Love at First Bite: Atlanta Restaurants run by Couples

Married couples who work together are a rare breed. Meet some couples who own and run restaurants together.
  • Justin won over Laura with his magnificent mussels, still served at their Midtown restaurant.
    Justin won over Laura with his magnificent mussels, still served at their Midtown restaurant.
  • Say hello to Elaine and Matt, owners of Xocoatl Chocolate, and their kids.
    Say hello to Elaine and Matt, owners of Xocoatl Chocolate, and their kids.
  • Here's the mushroom pasta dish, the first meal Better Half's Zach Meloy prepared for his wife.
    Here's the mushroom pasta dish, the first meal Better Half's Zach Meloy prepared for his wife.
  • Cindy and Todd of The Shed at Glenwood and The Pig & The Pearl slip away for short vacations.
    Cindy and Todd of The Shed at Glenwood and The Pig & The Pearl slip away for short vacations.

Meet several Atlanta couples who own and run restaurants. Find out below how they make it work.

Zach and Cristina Meloy – Owners of Better Half in Midtown

  1. How did you meet? Here's the short version: Zach had moved to Costa Rica for a while. We had common friends in the town we were both living in. If we were to tell you the whole story, we'd have to get in to character. Regulars at the restaurant know the full story.

  2. What is the first meal your spouse (the chef) cooked for you? Zach cooked me silk handkerchief pasta with mushrooms and tomato marmalade. The dish is still on the menu at Better Half. It's the only dish that never changes.

  3. If you didn't run a restaurant, what other business would you see yourselves doing? Zach: I'd have a go at being a full-time ceramicist. I have started making many of the dishes we use at Better Half. Cris: I've always loved interior design.

  4. Where do you like to dine in Atlanta when you have the chance? Something that rarely happens for us is a night out. When we manage to sneak away for a date night, a few of our favorites are: BoccaLupo, The Bookhouse, TukTuk Thai, Tasty China, Leon's, Iberian Pig. My all-time favorite restaurant in town is a small Colombian place in Marietta called La Carreta.

Justin and Laura Caldarella – Owners of Midtown's Eclectic Bar & Bistro Caldarella 

  1. How did you meet? In early 2012, Laura and Justin both worked at the same company, Laura as a project manager and Justin as an IT analyst. They literally crossed paths for more than two years with little more than a “hello" to each other. One day, out of the blue, Justin mustered up the courage to ask Laura out to lunch. 

  2. What is the first meal your spouse (the chef) cooked for you? Justin was trying to impress his new girlfriend with his culinary prowess. Laura’s favorite dish was mussels from a local restaurant. Justin boasted he could make a much better-tasting mussels dish. Laura didn’t know that Justin had never once cooked mussels; he even had to Google how to clean them. He prepared a very large pot of mussels for the two of them, grabbed a bottle of wine and they ate them outside on the patio. That exact dish has been an unchanged shining star on the Eclectic menu since it opened.

  3. How did you decide to run a restaurant together? Roughly a month after dating, Laura informed Justin of her plans to quit her job and open a restaurant. Little did Laura know, Justin had more than 15 years in the restaurant industry and had always dreamed of being a chef. Justin was unhappy with his corporate job, complaining he had no creative outlet. By the end of 2012, the two were happily married and had opened the doors to their restaurant. 

  4. If you didn't run a restaurant, what other business would you see yourselves doing? Justin would like to run car restore and customization shop. Laura would like to get into real estate, renovating and renting houses. They both strongly agree that owning a small business and being their own bosses is very important.

 

Cindy Shera and Todd Martin  Owners of The Pig and the Pearl and The Shed at Glenwood

  1. How did you meet? Oddly enough, at work. Cindy had just started with Here to Serve Restaurant Group and Todd was a manager. 

  2. If you didn't run a restaurant, what other business would you see yourselves doing? We are really going to start concentrating on the retail shops and trying our hands at online sales and retail products. We also often speak of becoming ex-patriots and having a tiny dive bar on a beach. So I guess, in essence, this is our destiny.

  3. What is the biggest challenge you face as a restaurant proprietor? Finding good labor. If we could solve that problem or just deepen the pool a bit, life would be a lot easier.

  4. Where do you like to dine in Atlanta when you have the chance to dine out? Aria is one of our favorite annual meals. Great friends, unbelievable food and wine. That, of course, is no everyday stop since it is across town from us. We go to Soba for a quick meal or we find a new spot to try. We love cooking with our families. We both grew up around the kitchen tables. We find ourselves gravitating back to them often.

 

Matt Weyandt and Elaine Read – Owners of Xocolatl Chocolate in Krog Street Market

  1. How did you meet? In 2004, we were both working on the presidential election. I was based in D.C., and Matt was stationed in San Francisco. He came to D.C. for training, and though we'd never met, I was supposed to find him at Union Station and bring him to the office. When Matt came up with a crowd on the escalator, I immediately knew this guy with the laid-back California look was the man I was looking for. We were engaged nine months later. 

  2. If you didn't run a food business, what other business would you see yourselves doing? We both came from social issue backgrounds. Matt was the executive director of the Georgia Democratic Party. Elaine worked for humanitarian agencies like CARE, the Peace Corps and Relief International. If we hadn't found chocolate, we would probably still be working in those fields. As it turns out, building a company that focuses on sourcing cacao that is sustainably grown and ethically traded is perfectly aligned with our previous professions.   

  3. What is the biggest challenge you face as a restaurant proprietor? The biggest challenge for us is probably explaining to first-time customers why our chocolate costs almost $10 a bar. For centuries, chocolate was a highly prized food, but once it became mass produced by industrial chocolate companies, the perceived value of chocolate dropped drastically. This is fueled by cheap labor (child labor and child slavery still exist in the West African countries that produce at least 75 percent of the world's chocolate) and mass clear-cutting of the virgin Amazonian rainforest by corporations driven by profit. Our chocolate costs much more because we take the time and money to source beans that are sustainably grown and of high quality, pay farmers a fair price for their work and then employ staff members who help us make chocolate batch by batch rather than running it through industrial mills. 

  4. Obviously the restaurant industry is very demanding. How do you find time to just be a regular married couple and not business partners? It is hard, especially with young kids and a new business, but we have adhered to Sundays as being our family day and staff members are only supposed to call in absolute emergencies. As far as being a couple, we will occasionally play hooky in the middle of the day when the kids are in school.


Love is in the air at Atlanta restaurants. Take your loved one somewhere romantic today.

Malika Bowling is the author of Food Lovers' Guide to Atlanta, Food Blogging 101 and founder of Atlanta Restaurant Blog. She has been a contributing writer to USA Today and has been featured on HGTV, Huffington Post and About.com. Malika also has served as a judge at various culinary competitions and food festivals, including Taste of Atlanta. She is the president of the Association of Food Bloggers and her podcast, Just a Byte, can be downloaded from iTunes. Follow her on Twitter @MalikaBowling and Instagram



 

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