When an intern suggested to music producer Rick Beato that he start a YouTube channel, he was skeptical: Nobody’s going to watch an old guy with white hair on YouTube. But the intern, Rhett Shull, was convinced Beato and his 25 years of audio-engineering experience would be a hit—and he was right. One year and 340 videos later, Beato quit his day job to become a full-time YouTuber. Today, from his music studio in Stone Mountain, the 58-year-old posts new content a few times a week for 2 million subscribers and counting.
At first, the channel centered on how to play a few instruments, composition, and improvisation; it was mostly instructional—not surprising, as the New England Conservatory of Music grad spent much of his 20s as a music professor at Ithaca College. Those days instilled in him a love of teaching, and his YouTube how-tos take him back to those roots. “I’ve been very lucky to have a great music education,” he says. “I wanted to pass it along to other people that aren’t as fortunate as I was.”
As his popularity grew, Beato kept his laid-back, conversational style—sporting his signature black T-shirt and slicked-back hair—but his content evolved. His most popular series now are his countdowns, like the “Top 20 Acoustic Guitar Intros of All Time.” (Spoiler alert: Led Zeppelin’s “Stairway to Heaven” is number one.) In his “What Makes This Song Great” series, Beato dives deep into the musical components of hits from classic rock bands like Rush and Metallica and alternative bands like System of a Down. He breaks down Blink-182’s “All the Small Things,” demonstrating how the octave synthesizer played in the chorus creates a hidden dissonance against the G power chord: “Your ear doesn’t notice it because it’s so low in the mix, but that’s what pulls at your heartstrings and really makes the tune have that angst right in that moment,” Beato explains.
In a comment under Beato’s dive into the 1976 classic “Kid Charlemagne” by Steely Dan, a fan wrote, “I don’t know an E minor 7 from a hole in the ground, but I know good music when I hear it. And the Dan made some of the best.” And that’s the point. You don’t have to be well-versed in music theory to be captivated as Beato dissects the alternating time meters in Rush’s “Limelight” or the distinctive chords of Radiohead’s “Paranoid Android.”
“I try to make it where things are fun and interesting,” Beato says. “My goal is to make videos for people that don’t know anything about music.”
Biscuits are going to help us get through the long winter ahead—they’re warm, fluffy, comforting, and thankfully for us, plentiful in Atlanta. Whether you want a biscuit with flaky layers, a crisp exterior, topped with savory fried chicken, or just want a good breakfast sandwich, there’s one that’s sure to brighten your day. Here’s a quick list of newcomers and classics, in no particular order:
Redbird is better known for its seasonally-driven menu, but its Saturday brunch pop-up, Birdy Biscuits, is quickly growing in popularity. Described as part biscuit, part croissant, the treats are layered and flaky and come with a variety of sandwich toppings. Consider the “little birdy” with fried chicken, cheddar, and chili maple sauce, or the “ocean man” with whipped cream cheese, smoked salmon, and pickled onions. 1198 Howell Mill Road, 404-900-5172
Freshly baked biscuits delivered to your house is a fantasy that can become a reality thanks to Bomb Biscuits (if you live in the delivery range, that is). Erika Council’s biscuits are beloved thanks to their slightly crispy exterior that gives way to a fluffy interior. Her pop-up has operated out of restaurants for years but she launched her biscuit (and buns) box delivery service in June, making it even easier to get her famed treats. Options include classic buttermilk, pretzel, and cinnamon sugar crunch. Council has also recently announced that the biscuit boxes are available for nationwide shipping.
Adam Jackson began baking his mother’s biscuit recipe as a way to cope after tragically losing his brother. He discovered a passion for baking biscuits and created Butterly Biscuits, which Jackson runs with the help of his eight siblings and mom. You can find Butterly’s biscuit sandwiches and frozen packs every Sunday at the Grant Park Farmer’s Market. If you have a sweet tooth, you’ll definitely want to try the biscuit with a seasonal fruit filling.
