Chef Ford Fry has made a name for himself across the South, with restaurants in Atlanta, Nashville, and Houston. His latest project puts two new concepts into his former JCT Kitchen & Bar space in Atlanta’s Westside neighborhood, which Fry closed at the end of 2021 after 15 years in business.
“We wanted to make best use of the space we had while delivering two complementary yet individual experiences,” Fry said.
Those experiences are Little Sparrow and Bar Blanc, which sit one on top of the other. The former opened Oct. 2, and the latter is slated to open in November.
Little Sparrow is inspired by Parisian bistros and old Brooklyn neighborhood taverns, with a menu that Fry describes as continental cuisine. The restaurant is named for Edith Piaf, the French singer who had a relationship with boxer Marcel Cerdan, and whose name inspired Fry’s neighboring steakhouse, Marcel.
“Little Sparrow is our version of the classics,” Fry said, adding that it’s “bringing luxury back into dining by way of caviar, butter, truffles and even a dry-aged burger and indulgent thrice-cooked fries.”
Those fries are available three ways: with aioli, with bearnaise sauce, or with raclette cheese service. Diners can also top their fries with shaved white truffles.
Bar Blanc is upstairs from Little Sparrow and plays the role of the energetic lounge, with plush velvet, leather, large speakers, and a mosaic tile floor. The French prix fixe menu is $49.50 per person, and starts with a crusty levain baguette and grass-fed butter before moving on to a green salad with vinaigrette. The star of the show is the steak frites.
“We have custom-made steel pans that sit on a candle-warmed stand on which the steak is sliced and shared, sided by unlimited frites and brown butter bearnaise,” he said.
Like Little Sparrow, fries play an outsized role on the menu at Bar Blanc.
“I’ve always been taught that you can judge a restaurant by their fries,” Fry said. “Those who take the time and effort to make them the best you can ensures the guest you will treat all other dishes in that same way.”
At Little Sparrow and Bar Blanc, potatoes are peeled, cut, rinsed numerous times to wash away starch, and then soaked overnight. On day two, the staff slow steams the fries until they’re just done, and then chills them. At service time, they get fried twice in peanut oil, once to get a little color and then again to get the desired super crisp texture. The fries are then drained and lightly tossed with a little dry-aged beef fat (this can be omitted) and salt.
“The short answer is, we spend a lot of time and effort on them,” Fry said.
Little Sparrow and Bar Blanc are located next to Marcel and about a 10-minute walk from The Optimist, Fry’s coastal-inspired seafood restaurant. He finds synergy in this proximity, both for the staff and the guests.
“Having multiple restaurants truly supports our love for our staff,” he said. “We are nothing without them, so providing multiple outlets and experience-driven restaurants allows them to constantly be learning. It allows us to have the strength of many creatives, which cultivates robust collaborative environments.”
Fry added that guests can walk into one of the restaurants and instantly know it’s part of the same group, while still enjoying a unique concept.
“Our goal is to let our restaurants stand alone as opposed to feel like part of a corporate environment,” he said.