The year is drawing to a close and, as is tradition, Eater Atlanta has surveyed several Atlanta food writers and dining experts on everything from their best meal in 2018 to their food headline predictions for 2019. Responses are cut, pasted, and (mostly) unedited. The experts have already given their restaurant standbys when dining off duty, their picks for the city’s best new restaurants, summed up dining this year in one word, and named the best dining neighborhoods.
Here, Atlanta’s food authorities reflect back on the year’s biggest dining surprises.
Mara Davis — Radio and TV personality for WABE, The Bert Show, and Atlanta Eats
Highly-anticipated restaurants with spectacular Beltline views serving overpriced, crappy food. This is not the first impression tourists should get of the Atlanta food scene. Suburbs coming in hot with really exciting dining choices. Restaurant Holmes and Coalition Food and Beverage in Alpharetta, Good Word Brewing & Public House in Duluth, Spring in Marietta, and so many more. If the food and service are on point, people will go. Houston’s at Lenox closing!!!!!!!!!
Mara Shalhoup — Deputy editor for Atlanta Magazine
It was my first year back in Atlanta after seven away, so the sheer volume of new restaurants and the way they’ve transformed neighborhoods (Grant Park, the Old Fourth Ward, Inman Park) have been pretty stunning.
Gray Chapman — Freelance food and drinks writer at New York Times, Atlanta Magazine, Atlas Obscura, Vice, and Vox
[Tiny Lou’s opening at Hotel Clermont] Ten years ago, I never could have possibly imagined that people would be eating foie gras and duck confit just above The Clermont Lounge, but life is a rich tapestry.
Muriel Vega — Atlanta food and culture writer at Atlanta Magazine, AJC, The Bitter Southerner, and more
The most delightful surprise of 2018 came in the form of Watchman’s Seafood and Spirits. Their whole fish is a revelation with its charred onions, crispy skin, and the olive relish. I could eat that paired with their mushroom and anchovy polenta all day long.
Mike Jordan — Digital program director for V103, Thrillist Atlanta editor, Eater Atlanta contributor
Absolutely Watershed on Peachtree. I mentioned it in a Five To Try story earlier this year. I love Zeb [Stevenson,] and he’s going to do amazing things in the old Bacchanalia space when his new restaurant opens, but I can’t pretend like I didn’t really enjoy chef Matt Marcus’ menu. Sure, it had a silly rollout but, don’t knock it if you haven’t tried it, because it’s good.
Beth McKibben, Eater Atlanta editor
The biggest dining surprises really came in the form of longtime restaurant closures: the embattled Houston’s on Lenox Road shuttering after 40 years, Bagel Palace being pushed out of Toco Hills by greedy landlords, dining staples Greenwoods and Swallow at the Hollow closing in Roswell, and the drawn out closure saga of Cowtippers in Midtown, which finally says goodbye after 25 years this evening. The other big dining shocker in 2018 was the transfer of 20-year-old, Southern mainstay Watershed’s ownership from Ross Jones and Emily Saliers to chef Matt Marcus. It caught the entire city — and several of the South’s most prominent food writers — by complete surprise.