TWO. urban licks
A 14-foot-high open fire rotisserie, a 19th-Century forge converted for wood-fire grilling, a European-style equipment configuration and a 22-foot-tall glass wine tower come together in a restaurant for the first time to create something that neither Atlanta nor the rest of the country have seen before.
In TWO’s dining room, the rotisserie is situated in the middle of the room, and is surrounded by four seating areas.
Twenty-two counter seats are in demand among customers who want to be part of the menu preparation show. At left is the rotisserie. In the front of the counter is the sauté station.
A 19th-Century forge, discovered by Amick on a south Georgia farm (above and below), is positioned across from the rotisserie and at one end of the European-style cooking section.
The custom-built, 14-foot-high open fire rotisserie tower (below) cooks meats and poultry. It had to be rebuilt to meet Atlanta’s safety codes.
Unique is not an exaggerated description of this newcomer to Atlanta’s restaurant scene. Opened Oct. 25, 2004, TWO. urban licks is the imaginative creation of 30-year veteran restaurateur Bob Amick and his partners, Todd Rushing, a restaurateur, and Scott Serpas, TWO’s executive chef. Within its first year, TWO is expected to register $8 million in sales with a check average of $35.
Built in a 130,000-square-foot industrial warehouse, TWO is situated in the currently turned-urban-trendy, revitalized Atlanta section known as midtown. Its menu features “fiery American cuisine,” as described on the restaurant’s web site www.twourbanlicks.com, consisting of wood-fired meats, fish, barbecue and a touch of Creole inspired by Serpas’ New Orleans’ upbringing and training. According to the owners, the food is so tasty that guests will put down their forks and lick their fingers, which brought about the name: TWO. urban licks. Though the food is a featured attraction, watching the method of menu preparation on the E&S installed is every bit as much of a memorable experience.
When arriving at TWO, customers drive up ramps to a covered entrance. They enter into the first of three spaces comprising the 9,000-square-foot restaurant, an indoor-outdoor courtyard/private party room with a retractable roof and New Orleans-style, wall-sized mural. Guests then pass through giant steel archways into a full-service bar, which is adjacent to a stage where live blues is performed four nights a week. Within seconds, eyes focus on a 22-foot-high wine tower that holds 42 stainless-steel barrels of wine. Finally, they enter the main dining room. Positioned under a 23-foot-high ceiling, this space offers expansive views of the sprawling Georgia metropolis. A 26-foot-long, 18-foot-high mural, “The Courage of Margaret Mead,” painted by Todd Murphy, is placed along one wall.
In the middle of the space, surrounded by four seating sections, is a 750-square-foot kitchen. “We decided to float the dramatic kitchen in the center of the dining space because we like the energy that is generated from an open kitchen,” Amick explains, “but also because the dining room would have felt like a gymnasium had the kitchen been put up against a wall.” In fact, Amick was so insistent on “not wanting a walled fortress in the middle of the dining room,” this kitchen is not against a wall and no walls or dies separate pieces of equipment. Work counters do not touch, aisles between pieces of equipment are distinctive, and stainless steel is prominent.
Unquestionably the hottest attraction in the kitchen is the 14-foot-high open fire rotisserie tower, which cooks meats and poultry. “This custom-built tower also has a wood-burning, 1,000°F. oven at the base on which we roast whole fish, chicken and do finishing work for various dishes, such as the tower-roasted duck,” Amick says. “I had never seen a rotisserie that is visible from all directions. Everyone said it couldn’t be done and that we’d never get enough heat. But, we found an oven designer in New York who had built rotisseries for well-known chef-owners. He constructed ours in New York, brought it down in pieces and assembled it at the restaurant.”
As Amick knows all too well, first-time experiments aren’t fail-safe. During the inspection process, which took place soon after installation, Amick was told the equipment had to be rebuilt to meet inspection codes. The restaurant’s engineer teamed with a blacksmith, whose shop is adjacent to the restaurant, to bring the rotisserie up to code. “The city of Atlanta had never seen a hood 14 feet off the ground — most are six feet, eight inches or less,” Amick explains. “This equip-ment puts out tremendous heat. So, we wrapped the rotisserie in glass and, through giant air ducts, brought in make-up air from the roof down to the floor and back up again.”
Today, the rotisserie still requires frequent adjustments. “We have a one-of-a-kind, spectacular piece of equipment,” Amick says. “Because it is unique, hitting some kinks along the way was inevitable.”
Opposite the rotisserie is Amick’s discovery — a blacksmith’s hearth. Built in England during the 1800s, it transforms metals into wrought iron. “I found the rolled-steel forge rusting on an old farm in south Georgia,” Amick recalls. “We cut off the water tank that was used to keep the bellows from melting, rebuilt the firebrick, reinsulated the forge and fit it with a grill top.” Among the menu items prepared in the open-pit, wood-fired grill (hickory wood is used most frequently) are filets of beef served with blue cheese potato gratin and wild mushrooms, bacon-wrapped monk fish, ribs and slow-cooked pork shoulder.
The grill and other pieces of equipment for hot prep are arranged in a European-style configuration. “Linear kitchens work well against walls, but wouldn’t work in this space,” notes Bill Watson, kitchen designer and contract sales manager for Atlanta Fixture & Sales Co., who provided the equipment layouts. “Bob wanted a modular arrangement, so if he changes the menu, equipment can be substituted. The mobility is also useful to clean the equipment. The equipment isn’t up against walls nor is it backed with bar dies. The back of the equipment is completely exposed. He and his staff must keep the kitchen spotless — and they do.”
Food production moves along the cooklines toward an exposition table where chefs sauce and check dishes before sending them out to customers.
