It’s hard to believe 2022 is drawing to a close and it’s been over two years since the pandemic rocked the restaurant industry to its core. At the start of 2020, the restaurant industry in Atlanta was looking stronger than ever, with the list of anticipated openings for the year growing steadily each week. By March, what promised to be a banner year for Atlanta restaurants was overnight turned on its head. The pandemic had begun, and restaurant dining rooms all over the world went dark, including throughout Atlanta.
Over the course of 2020, Eater focused reporting on the effects of the pandemic on Atlanta restaurants, pandemic-related policies and labor issues, and even on some success stories with restaurants transforming into neighborhood markets, takeout businesses, and soup kitchens. But few restaurants opened in 2020. And the ones that managed to open, did so quietly and without much fanfare. While Eater reported on as many restaurant openings as possible that year, it’s likely most openings were lost in the shuffle of 2020’s difficult news cycle or overshadowed by the openings of a handful of critical darlings.
Below are eight restaurants that opened in 2020 and folks might have missed, but should definitely put on their Atlanta restaurant radar now.
Paolino Italian Restaurant and Gelateria — Oakhurst
Paolino Italian Restaurant and Gelateria took over the former Son of a Bear Korean restaurant space in the heart of Oakhurst in February 2020. Owned by Shane Mixon (Saba), the menu offers comforting old-school Italian dishes and pastas, including fettuccine Alfredo, linguine and clam sauce, and lasagna, along with lobster ravioli and eggplant pappardelle.
The Companion — Bolton
Steinbeck’s Ale House chef Andy Gonzales opened the Companion in April 2020, first with just takeout, and then with seating on the patio later that year. It’s become a low-key and casual spot for area residents to congregate for drinks and to dine on dishes like sweet and savory Vietnamese wings, umami fries, sardine-tomato toast, and the double-stack cheeseburger Tower of Power. There’s daily dinner specials here, too, along with a sandwich of the day. Folks looking for a bite on Atlanta’s westside should put the Companion on their list. Expect frozen drinks on the menu during the summer.
Outrun Brewing Company — Stone Mountain
This funky little garage operation sits at the base of Stone Mountain and opened in July 2020 with a totally 1980s vibe, including color-morphing neon signs. Owned by Josh Miller and Ryan Silva, the brewery’s moniker is an homage to the vintage Sega arcade game of the same name. There’s even two Sega OutRun auto racing arcade games on site. The beer line-up here leans toward lagers, sours, and stouts, and the brewery often hosts trivia and board game nights and food from local pop-up chefs.
Estrellita — Grant Park
One of the most anticipated restaurants to open in 2020, did so quietly and with takeout only in September of that year. Located in Grant Park beside Manny’s on Woodward Avenue, Filipino spot Estrellita continues to welcome the community to its 20-seat dining room, where owners Hope Webb and chef Walter Cortado shine the spotlight on the many regional cuisines that make up the thousands of islands comprising the Philippines. Over the course of the last two years, Estrellita has also opened its doors to Atlanta Filipino food pop-ups and chefs in a continuing mission to raise awareness of the vast foodways found throughout the Philippines.
Chi Chi Vegan — Reynoldstown
Vegan taqueria Chi Chi Vegan Taco Shop opened in early September of 2020 at the 1 Moreland Avenue complex. Owned by chef Chris Hodge, this spot is a must for vegan tacos, nachos, and burritos. A new cocktail bar called Whoopsie’s from barman Tim Faulkner (Up or Down, Octopus Bar) and Hudson Rouse (Rising Son) is opening in the former Hodgepodge Coffeehouse space at 1 Moreland Avenue next year.
Woodward and Park — Grant Park
Grant Park restaurant Woodward and Park also opened in Grant Park in September, next door to Full Commission at the Larkin on Memorial. The menu at this neighborhood bistro offers a mix of dishes, ranging from avocado deviled eggs, baked shrimp dip, and P.E.I. mussels to fish and chips, vegan bolognese, and mahi-mahi in a Cajun cream sauce. A tight wine, beer, and cocktail list round out the beverages here. Look for the occasional pop-up on Monday nights at Woodward and Park.
3+3 LanZhou Ramen — Kennesaw
LanZhou Ramen owners Fu Li Zhang and Rachel Yuan opened two new restaurants in 2020, Yunnan Crossing Bridge Rice Noodle in Duluth, followed by 3+3 LanZhou Ramen in Kennesaw. While the former received most of the attention, the latter is worth the trek to Kennesaw for hand-pulled noodle soups and dishes like those found at the popular Buford Highway restaurant, as well as for dumplings and entrees of Xinjiang stir-fried chicken with sliced noodles and hot and numbing crawfish.
Girl Diver — Reynoldstown
This seafood-driven restaurant from Char Korean Bar and Grill owner chef Richard Tang opened at Madison Yards on Memorial Drive in December 2020. Girl Diver specializes in Southeast Asian seafood fare on its menu in dishes like green curry mussels, spicy Thai chili snapper, and tamarind lobster tail. The menu offers a variety of dishes beyond seafood, too, including Asian beef bolognese, Thai basil chicken, and even a chef’s selection of dim sum during lunch. A second location opens at the Westside Paper complex on West Marietta Street in northwest Atlanta soon.