Underground supper clubs, for lack of a better description, have become ubiquitous in Atlanta. Some are short lived. Some live long “surreptitious” lives. And some eventually turn the fruits of their labors into a bricks and mortar dream for the entrepreneurs living on the fringe of the Atlanta dining scene. One of those recent converts is Push-Start Kitchen, a supper club cum restaurant which has reinvented itself as Better Half in a cozy space at the corner of 14th Street and State Street. This one is not to be missed.
Better Half, the brainchild of Zach and Cristina Meloy, operated for several years as Push-Start Kitchen out of their beautiful loft located at the Goat Farm and fed approximately 18 guests several times a week with an innovative menu. Over the period that Push-Start operated the Meloy’s built a growing number of fans while never taking their eye off the prize – a restaurant of their own design. Zach and Cristina decided to raise funds through a grass roots campaign on KickStarter and had a goal of $50,000. In the end they were able to raise nearly 40% more for a total of $71,950. As of early December, with the financial help from KickStarter and a lot of sweat equity Better Half became a highly anticipated reality for the couple.
Since its official opening I have dined at Better Half three times and I can say that each time has been more enjoyable than the previous. Although at the time of writing, Better Half does not have a liquor license, the current bring your own policy really fits the vibe perfectly.
The restaurant itself is warm, inviting and intimate. The restaurant seats approximately 45 people which include approximately 10 seats along the “chefs” bar. There is an interesting “space aged” mural on the back wall painted by Zach Meloy himself as well as various touches of Costa Rica scattered throughout (Cristina’s home country).
To me it seems that Zach (with the assistance of Jonathan Miller) seems to have not missed a beat from serving 18 on a fixed menu several nights a week to sometimes to two turns in a 40+ seat restaurant. His food remains as inventive as ever and the dishes I have been able to sample have all be executed and plated skillfully.
For me my first bite at Better Half was from the beautiful beet salad which consisted of raw and roasted beets, candied fennel, charred shallots and green goddess dressing. It was a perfect mix of color, texture and taste. My favorite Cuban dish is Lechon Asado and Zach’s interpretation of it is superb. His reinvented dish consisted of pork shoulder confit, salsa pipian, sweet potato and green chile relish but brought me back to the best Cuban version of this dish I have ever had. Outside of these dishes, others that truly impressed were the silk handkerchief pasta with mushroom confit, Better Half’s rotation of soft egg appetizer dishes and, off the most recent menu, the pork loin.
Finally, I would be remiss to not mention dessert. Although Zach and Jonathan do not have a pastry chef, they do manage to craft some wonderfully homey and interesting desserts. I have sampled several over my three visits but the standout for me was the white chocolate bread pudding with sweet curry ice cream and crushed pear. The flavors and textures were an orgiastic feast for the senses. The sweet curry ice cream is nothing short of a home run.
Although it took several years and thousands of home cooked meals Better Half became a reality and Atlanta is the better for it. If Zach keeps cooking at the level he is cooking now, this restaurant will be around for many years to come and, being right in my backyard, that is all I can ask.
349 14th Street
Atlanta, Ga 30309