Looking Back at 2013's Atlanta Dining TrendsBy Christopher Hassiotis
December 18, 2013
Trends come and go, and while there's rarely a way to identify when something starts or stops, the end of the year's a good time to look back and take stock at what's what in local dining. The following four trends shaped a lot of what made Atlanta's dining and nightlife scenes so vibrant over the past year, and such a delight to engage in. Here's to more in 2014!
You Got Your Beer In My Cocktail
Atlanta loves beer. Atlanta loves cocktails. 2013 saw an explosion of beer cocktails, as the creative mixes - long a favorite of bartenders and mixologists eager to exploit different brews' complex flavor profiles - were embraced by diners and drinkers. Some great examples? Proof & Provision's Southern 75 gives a twist to the French 75 by using bourbon and IPA rather than gin and champagne. The Ryeders on the Storm at White Oak Kitchen combines rye, applejack, sherry and an Imperial IPA for a unique tang, while Local Three's Curious George daringly works together gin, rhubarb liqueur and Victory's Golden Monkey tripel ale. Though it's been a year-long trend, and the summertime shandy is a classic, hit up Paper Plane for a great wintertime example; its Marianna blends cognac, cherry, cardamom and Italian amari with a rich milk stout.
Atlanta's always been an oyster-loving town, but for a long time diners veered towards the sizable, $5-a-bucket Apalachicola oysters. Perhaps the residual damage of the Deepwater Horizon spill made people leery of Gulf-sourced food, or perhaps Atlantans are getting more comfortable with numerous options (and paying a premium for them). Whatever the reason, more and more places are offering more and more oysters. The Optimist has a limited rotating selection, Lure's diverse selection and creative mignonettes shine, Kimball House has a wildly popular oyster happy hour, and The Oceanaire, among many others in town, puts out a good spread.
What hath Holeman & Finch wrought? Okay, so maybe H&F's not the original pusher of the double stack, and the popularity of Bocado's has a lot to do with things, but over the past year Atlanta kitchens have gone nuts with this style of burger. Two thin patties, cooked through, usually with American cheese or some sauce in between, caramelized onions, house pickles - you get maximized surface-area-to-heat-source, crispy caramelization, and the kitchens don't have to worry about cooking to the perfect temperature (or guests' sometimes varying ideas of what that means). Where to find 'em? The Optimist, Argosy, The General Muir, One Eared Stag…and just about every other fine dining place that wants to dip into the burger waters.
Used to be that Buckhead was Atlanta's fine-dining hub, then it was South Buckhead, then Midtown, then Westside… but 2013 has seen the surprising yet very satisfying trend of quality restaurants popping up all over the map, not just concentrated in hip, gentrifying or already-posh neighborhoods. Suburban dwellers no longer need make a lengthy drive, as Table & Main in Roswell, or Seed Kitchen & Bar and Common Quarter in East Cobb have proved. Decatur is moving more and more away from the funky, college- and post-hippie crowds of 10 years ago with places like Paper Plane, and Buckhead itself is seeing a resurgence in forward-thinking spots like King + Duke and Seven Lamps. What's missing? Southwest Atlanta (and further afield) remain woefully underserved, but that's not just regarding restaurants.