A few years ago I met Ryan & Jen Hidinger at their house in Atlanta with a camera in my hand. This time around I had the opportunity to interview them as well. I’ve always admired what they’ve done with their supper club, Staplehouse, and recently I had the chance to catch up with them and hear all about the unique system they’ve created.
Ryan: The concept started with a car accident. I was close to bed ridden for eight weeks and broke every rib on the left side of my body, had a concussion and a broken clavicle. It was bad. It gave me a lot of time to think about my career and what direction I was headed. We knew we wanted to open a restaurant and I realized that there was a lot more learning for me to do. It was just time to get the wheels in motion.
Jen: We sent out our first email to around 160 people – Our friends and family. Now it’s grown to a couple thousand people. It took a couple days to sell out the first dinner for 8, and everyone was incredibly intrigued.
Jen: Ryan will usually base dinners on what’s available from the farmer’s markets and farmer proveur’s. He concepts a menu early in the week, makes it official Wednesday night and then we post it Thursday morning and serve on Sunday. There’s always going to be tweaks because something might not be available or lamb might not be big enough to be butchered. It adds excitement to it!
Me: You’ve hosted some bigger get togethers than just your 10 seat dinners, tell me about that.
Jen: Every year we’ve done something big. The first year we did a 200 person taco party. Two whole roasted pigs, fire pit pazole, three live bands, movie screening. And the second year we did a 40 person family-style beer dinner with Mike Gallagher of Brick Store Pub.
Me: You’ve made a lot of friends in the Atlanta community…
Jen: For people to know our project and to be really supportive of it is the most special part for us. We want to build on that more, relationships from restaurant to restaurant, because we think the city can really thrive on those friendships.
Ryan: It’s a super competitive industry and a lot of people treat it that way and can be kind of evil towards each other. One of the things we want to do at Staplehouse is build that sense of community with the chefs in the city, I think It would be awesome once or twice a year, to get Atlanta’s core chefs together, have some drinks, eat some food and talk about life in general and build that community atmosphere.
Jen: The soups started with a love of football.
Ryan: That’s true. Living in Atlanta and being a Colts fan, unless you have NFL Sunday ticket, you have to go somewhere to watch the game. We want to keep the Staplehouse presence around during the week and having Sunday off affords us the opportunity to make soup, pickles, jams, hot sauces and more.
Jen: We anticipate when the restaurant opens a small portion of our menu will encompass the small batch option. So you could either buy it or take it home. It’s something that we knew we wanted to incorporate. We knew that being able to offer an in-home delivery service of some regard would be a unique approach for someone who does supper club dinners.
Jen: Things can change very quickly. We started the whole “let’s actually open up a restaurant” portion right when the economy fell to the floor. So it was extremely difficult for us to get funding. Just in the last several months we finally found a bank that’s willing to participate and help out and our investors are lined up. There’s still a very small portion that we’re lacking. It’s happening, just a matter of solidifying the last little bit. We’re going to be doing Kickstarter. We’ll probably launch that campaign within the next three months. We’ve been looking at a few neighborhoods but we’ll likely be in the Inman Park area.
Ryan: The menu will change daily. It will be evolving all the time. My style is a compilation of my experiences. American – or whatever you want to call it – my cooking has influences from all over. I’ve done fine dining and casual fine dining and I ran a sushi bar at one point. I’m interested in all kinds of things. I love raw fish and local is very important to me. I would say that the quality of product we use and the way that we put it together is very indicative of the fine dining that I’ve done but at the same time, the simplicity of the food that we do speaks more to our Indianapolis roots. Food done well, simply put together.
Ryan: Change of pace brought us here. We love living here. Originally the goal was to move around and try a city and stay there for two years and then try somewhere else. We didn’t get past the first city. We got settled in, started making great friends and worked for some great restaurants. It became home.
Jen: It’s so much more about the culture and what that means. Because we’re opening up a restaurant that only seats 45 people. It’s tiny. We’re from Indiana and at the core its wholesome, but we live in this cool Southern city so there’s the flair of that, but ultimately it’s all about the personal relationship that you’re building with somebody and they’re gathering around something that we really love to do, serve really good food. So, at its core it’s really about that culture than anything else. We’re tiny and we’re really focused. It is what it is and there’s no pretentiousness surrounding it.
Learn more about Staplehouse on their website, and subscribe to the email list to get all the latest news about their dinners, small batches and more.
Photos by Jason Travis