Standing with one’s back to the rotisserie, on the left side of the center island, adjacent to the grill, is a pan rack with an insulated bin and a bank of fryers for making homemade chips, spicy frog legs served with cucumber sticks and bleu cheese, and sweet-and-spicy shaved crispy calamari with basil and cilantro.
The opposite side features warming cabinets, a spreader table, a griddle that is used to make caraway cumin seared tuna, bronzed scallops with smoked gouda grits, barbecue salmon and New Orleans-style barbecue shrimp. An adjacent range makes risotto, vegetables and is used to finish filets of fish. The range’s convection oven base heats menu items such as macaroni and cheese. The primary function of the convection oven beneath the flat-top griddle and the cheese melter above the range is to warm plates. At the very end of the station are drop-in cold and hot wells used to hold different sauces and dressings.
A few steps and behind the sauté station is a chef’s table where some prep is done, as well as dishes that are sauced and finished by the chefs. “Saucing is not done by different cooks on the line,” says Amick. “Rather, saucing is the last thing done before dishes are taken to customers. We don’t use heat lamps in our restaurant because I believe dishes are dried out and overcooked under the lamps.”
As a result, staff must immediately take completed dishes to customers, a nightly task assigned to four designated runners. In addition, 27 servers can deliver hot food quickly when needed. “Our servers are assigned three tables only,” Amick says. “This is the only way you can handle volume and great service.”
On the opposite side is a cold prep station. One end is used to make salad creations such as a bing cherry feta rocket salad and a fried green tomato crab stack with avocado. At the other end, desserts are assembled. A dipper well is positioned alongside the refrigerated counters. Featured sweets include Rocky Road gelato with six baby cupcakes, carrot cake with a candied apple, and bread pudding. All cold items come first to a designated cold expo station before delivery to customers.
Located at the far end of the dining room, a 600-square-foot garde manger kitchen supports the main kitchen. This area is equipped with walk-in coolers, a pot sink, prep sinks, a six-burner range, a double convection oven, a slicer, food processor, ingredient bins, a 30-quart mixer, a 60-gallon kettle and a tilting skillet. Stocks, roux and baked items are prepared in this back-of-the-house kitchen.
Much closer to the main kitchen is the dishwashing area. “We didn’t want the staff to walk too far to deliver dirty dishes to this section,” Amick says.
Watson, who has worked with Amick on several projects, describes providing the kitchen layout as “an unusual challenge.” None of Watson’s customers had asked him to arrange equipment in a freestanding position without walls or bar dies. He had to work with hood manufacturers to design three hoods; Atlanta code specifies that a separate hood is needed for a solid-fuel grill so, in case of a fire, it won’t carry over to another hood. One hood, then, is for the wood grill, another for the sauté station and yet another for the back-of-the-house kitchen. The job was “fast track,” so a lot of activity was taking place simultaneously.
In addition, Watson had to provide dual refrigeration systems for the tower that holds the stainless-steel barrels of wine. The tower, which can hold six barrels across, features a gravity-flowed system for pouring and a scissor lift that rises to the top allowing for maintenance and replacing of the barrels. Measuring 22 feet tall, 12 feet wide and six feet deep, the tower is divided in half — one side holds white wine, the other, red. “The white side must maintain 48° and the red side, 65°,” Watson explains. “The problem is, the tower is glass and tall, so to keep the temperature consistent, we had to figure out what size of compressor, coil and fans would keep the air moving consistently through the unit. Because of the humidity in Georgia, when the doors are opened the coil ices up and the whole system can go down. We installed defrost timers on each side, which activate at 2 a.m. and noon.”
As word continues to spread about the one-of-a-kind, edgy TWO, the customer profile is expanding to include not just local residents, but also residents of greater Atlanta and tourists from all over the world. Many are seeing E&S as they’ve never before seen it — fully exposed from front to back with wires and all. So far, the exhibition showcase is a success.
>> View the floor plan of TWO. urban licks
Opened Oct. 25, 2004, TWO. urban licks is the most recent venture for renowned Atlanta restaurateurs Bob Amick and Todd Rushing, who opened ONE. Midtown Kitchen three years ago, and their partner, TWO’s Executive Chef Scott Serpas. Located in a warehouse in trendy midtown Atlanta, the 9,000-square-foot restaurant, bar and nightclub offers “fiery American cooking,” which includes wood-roasted meats and fish prepared on a 14-foot-high wood-pit rotisserie tower in the middle of the dining area. Also in the dining room is a 19th-Century forge and a European-style cooking battery. Located near the bar is a 22-foot-high glass and steel temperature-controlled tower that holds 42 stainless-steel wine barrels . A small, distant prep kitchen is used for garde manger, baking and stocks. Dinner only is served in the dining room or in/outdoor courtyard seven days a week. Hours are 5:30 p.m. to midnight Monday through Thursday, to 1 a.m. on Friday and Saturday, and 10 p.m. on Sunday. Projected annual sales: $8 million; average check, $35. Seating for 260 in the main dining room, 75 in the courtyard, 40 in the bar, and 22 at the counter. Staffing totals 80; 50/shift. The cost of the equipment package was $250,000.
Owners: Bob Amick, Todd Rushing and Scott Serpas, TWO’s executive chef
Executive Sous Chef: Carmen Cappello
Sous Chef: Kevin Gillespie
Pastry Chef: Jennifer Etchison
Architect: The Johnson Studio, Atlanta
Interior Design & Floral Arrangements: Rowina Monteiro
General Contractor: Ernie Geyer, Geyer Construction, Atlanta
Equipment Dealer and Design Layout: Bill Watson, kitchen designer and contract sales manager, Atlanta Fixture & Sales Co., Atlanta