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5 Trends to Watch For

If you follow the progress of Atlanta’s ever-changing restaurant landscape, then you may noticed that things have started to get really fun again this year.

For starters, we’ve got a spate of high-profile newcomers to check out, from the reborn Watershed on Peachtree to Richard Blais’ big return to the thick of things with The Spence.

The Optimist, Ford Fry’s canny seafood restaurant and oyster bar, opened on the westside and was quickly followed by another big fish, Fifth Group’s Lure in Midtown. Intriguing newcomers include two cocktail-focused restaurants (Proof and Provision in Midtown and the Pinewood Tippling Room in Decatur), and Kevin Rathbun is waiting in the wings with his first new restaurant in years — KR SteakBar.

With so much activity, now’s the time to take stock of current dining trends. Here are five for your consideration:

  1. The word of the season is … schnitzel! Yes, the Middle European fried cutlet has become an inspiration for chefs all over town. There’s a more or less familiar chicken schnitzel at Local Three and a turkey schnitzel at Leon’s Full Service. But who stops there? Optimist chef Adam Evans serves a skate wing schnitzel, while Watershed chef Joe Truex has the most unusual schnitzel on the block: a scallop schnitzel. (Who knew that scallops could schnitz?) There’s even a full-fledged schnitzel restaurant that has opened in Decatur called Seven Hens.
  2. The word that has completely lost its mojo is … entree! A number of restaurants no longer actually own up to main courses even as they continue to serve them. Lure has rolled out “sizable servings,” while The Lawrence in Midtown divides its menu into small, medium and large plates. Why is this happening? I’m guessing that entrees are pretty much on their way out. Small and shareable plates aren’t just an option, they’ve become the norm.
  3. What do you think the vegetable of the season is? Corn? Tomatoes? No, we’ve got an interloper from autumn hogging the spotlight. Chefs today love kale. Blais makes a killer kale Caesar salad, while the crew at Yeah Burger serves theirs with balsamic vinaigrette and pine nuts. Craig Richards at Ecco tosses it in pasta. No one is trying to cook it to death anymore. Kale takes some chewing, but it tastes good and is good for you.
  4. Southern farm to table is starting to become Southern farm to Buford Highway to table. Chefs are a little less orthodox about traditional Southern foodways, and they increasingly look to Asian cuisines for ideas and ingredients. Ryan Smith at Empire State South in Midtown mixes grits with kimchi, Heirloom Market BBQ serves killer Korean pork barbecue, and Watershed’s Truex serves fried catfish fingers in the style of Vietnamese wraps.
  5. Restaurants can’t open without good cocktail programs, but good wine lists are coming back. Manager Justin Amick at The Spence loves to turn guests on to lesser known grapes such as Spanish mencia and viticultural regions like France’s Jura. The staff at the Optimist readily turn guests on to Greek white wines that match the seafood menu brilliantly.

See what I mean? This is a good time to be eating and drinking in Atlanta.

- by John Kessler for the Food & More blog

30 comments Add your comment

I just schnitzeled my pants!

August 13th, 2012
12:18 pm

Wrecking Bar occasionally has schnitzel on the menu.


August 13th, 2012
12:44 pm

Good to see the wine list is making a comeback. Of course, Cafe Lilly always had a great wine list.

Bloody Hell!

August 13th, 2012
12:49 pm

Not sure why all American restaurants continue to use the word “entree” to define the main course and “appetizer” as the first course when the entree is clearly the dish served before the main course. The rest of the world describes these courses as “Entrees” and “Mains.”


August 13th, 2012
1:34 pm

Someone needs to make a burger that has both a schnitzel, and a beef patty on it. I think it’s the next trend!


August 13th, 2012
1:35 pm

Antipasti, Pasti, Primi piatti, Secondi piatti.
Overdone trend: Sliders. So fifteen minutes ago.


August 13th, 2012
1:54 pm

Trends come and go… Atlanta is still in an uphill in the food trends.
Atlanta is to conservative when it come to menu and food.
If its to different and the same as 10 others restaurants menus its looked at as “not good”
You can go to 10 restaurants and get “parts” and 10 places and get the same
Steak… For Atlanta to get national recognition chefs and owners
Need to think out side the freezer to make a bigger splash in the fryer…


August 13th, 2012
1:56 pm

Cafe Sababa Schnitzel sandwich on grilled ciabatta,with roasted red pepper and garlic aioli,the best.


August 13th, 2012
2:01 pm

Jeez, I’ve been cooking these things for over a year now! I guess maybe I should open a restaurant! LOL


August 13th, 2012
2:19 pm

I hate to be a cynic but I think the small plate trend is little more than a thinly-veiled effort to get into the diner’s wallet while lowering the expectations on the kitchen.

Why offer an $18 main that will leave the diner satisfied when you can gouge him for two or three small plates at $10 to $14 each?

