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Michelin Finally Decides Atlanta Is Worthy of Its Coveted Dining Guide

The Michelin guide arrives in Atlanta and anonymous dining inspectors are already eating at and rating restaurants around the city

The Atlanta skyline from the Jackson Street Bridge Ryan Fleisher
Beth McKibben is the editor and staff reporter for Eater Atlanta and has been covering food and cocktails locally and regionally for 12 years.

The rumors are true. Atlanta is finally getting a Michelin dining guide. And anonymous dining inspectors are already secretly eating at and rating restaurants around the city and metro area.

According to a press release, Atlanta restaurants selected for the 2023 Michelin guide will be revealed later this fall, with some restaurants possibly granted a one, two, or three star rating, joining starred restaurants in cities like LA, San Francisco, New York, Chicago, Miami, London, Paris, and Tokyo.

“We want to recognize that Atlanta is a culinary powerhouse, with a long list of styles and flavors for foodies to enjoy. One might immediately associate the city with Southern cuisine, and rightfully so, but there is much depth here that should not go overlooked,” the international director of the Michelin guides, Gwendal Poullennec, says in a statement. “Atlanta is brimming with innovation and talent, which is evident in the dining scene, according to our anonymous inspectors.

How does the star rating system work?

The dining guide by the French tire company began as a series of guidebooks at the start of the 20th century. Restaurants under consideration are inspected multiple times a year before being presented with a Michelin rating and must consistently meet five key criteria to earn a star or stars.

  1. Quality products and ingredients
  2. Harmony of flavors
  3. Mastery of cooking techniques
  4. Voice and personality of the chef reflected in the cuisine
  5. Consistency of food and service between visits by the inspector

One star means a restaurant incorporates high quality cooking and is worthy of a stop. Two stars means a restaurant offers excellent cooking and people should go out of their way to make a reservation or prioritize stopping for a meal. With three stars, a restaurant is deemed exceptional and special enough to become part of someone’s travel plans in that city.

Michelin also grants restaurants with high quality food at affordable prices (or “best value for money”) Bib Gourmand status. Restaurants with excellent sustainable and environmentally friendly practices are awarded a Michelin Green Star. Other restaurants with exceptional wine, sake, and beer lists are often recognized with a grape, sake bottle, or beer pint symbol from Michelin or simply receive a mention in the guide for being a notable dining destination in a city.

What does the Michelin guide mean for Atlanta?

Featuring Michelin starred restaurants or even restaurants mentioned in the guide can only raise a city’s profile and boost tourism, something Atlanta is already seeking as it looks forward to hosting the College Football Playoff National Championship in 2025, followed by FIFA World Cup matches in 2026. Atlanta officials and developers are banking on a major boon in business and tourism from both sporting events, the likes the city hasn’t seen since the 1996 Olympics.

Michelin is working in tandem with the Atlanta Convention and Visitors Bureau (ACVB) to incur some of the costs surrounding marketing and promotional campaigns for the new dining guide. But the ACVB does not apparently hold sway with Michelin over which restaurants dining inspectors consider or select for the Atlanta guide.

Working in partnership with tourism boards is not an unusual practice for Michelin and allows the guide to continually expand into cities around the world. With these partnerships, however, comes controversy and accusations over the lack of diversity in the guide and of pay-to-play, including in California where the state’s tourism board paid Michelin $600,000 as an investment to bring the guide back to the state four years ago. In 2021, the Miami Herald reported tourism boards in Florida were going to pay Michelin an estimated $1.5 million to consider restaurants in the state for the guide. The Korean Tourism Organization paid Michelin nearly $1.8 million to come to Seoul.

With Michelin’s arrival, local dining critics and food media will be closely monitoring how the guide unfolds in Atlanta and what effect, if any, the selections will have on these restaurants. Reservations may be harder to come by or prices could surge with a restaurant’s newly minted Michelin star status or guide mention.

Only time will tell what impact the Michelin guide will have on Atlanta’s restaurant scene overall. For now, the guessing game begins as to which restaurants will land coveted spots in the guide this fall.