This is one of the 5 Atlanta spots we are going to feature from our recent trip.

     Restaurant Eugene in Atlanta celebrated its 7th anniversary this April. Their chef Linton Hopkins also was nominated for the James Beard Award for Best Chef Southeast. He has been nominated for four years in a row. He will be competing this year against several other finalists including Charleston’s own Craig Deihl of Cypress.  Linton Hopkins has been to Charleston many times. We were able to eat at his Wine and Food Festival Dine Around with Jeremiah Bacon at Carolina’s last year.  Chef Hopkin’s team also runs the neighboring Holeman and Finch Public House.  It is a smaller, slightly more casual version of the flagship Restaurant Eugene.  In our past interview with Top Chef fan favorite Kevin Gillespie he told us that Holeman and Finch would be a required stop in order to have the perfect day of eating in Atlanta……so there we went.

The food was fantastic.  We started off with one of Greg Best’s signature cocktails “The Oracle” (rye whiskey, lime, Regan’s orange bitters, with a splash of Theia jasmine liqueur) recommended by our excellent server Lee Starnes.  We then progressed to a course of charcuterie, a crawfish pie and then fried rabbit livers with farro and candied kumquats.

Besides the great food our server Lee Starnes was also able to dish out some great Charleston connections. We decided to dig a little deeper and see if he could give us more insight into Holeman and Finch, Atlanta, and what else he was into these days.

Charleston Food Bloggers ( CFB ) : Who was the chef here that you mentioned has worked in Charleston? 

Starnes:  James Ellington worked with Sean Brock and he does all  our charcuterie here at Holeman and Finch.

CFB:   You said you came to Charleston recently and ate at  McCrady’s. What brought you to town? How often have you visited and where else have you eaten?

Starnes:  I came to Charleston for the Charleston Marathon.  While  I’m not a runner, they offered a 62 mile bike ride attached to  it. Evan, a bartender at Holeman and Finch, went with me.  It was the first time in Charleston in a long time and we were there for just a couple days.  McCrady’s is the only place of note we got a  chance to get in.  

CFB:  Have you lived in Atlanta for a long time?

Starnes:  I’ve lived in Atlanta for 11 of the past 12 years.  I grew up in Augusta, moved to Atlanta where I went to Georgia Tech for 6 years and finally graduated in 2006.  I then moved to Thailand for a  little over a year and traveled around SE Asia taking photos.  
I worked for a newspaper and did freelance architecture photography.

CFB:  What does Lee do when he is not at Holeman and Finch?

Starnes:  When I’m not at H&F, I’m a working photographer here in Atlanta.  You can check my work at If I’m not doing that, I’m on my bike.  I try to drive as little as possible these days.  The south kind of affords me that luxury.  It allows the inner fat kid in me to not turn into a roly poly.  After all, I eat at H&F nearly every shift I work.  

(You should check out his website.  He does some excellent work, especially with musicians!)

CFB: You gave us some suggested places to go Antico, Cakes and Ale, Lee’s Bakery, and Bell St. Burrito. What would you typically eat at those places?

Starnes:  Antico has the best pizza in the city in my opinion.  The Diavolo is my go to.  Sopprasata, pepperonata, and bufala.  No frills, brown paper, sheet pans, byob, and some of the best cannolis on the planet.  

Cakes and Ale is a super cool spot over in Decatur.  Good bar program, quality ingredients coming out of the kitchen with a focus on local, farm driven fare.  Nothing fancy, but an eye for detail in making the simple things shine.  Nice intimate space perfect for dates.  One of my first recommendations I give to out of towners.

Lee’s Bakery is my go to for Bahn Mi in the city at 2.50 for a sandwich, you cannot go wrong.  On the ethnic food Mecca of Buford Highway, its in an innocuous strip mall full of other ethnic stores.   Absolutely legit.  Just as authentic as it is in Vietnam.

Bell St. Burrito.  This place’s menu is based off an old Burrito Joint, Tortilla’s.  Tortillas was the hangout for so many of us years ago, and was the best burrito in the city for sure.  Then Moe’s moved in a block away and Tortilla’s went under.  Bell St. Burrito has resurrected the flavors so many of us craved for so many years.  The red sauce and the beans could not be matched.  Those heart strings are gently pulled every time I go down there.

CFB:   What are you listening to in music these days?

Starnes:  Music.. oh wow.  such a hard question. I’m musically A.D.D., so I’m all over the place.  But here’s what’s been on the rotation as of the last week.  

CFB: Favorite TV shows or characters in TV shows?

Starnes:   TV shows.  Right now its Sportscenter. March Madness is running everything.   But I really liked Boardwalk Empire, Treme, Madmen, and don’t tell, but I kind of have a guilty pleasure in the show Swamp People.  Something about Creoles wrangling Alligators never gets old.  Hope ATL treated you well.  Hopefully I can make it down to Chucktown sooner than later. I had a great time.  I hear Brock’s new venture, Husk has him busy as ever.  That will be on the docket next time around.