Today we finish our Year in Eater review for 2023, 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, industry insiders, and readers to name the best new restaurants and pop-ups of 2023, their best meals in Atlanta this year, to offer up their favorite spots to regularly dine in Atlanta, and what got them excited about dining in Atlanta in 2023.
Finally, we asked our restaurant experts and readers to create a 2024 dining wish list for Atlanta. Here’s what each had to say about what they hope to see in the future at Atlanta restaurants.
Lia Picard, Eater contributor and Atlanta food writer
My wish is that Atlanta pumps the brakes on all the chain restaurants opening, with multiple locations planned, and embraces locally-owned establishments. Atlanta’s pop-up scene is flourishing, and while some have made the move into brick-and-mortar locations, competing with corporations is hard, and affordable real estate is scarce. I do not get a thrill when I hear about yet another salad or generic brunch outpost opening. The chains aren’t going to stop coming, of course, but I hope we remember to support our local restaurants while we still have them. Speaking of local gems, I miss Birdie Biscuits and would love if chef Zeb Stevenson brought it back, even in pop-up form. A girl can dream.
Mike Jordan, senior editor leading Black culture coverage at the AJC
I’d like to see diners continue to be honest about lackluster experiences at Atlanta restaurants. We all know there’s a problem, and we also know that we have brilliant restaurants that deserve to be mentioned among the best in the world — and not just because of Michelin. But we have to be willing to respect ourselves, our time, and our dollars more than we feel the need to support mediocre (at best) restaurants that we’re afraid to admit aren’t good because they look good on Instagram. Everybody’s a foodie now, but it took Keith Lee to pull the honesty out of a lot of us. I’m not saying we should start dissing more restaurants — especially Black-owned restaurants — but I am saying we can do better. We better start soon or else we’re going to find that we’ve mono-cultured the Atlanta dining experience into one big glittery scene that looks better than it tastes.
Jennifer Zyman, Atlanta restaurant critic and senior writer at Food & Wine
I keep asking for more diners yearly, because we need more here. Are we not a diner town? They’re utilitarian and don’t need to be fancy. Give me a dinner-sized Greek salad with a side of enormous cake slices, please. If I am being selfish, I would like to see even more Korean, Indian, and Chinese food in the city of Atlanta. We still have a long way to go in diversifying the city’s dining mix.
Maximilian Hines, chef at Breaker Breaker and founder of pop-up Stolen Goods
As Atlanta has grown in culinary notoriety, and with pop-ups turning into permanent locations, I wish for a boom in food trucks without all of the red tape from the city. We are so behind other major cities with the permitting and allowing people to cook and serve food from a truck. There used to be a taco truck I would find at construction zones in Midtown. I had some of my best meals served from that food truck, but the food came from a commissary kitchen in Atlanta. Imagine creatively what we could really do in this town with actual restaurants on wheels?
Beth McKibben, editor of Eater Atlanta
I found 2023 to be a down year for restaurants in Atlanta. Yes, a lot of restaurants opened, but too many of them are mediocre and serving uninspiring food. We can do better, Atlanta. And, what’s more, we know it. My wish in 2024 is for actual neighborhood restaurants to flourish in Atlanta, and for the City Council and the mayor to recognize the soul of our food scene is in supporting local chefs and restaurateurs, not corporate chains and restaurants catering to tourists. Money grabs are a bad look, and letting developers run wild and create our dining scene in the image they think is best isn’t winning city officials any votes. We are a city filled with entrepreneurs and creative people. That’s been the true Atlanta way since the city’s founding in 1847. Our food scene benefits from this fierce entrepreneurial spirit, which is seen in the pop-up restaurants, scrappy independent restaurants, and greater Atlanta’s global food landscape.
Two more wish list items for 2024: less food halls and more all-day cafes opening in and around Atlanta.
Eater readers surveyed
Readers had a lot to say about what they want to see from Atlanta restaurants and on the dining scene in 2024. Here are just a few suggestions from readers:
- More automatic gratuities and service fees included in the price of meals
- More healthy takeout options
- More wine bars, full-service lunch restaurants, and all-day cafes
- Less sushi restaurants
- More French and Italian restaurants
- Affordable prix-fixe menus under $45 per person
- Stop opening food halls
- No more restaurant chains forcing out established local restaurants and driving up rents
- More wine bars OTP (outside the perimeter)
- Some readers want to abolish dress codes at restaurants, while other readers want restaurants with dress codes to actually enforce the rule
- More upscale, fine-dining soul food restaurants
- Less grass walls and brunch restaurants that are really just clubs
- More bakery-cafes opening
- Serve more breakfast tacos
- More outdoor dining and sidewalk cafes