For some Atlanta restaurant and bar owners, the devastating loss of revenue over the last nine months, lack of rent relief or support from landlords, and inability to secure substantial emergency funding was too much to overcome and left them with no choice but to close their businesses permanently. We continue discussing the 2020 dining scene and the tumultuous year for the restaurant industry with Atlanta food writers and authorities. The experts have already given their takeout standbys, named their favorite new Atlanta restaurants of 2020, and offered insight into their best meals of the year.
Now Atlanta dining experts discuss the restaurant closures that hit them the hardest in 2020. Responses are cut, pasted, and lightly edited.
Jennifer Zyman — Atlanta food writer and dining critic Atlanta magazine, Thrillist, Eater Atlanta, AJC; founder of “The Blissful Glutton”
I’m obsessed with every sandwich that chef Todd Ginsberg makes, and I am a regular at Fred’s Meat and Bread. When the Canteen closed at Georgia Tech this year, I was so sad. I must’ve gone there at least once a week and found it to be such a useful spot no matter what I was craving. I was also upset to see Ah-Ma’s close because they were very good at what they did and an asset to the Asian food-starved intown area.
Mike Jordan — Atlanta food and beverage writer Eater Atlanta, Playboy, Rolling Stone, the Wall Street Journal, Atlanta magazine; editor-in-chief of Butter ATL
There have been some really sad ones, but the ones that affected me most were coffee shops: Ebrik downtown and Octane on Howell Mill. Ebrik I didn’t visit often enough, and I regret that now. But Octane was a gut punch. I remember when it opened. I was working in the area, doing creative work across the street from Stankonia Studios, and we used to have meetings with a lot of amazing people at Octane. The music was good, the people were even better, and the coffee was superb. Plus they had adult drinks before that was really a thing in Atlanta coffee shops. It was one of the first places I had the early successful beers by Atlanta’s new generation of craft breweries, like Monday Night’s Drafty Kilt. I used to drop in to power through a day’s writing work, geeked on caffeine, and by the time I was done, I’d have a higher-ABV porter or something similar to rebalance. Some really brilliant ideas and even companies (shout out to Scoutmob) were born in that place. I’m sad to see it go.
Deborah VanTrece — chef and owner of Twisted Soul Cookhouse and Pours
I’m sad when any restaurant closes, because I know first hand the feeling of loss and disappointment of having to close down your dream.
Sarah Kim — partner Our Bar ATL
Although it wasn’t necessarily due to COVID-19, the closing of The Sound Table on Edgewood Ave was personally the saddest one for me. It’s a blaring signal that the block’s live music era and its legacy are in danger of coming to an end with a whimper.
Federico Castellucci — President and CEO of Castellucci Hospitality Group (Cooks and Soldiers, the Iberian Pig, Double Zero, Sugo)
Beth McKibben — editor of Eater Atlanta
Restaurant closures were especially difficult to report on this year given the financial fallout caused by the pandemic as the underlying factor for those closures. Most wouldn’t have otherwise occurred. The closures of Cardinal bar in Grant Park and Ah-Ma’s Taiwanese Kitchen in Midtown personally hit me the hardest. I counted Cardinal and Ah-Ma’s among my regular rotation of off-the-clocks spots. Both were run by people who not only cared for their customers and regulars, but took care of the industry in which they themselves belonged. It wasn’t unusual to walk into either Cardinal or Ah-Ma’s and run into service industry workers or Atlanta food writers enjoying drinks and a meal on their days off.