As 2021 began, the promise of COVID-19 vaccine availability to all Georgians was just on the horizon, and the Atlanta restaurant industry was coming to grips with the state of dining during the pandemic and settling into the cadence of a new normal. But with each month, and with vaccines now widely available, restaurants opened or returned to dine-in service, the pop-up scene thrived, and the list of new establishments planning to open around Atlanta grew.
The most read stories from Eater Atlanta in 2021 reflect a year of promise and hope mixed with a bit of controversy. From an Atlanta pitmaster bouncing back after a devastating fire destroyed his beloved barbecue restaurant and the return of a downtown Atlanta landmark, to the domination of food halls, a dumpling automat, and another dress code dust up, these ten stories got Atlantans talking in 2021. Plus, six more Eater Atlanta stories you might have missed this year definitely worth reading.
In April, Atlanta journalist and editor of Butter ATL, Mike Jordan, brought news of pitmaster Bryan Furman’s return to the dining scene with a brand new barbecue restaurant. After losing his second restaurant to fire, then closing his barbecue counter at the Ponce Kroger in 2019, Furman opens his eponymous restaurant Bryan Furman BBQ in 2022 on Bolton Road in his beloved Riverside neighborhood. With this restaurant, Furman brings family on board and celebrates Black barbecue traditions in the South.
Readers were thrilled to learn of the opening of Midtown culinary-themed hotel Epicurean Atlanta in September. Part of Marriott’s Autograph collection, the hotel resides in one of three towers at the 1105 West Peachtree development and includes restaurant Reverence, Aerial Kitchen and Bar on the ninth floor terrace, and high-tech kitchen classroom Epicurean Theatre.
In May, Robert Montwaid, the co-founder of recently opened Chattahoochee Food Works in northwest Atlanta, announced his plans to open another food hall in 2022 at downtown landmark Underground Atlanta. The food hall serves as the anchor tenant for Underground Atlanta, now owned by Shaneel Lalani, and will eventually include 21 stalls. It joins live music venue the Masquerade and Future Showbar, an LGBTQ-friendly restaurant, cabaret, and dance bar.
Speaking of food halls, readers were really excited to take a peek inside one of Atlanta’s newest food markets when it opened in Underwood Hills in May. Chattahoochee Food Works, backed by Robert Montwaid and celebrity chef Andrew Zimmern, will eventually feature 31 restaurant stalls. Nearly a dozen stalls are now open there, with more expected to open in 2022. Atlanta is currently experiencing a food hall boom.
Blame it on the meteoric rise in demand for even faster food during the pandemic, but Atlantans were charged up upon learning the news the city would be getting its first 24-hour automat when five locations of Brooklyn Dumpling Shop open here. What’s an automat? People order on their phone or via a digital panel at the restaurant and then pick up the order from a specific locker. It basically operates like a hi-tech vending machine.
Buckhead French restaurant Le Bilboquet came under fire in May for its arbitrary enforcement of the dress code, first by a patron attempting to dine there on May 16, then by Hawks basketball legend Dominique Wilkins days later. Wilkins received a public apology from Le Bilboquet. However, Johnson said she did not receive one from the restaurant regarding her experience.
One of Eater Atlanta’s top food guides this year was written by food and culture writer Robbie Medwed, who gave a history lesson on the significance of olive oil and fried foods served during Hanukkah, and why the latke isn’t the only option to consider for the eight-day celebration. The guide features several Atlanta restaurant dishes to enjoy during Hanukkah.
The July opening of Colony Square cocktail bar Jo Jo’s Beloved hidden inside food hall Politan Row brought summer excitement when readers learned of its retro cool design. The bar is a total vibe, hoping to entice people to step back in time to the age of disco glam with a solid dose of 1980s futurism in its design and drinks.
Never underestimate the power of Guy Fieri to drum up serious enthusiasm over the opening of another ghost kitchen in Atlanta. The self-proclaimed mayor of Flavortown launched a delivery-only restaurant in Alpharetta from the kitchen of Buca di Beppo aptly named Guy Fieri’s Flavortown Kitchen, and people were here for it.
Georgia governor Brian Kemp’s apathetic response to the pandemic continued to make news during the first half of 2021. But with an April press release entitled “Georgia is Open for Business”, readers questioned whether Georgia was every really closed during the early, unvaccinated days of the pandemic. On May 1, an executive order from the governor lifted the ban on large gatherings, eliminated the remaining shelter-in-place requirements for vulnerable residents, and reduced social distancing requirements at bars, restaurants, and movie theaters from six feet to 42 inches (3 feet, 6 inches) between seated parties. Eater included a timeline of decisions (and controversial lawsuits) by the governor through the first year of the global health crisis leading up to the May 1 reopening of the state.
Six Stories You Might Have Missed Worth a Read
September 28, 2021
The Permanency of On-Street Dining in Atlanta Looks Promising — by Kris Martins
August 17, 2021
March 31, 2021
The Fight to Unionize Georgia’s Hospitality Industry Is Underway — by Laura Scholz
March 22, 2021
October 29, 2021
Could Atlanta Be Getting Its First ‘Night Mayor’? Maybe. — by Beth McKibben
June 9, 2021
Got a story idea or restaurant industry-related policy or legislative news you think Eater Atlanta should cover in 2022? The editorial calendar is filling up, so send us the details at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- All Year in Eater coverage [EATL]