Atlanta's Best-Kept Secret

Monica Parpal |
Food And Dining

“Our chefs could work together to showcase their abilities … they challenge one another to create dishes that are a refreshing new take on the familiar.”—Thaddeus Keefe

In May of 2013, 1KEPT Kitchen & Bar quietly opened its doors on Peachtree Road, a main thoroughfare in the heart of Atlanta. Tucked quietly on the back side of the building, in the former Toulouse Restaurant Space, 1KEPT is one of Atlanta's best-kept secrets. The cuisine is contemporary American fare with hints of traditional Southern influence. Open from Tuesday to Saturday for dinner and Sunday for brunch, it has been described as a little gem of a place, somewhere that keeps drawing guests back.

Proprietor Thaddeus Keefe created 1KEPT as a restaurant that extends the comforts of home. “We want people to have a space where you don’t feel rushed or crowded. And we want you to feel appreciated from the moment you walk in.”

If anyone is versed in the art of creating and maintaining a memorable dining experience for his guests, it’s Keefe. A long time Atlantan, with many years of restaurant operations under his belt, he credits his mentor, Charlie Niyomkul, owner of Nan Thai Fine Dining and Tamarind, with teaching him what it takes to create a successful restaurant. Charlie used to say: “Only two types of people walk through our door: family and friends.” Keefe created 1KEPT with that in mind.

An accomplished writer and painter, Keefe—along with long-time friend Jason Parker—conceptualized the design and flow of the space. Keefe also involved a collective of local artists in the fulfillment of his dream. These artists contributed their talent throughout the space from the hand-painted mural to the smallest details of the bar. Typewriters from his private collection have been mounted on the walls, some posing as dimly lit wall sconces giving texture to the bar area. The overall design is a balance of industrial influence and rustic warmth. The spacious dining area accommodates 62 diners, with comfy tufted chairs and ample space between tables.

Boasting a view of the open kitchen and adorned with an assortment of house-pickled items, one of the more important tables to Keefe is the charity counter. Seating up to six people, it is available by reservation only Tuesdays through Thursdays. A special six-eight course menu is prepared for the group, donating all of the profits to a charity of the group's choosing. Keefe and his crew take community very seriously.

In the kitchen, Keefe assembled a group of young chefs seasoned in the Atlanta market. This handpicked group of creative talent came together to collaborate on the menu. “It was important to us to create a cohesive environment where our chefs could work together to showcase their abilities,” Keefe explains. “They challenge one another to create dishes that are a refreshing new take on the familiar.”

This creative approach is evident by browsing the 1KEPT menu. “Each member of our team contributes a personal touch to 1KEPT’s vision,” Keefe says. A playful and whimsical dish that came from this collaboration is the Deviled Quail Eggs, one of 1KEPT’s more popular items featuring arugula dressed with hint of citrus and topped with a homemade bacon jam. “They’ve proven to be wonderfully popular. People not only love the look, but the taste is outstanding.”

Another popular item is the Warm Kale Salad, which combines garlic simmered in chile-oil, fluffy quinoa, spicy chorizo, and healthy mound of kale. It's all finished off in 1KEPT’s wood-burning oven from Modena, Italy. “We exclusively burn red and white oak in our ovens, which lends a mild and pleasant smokiness to several of our dishes,” says Keefe.

Alongside the salad, guests often enjoy one of the many varied flatbreads that are made in-house. Topped with anything from watermelon and feta to duck prosciutto, these sharable starters are a pleasant deviation from what you would expect in a wood fired pizza oven. “We carefully make all of our dough in house,” says Keefe, “and we're happy to engage another local Atlanta business, Spotted Trotter, who exclusively prepares not only cured meats, such as duck prosciutto or pork lomo (a sweet, smoky pork) but also the thick cut, wildly popular bacon—a must-have for brunch.”

The pinnacle of the dining experience in this cozy space is most certainly the entreé selection. From a fresh take on a classic Veal Meatloaf resting on a smoked potato purée and haricot verts; to the Grilled Chicken Thighs brined in orange and rosemary served with broccolini and roasted potatoes; to the perfectly sautéed Scallops with corn risotto, the menu has a broad enough range to satisfy everyone at the table.

As a nod to Southern cuisine, the menu features such popular items as Red Fish and local grits, while brunch boasts Bacon Beignets with Maple Whiskey glaze and powdered sugar. Keefe, who has traveled widely, will often surprise with international comforts such as Pink Gnocchi Schnitzel, or brunch items such as Irish Bangers and Mash. 

Saving room for dessert is well worth your time, with wonderful variations of household favorites are handmade in-house. From the Pumpkin Cheesecake topped with Almond Brittle and Honey Jack Daniels whipped cream to the Molasses Crème Brulée, the taste of fall has arrived.

An obvious complement to any good meal is a beautiful drink, and Keefe doesn’t disappoint in this arena, either. With a well-crafted, ever changing list of specialty cocktails, there’s always a fun chance to step outside the box and try something new.

A motto Keefe has carried from day one is “Go where you’re celebrated, not just tolerated.” The wonderful collection of collaborative chefs and personable servers at 1KEPT create a friendly, home-like environment, so welcoming that if you haven’t yet made plans to return, you’re sure to now.