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Swen Froemke Revises Speakeasy, Herschel’s Is Closed, Automatic Pizza is Open and More

If you don’t know Swen Froemke’s name, you might at least remember his desserts, if you ever went to Cinco y Diez while it was open. Like many aspects of the dearly missed restaurant, they were forward-thinking and intelligent, combining boundary-pushing with pleasure in a rare way. Froemke is now the new general manager at Speakeasy, and he’s changing its direction, judging by the new menus.

Froemke says, “I really didn’t have to convince anyone to change directions dramatically.  Although there are some new offerings, there are also items that should be familiar.  As the culinary landscape of Athens has continued to evolve and improve, so must Speakeasy. While I was studying Culinary Arts at Athens Technical College, I worked in the Speakeasy kitchen and forged relationships that are healthy to this day… After working with and learning volumes from Whitney Otawka, Ben Wheatley, Kyle Jacovino and Jason Zygmont at Farm 255, 5 & 10 and Cinco y Diez for the last few years, I am elated to be back home.”

He continues, “Speakeasy has long used proper culinary techniques and sourced food responsibly. Our commitment to sustainable products is ongoing. It is important for us to get the best ingredients possible from our local farmers and growers. We aim to connect our customers to the food and those who grow, prepare, and serve it. We are in the process of rebranding and getting the word out that Speakeasy has excellent food and service.”

The fried pickles, which were genuinely delicious on my last visit there, remain, but much of the rest of the dinner menu is new. Small plates include Springer Mountain fried chicken with waffle, bourbon maple syrup and buttermilk hot sauce; Beeler’s pork belly taco with apple, sofrito, cinnamon and cotija cheese; and beet-cured Verlasso salmon with herbed cream cheese, crisp capers and red onion jam. 

Over in the desserts, the sopa de fruta (sparkling blood orange juice, pink grapefruit, navel orange, caramel corn and coconut sorbet) is a major eye-catcher. And the idea of suggesting that folks send a six-pack of PBR to the kitchen has been borrowed from Farm 255.

The new dinner menu is already in place, and lunch and late-night will be added in the coming weeks.

In other news, Herschel’s 34 Chicken & Ribs Kitchen is closed for good (the Athens Banner-Herald reports on the odd circumstances), Automatic Pizza starts service today in Normaltown, and Mama Sid’s Pizza will celebrate its 32nd anniversary on Feb. 5.