A special treasure is docked in Atlanta. Dante’s Down the Hatch, comes with an unparalleled atmosphere; live jazz streams from the inside of an 18th century sailing ship, ‘Atlantis,’ six nights a week. Dante Stephensen, a former navy pilot, began generating the idea for his elegant and cozy restaurant while serving America overseas. But his work experience starts long before.
I sat down to chat with Dante, setting out to learn how he came up with the unique idea. But he wanted to start with an off the wall fact. “I own a fire truck,” Dante told me. My sirens whirled. This guy will set the sails on this interview, and I was ok with that. Ok, Dante let’s take it from the top.
The youngest of six kids, Dante grew up in the Chicago suburbs. He credits his drive to his Montessori education and actively involved parents. Even as a child, he had a strong work ethic. His first paycheck was a mere eleven pennies but put him in gear to start saving to buy a bike.
He describes himself as a born ham; he even scored the lead role in a school play. Now, he carries on his thespian expertise as the main character of his restaurant. “Have you been here before?” Dante asked a child mesmerized by the magical makings of the ship. The kid shook his head no. “Well, why not?” Dante pressed before breaking out into a grin and starting a conversation with the tot. He remembers being a kid in restaurants and feeling ignored, so he set out to change that. Dante engages customers and is in the restaurant nearly every night.
It hasn’t always been smooth sailing for Dante’s Down the Hatch. In the 80’s a space heater ignited a fire, completely destroying the restaurant. It took seven months to re-build but 53 of the 55 crewmates were ready to cast the sails to the wind once it was rebuilt.
The ship is surrounded by a medieval village and filled with memorabilia and antiques. There is even a complete barbershop all the way from Sheffield, England in the basement. Whether you settle into a seat on the wharf or inside the ship you are sure to have an excellent cruise. Oh, and the food is tasty too, of course!
Intrigued by his colorful character, I asked for one last piece of advice. Without so much as hesitating Dante told me “You must learn to laugh at yourself, the only easy day was yesterday.”