When Todd Ginsberg graduated from The Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, N.Y., he wanted a career in fine dining.
And he got one. He cooked at the much-lauded Dining Room at the Ritz-Carlton in Atlanta and went on to work for Alain Ducasse in New York and at Lucas Carton in Paris. As chef of Asher restaurant in Roswell, Ga., he picked up a AAA four-diamond award.
But along the way his plan to work in fine-dining changed.
“Now I can’t see myself going back there,” said Ginsberg, chef of the recently opened Bocado, in Atlanta’s West Midtown. “I don’t want to eat that way.”
His focus these days is on “good American food done really, really well,” said Ginsberg, who worked for Bob Amick’s Concentric restaurant group in Atlanta — first as chef of Tap and then at Trois — before opening Bocado last October.
That means a burger made with three types of beef, all hand-ground together: brisket for “that beautiful white fat that brisket often has,” short rib for texture and added “beefiness” and chuck to bring it all together.
Opened: October 2009
Location: 887 Howell Mill Rd., Atlanta
Capacity: 60 in dining room, 30 on patio
Avg. daily covers: 100
Check average: $33-$35
Customer demographics: mostly locals and business people aged 30-55
Labor cost: 18.5 percent, excluding management
Food cost: 27.5-28 percent
Best selling item: Bocado Burger
Slowest selling item: fried bologna sandwich
Menu-maker: executive chef Todd Ginsberg
Owner: Brian Lewis
Ginsberg doesn’t bore his customers with those details, however. On the menu the Bocado Burger, which sells for $8.75 at lunch and $12, with fries, at dinner, is just described as coming with American cheese and house-made pickles.
Similarly his $12 Cubano sandwich is listed as “roasted pork, ham, Swiss cheese, pickles, garlic.” He doesn’t say that he first roasts pork belly then fries it at service before tossing it in a mojo sauce of cumin, garlic and — in an effort to replicate Cuban sour oranges — orange juice spiked with lime. He doesn’t say one slice of bread is spread with aïoli and the other with mustard.
It’s all part of Ginsberg’s philosophy of under-promising on the menu and over-delivering.
Of course, being a modern American restaurant, there are plenty of small plates on the menu — “bocado” is Portuguese for small bite, or mouthful — and plenty of local, seasonal flourishes. So in the spring he made deviled eggs with puréed ramp tops mixed with part of the filling and put at the bottom of the cooked egg white half, and then topped with regular yellow deviled egg filling and garnished with a prosciutto rosette with pickled ramp bottoms inside. He charges $6 per order.
For summer, he’s making an arugula-pistachio pesto with just a bit of garlic and no cheese. That goes on the bottom of a plate that is topped with Georgia peaches. They’re accompanied by duck prosciutto and blueberries lightly pickled in gastrique. That item is $10.
“The day I added that to the menu four people told me it was the best thing they’d ever eaten,” Ginsberg said.
Hearts of romaine, garlic-lemon dressing, croutons, parmesan $7
Bibb lettuce, cranberries, goat cheese, buttermilk dressing $8
Roasted itty bitty plums, citrus mascarpone, country toast, evoo $5
Eggplant calabrese, buffalo burrata, arugula, fried rosemary $11
Avocado & roasted carrot salad, citrus, arugula, cumin vinaigrette $9
Georgia peaches, pistachio & arugula pesto, local blueberries, duck prosciutto $10
Fried Georgia okra, pickled peppers, wild spring onion-ranch dressing $8
Georgia shrimp “scampi” arancine, zucchini, lemon-truffle mascarpone $10
Deviled eggs, prosciutto, pickled ramps $6
Local prosciutto, arugula, aïoli, country bread $6
Chicken liver goodness, house-made apple sauce, bacon-onion toast $6
Lump crab fritters, asparagus salad, herbs,
pistachios, mustard aïoli $13
Bocado burger stack, american cheese,
house-made pickles, fries $12
Blackened tuna “blt” applewood-smoked bacon, arugula, avocado, chipotle mayo $14
Roasted poblano & pimento cheese sandwich, bacon, fried green tomato, tomato bisque $12
Chesapeake flounder, snap beans, cherry tomatoes, almonds, green cerignola olives $19
Organic chicken piccata, young carrots, swiss chard, fennel, lemon & capers $18
Orecchiette, local vegetables, garlic, rosemary, cherry tomatoes, pecorino $17
Flat-iron steak, turnips, carrots, roasted mushrooms, red pepper & cumin jus $22