The other annoying thing is that the kitchen gets off easy with a small plate since no one suggests that a diner should expect greatness in a small plate. Sure it may happen but you can’t make a big deal as a diner if it doesn’t. If you order a small plate and don’t like it, well that’s tough since it’s just a taste of something experimental anyway and you weren’t supposed to order a small plate expecting to leave feeling satisfied. If a main is bad, the solution is to send it back and the house loses. If a small plate is bad, the solution is to order another and the diner loses.

The more I eat out the more I notice that restaurants aren’t interested in offering good food at a reasonable price point. What I see instead are transparent efforts to run up the price of a meal and small plates are a great example of that.

Sylvester Babbinty

August 13th, 2012
2:25 pm

I’m seeing a lot of stone mashed turnips with avocado mouse over roasted lerd shoulder, baked persimmons and veal cheek chutney on menus this summer.

Paul From Milton

August 13th, 2012
2:33 pm

Kale does not taste good and I couldn’t care less if it is good for you. Serve it to me and I will throw it on the floor.


August 13th, 2012
2:38 pm

John, you really should publish your recipe for kale with chick peas & roasted red peppers again. I’ve been cooking this since you sent it out the first time, and everyone loves it! The dish is so pretty, too.

Schnitzel with Noodles

August 13th, 2012
3:18 pm

My German-American grandmother made schnitzel as a way to stretch a buck (and a small, tough piece of meat by pounding it out, making it tender, and making it look a lot larger). Don’t get me wrong – I love it – been eating it for over 50 years. Never thought of it as trendy – just Central European comfort food.

[...] AJC Access Atlanta : by John Kessler : View article on [...]


August 13th, 2012
3:44 pm

I second the mention of Cafe Sababa’s schnitzel … delicious, like everything else coming from Chef Doni’s kitchen!


August 13th, 2012
3:59 pm

Or maybe the “small plate” trend is addressing the issue I have at some restaurants – I’d eat there but they give me too much food. I am happy to get a couple of small plates and pay a little more for variety. Also, no matter the size, the preparation time is fairly equivalent.


August 13th, 2012
3:59 pm

If the writer is attempting to highlight a worthy, smart, on-point wine list, he should direct his attention to Miller Union, not The Spence. The key is to highlight lesser known wines from lesser known regions that taste good. The Spence hasn’t quite figured out the “taste good” part when it comes to wines. Miller Union has.

Nor has The Spence figured out that fine wines should not be stored in open air racks above the kitchen at 75-80 degrees.


August 13th, 2012
4:11 pm

Had the schnitzel at Seven Hens – the schnitzel (chicken only) itself was good, the concept could use some help since it borrows from Moes (I don’t remember whether they shouted out ‘Welcome to Seven Hens’). It’s a sandwich place and you can have your schnitzel either Mediterranean, Chinese, Indian, Italian… so forth. I didn’t want a sandwich, so I had it on a salad so there came a little confusion as to what other additional toppings I wanted – more lettuce? Actually the salad was okay. There could be more choices in the sides, chips and fries are about it. Roughly an $8 experience.


August 13th, 2012
6:09 pm

OK I’ll bite! Schnitzel? Mediterranean? While I know that the schnitzel is found in various Mediterranean cultures, and many others for that matter, I’ve always thought, and my research tends to bear me out, that the schnitzel is of Austrian descent. JK, what gives?


August 13th, 2012
9:23 pm

Let’s see some PALEO restaurants. Heck, I’d just love to see more gluten free options.


August 13th, 2012
9:56 pm

atlanta food scene. yawn.


August 13th, 2012
11:37 pm

Would the ubiquitous trend of referring to competent bartenders slinging drinks a ‘cocktail program’ just die quickly please?

The drinks can stay, just lose the pretentious verbiage.


August 14th, 2012
3:08 am

I wish Atlanta had more of the Japanese variety of schnitzel, called tonkatsu (or just katsu). Typically pork and served with a rich curry gravy over rice. MMMMM!


August 14th, 2012
8:28 am

I make the Turkish-style vegetable dish all the time, too. In fact, have some in my fridge right now. Kale, chick peas, roasted reds, leeks, paprika – very simple and delicious.

John Kessler

August 14th, 2012
10:33 am

Edward – There’s a great version of that dish — katsu curry — at Sushi Yoko.

John Kessler

August 14th, 2012
10:34 am

Thanks, guys – Haven’t made that recipe in a couple of years, but think I will tonight. I’ll look it up and repost it.


August 14th, 2012
11:21 am

I use Kale in a Lebanese dish made with caramelized shallots, and chick peas or pine nuts, and also use it in a spicy Caribbean beef soup instead of Caribbean spinach (callalloo). Both are very nutritious and tasty.


August 14th, 2012
12:35 pm

He said Middle European, not Meditarranean…. Schnitzel is an Austrian, German type thing.


August 14th, 2012
1:22 pm

@VickiF you are correct. I misread the article. Thanks for pointing out my mistake. ;-)


August 14th, 2012
9:17 pm

Thanks, John. I’ve found several “fast food” places here in Shanghai that serve the Japanese katsu with curry. It has become a popular quick lunchtime meal. I will definitely look for it at Sushi Yoko when I return.