A touch of Provence found in the Capital of the South

by Betty Wrenn Day - Posted on May 30, 2012 - 03:48 PM

Photo: Arnaud Michel proudly greets you at his restaurant by introducing you to Anis Cafe & Bistro. Photo by Betty Wrenn Day

Arnaud Michel proudly greets you at his restaurant by introducing you to Anis Cafe & Bistro. Photo by Betty Wrenn Day

Atlanta was known as "Capital of the New South" after Reconstruction, and the name remains today, but has been shortened to just "The Capital of the South." It is home to Coca-Cola, one of the world’s largest airports, and Delta Airlines; it is here Gone With The Wind made its world movie premiere. After all, Margaret Mitchell had staged her book in Clayton County and Atlanta. It’s a city known for its cultural advantages, industrial power, hospitality and abundance of gourmet dining. In the latter category, Anis Café & Bistro is known as one of the best.

Anis is known as a French restaurant and rightly so, as it is owned by a Frenchman, Arnaud Michel. "I came to this country in 1989 from the southern part of France. I opened the restaurant in 1994," Arnaud explained. He brought with him knowledge of the gourmet cooking styles and foods that have made southern France one of the world’s most popular gastronomical pleasures. It’s a cuisine that has been molded by the sun and the sea. What Arnauld can do with mussels is beyond delicious—they are magnificent. (Southern France is the same area where Julia Child began her career.)

When you come to Anis for either lunch or dinner, upon immediately stepping from your car (it is parked by an attendant), you instantly feel the evening is going to be a great pleasure. This sensation is prompted not only by the foods you consume but by the setting in which you dine, either the main dining area or the brick patio under the shade. Beautiful flowers surround the entrance and among them sits a very small old Citroen. Why? One person replied, "He loves those little cars. I think they are symbol of home to him and it does draw a lot of attention." Arnaud says, "It’s my thing. I have one that runs and drive it around town every day."

Three gentlemen began Anis 18 years ago, Arnaud, Jean-Frederic Perfittini and Jacques Hourtal. They started with just "a casual bistro where people could meet and enjoy light fare with coffee and drinks." Arnaud says he did some cooking back then. Jeff Gomez is main chef today, but I’m sure Arnaud is looking on.