Eater Atlanta reported on a slew of dining news over the course of 2019, from people waiting in line for hours for vegan chicken wings to a Top Chef’s most ambitious restaurant opening to date.
Some of the biggest news stories this year were those surrounding restaurant openings and closings as well as the Atlanta City Council’s restaurant smoking ban, which goes into effect on January 2. However, 2019 was also filled with reported features on Atlanta’s Mexican seafood scene, the planned comeback of B’s Cracklin’ BBQ’s Bryan Furman after a devastating fire at his Riverside restaurant, and coffee shop owner Jason Waller providing a safe space for those battling mental illness and grief.
The year also saw chef success stories like that of 8Arm’s Maricela Vega, and hot takes on others such as Andrew Zimmern and his vow to bring “international fare” to Atlanta in the form of a food hall.
As the year draws to a close, Eater takes a look back at the top ten buzziest dining stories that got a lot of Atlanta readers talking in 2019.
Kicking off the top ten stories of 2019 is this bit of news surrounding the name — or rather the tagline — of popular Savannah-based sandwich shop Zunzi’s on Howell Mill Road. After 13 years in Savannah and a year after opening in Atlanta to Nextdoor message board drama, Zunzi’s dropped “Takeout & Catering” from its name as Atlantans seemed confused over whether it was takeout only or an actual restaurant.
Unlike its Savannah location, which sees a fair amount of foot traffic, Howell Mill Road is typically choked with cars. Despite tables and chairs inside clearly visible from the road, a small patio featuring tables with rainbow umbrellas, and displaying the menu in big, bold graphics outside, owner Chris Smith decided to take the tagline down. He claimed that within ten minutes of the new installation, five people walked into the restaurant to inquire about the menu.
While not a news story, Eater Atlanta contributing writer Lia Picard’s thorough research (multiple eating excursions) on the top 16 dishes she ate at Ponce City Market this year paid off.
Picard took Eater readers on a dining journey through the market’s central food hall that included coffee-infused tagliatelle at Italian market and osteria Bellina Alimentari, a hoppin’ John burrito at Minero, and Botiwalla’s tamarind-glazed spare ribs.
The July opening of Top Chef Kevin Gillespie Gunshow sister act, Cold Beer, had readers buzzing with excitement. The two-story Eastside Beltline restaurant is Gillespie’s largest and most ambitious restaurant to date. While Cold Beer’s modern, minimalist interior may not appeal to everyone, the design is deeply personal for Gillespie, which includes the large painting of a polar bear (the chef’s spirit animal) created by artist O.M. Norling. Entitled “A Recluse, the Journey, and a Curious Game of Skill and Chance”, the bear represents Gillespie, his life, and his recent tribulations, which includes a battle with renal cancer last year.
Top Chef fanatics can catch Gillespie as part of an all-star cast during Season 17 of the show that made him a fan and Atlanta favorite next year.
Seafood boil and by-the-pound restaurants seemed to open nearly every week around Atlanta in 2019, but none generated as much buzz as Krab Queenz. Restaurateur and comedian Kwaylon “Blameitonkway” Rogers opened his latest seafood house in August inside the former Gladys Knights Chicken & Waffles space on Peachtree Street. The opening included a parade, celebrities, and jugs of daiquiris.
Atlanta became the center of the vegan fast food universe this summer when a lone KFC on Cobb Parkway was used as a test restaurant for the fried chicken brand’s proposed vegan nuggets and wings.
People and cars lined up hours in advance of the 10:30 a.m. opening. By noon, a logjam of cars stretched back to Windy Ridge Road nearly a block away and a line of people curled into a circle in the parking lot. Eater sent contributing writer Mike Jordan to do a little man-on-the-street reporting from the scene and to gauge the feedback from those lucky enough to indulge in free imitation chicken that day.
Faux chicken wasn’t the only food that caught the attention of readers this year. Remember Candytopia — the over-the-top, sugar-coated, Instagrammable art exhibit in Buckhead? The edible art installation was all readers could talk about in January. The interactive candy experience offered dips in a foam marshmallow pit, augmented reality technology via a mobile app, and art depicting local landmarks and celebrities bedecked in various candies and sweets. Candytopia was so successful in Atlanta, it extended its stay through June.
In one of the most Atlanta stories of the year, LaGrange, Georgia, brewery Beacon Brewing Co. created a beer called “Crushable” for the legendary Clermont Lounge entertainer, Blondie. The beer’s name refers to the living legend’s proclivity for crushing beer cans between her breasts while reciting poetry at the iconic strip club on Ponce.
Blondie’s new beer was the talk of the town throughout most of September.
OTP (outside the Perimeter) readers were really excited to finally have a food hall of their very own. Marietta’s version of Krog Street Market opened in March near the Cobb County city’s historic town square with 17 restaurants and food stalls.
Marietta Square Market is located in a converted warehouse behind the William Root House Museum and adjacent to the railroad tracks. It’s fashioned after an early 20th century train station. A trolley car from 1922 even sits at the entrance to the market; the same type of streetcar which ran between Marietta and Atlanta until 1944.
Speaking of standing in line for hours to eat vegan fare, fans of Slutty Vegan continue to line up around the block for the Westview restaurant’s provocatively named meatless burgers like the “One Night Stand” and “Ménage à Trois”. The popular food truck, owned by Clark Atlanta University alum Pinky Cole, went permanent in January and served 1,200 people on its opening day.
The number one story of 2019 was a story that was first published in April 2018. How it started trending again is unknown, but it just goes to show that Atlantans really love Waffle House. The Atlanta-based, 24-hour diner chain opened a second outpost inside Braves SunTrust Park last spring. However, it was the fact this Waffle House would be the first to sell beer that really caught the attention of, well, everyone.
Along with the excitement of pairing Miller Light or Coors Light with smothered and covered hash browns, came the jokes and what could happened if libations were served at Waffle Houses across Atlanta, especially at 3 a.m. The first round of the story in 2018, and again this past October, also saw people wondering whether offering beer at Waffle House was a good idea. Most forgot this particular Waffle House is not accessible on non-game days and is inside a stadium already filled with plenty of better beer choices.
One thing’s for sure, 2020 will include another round of eye-catching Waffle House news.