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FE&SEditorial Archives2005April — Facility Design Project of the Month

TWO. urban licks, Atlanta
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.

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,” 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.

Kitchen photos by Joe Hans

Front of house photos courtesy of TWO. urban licks

When arriving at TWO, customers drive up ramps to a covered entrance. They next enter into the first of three spaces comprising the 9,000-square-foot restaurant, an indoor-outdoor courtyard/private party room (left) 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 23-foot-high ceilings, 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 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° 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.”

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.”

TWO’s culinary team (from left) — Executive Sous Chef Carmen Cappello, Executive Chef Scott Serpas and Sous Chef Kevin Gillespie — are responsible for creating the “fiery American cooking” menu.

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.

The open kitchen, situated in the middle of the room, includes Amick’s discovery on an old farm in south Georgia — a blacksmith’s hearth (pictured under the left side of the hood). Built in England during the 1800s, it transforms metals into wrought iron. “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,” Amick recalls. Among the menu items prepared in the open-pit wood-fire 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 are sauced and finished by the chefs. “Saucing is not done by different cooks on the line,” said 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 over-cooked 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.

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