A new food festival debuts this weekend in Atlanta, and it’s shining a spotlight on the cuisine of the Philippines with over 40 vendors from all over the eastern seaboard, including from Atlanta and Georgia.
Hosted by Atlanta Filipino restaurant Kamayan ATL in collaboration with New York City pop-up So Sarap, the first annual Philippines Fest takes place Saturday, August 12, through Sunday, August 13, at Village Skate Park on Donald Lee Hollowell Parkway. Joining Kamayan ATL at the inaugural festival are other familiar Filipino restaurants and pop-ups from Atlanta like Adobo ATL, Pizza Kusina, Kuya’s Food Express, and Baker’s Hatt, with more vendors coming from New York City, New Jersey, North Carolina, and Alabama.
Kayaman ATL co-owner Carlo Gan says he and partner Mia Orino have been planning this multi-state Filipino festival since before the pandemic. The global health crisis put those plans on hold for three years. During that time, Gan and Orino transformed their popular Filipino food pop-up into a restaurant, opening Kamayan ATL in the Asian Square complex on Buford Highway in Doraville. Opening the restaurant left time for little else.
“We got so busy, that putting something like this [festival together] wouldn’t be possible, primarily because we had no free weekends in the last couple of years. We have been fully booked,” Gan tells Eater.
But a collaborative pop-up with So Sarap last year at Westside Motor Lounge in Atlanta revived plans for the festival.
“We became like family (Mia and the So Sarap family grew up in the same neighborhood in Manila, but didn’t know each other),” says Gan. “The pop-up was so successful, that they invited us to NYC to join Philippines Fest there, but our schedule wouldn’t allow it, so they all decided to just come down South.”
Many people credit Kamayan ATL for finally bringing Filipino food to the forefront in Atlanta when the pop-up launched in 2018. Its success encouraged other Filipino food pop-ups and new restaurants to follow suit, further highlighting the melting pot of flavors, ingredients, and cooking techniques of the over 7,600 islands that comprise the Philippines. This includes dishes and ingredients brought to the country by Spanish colonizers, and then the United States. The Philippines gained full independence in 1946.
During the Philippines Fest in Atlanta this weekend, Gan, Orino, and the team behind So Sarap hope to showcase the variety of dishes now found throughout the country, as well as focus attention on the chefs, pop-ups, and restaurants bringing their food to the Filipino community around metro Atlanta and introducing it to Atlantans unfamiliar with the vast culinary lexicon of the Philippines. In addition to food and merch vendors, the festival will also feature live painting by Atlanta artist Hella Leah, live-fire grilling demonstrations, and kids activities.
“We’re doing this [festival] for the younger ones. This is only the beginning. It’s part of our legacy we’re trying to build, lifting up the next creatives,” says Gan. “It’s a whole community coming together donating their talents and time. This is how Filipinos roll, and we’re just getting started.”
Atlanta Philippines Fest at Village Skate Park; August 12, 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.; August 13, 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tickets are $15 per person. Children under 11 are free.