May 2009

From the Editor

Every fall my wife buys the Zagat guide to Atlanta restaurants and proceeds to go through it page by page, ticking off each place she’s been to. She picked up this habit in grad school in Chicago, which may be why we’re still paying off her college loans. In any case, I never understood the point of the Zagat guide. The book, in case you haven’t seen one, combines snippets of reviews from hundreds of readers. The latest version, for example, informs us that the service at The Palm in Buckhead “can careen from ‘top-notch’ to ‘surly,’ but ultimately they’re ‘consistently good.’” I’m sorry, but what use is that? By democratizing restaurant reviews, you render them worthless. I don’t want equal time; I want strong opinions, forcefully stated and intelligently supported.

You’ll find this every month in Atlanta magazine’s dining coverage, but even more so in this issue as we focus on the metro area’s best cheap meals. Don’t be misled by the word “cheap,” though; the seventy-six places that Bill Addison, our new dining editor and restaurant critic, has highlighted don’t cut corners when it comes to what really matters, and that’s the food, whether it’s the Iskender kebab at Cafe Agora (page 68) or the pesarattu at Amma Kitchen (page 73). Over the course of his reporting for this feature, Bill consumed approximately six trillion calories, but only the ones worth your while are mentioned here.

I’m also excited to recommend the first feature story by one of our newest writers on staff, Thomas Lake. Thomas is an Atlanta native who earned his journalism chops at the St. Petersburg Times, one of the few remaining newspapers in the United States that values not only great reporting but also great writing. Thomas draws on both of these talents in equal measure in his profile of a childhood acquaintance, Michael Hullender, who became a war hero. It is a moving meditation on devotion and sacrifice—and a timely reminder of the true meaning of those words.

Thomas’s story was edited by Rebecca Burns, who as of last month stepped down as editor in chief after seven years to move into the new role of interactive director, in which she’ll be overseeing the strategy of online content and digital editions for Atlanta magazine and our ancillary and custom publishing titles. Rebecca’s influence on this magazine, informed always by her love of Atlanta, cannot be overstated.

There’s an old but effective yardstick journalists use when gauging the quality of a publication, and that’s awards. During Rebecca’s tenure, Atlanta magazine took home literally dozens of national and regional accolades, including a National Magazine Award, the industry’s equivalent of an Academy Award, and three Writer of the Year awards from the City and Regional Magazine Association. (And we just found out that the magazine is a finalist for a second National Magazine Award, this one for our issue devoted to Martin Luther King Jr.) Ask Rebecca what she’s most proud of, however, and she’ll say it’s nurturing talented writers, editors, and designers and seeing them succeed—at Atlanta magazine and their subsequent career steps. I am honored and excited to succeed her as editor. Atlanta is a city constantly reinventing and redefining itself, and I see this magazine as a chronicle of all that it is and all that it aspires to be.

Steve Fennessy