Three-time James Beard Award semifinalist Aaron Russell spent years striving for pastry perfection in upscale Atlanta establishments like Nikolai’s Roof, the Ritz-Carlton Buckhead, and the now-defunct Restaurant Eugene. Seven years ago he left that world, opening a neighborhood restaurant and bar called Poor Hendrix in the East Lake enclave of the city. Named after his dog, Poor Hendrix is intimate and eclectic, with a menu of small plates and cocktails that change frequently, but it hasn’t escaped the attention of arbiters of fine dining.
Last month, Michelin released its first Atlanta guide, naming Poor Hendrix a “recommended” restaurant. “While it looks like your average corner restaurant, Poor Hendrix is so much more. It’s all about the vibe at this intimate, slightly quirky spot…Don’t expect a fuss, since they don’t take themselves too seriously,” the listing reads. The guide gives a nod to Russell’s shrimp skewers dusted with a barbecue rub and served with white Alabama-style sauce—a dish that’s been on the menu at Poor Hendrix since its inception. Michelin also included the skewers in a separate roundup of its inspectors’ five favorite dishes in Atlanta.
The attention came as a surprise to Russell. “We see the same people day after day, week after week, so we didn’t think we were even on Michelin’s radar,” he says. “It was nice that they noticed something that’s been on our menu since we opened. It makes us feel like we’ve been on the right track all along. It’s one of our most humble menu items—we were happy they thought it was worth mentioning.”
Though Russell has seen a slight uptick in diners since the awards announcement, he’s not planning on making changes anytime soon. He is, however, opening a gourmet sandwich shop called the Velvet Hippo, and in the meantime, he generously shared a home-cook-friendly recipe for his standout shrimp skewers. Count on having some leftover dry rub and sauce to use for other purposes (if cooking for a large group, you can double the amount of shrimp while keeping the sauce and rub proportions the same), and Russell notes that you can also substitute your favorite barbecue rub.