Foods trends and stunt foods (NyQuil chicken) come and go much more frequently these days, thanks to social media platforms like TikTok and Instagram. Remember when bacon was on everything, burger bars opened nearly every month, and cupcake vending machines were on every corner? But unlike other cities, Atlanta and its food trends often reflect the culture of the city and its current residents much more closely. It can make the city seem like it’s out of step with other parts of the country when it comes to food and restaurant trends. However, what this really highlights is Atlantans’ discerning skepticism of outside influences and people pushing narratives that don’t fit our dining scene.
Eater is tracking the following five food trends emerging on the Atlanta dining scene in 2023, most of which are likely here to stay for more than a hot minute.
Veganism and vegan restaurants aren’t new in Atlanta. In fact, veganism has deep roots in the Black communities and religious institutions found all over Atlanta’s westside neighborhoods dating back decades. Restaurants like Tassili’s Raw Food Cafe and Soul Vegetarian, run by the Atlanta chapter of the African Hebrew Israelite Community of Jerusalem, are just two longtime institutions on the city’s vegan restaurant scene. But a recent shift in dining habits, and with people much more concerned about the impact large-scale cattle farming is having on the planet, vegan food and restaurants are finding success within the broader dining landscape in Atlanta. Bolstered by the love affair with vegetables Atlantans and Southerners already enjoy, vegan restaurants and pop-ups are now thriving in the city, as seen in newer spots opening like La Semilla, Grass VBQ Joint, Plant Based Pizzeria, and the cafe at Nourish Botanica and with pop-ups like the Power Plant serving Afro-Latin vegan fare. Restaurants throughout Atlanta are also adding vegan entrees and options to menus, offering people viable choices beyond a salad. Atlanta is the vegan food capital of the South, and it’s a trend we expect to see continue.
Atlanta’s wine scene is booming. While the city features a slew of restaurants with excellent wine lists and fantastic wine shops, many which also offer regular wine tastings and flights, wine bars are few and far between in Atlanta. But that appears to be changing, with 2023 looking to be the year these wine-focused establishments become firmly rooted on the dining scene. You have only to look to places like Lucian Books and Wine, Larakin on 12th Street and El Vinedo Local on Peachtree Street in Midtown, and forthcoming wine bars Sea Legs in Poncey-Highland and Long Snake, from former 8ARM beverage director Josh Fryer, to see this emerging restaurant trend coming into sharp focus. Those hoping for a sneak peek of Fryer’s upcoming wine bar can find him popping up with Long Snake on Wednesday evenings at Whoopsie’s in Reynoldstown.
Sandwiches are the “It” food of 2023
If you’ve noticed more attention paid to sandwiches on menus lately and new restaurants opening in Atlanta dedicated to the humble handheld meal, you’re not imaging it. Atlanta is in a sandwich renaissance right now, a trend that seems to have serious staying power — and diners are here for it. New restaurants like Bona Fide Deluxe in Edgewood, How Crispy in Summerhill, and the Best Sandwich Shop in Poncey-Highland are churning out anything but cookie-cutter sandwiches packed with flavor, thanks to the use of local meats and cheeses and house-made ingredients and sauces. Fishmonger features one of the best fish sandwiches in Atlanta, the blackened grouper. And chef Justin Dixon continues to slay with his creative sandwiches for pop-up Humble Mumble at the Collective food hall in Midtown and at Georgia Beer Garden on Edgewood Avenue. Sandwiches like the Italian grinder, muffuletta on milk bread, and the soft shell crab have become big business for Old Fourth Ward market and counter-service restaurant Staplehouse over the last year.
The sheer number of Filipino food pop-ups on the scene currently should be enough of an indicator that this isn’t a passing fad, but a culinary tidal wave a long time in the making. The Philippines comprises over 7,600 islands, with the cuisine varying from region to region and island to island. Foods from the country are a melting pot and incorporate flavors, ingredients, and cooking techniques from Spanish colonizers, and later the United States, before the Philippines gained full independence in 1946. Many people credit Filipino food pop-up Kamayan ATL, owned by Mia Orino and Carlo Gan, for bringing the country’s cuisine to the forefront in Atlanta. Now open as a restaurant on Buford Highway, Orino and Gan continue to draw people in with their exemplary takes on traditional Filipino dishes and kamayan feasts. Their early success helped bring about the rise of Filipino pop-ups here, and focused even more attention on the 2020 opening of Filipino restaurant Estrellita in Grant Park, the first to officially open in Atlanta. As for the numerous Filipino pop-ups on the scene right now, expect to see some of these bakeries and roving mobile kitchens eventually transform into permanent establishments.
While arguably not a trend as much as it is a personal or necessary lifestyle choice, non-alcoholic cocktails and bottle shops are now a permanent fixture on the Atlanta drinks scene. Gone are the days when soft drinks and soda water topped with fruit juices were the only somewhat interesting non-alcoholic options on the menu. Today, restaurants and bars across the city are embracing zero-proof cocktails and dedicating entire sections to such drinks using booze-free spirits and mixers meant to mimic the taste and texture of liquors like gin, whiskey, or vodka. Atlanta’s first dedicated zero-proof bottle shop, the Zero Co., opened in Poncey-Highland last year and carries a large selection of non-alcoholic beers, ready-to-drink cocktails, 0-percent ABV spirits, and alcohol-removed wines on it shelves. And zero-proof cocktail pop-ups like Zilch Market continue to provide people with safe places to socialize over drinks without alcohol.