Last spring, the Atlanta chef and James Beard semifinalist Ron Hsu closed down his Lazy Betty restaurant for five weeks before reopening exclusively for take-out. But his multi-course tasting menu didn’t easily translate to to-go containers—Lazy Betty is known for its caviar service, and bites such as wasabi-tinged dry-aged steak, cucumber cannelloni, and Georgia shrimp causa that blend Hsu’s Malaysian-Chinese heritage with modern American and French fine dining. “So, we started doing family style dinners, which helped us stay afloat,” Hsu says.
Customers lined up to take home meals of pork loin and braised collard greens or whole roasted chicken and potato puree. The restaurant also started the Lazy Betty Restaurant Club, a monthly subscription to exclusive menu items, recipes, and bottles of wine, along with online cooking and cocktail classes to keep guests connected to staff. “We had so much community support that we didn’t have to cut any of our employees,” Hsu says.
Next up, Hsu is organizing a free dinner for local frontline healthcare workers on April 21, inviting nurses and doctors to enjoy an evening of full-service fine dining. “A lot of these people haven’t had a chance to go out and eat in a long time,” he says. “And if it’s going to be their first meal out in a while, we want it to be as special as possible.”
When time allows, Hsu and his family dine out to support the wider Atlanta restaurant community. He shared a handful of his favorite spots.
112 Ormond Street SE
“I’ve gotten take-out from here probably three times during the pandemic, and they have a patio where you can sit out and eat your food. Last time we were there they had this Thai-style fried chicken that’s really good. I also love their coconut milk; it comes from a freshly cracked-open coconut you just stick a straw in.”
587 Ralph McGill Boulevard NE
“This is where I took my wife on a date night when we were getting especially stir crazy. They have a wonderful patio with a tent, so you’re covered but feel the fresh air. We had forgotten how good real restaurant food can taste. They have such a great grilled octopus and any of their homemade pastas are phenomenal.”
The General Muir
1540 Avenue Place, Suite B-230
“I have a two-year-old who wakes me up every day at six or seven, so sometimes I like to go get breakfast when I’m up early. General Muir has amazing protocols in place: There’s different colored blocks you flip if you want a server to come by, and they have a plan for the flow of traffic. I love going there for breakfast. You can get a bagel platter called Avenue B (they have Avenues A, B, C, and D), which has baked salmon with pickled celery, cream cheese, and capers. I spent ten years in New York, and when I have that part of me saying I need a bagel, I go to General Muir.”
1170 Howell Mill Road
“I missed my cousin’s wedding because of the pandemic, so I wanted to treat them to a really nice meal to make up for it. We went to Marcel. They have a nice patio with heat lamps and a live fire, which is very comforting. It has a very romantic, celebratory feel. When I go there, I always go for a dry-aged steak.”
4051 Buford Highway NE
“Nam Fung is this little Vietnamese restaurant off Buford Highway with the absolute best salt and pepper squid. I haven’t been there during the pandemic because I don’t think that kind of food travels as well, but once COVID is gone, that’ll be one of the first places I go.”