In the Mix: Restaurateur and actor Mitchell Anderson talks Bar MetroFresh and upcoming roles

Before he opened the popular MetroFresh restaurants in Atlanta, Mitchell Anderson was known for his roles on TV shows and films like “Party of Five,” “The Karen Carpenter Story” (he played brother Richard) , “Jaws: The Revenge” and most recently an Emmy-nominated turn on the Amazon Prime series “After Forever.” When he’s not in front of the camera, Anderson is in the kitchen and now behind the bar. His longtime partner is salon-owner Richie Arpino. We caught up with Anderson to talk about the evolution of Bar MetroFresh and his upcoming acting gigs. Plus he shared his In the Mix playlist featuring fab tunes by everyone from Elton John to K.T. Oslin – and The Carpenters, of course.

Q. You opened the first MetroFresh in Midtown Promenade almost 16 years ago, which predates the farm-to-table and “fresh” food trend in restaurants. How did you come up with the initial concept and what’s the secret to the restaurant’s longevity?
A. Honestly my inspiration came from my mentor and friend Jenny Levison, aka Souper Jenny. When I decided to leave show business she took me into her kitchen and taught me a very improvisational approach to fresh food. I took to it right away and MetroFresh was born. Jenny was definitely ahead of her time and, with her blessing and help, we brought farm-to-table food to Midtown all those years ago. I think I responded to this kind of fresh cooking because it’s what my mother did. We grew up in the farm country of Western New York, where seasonal produce was specific. My mother visited the farm stand daily in spring, summer and fall. Her menu was 100 percent based on what came in that day. Somehow, corn brought from the field and into your boiling water within an hour just tastes better!

Q. Tell us about the latest iteration – Bar MetroFresh – and what fans and newcomers can expect?
A. MetroFresh Uptown opened in August of 2019 in the beautiful Midtown Plaza, a block north of the High Museum. We copied our original location with breakfast and lunch for the office crowd, but added an after work bar experience. Of course, that location was impossible to operate for much of last year because of the pandemic. We closed for six months, and reopened in September. Since then we have continued to do breakfast and lunch for the hearty few who ventured into their office. I’m happy to report that our determination and perseverance has paid off and we are beginning to see an uptick as people finally return to the office. In January of this year I decided to open the bar on Thursday nights with me as the bartender. I never tended bar in my life, but like everything about the last 12 months, you just sort of create and adjust. I realized that having a safe place for people to socialize in the middle of the pandemic was incredibly fulfilling.

Based on that experience, I decided to upgrade my existing beer and wine license at the Midtown Promenade store and add liquor. Our location off the Beltline, and the upgrade to the entire complex creates an incredible opportunity to evolve. I am thrilled we survived this last year and I was super excited to reopen for nighttime dinner service with the addition of Bar MetroFresh. We’ve always been such a great, casual, neighborhood staple that having the option to pop in for a cocktail with friends and hang out for a bit is perfect. We look forward to feeling out the potential of Bar MetroFresh, including live music and entertainment both inside and on the patio.

Q. What are some of your other favorite restaurants and bars in the city?
A. I love Kyma, where our friend Chef Pano always treats us to his amazing Greek specialties. We never put in an order, the food just keeps coming out. Canoe is our favorite special occasion restaurant. You just can’t beat the setting and the food is always inspiring. We live right up the street from Nino’s, which is the best for traditional old school Italian. I’m also a huge fan of Ford Fry and love No. 246 in Decatur.

Q. You’re well known for your acting work in TV, films, and on stage. Which came first: your love of acting or cooking?
A. Honestly, cooking came first. But they were sort of tied together. I’m not kidding you when I tell you as a child, making cookies or pies at home, I used to pretend I was Julia Child or The Galloping Gourmet. I’d set out all the ingredients and narrate my process as I went along for an imaginary camera and an imaginary audience.

Q. You were recently nominated for an Emmy for “After Forever” – are there more acting roles coming up soon?
A. We are shooting season three of “After Forever” in September of this year. It was postponed for a year because of the pandemic. I am also working on a one man show about my life in Hollywood and how I wound up cooking for a living. It was a New Year’s resolution that I made to challenge myself in the year I turn 60! I have just booked Synchronicity Theater for the first weekend in November. I’m scared to death, but also super excited. I’ve never done anything like this but I needed a project that was not “restaurant related,” It’s been awesome to be able to take a break from my day job when I can to focus on something else – something that I’ve always loved.