Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Wolfgang Puck's Express, Atlanta Bread Co. Close

Posted By on Wed, Dec 8, 2010 at 1:12 PM

Via a Facebook friend comes word that Wolfgang Puck Express and Atlanta Bread Co. in Cool Springs have shut down, in what seems to be a rash of year-end closings.

Wolfgang Puck Express made a big splash when it opened in Cool Springs in 2003. Scene critic Kay West praised the pizzas and salads, though not the suburban location. Austrian-born, California-based celebrity chef Puck (owner of Spago and a James Beard Award winner in the '90s) cranked up the express chain to spread his fame and signature dishes, like the Chinois Chicken Salad, which he created back in the 1980s.

When Puck himself visited Cool Springs in 2004, West talked with his business partner, Nashville entrepreneur Ted Moats, who said the store was the first free-standing Wolfgang Puck Express in the country. (Previous express locations were located in airports, Disneyland and the like.)

To me, Wolfgang Puck Express had a lot of promise — white-tablecloth-quality food at a quick-service prices. But on my sole visit, I was disappointed in the flavor profile and found the set-up unpromising, soulless and little awkward, surprising in a purpose-built space. The dish descriptions whispered, "passionate about food" but the execution and the space said, "Headquarters is enthusiastic about the demographic within two-mile range." But maybe that's too harsh.

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The Wolfgang Puck Express parking lot certainly always seemed full, and some of the dishes were very popular. It also offered both wine by the glass and free wi-fi, certainly welcome to those recuperating after a session of power-shopping at CoolSprings Galleria — or Costco.

And what happened to Atlanta Bread Co.? It closed its West End location last year. And really, what's going on with all the closings? Can we hope, for the sake of the employees at Christmas, that more bad news isn't on the way?

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