SO THERE was this young college dude with no particular interest in cooking, who somehow always ended up in the dorm kitchen making omelets for friends, study partners and buddies who finally made it back after the weekend binge.
Seems like he just had a way with throwing together some tasty goods on the fly when the occasion demanded it. He never thought of himself as a chef.
If you happen to belong to a family that accompanies dad around to his job postings to places like, oh, France, Poland, and Korea, you may pick up a wider and more refined culinary taste than your average hot dog ‘n’ tater tot lovin’ American kid.
So this kid possessed better instincts than he gave himself credit for. Eventually those omelets and soups and inventive ways with burgers gave way to the realization that, hey, maybe he had something special going on!
From such vague meanderings the path led eventually to Johnson & Wales University in Rhode Island, rigorous classical training in the culinary arts and the hard-won title of Chef.
Chef John Roelle, owner of the newly blossomed Liberty Street Grill, may have taken a winding path to find himself the purveyor of fine French cookery, but his distinctive talents made Brasserie 529 at the same address a well-loved haven for Savannah folk.
John’s a fluid sorta guy, though, and when tastes change, he goes with the flow. Springtime had played itself out and he was itching to try something new, so Brasserie 529 closed its doors this June and a bewitching brew began to bubble and take shape.
Why not blend fine French cuisine with popular Americana, make sure each menu item is impeccably fresh and hand-crafted, and present it all in a place that lends itself as easily to well-bred ladies lingering over martinis and small bites as it does to an evening jaunt of best-buds looking for a great burger and brewski? Sounds like a plan.
Burnished woods, cream-colored walls and funky art make for a relaxing atmosphere at Liberty Street Grill, and the full bar of fine wines, craft beers and specialty cocktails gives diners the chance to mingle in style. Soft spotlights linger on imaginative abstracts of Boba Fett and Darth Vader, and a detailed model of an Imperial Walker greets you upon entering the dining room.
Mr. Roelle Sr. donated an eccentric portrait of his dog, dressed in a red satin gown, a bottle atop her head; framed in rococo gold the painting never fails to elicit curious comments.
John’s wife Amber, who he met at culinary school, lends a gracious and exacting hand to running the business, assuring that all diners have what they need and the clockwork runs smoothly.
Manager Ross oversees the dining room and bar with ease, and between Executive Chef Lorenzo Cooper and Sous-Chef Goodman the kitchen purrs like a well-oiled Walker striding across the snows of Hoth.
The menu here covers a wide selection of tastes, and even the small bites can make a complete meal, especially the Farmers Board, a charcuterie of finely shaved meats & cheeses (familiar to devotees of the former Brasserie) or the exquisite Duck Confit nestled beside a mound of stir-fried cabbage.
This dish is tops on my Favorites list: the tender, perfectly spiced, roasted duck and the richly flavored cabbage sautéed with chunks of bacon are no less than amazing!
The bacon, salami and pancetta are house-smoked and carefully cured, which gives the flavor of dishes here a multi-level zest.
The soup de jour on my last visit was a beautiful, peach-colored Lobster Bisque and was perfectly paired with the two, thick Baked Potato Cakes and their soupçon of lobster, caviar and sour cream.
A hearty treat is the already famous Chicken n’ Waffle soup; John explained that it is quite different from the prevailing idea of fried chicken fingers and waffle most expect.
The origin of dish was a simple farmer’s meal: bits of roast chicken left over from dinner, cooked with a light, creamy chicken gravy, then poured over the morning waffle, making a satisfying tummy-warmer of a breakfast—add fresh veggies and a curl of fragrant herbs on top and you have John’s version.
For those seeking fine dining at its best, check out the incredible Maple-Grilled Pork chop, with mashed sweet potatoes & baked apples, or the Delmonico steak seared in duck fat, with cream corn and luscious whipped potatoes.
Seared scallops or salmon or the great Fresh Catch BLT will satisfy seafood aficionados, and veggie-lovers have four unique and colorful salads to choose from.
If burgers and wings are whatcher lookin’ for, Liberty Street Grill has a huge and delicious half-pounder created from their house blend of round steak, chuck roll and tri-tip beef, specially ground in Atlanta.
The menu of wings is changeable, but do take a chance on the China Marines. John’s dad, a former Marine who flew the China-Burma-India route during the war, fashioned the marinade of Hoisin, brewed soy sauce and other secret ingredients into a mouth-watering treat.
Fans of John’s former venue will find plenty to please the palate, and newbies seeking interesting takes on well-loved dishes will find the lovely patio or friendly bar becoming their favorite place for lunch or dinner.
Liberty Street Grill
529 East Liberty St
Happy Hour Weekdays 4-7