Driving home one night last spring, Courtney Chieco saw the “For Lease” sign in front of a unique building in downtown Alpharetta and had a vision of New Orleans.
“The building itself just called out to be a Cajun restaurant,” Courtney said of the site that just months later would emerge as Flatlands Bourbon and Bayou. “It was such a cool building with the porch and gazebo and pond and the upstairs!”
Courtney brought the idea to her parents, Jodi and Vinny Chieco, longtime restaurateurs who own Brick House Pizza in Roswell. The vision for a Cajun-themed restaurant soon became a reality for the trio.
Located just behind Mittie’s Cafe off North Main Street, the former residence had housed restaurants in the past, so the structure was there to continue its life as an eatery.
With a few cosmetic changes, including street lamps and Bourbon Street signs, Flatlands was transformed into a restaurant with a true New Orleans feel – and taste. The doors opened in August 2016 to crowds that filled the place on day one, and continue to come for both the menu and the ambience.
“Upstairs we kept as the swamp and alligator ambiance, [putting] live tree branches up in the rafters and Spanish moss,” said Jodi.
The finishing touch, and the most important piece of authenticity, was bringing on chef Francois Duquette, whose culinary experience includes considerable time in New Orleans, and recently under the direction of a Cajun chef in South Florida.
“We were very fortunate to find a chef Duquette who has made every dish a dining experience,” Jodi Chieco said. “Flatlands is a truly chef-driven restaurant.”
Originally from Canada, Duquette describes the menu as “Cajun inspired”.
"My recipes were designed around the [Cajun] concept and were created in the kitchen at Flatlands,” said Duquette who is originally from Canada. “We’ve made a few changes since the opening, but all for the better.”
Specialties of the house include all the traditional Cajun fare, including gumbo, jambalaya, alligator bites, shrimp andouille and blackened redfish. Also available are po boys stuffed with fried catfish, shrimp, crawfish or oysters, and lighter selections including blackened shrimp and kale salad, lettuce wraps and gumbo.
A full menu of bourbon/whiskey completes the complete dining experience at Flatlands, with selections including Woodford Reserve, Breckenridge and Bird Dog among many others.
The restaurant is open for lunch and dinner six days a week (closed Monday), with seating for about 80 people inside and plenty of room on the outside patio.
For the Chiecos, who moved to North Fulton in 1995, working together as a family has its benefits.
“My daughter, my husband and I have always worked together,” Jodi said of their partnership that goes back more than a decade. “I always rely on her to help in areas where I am weak and vice a versa - it’s a symbiotic relationship - we just try to make each other better!”
Jodi and Vinny Chieco purchased the Brick House in Roswell in 2007, which Courtney now runs. The family also operated the North Fulton Cafe inside the North Fulton Hospital from 2008-2013 where Courtney first learned the food business while attending college at Kennesaw State University.
Today, in addition to Flatlands, the Chiecos maintain an active catering business which began at the North Fulton Cafe and extended to the Brick House. Adding Flatlands to their portfolio was a wise decision in such a vibrant location.
“The Alpharetta area is booming right now, and we feel blessed that we hit it at the right time,” said Jodi, who lives in Milton.
Looking down the road, Courtney sees even more opportunities to extend the family’s restaurant reach as the community continues to attract new customers and business opportunities.
“We would love to open a deli in the new City Scapes area that is being built in Alpharetta... so, who knows?” she mused. “An expanded oyster bar with voodoo bar would be ideal!” ■