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Food Waves:

January 9, 2013

A Preview of ATL’s Smoking 2013 Dining Scene

The buzzy chefs, trends, and new Atlanta eating spots to book in 2013

By James Oxendine with contributions by Jay Tribby, Hannah Huffines, and Rebecca Cochran

Which top chef is rolling out a food truck, who’s planning a Tokyo-style 24-hour ramen shop, and what’s the on-the-verge new dining nabe? Read on to find out where you will be noshing in the New Year.

A beets dish by Todd Richards; Polaris Lounge; Chef Mihoko Obunai; Kevin Rathbun A beets dish by Todd Richards; Polaris Lounge; Chef Mihoko Obunai; Kevin Rathbun

When viewed pan-optically, 2012 was a very good year for Atlanta’s dining scene. Statistically, gross sales were up (In fact, Atlanta ranks #1 for dining out in terms of total food and drink spending at 57%--the US average is 37% according to And although we lost some stellar spots like Pura Vida, several notable new restos like The Spence and The Optimist (the latter garnered the Best New Restaurant of the Year award from Esquire magazine) thrilled diners both locally and beyond. But my crystal ball says that 2013 promises to add some even more exciting new faces and places with strong box office appeal to our city’s dining scene. Here are a few of the faces, places and trends that should be on the must-see list this year:



Innovation and creativity will be the big drivers for 2013 and there will be more of a balance between craft and hospitality.  Atlanta’s chefs are going to challenge  diners with experiences that will appeal to their eyes, palates and social consciences. Some local trends to watch for in 2013 include: more in-town, independent chef-driven restos; more locally sourced product; more small-plate menus; more chicken and poultry on the plate; well executed dessert menus...

TRENDING NOW:...more sweets featuring savory flavors; nostalgic themed cocktails; ramen noodle joints; butcher-to-bar combos; more eateries decked out with Edison light bulbs and repurposed wood; Tex-Mex/ taquerias, and molto Italian joints—still “the new black” in terms of food culture.



Atlanta’s emerging neighborhoods like Westside and downtown Decatur have seen an influx of chef-driven hotspots that have transformed them into diverse and vibrant communities. What neighborhoods will the ATL’s eat-and-tweet crowd flock to in 2013? Here are some thoughts from some of the folks in the know around town.

Councilmember Kwanza Hall, who strongly believes in the transformative power restaurants can have on emerging communities, trumpets the Old Fourth Ward (O4W) and Inman Park as the ATL’s hottest dinning destinations for 2013, citing the popularity of hotspots like Naples pizzeria newbie, Ammazza, and 4th &Swift.

Developer Aaron Goldman, President of Perennial Properties, a company that has had a sterling track record of identifying promising in-town locations and investing in a mixed use project that enhances the urban experience for dwellers and businesses (Highland Steel, Pencil Factory Lofts and Flats), says that his top three hot dining hoods for 2013 are Inman Park; Downtown East-the Decatur Street corridor, and“West” West Midtown ( Huff Road and the Ellsworth cross section).

And James Beard award winning chef, Linton Hopkins, said that his neighborhood, Peachtree Hills in Buckhead, is hot and that he “can’t wait for Kevin Rathbun’s KR Steakbar to open.” (Other star Buckhead stops: the just-opened, already-gone-viral Seven Lamps Craft & Drink by chef Drew Van Leuvan and mixologist Arianne Felder at Shops Around Lenox and two coming projects by Ford Fry in the former Nava and Bluepointe spaces).



Some of the usual suspects such as the top-shelf Buckhead Life Restaurant Group ( Pano’s)  and Kevin Rathbun( KR Steakbar)  have some noteworthy new projects planned/ under construction. However, Ford Fry’s Rocket Farm LLC( JCT Kitchen, No. 246 and The Optimist) seems to have the greatest trajectory. 

With the hearth-grilled-menu-driven King +Duke, slated for a January premier in the former Nava space; a Euro-centric themed concept (think flavors from Spain, Italy and France), slated for a spring opening, featuring a classic European bar, a “dramatic crudo bar with just harvested shellfish and seafood” and a wood-burning hearth in the former Bluepointe space; a Tex-Mex eatery in Inman Park; and a proposed food truck project with a not-for-profit focus that will provide life skills to the less fortunate, the Fry guys look to be 2013’s prime time players.

