Many people credit Filipino food pop-up Kamayan ATL, owned by Mia Orino and Carlo Gan, for finally bringing the country’s cuisine to the forefront in Atlanta. And now after three years of running Kamayan ATL as a pop-up and catering business, Orino and Gan plan to open it as a restaurant this December in the iconic Asian Square complex on Buford Highway in Doraville.
Located in the former Mary’s Fresh Juice space, Kamayan ATL will include seating for up to 40 people and serve a rotating menu of dishes and regional specialities from the more than 7,000 islands that comprise the Philippines. Filipino baked goods, like ube piaya and peach mango buko pie, from Three Lolas Bake Shop, will also be served, along with mid-afternoon snacks, halo-halo, and fresh-pressed juices from the bar.
Orino and Gan want to keep operations at Kamayan ATL simple, opening five days a week as a counter-service restaurant, before eventually expanding to full-service dining. Pop-ups take over the kitchen on the two days the restaurant is closed.
Since launching Kamayan ATL in 2018, Orino and Gan have served up traditional Filipino dishes, comfort foods, and feasts at restaurants throughout Atlanta, including at Lazy Betty and Ba Bellies, featuring silog platters, lumpia, whole fish dishes, pancit bihon, and pork adobo.
“I’m going to do a lot of the regional and obscure dishes, some I’ve never really had before because there are so many islands,” Orino says of the menu for the restaurant. “It’s always a continuing education for me, and it’s exciting to do some remote dish that only five or 10,000 people know. We just want to share these dishes on a larger platform.”
Earlier this year, the pair began popping up regularly at the outdoor mobile food park and chefs market at Pratt Pullman District in Kirkwood. But with the restaurant now on the horizon and catering ramping up as the holidays approach, Orino says they are winding down the pop-up in the neighborhood.
While originally planning to open Kamayan ATL inside a century-old bungalow in Kirkwood with a koi pond that resembled the small koi pond at Orino’s childhood home in Manila, the cost to convert and upgrade the property proved too much. Instead, the design for the Asian Square restaurant calls for a scaled-down version of a bahay kudo in the dining room, a traditional house found in the Philippines built from bamboo and other sustainable materials, then transported by neighbors to its final location. Bamboo for the bahay kudo at Kamayan ATL will be sourced from local residents and farms around Atlanta.
Meant as a communal gathering space, the bahay kudo will seat 16 people. Orino says the structure pays tribute to the community of diners and chefs who continue to support Kamayan ATL on its journey to becoming a restaurant.
“We didn’t start Kamayan ATL to make money. It was originally just to share our food and our culture with the Atlanta community,” says Orino. “It became so much bigger than we imagined, and we are excited to represent the Filipino community and become part of the iconic Asian Square on Buford Highway.”