A little history: Last summer I began reviewing restaurants again for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution after more than five years away from the job. And so I began to eat. And eat. And — Hey, you gonna eat that? Because I really need to try everything and I’d hate to see that go to waste.
After about four months of concerted face-stuffing, it began to occur to me that I was in a very different dining town than the last one I power-chowed my way through. I loved the profusion of casual, affordable restaurants that had opened, and the newfound focus on Southern farms and flavors.
But I found so much of this food safe and predictable — even boring. I missed the motley crew of mad geniuses and crackpots who used to set the tone here. I missed the variety of ambitious culinary styles on the table, and the raw audacity that used to mark the opening of new restaurants.
The tacit message used to be: “Here’s something new for Atlanta.” It turned into: “And now here’s our pimento cheese.” Atlanta was becoming a town where few chefs took chances.
So this past January I wrote an open letter to Atlanta’s culinary brain trust and implored its members to up their game with a list of 10 challenges. Now that I’ve been back in the reviewer’s seat for more than a year, I’m thrilled to give kudos to 10 of the region’s distinctive culinary voices who embody each of these issues and make Atlanta a better place to eat.
(Note: Where applicable, I’ve indicated or updated the star rating of each chef’s restaurant.)