By Hyde Walker
If a French inspired Southern menu sounds like a scrumptious idea, then you would feel right at home sitting down to dinner at The Luminary, which is exactly what founder and manager Jeremy Iles, along with co-owner and executive chef Eli Kirshtein, wholly intend for you.
Located in the Krog Street Market, it truly is like a home away from home, but with a superior kitchen, friendly staff, and exquisite food. Since its opening in August 2014, The Luminary has served as a specialized eatery amidst all the Asian, Tex-Mex, Mediterranean, and Italian restaurants in Atlanta. Despite being more so fine dining than casual fare, everyone is welcomed through its doors and thoroughly accommodated – it’s not unusual for the kitchen to quickly whip up some chicken nuggets for kids not yet ready to appreciate Pork Belly Poutine and Little Bitches Oysters.
Iles goes more in-depth about what makes The Luminary tick and why you have to try the Parisienne Gnocchi!
Goliath Atlanta: Could you share with us what’s unique about the food at The Luminary?
Jeremy Iles: We make classic dishes more approachable and familiar to our local palate. We take items like a Swordfish Amandine, which is usually done with almonds, and use Pearson pecans instead. They’re the same people who sell the fantastic peaches that you see everywhere.
GA: How did the idea for the cuisine come about?
Jeremy: We identified a need for French inspired cuisine, which was lacking in the landscape of restaurants in the city. So, we were looking to provide a dining experience that wasn’t readily available. We wanted to open a restaurant that would service the neighborhood and be all about Inman Park and its community.
GA: What kind of crowd do you appeal to the most?
Jeremy: Our typical diners are folks from the neighborhood and share our zip code. Something that we also see a lot is people who don’t have a plan of where to eat. They’ll come down to the market and take a look around, see what’s available, and sometimes join us for dinner.
GA: A lot of business owners say that they technically don’t get days off and never really stop working. Do you feel like that’s the case for you too?
Jeremy: It is a very labor-intensive job. As the manager I have a lot of different hats that I theoretically wear. It can be difficult to separate yourself from it. We are fortunate that we’re closed on Mondays, so it gives everyone a day off, which is nice. But it doesn’t mean that you don’t get emails or calls or things of that nature. I do my best not to come in on Mondays just to keep the sanity level!
GA: Is this your first restaurant?
Jeremy: It’s not the first I’ve worked in. I’ve been in the industry for 22 years now, but it’s the first for both myself and Chef Eli to own.
GA: Has it turned out the way that you envisioned?
Jeremy: For the most part, yes. But restaurants change. The identity that you think it’s going to be before you open is going to evolve and adapt as time goes by. It’s never going to be exactly what you thought it would be on day one – which is a good thing, it’s natural. You have to conform to the whims and desires of your customers. With that being said, we are certainly within our concept of wanting to serve the community and give them a restaurant experience that we thought they would enjoy.
GA: That’s wonderful! Considering where you’re located, do you have a large gay clientele?
Jeremy: Yes, we seem to. But I’m not entirely sure what sort of percentage. It’s not something that we track either, there’s no poll [laughs]. We’re not going around to the tables and asking “What is your orientation?” I don’t think that would be a good thing to do!
GA: Agreed! Is The Luminary involved in any aspect of the gay community?
Jeremy: We’re not, but it’s not for lack of wanting to. We just haven’t been invited anywhere! We’re always happy to be involved in anything and everything within the community – whether it be charity driven or an event. We’re always really excited to get involved.
GA: Hopefully after this issue comes out you will get a couple of invites.
Jeremy: I hope so! That would be awesome!
GA: How did you and Eli meet?
Jeremy: The Chef and I have been close friends and coworkers for a considerable amount of time now. We originally met about 12 years ago working within the restaurant industry. We became close friends and have worked together several times.
GA: How would you say The Luminary stands out amongst the hundreds of other restaurants in Atlanta?
Jeremy: We strive to provide a great guest experience. We talk about hospitality being our most important pennant. Hospitality starts from the front door as a genuine happy-to-see-ya and being gracious. That’s really important to us and it makes us stand out by far. Also, our design is original. It’s clean and modern yet edgy, and speaks to the vintage brassieres of New York and Montreal.
GA: It sounds like tradition and good manners are crucial.
Jeremy: Yes. We want people to feel embraced in their dining experience and to feel at ease.
GA: What are some of your favorite dishes to eat off the menu?
Jeremy: The Steak Frites! It’s hanger steak and really delicious French fries that we hand-cut. Another one is the Parisienne Gnocchi. It’s a little soft dumpling that’s been seared and combined with cheese curds, mushrooms, and a foie gras sauce. Our mussels are excellent and the sauce is almost life changing – a nice crème fraiche with a little mustard and white wine that you can soak up with bread or fries.
GA: What would you recommend for Goliath readers to come in and try?
Jeremy: If you’re looking to be adventurous, the octopus is excellent. It’s perfectly tender and the flavors are amazing. If you want to be a little on the safer side, our Chicken Roulade is heavenly. You never hear anybody recommend the chicken! Why would you do that? It’s just very tasty!
GA: You sound like you’re drooling talking about this.
Jeremy: I know! It’s all passion.
GA: That’s always a good sign. It seems like The Luminary was born out of passion and that’s what keeps it thriving.
Jeremy: Very much so. It’s like creating art in a lot of ways, and to be able to share that art and that passion is really quite a blessing.
The Luminary is located at 99 Krog Street, Suite Y, Atlanta, GA 30307. For more information, visit www.theluminaryatl.com or call 404-600-6199.