Diners club and cocktail bar Golden Eagle closes Sunday, May 2, a little over three years after it opened on Memorial Drive in Reynoldstown. Owner Michael Lennox (Ladybird Grove & Mess Hall) announced the bittersweet closure on Instagram along with plans to expand his neighboring West Coast-style cafe Muchacho into the Golden Eagle space later this summer.
Located inside a former train depot along the Eastside Beltline trail, Lennox opened Golden Eagle in 2017 as a tribute to his grandparents. Inspired by the vibe of mid-century diners clubs, he imagined Golden Eagle as the type of place his grandparents would have kicked back and enjoyed dinner and drinks while out on the town. The dining room and bar at Golden Eagle feature a few Easter eggs from their home, including two family crests and mirrors adorned with eagles fashioned after a mirror that hung above their living room mantle. There’s even a nod to his grandfather on the cocktail menu in the Traveling Suitcase Old Fashioned. Lennox’s grandfather used to carry a small black suitcase with him on trips filled with a fifth of Ancient Age, a fifth of Johnnie Walker, Angostura bitters, and a jar of maraschino cherries.
But operating two very different restaurants out of one space proved more complicated than Lennox anticipated. The pandemic only amplified these challenges.
“Golden Eagle will always hold a very special place in my heart, but it’s a unique space and restaurant which would be hard to duplicate elsewhere,” Lennox tells Eater. “Full service dining is in vulnerable position right now, and we’ve been fighting a lot of unknowns for the last year. The pandemic was an accelerant of existing trends and it definitely made it clear in exposing what was already in motion with Golden Eagle and Muchacho,” he adds.
Lennox says, instead, he decided to let Golden Eagle go in order to simplify and focus on growing Muchacho, which includes plans to open a second Atlanta location.
Within months of opening in 2017, Muchacho had already outgrown the small space it occupies in the front of the building. The counter-service cafe currently seats just 16 people inside. Most people opt to sit on the large patio beside the two restaurants or order their coffee, breakfast tacos, and grain bowls to go.
Lennox plans to knock down the wall behind the counter at Muchacho and expand seating into Golden Eagle. Once renovations are complete, Muchacho will feature table seating for up to 50 people inside and a 14-seat bar opening to the upper deck patio with an additional six to eight bar seats outside.
A new dinner menu is in the works, too, and could offer dishes like carne asada, tortillas, and grilled vegetables and amped up versions of the tacos and grain bowls currently found on the menu during breakfast and lunch at Muchacho. The bar will feature a menu of margaritas and other tequila and mezcal cocktails.
“This expansion is long overdue for Muchacho,” Lennox says. “We’re going to brighten up the new space to allow for more light so it feels like a natural progression from where people enter now at the front of the building to the back.”
The pandemic also brought attention to inefficiencies in the service operations at Lennox’s flagship restaurant Ladybird further north along the Beltline trail in the Old Fourth Ward. After converting the full-service restaurant to counter service last year, Lennox found this model clicked with patrons and staff there. He plans to install a 24-foot counter in the map room at Ladybird and serve a menu of barbecue plates, smoked meats, and sandwiches paired with cocktails.
“Golden Eagle means a lot to me personally. I’m just glad so many people got to experience it during the time it was open,” says Lennox. “It would be really easy to say the pandemic did us in at Golden Eagle, but that’s not the whole story. It’s definitely a combination of a lot of things.”
“What started out as two restaurants that looked great on paper didn’t ultimately pan out the way we had hoped, and that was already in motion before last year. The pandemic just brought a lot of things into focus.”