y t h g i M A
x i M I
Poncey-Highlands’ 8 Arm brings hearty grain bowls, flaky biscuits and more to the ATL.
’m going to start this review off in a particularly controversial manner. I know that anyone who only reads the first half of it is going to be mad. They’re going to say that this review is unfair, that I’m not comparing apples to apples—or even if I am, that it doesn’t matter, that I shouldn’t compare. But hear me out. On a recent trip to visit my in-laws in Los Angeles, I ate at Sqirl, an award-winning, health-focused breakfast and lunch hotspot with a cult-like following and a never-ending line out the door. We ordered just about everything on the menu, and it was one of the best meals I’ve ever had. So when I got a press release announcing the opening of Atlanta restaurant 8 Arm (from chefs Angus Brown and Nhan Le, the duo behind 8 Arm, East Atlanta’s Octopus Bar and the critically acclaimed former Lusca), I was excited. The release promised a “casually hip
daytime cafe serving a smart and focused menu of [simple, clean dishes], mostly vegetables.” It sounded not only like the healthy menu I loved at Sqirl, but also exactly the kind of restaurant Atlanta so desperately needs: a chefdriven restaurant serving good-for-you food. And when I walked into Poncey-Highland’s/ Old Fourth Ward’s latest gem, 8 Arm, upon returning to Atlanta, I had a good feeling: The hipster space, decorated in minimalist style with white brick, concrete floors, wooden tables and strategically placed plants, immediately reminded me of the intimate space I adored in L.A. And a cursory glance at the menu provided in the press release proved that the similarities didn’t stop there. Both Sqirl and 8 Arm have a healthy lilt to their market-driven menus that reflects what’s currently in season in surprising ways; both rely on scratch-made dishes, like baked-in-house-daily breads and pastries; and both are counter-service spots, housed in nondescript buildings (8 Arm sits below Paris on Ponce with a ramshackle storefront you could surely miss if you didn’t
8 Arm's grain bowl teems with meaty lentils and is topped with a soft-cooked egg.
| STORY: Kate Parham Kordsmeier | | PHOTOS: Erik Meadows | know what you were looking for). Unfortunately, the reality at 8 Arm wasn’t quite what had been promised. Though I can appreciate 8 Arm’s small and expertly curated menu, most days I found it to be limiting, as it doesn’t often cater to dietary restrictions, like vegan or gluten-free, the way you’d expect a healthful restaurant to do. Yes, 8 Arm offers yogurt and granola and house-made quiches for breakfast; grain bowls and creative proteins such as roasted quail and lamb neck at lunch; and produce-laden pastas and entrees at dinner. But the cornerstones of the menu include buttermilk biscuits (often stuffed with bacon, pimento cheese or fried chicken) and other carb-heavy plates, such as the smoked pork loin sandwich and an Egg McMuff, which doesn’t help the gluten-free diners any more than the McDonald’s version does. Of course, it must be noted that 8 Arm’s version is made with farm-fresh eggs, heart-healthy avocado and locally made cheddar. But the point is, 8 Arm is simply not an easy place to eat if you’re trying to avoid gluten, dairy or carbs.