When the Shed at Glenwood opened in April of last year, it had aspirations to bring a true neighborhood restaurant to an area that's always struggled to resemble a true neighborhood. Tacked on to the back end of North Ormewood Park, Glenwood Park is a deftly designed and appealing example of a new urban development. But the timing of its completion, right before the housing bubble burst and the economy tanked, has left many of its wide, windowed storefronts empty. The result is kind of eerie, like an adorable ghost town.
Set up in a large corner space, the Shed seemed poised to bring new life to Glenwood Park. Here was a restaurant where you might drop in for a fresh fruit cocktail if you lived nearby, or wander over to for brunch on the weekend. Not a destination restaurant perhaps, but certainly a spot exhibiting higher aspirations than most of what’s available in the Grant Park/Ormewood/East Atlanta area.
But something about the original incarnation of the Shed fell flat. Owner Cindy Shera, an alumnus of the Here To Serve restaurant group, hired chef Daniel Atwood. While Atwood’s cooking focused on seasonality and local produce, it lacked spark — dishes were often one-note and a tad underwhelming for the price tag.
Then in September, Lance Gummere came on as chef. Gummere was fresh from his chef de cuisine position at Shaun’s, which is perhaps our city’s best example of what an upscale neighborhood bistro should embody. As chef, he brings that sensibility to the Shed’s menu, as well as one of Shaun’s best known and loved dishes, slightly tweaked. What appears as “chopped liver, East Village style” on Shaun’s menu pops up here as chicken liver bacon bruschetta. And while the bacon chunks in Gummere’s version distinguish the two, the plating, flavor profile, and enjoyment factor are practically identical.
Much of Gummere’s menu reads like a kind of International House of Bistro Classics. Depending on your mood you could hit Britain with a no-nonsense preparation of fish and chips; France with a creamy, truffley version of moules frite; or Germany with a tender, juicy and comforting pork schnitzel topped with melting leeks. The premium pork and addition of mustard to the schnitzel’s accompanying mashed potatoes give the dish its unexpected and thoughtful pedigree.
Gummere also shows his chops with produce-driven American cooking. Watermelon salad pairs balls of red and yellow watermelon with the tang of high-quality feta. Georgia trout is served with summer squash and basil pesto — a study in summer simplicity.
Perhaps the most interesting dish on the menu is also the one Gummere claims to be most proud of — pan fried chicken hearts with "egg in a basket." If chicken hearts are offal you’ve not encountered before, the Shed is a great place to dive in. A chicken heart's flavor is somewhere between liver and kidney. Gummere cooks them perfectly and serves them with a runny egg and a huge slice of brioche, its middle removed in the classic egg-in-a-poke style. The presentation is cute, and the dish delicious, but I was sad the egg hadn’t been cooked in a pan with the bread as you would for a real egg in a hole. My favorite thing about this many-named breakfast treat is the fried bread and egg-tinged crispness. But the boldness of serving a plate full of chicken hearts with such whimsy shows what Gummere has brought to the restaurant — the edge the Shed was missing when it opened.
The restaurant has also become more budget-friendly, most notably with its Wednesday night $3 sliders special. There’s a lot of competition for the city’s best recession restaurant deal, and this is certainly in the running. Three dollars is an astoundingly low price to pay for the melting pork belly BLT version, or the portabella with creamy goat cheese and caramelized onions, or any of the selections really. But cheap little sandwiches one night of the week isn't the only place the Shed excels in the value department. The wine list has a number of great selections in the $20-$25 range; entrees start at $12; and the restaurant offers a three-course $24 prix fix menu daily.
Part of the equation was probably just settling into the space and getting a feel for the clientele, but the real difference between the Shed today and the Shed when it opened is the food. Gummere has brought the right sensibility to the table, and turned the Shed into what it was always meant to be — a neighborhood restaurant that’s worthy of destination status.