A BITE OF THE ROAD
ANIS S’IL VOUS PLAIT
Anis Cafe & Bistro was born more out a sense of pining than a desire to wander. While a student at Georgia Tech and later at Georgia State, Arnaud Michel along with a fellow Frenchman longed for a little taste of home. “We always wanted to go to a French cafe, but couldn’t find any,” explains Michel of the disappointing state of affairs that was the Atlanta restaurant scene in the early 90s.
To fill the void, the pair opened a quaint restaurant that was open all day serving coffee, dessert, sandwiches, salads and simple fare that mimicked their food memories of the south of France. “My partner was the chef and I was running the front. We only had the inside when we first opened, just 15 tables. In the spring we were so busy we were blown away! We weren’t ready for it. We used to buy wine from Publix and give it away for free,” he recalls. They fashioned a little patio, then covered it, then added more outdoor seating while at the same time packing on the charm. “I made everything with my own hands — the painting on the floors and doors, the little windows, a lot of the paintings on walls,” he recalls. “We started with very little, and a very small budget. It was a lot of fun, but a lot of work.”
And while Anis has evolved over the years both in size and importance, it still maintains that certain je ne sais quoi that sealed the deal from the beginning. Most days, the intimate bar seems more like a French-dubbed episode of Cheers.
Original customers keep coming back, some even bringing third and fourth generations with them to share memory-filled bites of duck confit, the famous mussels, or crepes at brunch. There’s not even much turnover in the staff. “People feel very comfortable here. We become part of their family, and that makes it all worth it.”
Michel is now the sole proprietor, but he’s always been the face of Anis. “You don’t know how many people think that my name is Anis! I feel bad telling them that it’s not, so I just let them keep calling me that,” he laughs. In an attempt to transport himself to the south of France, restaurateur Arnaud Michel has been helping his guests do the same for nearly 26 years. Merci!
ANIS CAFÉ & BISTRO
2974 Grandview Avenue
Excerpt is from an article featured in the SPRING issue of Flavors Magazine, subscribe today and don't miss a single issue!