Even from 723 feet in the air, Buckhead resident and head chef Jason Starnes is making sure the Sun Dial’s newly redesigned space is met with an equally innovative and locally sourced menu.
The restaurant atop the Westin Peachtree Plaza in downtown Atlanta reopened last week and Starnes, who has been at the helm since May 2012, said patrons have praised the new life given to both the space and cuisine.
“I feel like we’re getting a great response,” Starnes said after the first couple nights of service. “People absolutely love the renovation.”
Starwood Hotels and Resorts, which owns the Sun Dial, has worked closely with Starnes to source a variety of produce and meats from farmers throughout Georgia in addition to the hotel group’s major contracted suppliers.
The Hickory, N.C., native said the focus on farm-to-table sourcing is not only about providing high-quality foods, but teaching his chefs the importance of supporting the local economy. Growing up, Starnes watched his town fall from a major player in the furniture industry to just another dot on the map with no businesses to support local families.
“When you come from such a small town and you’ve seen the economy collapse because people move their business elsewhere, it kind of makes you think twice about what you stand behind,” he said of his food philosophy.
Designed by Carolyn Auger of Black Dog Studios in west Midtown, the modern space is elegant with natural wood features and contemporary glass chandeliers, with little in the way to distract from the iconic 360-degree view of the Atlanta skyline and — most importantly — the food.
Though perennial staples like the crème brûlée and filet mignon remain, new standouts include a watermelon salad with heirloom cherry tomatoes and a goat cheese soufflé with lobster cream sauce inspired by Starnes’ 12-year-old daughter’s “fanatic” love for the rich cheese.
“My food in general is very comfortable,” Starnes said. “It’s also comfortable more in ingredients, but not necessarily inspiration. We’ll take things that you look at on paper and you’re very comfortable with and you get it set in front of you and you’re like, ‘Oh wow.’”
Other popular items include bacon-wrapped shrimp on Middle Eastern-style tabouli.
“We make everything in house, we make everything from scratch — stocks, soups, salsa,” he said. “We even make our own bacon.”
Guests looking for the full-meal experience will see a new focus on presentation, with some meat dishes carved tableside. Those on the upper-level bar can try out a variety of new cocktails as well as the restaurant’s new interactive touch-screen boards that allow patrons to take a digital tour of Atlanta, check out the menu or make reservations.