This is not marketed as a café but my intrigue got the best of me so I convinced Anand that we must rate it!
Atmosphere: We’ll call it sophisticated southern. We took a seat at the bar and spent a couple of minutes just taking it all in. The cool color scheme complimented with the chalkboards, dark wood, and beautiful light fixtures combine to create the feel of a southern mansion with a modern twist. We visited during the weekday lunch time and were just about the only couple not dressed in business casual. Apparently very popular to the Midtown career men and women by day, Empire State South features a bocce ball court which has inspired me to check out its night scene. Anyways, we watched as the friendly bartender busied himself prepping the intricate cocktails that would be served later that evening (some in Mason jars-how southern is that). We were comfortable and ready for coffee…
Coffee: Counter Culture is served here. There is a designated coffee area the end of the bar nearest to the entrance from the inside of the 999 Peachtree building. Here you can speak with a trained and qualified barista who can seriously give you the lowdown on the coffee...if you can track him or her down.
Service: This is definitely classified as a restaurant so I understand why not much attention is given to the café aspect of Empire, however the fact that they do coffee tastings as promoted on their website lead me to believe that coming in for coffee alone would be 100% legit. Unfortunately my order for coffee was forgotten altogether and the designated person for the espresso bar was m.i.a.
Location: Empire State South sits in the center of Midtown at street level of the 999 Peachtree building. There is plenty of parking nearby and from the restaurant you are about a five minute walk from Piedmont Park. Explore the area while you are there as there are some nice boutiques and other great dining choices in close proximity.
Legitimacy: The restaurant as a whole has it together with their appetizing menu, fascinating drinks list, and the tempting pastry case that you pass on the way in. The coffee beans are from a known source served at cafés all around Atlanta and the baristas are well trained and qualified.
Overall: 3.5 Stars. Empire State South while remarkable in the restaurant arena is not the ideal place to get coffee. We recommend dining at ESS and enjoying a quality cappuccino to round out one excellent meal.