Today we continue our Year in Eater review, where we surveyed Atlanta food writers, industry insiders, and readers about their dining experiences over the past 12 months.
We’ve already asked Atlanta food writers and readers to name the best new restaurants and pop-ups of 2023, their best meals in Atlanta this year, and to offer up their favorite spots to regularly dine in Atlanta. Now, each shares their thoughts on what got them excited about dining in Atlanta in 2023.
Check back tomorrow for the final installment of the Year in Eater for 2023, with feedback from Atlanta food writers, industry insiders, and readers.
Lia Picard, Eater contributor and Atlanta food writer
It’s cool to see restaurants and diners embracing a more “intimate” style of dining between the rise of omakase restaurants (two of them earned Michelin stars) and supper club experiences like Dirt Church and Maria. Larger restaurants are still opening, but there’s clearly a desire for smaller-scale, personalized dining. That said, the other trend I see is places going really big or thematic, as restaurateurs seek to make their places more immersive in a TikTok world. Some of this delivers on style and substance, like Verdure Kitchen, but not always.
I continue to feel excited about all the ways chefs lean into vegetables. Atlanta has always been a seasonally-driven city, but you don’t have to look that hard to find mushrooms used in interesting, prominent ways (Think Daily Chew’s mushroom schnitzel pita.)
Mike Jordan, senior editor leading Black culture coverage at the AJC
I love seeing people realize that we have much better Italian food than we’ve been given credit for in the past—or maybe were willing to try because of loyalty to the old guard spots in Atlanta. Gigi’s is just fantastic, and BoccaLupo just never misses. And, the pasta at Lyla Lila is still very good. No shade to Maggiano’s, but I remember being very embarrassed a few years ago when they consistently had the best bites at the big local food festival tasting tents. Also, our local wine shops are killer now! I can’t say I love 3 Parks Wine enough, and I’m so geeked for Sarah Pierre and her new Old Fourth Ward location.
Jennifer Zyman, Atlanta restaurant critic and senior writer at Food & Wine
I have covered Atlanta restaurants for many years and cannot keep up with the current openings, but it is a great sign for our city’s restaurant growth. I also love seeing local restaurants open multiple locations throughout the city. You don’t have to drive 40 minutes for your favorite ramen or Korean bakery because they have downtown locations. It also means that local restauranteurs you love, but don’t frequent due to traffic, probably have concepts closer to you.
Maximilian Hines, chef at Breaker Breaker and founder of pop-up Stolen Goods
I think pre-ordering and online ordering for pop-up chefs with set amounts has made me excited, especially when they sell out. The limited amount helps pop-up chefs plan, prep, and not waste food appropriately. Any wasted food at a pop-up is literally money out of the pocket of the chef. Diners selling out these pop-ups makes me excited, and I’ve seen Mighty Hans and Brave Wojtek do it successfully.
Beth McKibben, editor of Eater Atlanta
Atlanta’s wine scene is booming. Finally. This is evident in the number of excellent wine menus now found at restaurants all over the city, and not just at the expected spots. Shout out to wine bar pop-ups Dive Wine Bar and Long Snake. Also, Larakin coffee and wine bar in Midtown is rad and we need more places like it in every Atlanta neighborhood.
I am also extremely excited for the future of our thriving pop-up restaurant scene and seeing so many of these chefs turn their transient food operations into permanent locations. The success of these pop-ups led to restaurants like Gigi’s, Leftie Lee’s, BOK (the Bite of Korea), and Little Bear opening, and the establishment of the Punk Foodie pop-up food stall at Ponce City Market. I suspect we’ll see quite a few more pop-ups turning permanent in 2024—looking at you, Mother’s Best.
Eater readers surveyed
The following food trends spotted by some readers in 2023 got them excited about dining out in Atlanta:
- More seasonal and creative vegetables and vegetable dishes on menus
- Atlanta’s vegan restaurant scene
- Better wines on menus and wine bar pop-ups like Dive Wine Bar and Long Snake
- Cocktails at casual restaurants exceeding expectations, like Whoopsie’s, Bona Fide Deluxe, and Roshambo
- Smaller, niche restaurants with excellent food
- Better non-alcoholic options from bars
- More restaurants introducing live music to the mix
- More Filipino food easily found in Atlanta
- More upscale Mexican restaurants entering Atlanta