See Fry's profile as a restaurant empire-buildre in Food & Wine Magazine:

Mihoko Obunai Mihoko Obunai


There are also some other players coming out of the gate with new concepts in 2013 that have serious star power and culinary chops. Look for creative efforts from Kevin Gillespie’s Gunshow, a Southern classics-meets-dim sum joint with an ai3 design in Glenwood Park;

Mihoko Obunai, fresh off her cult ramen success with Guy Wong at Miso Izakaya, is planning a Tokyo-like, 24 hour ramen noodle joint in the O4W; Angus Brown is planning  a standalone Octopus bar/resto featuring larger plates and Asian hipster fare like "curated" sashimi when he returns from his six-month Vietnam culinary tour;

pasta man Bruce Logue (formerly of La Pietra Cucina) is opening the rustico Bocca Lupo in the former Inman Park spot Sauced, and Todd Ginsberg (formerly of Bocado) will headline The General Muir- the Jewish deli / gastro pub from the West Egg team inside Emory Point.

And keep an eye on these folks, who are also primed to spread some star dust around town with their distinct, culinary points of view:  Miso Izakaya’s Guy Wong, along with business partner Mike Blum, is opening the Westside bao joint Yum Bunz with a menu of steamed Asian buns stuffed with savories; Taria Camerino (formerly of Sugar Coated Radical), who is sweetening the menus of all of Rocket Farm’s stores with creative confections, is looking to open a bakery concept for the Ford Fry folks; Todd Richards, top toque at The Shed at Glenwood, is looking to open a second restaurant concept with the owner of The Shed; and Pizza Potentate Giovanni Di Palma, who is creating a Little Italy on the Westside anchored by the internationally renowned Antico Pizza and the just-added Gio's Chicken Amalfitano. Look for Bar Antico, a cafe/limoncello and bar/gelateria to come later this year.  

The Polaris Lounge The Polaris Lounge

2013 will also see some prominsing new cocktail spots opening or expanding in the ATL like uber mixologist Paul Calvert’s Paper Plane, a bar with a dining menu inside the Decatur location of Victory Sandwich Bar; the Ed Seiber designed expansion of Midtown’s Proof and Provisions (beneath Livingstons in the Georgia Terrace Hotel); the upcoming Kimball House in Decatur from the crackerjack team behind Leon's Full Service and Brickstore Pub; 

...and a Johnson Studio re-do of the legendary, John Portman-designed revolving restaurant Polaris atop the Hyatt Regency Hotel. When the groovy, circa 1964 hotspot gets refurbished it will function primarily as “a lounge with limited food options."

At first glance, 2013 holds out some great things for Atlanta’s dynamic dining scene. There will, of course, be some closures and failed concepts, but there will also be some Portland-cool concepts in hot dining nabes and talented chefs such as former Craft Atlanta top toque, Kevin Maxey (who will oversee Fry’s King + Duke in the short run) and Chicago transplant, Russell Kook of the re-concepted LPC bringing their formidable culinary influence to town. With the curtain lifting on 2013, these factors bode well for a happy and tasty new year for Atlanta diners--whether it’s in a four-star dining room or a chic neighborhood bistro. And who knows, there may be a future James Beard award-winner toiling in those aspiring new eateries!




TWO Urban Licks TWO Urban Licks

Nationally acclaimed Chicago native Todd Stein  was just announced as the new Executive Chef at TWO Urban Licks. Stein, whose CV includes Bank (Minneapolis), David Burke (Las Vegas), Cibo Matto and The Florentine (Chicago), will officially start in February 2013. Stein said, "I am really excited to be coming to Atlanta and to the kitchen at TWO urban licks, a restaurant with a very strong reputation that has enjoyed great success for the past eight years. I plan to continue the ever-popular cuisine that has already been established at TWO, while adding my signature style. Simply put, I prefer to keep food approachable by utilizing seasonal ingredients with minimal manipulation.”


Local restaurant design firm, Seiber Design (Cakes & Ale, Restaurant Eugene and Yeah Burger), is featured in the December issue of Hospitality Design magazine. Ed Seiber, who helms the architectural side of the practice, and his partner Stacey Kirby, who handles interiors, discuss the art of collaboration, their reverence for the South, and eating barbecue with Terence Malick.


