Blasting out of the starting gate with all the elements for success, Bogartz Food Artz in City Walk, Sandy Springs, is in the right place at the right time with the right chef, the right menu and the right audience. Partner/brothers Scott and Bruce Bogartz from Knoxville, Tenn., opened the chef-centric restaurant in November and never looked back because they knew the secret formula: extensive menu, terrific food from scratch, and being on the scene table-hopping to make sure everyone is happy. When the boss is there, the kitchen runs like a Swiss watch, especially if he (chef Bruce) has been there all day tending to every detail, making every stock from scratch, and baking every dessert from some of Mom’s best recipes. Scott, who graduated from Emory University with Bruce, just a few years later, runs the front of the house after previously selling his software development company.
In just the past few months, Bogartz has been featured twice as the Atlanta Journal Constitution Lifestyle cover story: “Exploring Jewish Food Traditions for Hanukkah” by Ligaya Figueras and “Eclectic Bistro Takes Cues from Clientele” by Bob Townsend. Both recognized Bogartz’s talent and passion.
When I saw the menu, I pondered if one chef could do justice to both traditional “Jewish” food (brisket, latkes, kugel) on one hand and homey Southern, Creole-Cajun on the other, while exemplifying fine dining at a modest price point.
Don’t underestimate Bruce, who trained at The Restaurant School at Walnut Hill College in Philadelphia, operated several restaurants in Tennessee as well as a food truck, and was a corporate chef for Warner Brothers in Aspen.
The interior, designed by Liz Laurence, is understated white bricks and white tablecloths, … some eclectic gewgaws and family photos. There is a full bar on the east side with 35 beer choices, 29 wines and a good range of scotch, vodka, gin, bourbon, tequila and rum. There is a bubbe meise (old wives’ tale) that Jews come for marvelous tastes and large portions and not so much the booze. We also come to mingle, and here familiar faces abound. On one of my visits, a frequent diner, Janet Selig, was topping off a turtle sundae. “I may have eaten here three times last week. The food is that good, and the prices are remarkable. Bogartz will succeed because they are willing to listen and change and are so eager to please.”
Do we dare utter “Brickery?” Chef Bruce dishes about his food history, secret recipes and favorites.
Marcia: What are the most popular menu items?
Bruce: Gumbo, short ribs with a Polynesian twist, and brisket is a real hot seller. Can’t seem to sell a lot of steaks.
Marcia: Were you interested in food preparation as a youngster?
Bruce: Yes, I was surrounded by good cooks like my Bronx grandmother, my mother’s terrific desserts, and matzoh balls at lunch. But back then, the food industry had not revolutionized, and it wasn’t very dignified to be a chef. I was supposed to be a physician like my father or a psychologist like Mom. But it all worked out! I’m now 53 and started at 17.
Now my daughter Sara Elizabeth is cooking and wants to help out.
Marcia: In Knoxville did you align with the Jewish community?
Bruce: I prepared a kosher dinner for 300 (under supervision) for Chabad, which was cool.
It’s funny that when we mess too much with traditional Jewish recipes, there can be an uproar. Like my latkes flavored with pumpkin or trout … yikes!
Marcia: Share some secrets. The sweet potato hash reminds me of tzimmis.
Bruce: My kugel is sweet with cinnamon, cranberries, cottage cheese, sugar and apples and sometimes “Red Hots” candy!
Our barbeque sauce is made with red wine and tomato juice and is a 9-hour process.
The Brie beignets are served with sweet and savory pepper jelly with a kick. Inner melty with a (hush puppy-like) dough fritter.
Duck confit: I butcher four cases of duck a week. I’m partial to legs and thighs.
Scott’s favorite is parmesan-creamed corn.
Each table is given a complimentary appetizer of homemade biscuits and pimento cheese.
Marcia: How do you have time to cook when you’re here on the floor yakking with customers?
Bruce: I have already put in a long day preparing and have three full-time kitchen workers, plus a dishwasher. I just love taking care of customers myself.
Marcia: Describe what goes on dessert-wise:
Bruce: I make 10 chocolate chip pecan pies at once. Coconut flan, turtle sundae with salted pecans and homemade hot fudge over cookie dough, butterscotch and mint ice cream.
My mom’s chocolate chip pound cake, peanut butter trifle with cookie crumbles.
If you can’t choose, pick three for the sampler. … Or rice pudding, crème caramel, … we are always changing and adding.
Marcia: Where in Atlanta do you like to dine?
Marcia: Scott, last word.
Scott: What Bruce does with food is art. It’s just a case of will we kill each other first? (Laughing)
Bottom line: The Bogartz brothers have a home run. Knoxville’s (my hometown’s) loss and Atlanta’s gain.