If one of your kids really wants a bowl of noodles, guess what? There’s a bowl of noodles right around the corner. All of us who have businesses there seem to share everything, which is nice. We always have somebody else’s plates or somebody else’s bowls in our space, but we all know where they belong so we get them back just fine. Some people don’t like competition—I love it. I love having other people around who do what you do. It makes for camaraderie, and a better atmosphere all in all.
We have to ask: do you have any plans to write a follow-up to Summerland?
I do want to write another book. I didn’t for a long time, because it was hard. I loved making the food, and I loved photographing the food. But when they asked me to start writing about myself … oof. When you have something to do that you don’t want to, you find ways to procrastinate. I actually started building Legos. I would go home at night and say, ‘Okay, you have to do this chapter now.’ And before getting to it, I would spend an hour or two building Legos. [Laughs] Or right now, because I’m so teed up about this restaurant, I’ve been knitting. I never even knew how to knit until I watched a YouTube video in December! [I need something that] takes you away from your device, and lets you get inside your head and not be concentrating on what everybody else is doing, or what your staff might need from you.
But yeah, I think I will do another book. Right now, I’m thinking a pancake book. [Laughs] Or, you know what, maybe more of a pancake pamphlet.