2,700 sq. ft. Col­lege Park lo­ca­tion will seat 130 din­ers

GA Voice - - Outspoken -

In winter 2010, Frank Bragg was liv­ing large. He’d par­layed his years of cor­po­rate restau­rant ex­pe­ri­ence into a tony po­si­tion with Metro­tain­ment Cafes, own­ers of such lo­cal gay restau­rant hubs as Ein­stein’s and Cowtip­pers.

It’s safe to say he was rid­ing a huge wave. Then, out of the blue, the wave crashed: Metro­tain­ment down­sized.

“Pretty much the en­tire ex­ec­u­tive team lost their job in one day,” Bragg said mat­ter-of-factly, re­call­ing that af­ter the ini­tial shock, he re­al­ized he had been pre­sented with an amaz­ing op­por­tu­nity to pur­sue a per­sonal dream.

Fast-for­ward to 2016. Bragg is a run­away suc­cess as the owner of Can­dler Park’s pop­u­lar eco-con­scious Ra­dial Café. In the six years since that fate­ful day, Bragg has nearly tripled sales for the lit­tle restau­rant with the big com­mu­nity mis­sion and is pre­par­ing to open a sec­ond lo­ca­tion in Col­lege Park in the spring.

For Bragg, when one ca­reer wave crashed, he sim­ply found a new one to ride.

“It was re­ally just about the best thing that hap­pened to me,” he said on a re­cent Sun­day af­ter­noon, the sounds of a busy din­ing room bustling around him.

Nearby, a table full of mil­len­ni­als laughed loudly. Near the bar, a smil­ing wait­ress dished up a tall sand­wich and savory greens to a sin­gle­ton work­ing on his lap­top. Scat­tered through­out the ur­ban-chic space sat reg­u­lars, each stop­ping to share a greet­ing with the ac­ci­den­tal restau­ra­teur.

It’s ex­actly the type of en­vi­ron­ment Bragg wants and what he thinks play a huge role in Ra­dial’s suc­cess.

The sec­ond café is slated to open at 3725 Main Street, in Col­lege Park, just a few miles from the East Point home he shares with his hus­band of 26 years. The 2,700 sq. ft. his­toric store­front fea­tures a 1917 Coca-Cola mu­ral, along with room for up to 130 din­ers, in­clud­ing a 15-per­son bar. For­merly home to two white table­cloth res­tau­rants, the space will be re­vamped to fea­ture the “in­dus­trial farm­house” look that’s be­come Ra­dial’s sig­na­ture, in­clud­ing hard­wood floors, ex­posed wooden beams and rus­tic dé­cor.

“The sec­ond owner ba­si­cally walked in the door and adopted the dé­cor from the first restau­rant, so it re­ally has not had a facelift or any kind of re­fresh since 1998,” Bragg said. “So I’m re­ally look­ing for­ward to go­ing in and giv­ing it a new look.”

The new lo­ca­tion may be miles away from the orig­i­nal, but it will fea­ture the same things that have made Ra­dial Café unique – from a menu full of tasty de­lights like Zin­fan­del-braised short ribs to a deep com­mit­ment to sus­tain­abil­ity and en­vi­ron­men­tally friendly prac­tices.

Eco-con­scious, LGBT-friendly ef­forts draw praise

Ra­dial’s theme is “Small Car­bon Foot­print, Big Lo­cal Fla­vor,” and they live up to it in ways big and small. There are the ob­vi­ous things: The restau­rant fea­tures mul­ti­ple types of garbage bins near the door, and com­posts up to 70 per­cent of its waste – things like un­eaten food and pa­per that will even­tu­ally find their way back to the café in

De­cem­ber 9, 2016

The Col­lege Park lo­ca­tion of Ra­dial Café will be 2,700 sq. ft. and will have room for up to 130 din­ers, says owner Frank Bragg (pic­tured). (Cour­tesy photo) the form of fresh in­gre­di­ents.

“All that stuff gets com­posted and goes back to Ge­or­gia farm­ers,” he said. “So it’s kind of like a nice cir­cle where we send them fer­til­izer for plants and then they grow them.”

Then there are the lit­tle touches, such as low-flow faucets, sen­sor lights through­out the build­ing and even ef­forts to min­i­mize de­liv­er­ies to keep trucks off the road and cut pol­lu­tion.

The eco-con­scious ef­forts earned the restau­rant a three-star award from the Green Restau­rant As­so­ci­a­tion in 2011, and Bragg said he thinks they also help ex­plain why the café has found pop­u­lar­ity with new au­di­ences, like mil­len­ni­als.

“They want to know that their dol­lars are go­ing to some­thing that’s go­ing to make a dif­fer­ence, as op­posed to just pad­ding the owner’s pock­ets,” he said.

More sea­soned con­sumers like Dave Hayward like what the restau­rant stands for too. Hayward, who works to pre­serve Ge­or­gia’s LGBT his­tory, has been com­ing by for the grits and good vibes since be­fore Bragg took own­er­ship from another pop­u­lar LGBT en­tre­pre­neur, Philip Palmer.

“I just try to spend my money any­where I can ben­e­fit other LGBT peo­ple,” he said. “I think Frank is very com­mu­nity-spir­ited.”

In­deed, Bragg’s ex­tracur­ric­u­lar ac­tiv­i­ties have in­cluded work with the LGBT cham­ber of com­merce, gay home­less youth and even the lo­cal gay men’s cho­rus.

Ra­dial’s ex­pan­sion was a few years in the mak­ing and fol­lows a few failed prop­erty deals. It was frus­trat­ing, but worth the wait for the food en­thu­si­ast who said he’s been pre­par­ing for this role since he was a lit­tle boy tak­ing or­ders at his grand­par­ent’s West Virginia drive-in.

Bragg buzzed around the din­ing room re­cently, sport­ing a stylish leather apron and a smile.

Own­ing a restau­rant is su­per hard work – Bragg is no stranger to 80-hour weeks – but he wouldn’t have it any other way.

“It just feels like it’s been a nat­u­ral pro­gres­sion,” he said.

By DIONNE N. WALKER

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