Get to Know Buckhead Diner General Manager, Michael Clarke!

Walk into the Buckhead Diner, and there are a few things you’ll notice almost immediately. Surprising, unique décor. The mouthwatering smell of classic comfort food wafting through the air. Timeless elegance & charm. Most of all, though, you’ll find yourself captivated by the friendly, familiar faces of the Diner’s team.

Lately, you may have noticed a new face floating about from table to table, touting a welcoming smile and a noticeable charisma. Some have gotten to know him already, but we thought it was time to introduce (or, re-introduce) Buckhead Life veteran and new General Manager, Michael Clarke. We sat down with him to talk all things Buckhead Diner – past, present and future.

  1. You’re new to the Diner, but not to Buckhead Life. What’s your history?

14 years ago, my wife Heather and I moved to Atlanta from Rhode Island so I could attend Luther Rice Seminary – I had the hopes of, one day, being the pastor of a church. It was during my first year of Seminary that I met Sam Than, who, at that point was the General Manager of Pano’s & Paul’s. Sam hired me as a waiter at Pano’s and Paul’s and has since become one of my closest friends. I worked for Sam and Chef Gary Donlick for two wonderful years. After cutting my teeth at Pano’s and Paul’s, I transferred to another Buckhead Life restaurant, Chops Lobster Bar. Chops’ General Manager, Kevin Brown, gave me a chance to work behind the bar. It was behind the bar at Chops that I grew the most as a hospitality professional. I had the opportunity to bartend for almost eight years with the best group of bartenders I’ve ever worked with. It was an incredible time in my professional life and I learned so much from the entire team. I left the Buckhead Life family in 2013 for another position, but when the opportunity to come back home presented itself, I jumped at the chance.

  1. What’s your favorite part of being a GM?

I love people, and I love being an influencer of good in people’s lives. My Grandfather always told me, “All things being equal, people will choose to do business with friends.”  With those words in mind, I’ve made it my life’s work to try and make as many friends as possible. Every day as the GM of the Buckhead Diner, I get the opportunity to make new friends. Whether they be guests coming in to dine, prospective employees coming in for a job, or vendors coming in to sell a good or service, every interaction with every person is an opportunity to make a new friendship. In the end, all that we have of true, lasting value are our memories, our friends, and our faith.

  1. What’s your favorite aspect of working at Buckhead Diner?

The people of Atlanta and all over the world have made wonderful memories at the Buckhead Diner over the past thirty years. I have the great honor to preserve the wonderful memories of the past generations while continuing to make new memories for our current and future generations. I love being the caretaker of the greatest restaurant in Atlanta.

  1. What do you think makes the Diner so special to our guests?

The long history of the Diner, the wonderful memories of the past, the stellar, one-of-a-kind decor, the exceptional hospitality and service, and the consistently tremendous food served in a warm and inviting ambiance.

  1. Build us your perfect Buckhead Diner meal.

I’d start off with a Triple Chocolate Shake and a Diet Coke.

First Course: “Sweet-Heat” Thai Chili Calamari

Second Course: Little Gem Lettuce & Avocado Salad

Main Course: Hanger Steak & Fries

Dessert: Warm Coffee Cake with Cinnamon Ice Cream and a triple espresso

  1. What’s your favorite Diner shake?

The Triple Chocolate Shake. Chocolate ice cream, a heavy dose of chocolate syrup in the shake, and the glass filled with chocolate syrup before they pour the shake in.

(Yes, I love chocolate.)

  1. When you’re not at Buckhead Diner, what are you doing?

I’ve been married to my beautiful wife, Heather, for the past 19 years. She’s the best thing that has ever happened to me. When I’m not at work, I’m either spending time with her or our kids: Noah, aged 14; Abby, aged 10: Gabe, aged 3; and our Weimaraner puppy, Rosie. Family is everything!

  1. What are you most excited about for the Diner now & in the future?

The thing that has and will always make the Diner great is its people. We have great people working with us – some who have been at the Diner for 10, 20, even 25 years! – people who care and take great pride in what they do.  I am most excited to work with such a fantastic group of hospitality professionals.

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Three Buckhead Life Spots Named Among Jezebel’s Best of Atlanta

Buckhead Diner, Chops Lobster Bar, and the Atlanta Fish Market are named among Jezebel’s 2018 Best of Atlanta List!

Buckhead Diner: Best Spot for the Family 


Chops Lobster Bar: Best Steakhouse 


Atlanta Fish Market: Best Seafood 

Thank you to our friends at Jezebel for the recognition, and congratulations to our hardworking teams at all three restaurants!


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The Memories That Made The Buckhead Diner

All November long, we’re celebrating the Buckhead Diner’s 30th Birthday! We’ll spend the entire month looking back on the best memories & most beloved dishes – everything that helped to create an Atlanta dining icon. That’s where you come in – we want to see all of your favorite memories at the Diner! A great meal, a perfect celebration – anything goes! The further the throwback, the better. Send all of your memories (photos required!) to We’ll share them on our social media pages all month long, and the selected favorite memory will win a special chef’s dinner for four! We can’t wait to see your favorite moments.

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Chase Away the Winter Blues with Buckhead Diner’s New Cocktail

  The Tiki Thai will put you in a warmer state of mind. 

In the midst of heavy bourbon drinks and full bodied wines hitting menus for the cooler months, Buckhead Diner adds a surprisingly Summery cocktail to their list. The “Tiki Thai” combines the fresh sweet-tart flavors of fresh pineapple and grapefruit juice with the complex sweetness of dark rum and coconut rum. The result is a cocktail that’s bright and citrusy but complex enough to be interesting. 

  Buckhead Diner’s Beverage Manager Jessica Purdy says “ We wanted to create a cocktail that would serve as a reprieve from heavy winter cocktails.” It’s even garnished with a luxardo cherry and tiny umbrella. Sip, Relax, Repeat.



Tiki Thai

1oz Meyers Dark Rum

¾oz Coconut Rum

1oz Tiki Thai syrup

½oz Pineapple juice

¾oz Grapefruit juice

Squeeze 1 lime wedge

Garnish with spiced sugar rim and luxcardo cherry

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Drink This: Buckhead Diner’s Crimson Heat

  The Crimson Heat, Buckhead Diner’s newest cocktail, serves as a reminder that tequila should have a place on your bar cart long after Summer is over. The drink starts with a base of muddled jalapenos and fresh blood orange puree and is topped with tequila, triple sec, and served in a glass rimmed with house-made citrus salt. The result is a drink that strikes the perfect balance of sweet, spicy, and salty. “The goal was to create something seasonal that uses tequila in a non-traditional way. Most people automatically think margaritas when they hear tequila, but with this cocktail we wanted to challenge the idea that to have a great tequila drink you’ve got to also have a lime base. The unexpected flavors of blood orange are really what make the cocktail, and they also let you know that you’ve grown up from a margarita so to speak”, says the drink’s creator Jessica Purdy.  

_mg_9233Crimson Heat

 2 oz Don Julio

½ oz Blood Orange Puree

1 oz Lime Juice

¾ oz Jalapeno Simple Syrup

1 half slice of blood orange (muddled)

2 slices of Jalapeno (muddled)

Splash of Sour Mix

Splash of Triple Sec

Glass: Highball

Citrus Salt: Equal parts orange, lemon, and lime zest, and coarse sea salt.

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