Jewish Power Trio Revitalizes Dunwoody Village
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Jewish Power Trio Revitalizes Dunwoody Village

David Abes, Billy Kramer, and Geoff Malkonian have breathed new life in the city’s center square.

The trio of Jewish Dunwoody restaurant owners: (from left) Billy Kramer, Geoff Melkonian, and David Abes // Photo Credit: Lauren Menis
The trio of Jewish Dunwoody restaurant owners: (from left) Billy Kramer, Geoff Melkonian, and David Abes // Photo Credit: Lauren Menis

A trio of Jewish restaurateurs have helped change Dunwoody’s culinary scene, making it not only a dining destination but also creating community for its residents.

On a recent sunny afternoon, David Abes, Billy Kramer, and Geoff Melkonian are sitting at a picnic table outside Breadwinner Cafe and Bakery talking life, career, and the area’s emergence as a place to come for food and fun.

All three came to own restaurants in this leafy, suburban city of 51,000 people in different ways. However, it is clear from their good-natured banter and loyalty to one another that they see themselves as part of the same team. They’re also quick to point out that there are many other hard-working restaurant owners here who deserve credit.

Dunwoody is also home to a thriving Jewish population, with the Marcus Jewish Community Center of Atlanta and a plethora of synagogues nearby. But until recently, it was lacking places for its residents, both Jewish and otherwise, to gather.

David Abes, owner, DASH Hospitality Group, Bar{n} booze {n} bites, Morty’s Meat & Supply and Message in a Bottle // Photo Credit: Lauren Menis

David Abes

In 2019, Abes, the owner of DASH Hospitality Group and longtime restaurant industry veteran, decided to change the image and perceived value of Dunwoody Village.

“My wife and I were standing on top of the stairs in Dunwoody Village and I was tired of her saying, ‘Let’s go to Roswell, let’s go to Alpharetta,’” he says. “And I’m like, how is there no place to hang out here? You have great restaurants all around but no hangout spot.”

Just four years later, his vision has become a reality. Bar{n} booze {n} bites, a wine, craft beer and whiskey bar (which just won Best of Perimeter’s “Best Happy Hour” award) and Morty’s Meat & Supply, a take on a Southern “meat-and-three” meets Jewish deli, have become the places to be on weekend nights. Add to that the Funwoody Food Truck and the just-opened, gorgeously appointed seafood restaurant Message In A Bottle and you have the entertainment complex Abes envisioned.

All are set around a large communal courtyard with outdoor bars, a stage with live music on Friday nights and a big screen TV for sports watching parties. Abes can often be seen bustling around, greeting guests, friends, and strangers alike, even busing tables. For him, it’s all about bringing people together.

“I’ll see people sitting at this table one minute and then the next they’re over at another table and that’s what I love. But I also love the nights when you don’t know anybody and they came from Sandy Springs or they came from Roswell,” he says.

Already, Abes’ annual Green Eggs and Kegs Festival has become a can’t-miss day of fun, with a crowd of approximately 2,000 attending this past year. He also has plans for more events in the future.

Billy Kramer

If you want one of Kramer’s award-winning NFA burgers, you’ll have to wait in line. Sold out of a Dunwoody Chevron, they’ve been named Best Burger in Georgia by Food and Wine Magazine and the Atlanta Journal-Constitution as well as one of the Best Burgers in America by Thrillist.

Billy Kramer, founder and owner, NFA Burger // Photo Credit: Lauren Menis

Unlike Abes, Kramer never intended to be in the food industry. Working in sales and traveling frequently, Kramer, who loves hamburgers, started trying them in all the places he visited. His just-for-fun Instagram account – @billysburgers – became popular, with people offering suggestions on the best ones to try in each location.

“I was on Instagram and people started following me,” he says. “They started asking me how to make burgers and I was like ‘I have no clue, zero clue how to cook.’ So I just started watching videos and I would talk to chefs.”

After much research and trial and error, Kramer perfected his own burger. This led to pop-ups around Atlanta and, finally, to hearing about a cafe in a gas station a few miles from his house that needed a tenant.

“The kitchen was already built. I didn’t have any equipment. I showed up Dec. 3, 2019…five days later, we had a line around the building,” Kramer says.

NFA Burger gets customers from all over Atlanta, and further. “We have people come from Villa Rica. We had a family from Canada the other day,” he says. But he gives the credit for his popularity to the place he calls home. “The Dunwoody community is what makes our business successful.”

Kramer is almost always there, at the front of the line, ringing people up and making sure everyone is happy. “I want you to come have fun. I just want you to have a smile on your face,” he says.

Geoff Melkonian, owner, Breadwinner Cafes // Photo Credit: Lauren Menis

Geoff Melkonian

Like Kramer, Melkonian is an accidental restaurateur. A successful musician, he made five albums and toured the world. But on Thanksgiving, 2005, everything changed when Melkonian, his wife, and sister decided to use leftover ingredients to bake pumpkin bread.

His sister took the pumpkin bread to the restaurant where she worked, and they sold out. And they kept selling. They added new bread recipes and gained national attention, leading them to open a cafe to fill all the orders.

Mentions on “The Today Show” and Oprah’s favorite things led, finally, to the first Breadwinner Cafe in Sandy Springs. The eatery was so popular that in 2020, when a space suddenly became available in Dunwoody, friends from the area begged Melkonian to grab it.

“It all happened very quickly,” he says. “I got a bunch of texts from friends in Dunwoody saying, ‘You’ve got to take this space.’ When the broker for the (shopping) center called me and said, ‘My voicemail is full of people wanting me to talk to you about it,’ I said, ‘Okay, let’s talk about it.’”

Fast-casual and based on a European-style bakery, guests pick from fresh-made soups, sandwiches and salads displayed behind the counter. There’s often a line (it moves quickly) and on warm days, the accordion windows on the large, enclosed patio are open to the outside.

With tables full of friends and families and people saying hello to acquaintances, a friendly buzz persists. And if you live nearby, chances are you’ll see someone you know when you stop in for lunch.

Patrons will also frequently see Melkonian behind the counter or walking around the patio, greeting people, and checking on his customers. This, in addition to the delicious food, could be part of the reason Breadwinner’s Dunwoody location just won Best of Perimeter’s “Best Lunch Spot” for 2023.

Despite their accomplishments, what stands out most about Abes, Kramer and Melkonian is that they are really nice guys. The three can often be found encouraging and supporting each other on Dunwoody’s Facebook restaurant page.

But they are adamant that they are just a small part of a larger group of restaurant owners in this city, all of whom have the same goal.

“We’re all invested in making sure that there’s a lot of success and options for the community, from people who really enjoy being in the community,” Kramer says.

Dunwoody is certainly better for it.

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