Letter from the Editor: Cool, Casual Atlanta Vol: 87

May 22, 2012

In the land of fried chicken, biscuits, and porky goodness, Atlanta’s customers demand comfort food like no other. But while this Dixie town’s culinary scene may focus on more rustic fare—there are only two true fine-dining restaurants to speak of—innovative chefs all over town are breaking the boundaries of good old Southern cookin'.

And we certainly know a thing or two about eating in Atlanta—we hit the ground running during three jam-packed weeks of the Atlanta Rising Stars tasting trips, and found a slew of creative culinary talent working within the confines of this home-style food town. (Check out our discoveries in the food and drink of ATL in our Travel Guide).

From the artistic plating and fresh approach of Chef de Cuisine Justin Burdett at Miller Union to the understated simplicity of Chef Christopher Schmidt at Floataway Café, ATL’s chefs are proving that Southern food doesn’t have to mean battered, fried, or stewed to be comforting. (We’d gladly tuck away with a bowl of Burdett’s creamed morels or dig into Schmidt’s Hakurei Turnip Agnolotti and Braised Lamb any day.)

There’s also the jazzed-up farm-to-table grub fulfilling Atlanta’s customer demand for comfort cuisine. Chef Shaun Doty left his chef whites for a polo shirt to head up the gluten-free answer to family-friendly fast food at Yeah! Burger. And Chef Chris Hall embraces simplicity at its best, with his version of Asian-inspired favorites, in the laid-back chef hangout Local Three Kitchen.

The city is also full of some serious sweets savvy. Francophile Sarah O’Brien offers some of the flakiest pastry around at The Little Tart and Chef Jeffrey Wall works double savory-pastry duty at La Fourchette, creating a refined Italian-inspired menu and lighter-than-air ice creams.

As Atlanta continues to push the borders of its diners’ culinary horizons, the city is also expanding as a beverage market. We highlighted Atlanta's tight-knit mixology community back in February and will continue to watch as up-and-coming mixologists, like Empire State South’s Kellie Thorn, make their (Southern) mark on the national scene.

And where blue laws had previously hindered growth in the beer territory, we’re excited that new legislation has allowed both the Old Guard and young gun brewers to come out in full force. Dedicated baristas and roasters all over the city have also taken education to the max, offering coffee programs for college students and restaurants alike.

Join us at our Atlanta Rising Stars Gala on June 13, where you can sample the talents of many of the city's culinary stars during a night of art-meets-culinary prowess at the Goat Farm Arts Center. Sign up for your tickets before we sell out! And keep your nominations for chefs, pastry chefs, mixologists, and sommeliers coming. We'll soon travel to coastal New England, Italy, the Bay Area, Montreal, and Hawaii. For real-time updates on our whereabouts and meals, follow us on Twitter and Facebook.


Antoinette Bruno