BLAISS NOWAK EMBRACES TRIED-AND-TRUE HOSPITALITY TECHNIQUES AT NOWAK’S
Sandy Springs resident Blaiss Nowak always knew he’d work in the restaurant industry. Son of Hal Nowak, known for the quintessential Buckhead steakhouse, Hal’s, Nowak started learning the business at age 21. After working in nearly every position at Hal’s, he moved to Las Vegas where he was a server at Emeril’s while studying hospitality management at the University of Nevada. Twenty-plus years in food distribution, sales and marketing later, Nowak met restaurateur Tom Murphy (of Murphy’s) who was looking to sell his brunch spot, Morningside Kitchen. Nowak jumped at the opportunity, and Nowak’s was born.
“The concept is simple: high-quality food at its basics, [served] in a cozy atmosphere,” he says. “We’re known for our steaks, but we do fresh fish and seafood very well. I try to create something for everyone—to make it a neighborhood steakhouse with different items that make people want to eat here regularly.” Popular dishes range from branzino to gluten-free crab cakes and salmon salad. The restaurant has also become known for its large wine-by-the-glass selection.
As for the elder Nowak? “Dad is my number one advisor. We talk daily,” Nowak says.
We spoke with the junior Nowak about work, family and the future of Nowak’s.
What’s one thing people might not know about Nowak’s?
We have a happy hour from 4:30 to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday. We serve our filet mignon for $11. That’s our same, quality, 7-ounce filet!
What’s your day-to-day role at the restaurant?
I’m there 12 hours a day, six days a week. I take inventory, place orders, work on payroll and scheduling, and taste new ingredients and wines. Once we open, I’m greeting people, managing the staff and keeping my eyes on every guest to make sure my staff is serving them to meet my high expectations.
How do you anticipate guests’ needs?
I observe constantly. I train all servers personally. When I think they may be missing a step of service, I notice and remind them.
How do you balance such long work hours with family life?
My kids (ages 6, 9 and 12) are the most important thing in the world to me. I bring them here for dinner a lot because I have to be here so much. They wrote the kids’ menu. They make changes when they see fit. I pick them up from school every Thursday and Friday, and spend a couple hours with them before service starts. I help them with their homework, and we play outside. It allows me to enjoy some quality time with them and remind them of how important they are to me.
Besides spending time with family, what do you do for fun?
I like to play poker and go on vacation to the beach. I love Rosemary Beach on 30-A. I’ve been going there since I was 10. Once a year, over the summer, we go as an entire family, grandparents and all.
What are your plans for the future?
I’m looking at other locations for more Nowak’s in Atlanta and the surrounding areas. Right now, we’re looking at Sandy Springs, Roswell and Alpharetta. I’m also looking at old Atlanta classics that went out of business—restaurants that are memorable to Atlantans. I want to bring some of those back over the next five years. Everyone’s doing new concepts, but I miss the restaurants we used to go to that are no longer around. Some I miss are Abruzzi, Alfredo’s, Brasserie Le Coze, the Coach & Six, Rocky’s Brick Oven Pizza, Pano’s & Paul’s and Dailey’s.
1397 N. Highland Ave. N.E.
PHOTO: Sara Hanna
Foodie Tastemaker Columnist at Simply Buckhead. Contributing Editor at Atlanta Magazine. Restaurant Aficionado and Mother of Two.