Letter From the Editors: Dining in the South, In Beautiful Flux

Illustration by Hannah Li
Illustration by Hannah Li

Dining in the South is in beautiful flux, and bustling, cosmopolitan Atlanta is at the center of that evolution. The chefs and tastemakers pushing forward this city of 5.7 million are grafting their own heritage and style onto Southern traditions. Little Tart Bakeshop’s Sarah O’Brien substitutes pecans for almonds in her frangipane. Jarrett Stieber transforms Oconee River catfish roe into bottarga, and melon skins into his own special “MSG”.

The immigrant cuisine of Buford Highway has been a longtime draw for the industry, but now Atlanta’s appetite for Asian cuisine has given cooks a broader range of ingredients and techniques for inspiration. It’s helping young chefs of Asian descent gain the momentum to open restaurants that reflect their heritage. At Talat Market, Parnass Savang is making authentic Thai food with Georgia produce, and the Cheng brothers, Andy and Alex, serve home-style Taiwanese cuisine from Ah-Ma’s.

Atlanta’s beverage scene has grown immensely in the five years since StarChefs last visited. With Georgia’s newly relaxed brewery laws, the city is in the early phases of a micro-brewery boom. Third wave coffee roasters are starting to see traction in restaurants, cafes, and churches, of all places. Even though stand-alone bars still barely exist in the city, establishments like Ticonderoga Club, Kimball House, and Empire State South have made a national name for their cocktails and hospitality. 

Best of all, the Atlanta restaurant community is exploring change. There are new neighborhoods to feed and concepts to launch, and restaurant groups—big and small—are growing like gangbusters, all in the name of better food and drink for the city. Here are the restaurant professionals with the freshest voices and the energy to shape the city for years to come. 

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