Star chef, Ford Fry, along with North American Properties, Vantage Atlanta, and Iconologic, and the residents and supporters of City of Refuge are launching a non-profit food truck in spring 2013 to benefit the Atlanta based organization. City of Refuge’s mission is to bring strength, hope and light to Atlanta’s last, lost and least. According to Fry, “It will give the residents of City of Refuge a great learning experience and a place to work, while also creating a business model to generate increased funding for their programs. And it’s going to be quirky and delicious. I can’t think of a better way to spend my time and energy.” The truck name and culinary concept are in development and will be released soon. Anyone interested in making a donation to the project can go to


MF Sushi relocates to Houston MF Sushi relocates to Houston

Former ATL star sushi chef, Chris “Magic Fingers” Kinjo, has relocated to Houston and opened MF Sushi Tapas and Lounge.




Chick-a-Biddy, the new fast-casual chicken concept from Shaun Doty, is slated to open in April and occupy the former The Grape space. The spinoff of Bantam + Biddy will feature wood-grilled chicken and fresh vegetables.  .



Johnny Gianoulidis, the owner of Park Grounds Café in Reynoldstown, is planning to open  Pallookaville Fine Foods, featuring a 1930s soda fountain, deli sandwiches and hamburgers, corndogs, meat-and-three meals at night and a full bar, in the long-empty, Tudor-style building at Avondale Estates' main intersection at Clarendon and Avondale roads by April or May.



Thrillist is reporting the opening of The One Sushi Plus at 2523 Caldwell Road featuring an array of sushi as well as authentic Japanese beers and cocktails. Think: traditional sushi/sashimi and not-so-traditional offerings like Foie Gras Nigriri (with shiso, honey miso glaze, pomegranate foam, balsamic pearl); Braised Pork Belly Roll (Mandarin crepe, soy ginger shallot marinade, pckled cucumber, mustard green, grind roasted peanut); Uni Spoons;  and ribeye Bibimbap for Two.



Tony Morrow, owner of The Pecan, has opened his Tennessee-style pit barbecue joint at 3807 Main Street in downtown College Park. Tony Morrow’s Real Pit BBQ features all of the standard ‘cue items grilled with 100 proof charred oak, as well as rentable cedar cigar locker and a huge patio area. 



Carpe Diem closed on December 23rd.



La Tagliatella, a European-based Italian restaurant concept with more than 130 restaurants across Spain and France, opened its first American store at 919 Peachtree Street in the former Silk location on December 18th. La Tagliatella’s signature menu features more than 400 pasta and sauce combinations, including traditional Italian recipes made with key ingredients imported from the northern regional of Italy.


Interior of 10th and Piedmont Interior of 10th and Piedmont

Brothers Sean and Gilbert Yeremyan (Gilbert’s, HobNob ) have opened a new restaurant and lounge in Midtown called 10th and Piedmont, in the former Outwrite bookstore space. The menu features artfully designed plates for brunch, lunch, dinner or late night meals. Tasty offerings include Southern arancini with blue cheese grits and tomato marmalade, lamb meatballs, and Southern pot stickers with pork, braised collard greens and ponzu. DJ’s spin late-night on Fridays and Saturdays in the sleek space designed by Goodrowe Hobby.



Chef Nick Melvin Chef Nick Melvin


Eater Atlanta is reporting that Nick Melvin, formerly of Rosebud, Empire State South and Parish, has signed a lease for his anticipated resto Garden District. The restaurant will be an homage to his native New Orleans, located “at a large development on Ralph McGill Boulevard near Two Urban Licks.”




After twelve years, tapas star Pura Vida closed on December 31st. Reports noted that the landlords chose not to renew Pura Vida's lease. Owners Hector & Leslie Santiago are looking for investors/ partners for new concepts.



Thai spot Spoon Westside closed on December 30th.


Ford Fry has hired E.J. Hodgkinson, formerly chef de cuisine at Woodfire Grill, as the new executive chef at JCT. Kitchen & Bar. Hodgkinson will begin his new role at the Southern farmstead-style restaurant in early January.


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