Fox Bros. Bar-B-Q
Fox Bros. has offered breakfast at their Que-osk in Armour Yards in the past, but if you want their breakfast now you’ll have to go to nearby East Pole Coffee Co. Made with buttermilk, the results are thick and tender biscuits that hold up nicely to the ham and cheese fillings. 255 Ottley Drive, Ste. 105
The breakfast menu at The Chastain is limited, but it has a biscuit made with locally-milled flour from DaySpring Farms—and that’s enough. The hearty treat is served with a choice of butter or preserves, or as a sandwich with bacon, egg, and cheese. 4320 Powers Ferry Road Northwest, 404-257-6416
A fluffy biscuit the size of your face topped with fried chicken and pork sausage gravy is the stuff dreams are made of. To say that it’s beloved in Atlanta would be an understatement. While people have waited hours on a Saturday morning to chow down on it, it’s now available for online ordering, making it easier than ever to get your fix. 968 Memorial Drive Southeast, 404-222-0455
There are so many items worth ordering off of Buttermilk Kitchen’s all-day menu—hello, folded egg frittata—but Suzanne Vizethann works magic into her buttermilk biscuits. With the right crisp-to-tender ratio they’re great with jelly and butter or as part of a sandwich with fried chicken and red pepper jelly. You can also try your hand at making them yourself. 4225 Roswell Road Northeast, 678-732-3274
Sun In My Belly
Putting lavender in a biscuit could be dicey, but Kirkwood’s Sun In My Belly nails it. The treat isn’t overly scented and makes an excellent accompaniment to one of their breakfast dishes, like the Kirkwood breakfast plate with soft scrambled eggs and house-made boursin cheese. 2161 College Avenue Northeast, 404-370-1088
Little Farmhouse Cafe
It’s easy to miss Little Farmhouse Cafe with its location inside Prep Kitchen’s industrial compound, but the biscuit is worth the journey. Specifically, the biscuit topped with tender brisket and gravy. You can get a chicken biscuit (add the ghost pepper cheese for a small up charge) and sometimes they offer specials (like this salmon cake biscuit), but the brisket is ideal. 3781 Presidential Parkway, Ste FP-309, 404-809-0380
The Silver Skillet
The Silver Skillet has been sopping up Atlanta’s hangovers since 1956. Their fluffy, tender biscuits that are best when smothered in gravy, but sausage, egg, and cheese or some combination thereof will also suffice. 200 14th Street Northwest, 404-874-1388
Suzanne Vizethann is expanding her biscuit portfolio, on a pop-up basis anyway. Dubbed Milkdrop, the pop-up will take place on Saturday, February 6 in a building next door to Buttermilk Kitchen. The offerings go beyond the beloved buttermilk biscuit with fun, creative flavors on deck like “Strawberry Pop Drops,” two coconut milk biscuits stuffed with strawberry jam and sprinkled with raw sugar. There will also be sandwiches like the “Golden Arches” made with bacon flakes, whipped egg, American cheese, and the sure-to-be-Instagram-famous “My Little Unicorns” dessert box featuring funfetti biscuits, cream cheese icing, and Beautiful Briny Sea sprinkles. Pre-orders begin February 1. 4209 Roswell Road Northeast
It used to be that a meal at Chai Pani was incomplete without an order of the sev potato dahi puri. Puffed, purse-shaped flour crisps are filled with potatoes, onions, cilantro, and crispy chickpea noodles, then topped with yogurt and tamarind and green chutneys. Eating one is a little like popping a Gushers candy into your mouth, except that the crunchy exterior of an SPDP gives way to a cool and bracing burst of creamy spiciness followed by the warm and comforting, potato-y center. If you want one, though, you’ll have to wait a while: They’re currently off the menu at the Decatur mainstay. SPDP is best enjoyed freshly assembled, and Chai Pani only does takeout.
Chai Pani’s menu was tweaked when it reopened in June, following a weeks-long hiatus. Chef and co-owner Meherwan Irani says that he would have discontinued the kale pakora and okra fries, too, if he could have (they run the risk of losing their crispiness while being transported)—but demand for them is too high. “It’s a compromise,” Irani says, “knowing that the food’s not going to be experienced the way it’s meant to be experienced.”
The loss of that signature dish is just one example of how chefs have had to rethink their menus during the pandemic. It’s even trickier for restaurants that, unlike Chai Pani, didn’t do much, if any, takeout prior to March 2020. “How are you deciding what are the best dishes to offer, from being sure your guests are happy [to being sure] you’re passionate about the menu?” says Anthony Vipond, cofounder and general manager of Whiskey Bird in Morningside.
Whiskey Bird stopped offering its scotch eggs and Korean rice cakes, two of its most popular dishes, after the restaurant temporarily pivoted last year to takeout-only. Not only did the rice cakes not travel well, but they required ingredients that weren’t used in other dishes—and therefore became more of a hassle than the kitchen could justify. Dine-in service has resumed, but those two items aren’t back on the menu yet; Vipond and executive chef/cofounder Chad Crete instead have added a burger in the hopes of having broader appeal to new customers looking for more familiar food.
Todd Richards opened his East Lake barbecue restaurant, Lake & Oak, in July and says he didn’t have to tweak his menu, conceived before the pandemic, too much. He did have to cull it, though, and now only offers about 80 percent of what he’d intended. “There are a lot of dishes that we wanted to do that we didn’t,” he says. While he hopes to offer barbecue tacos one day, he refuses to do them for his now takeout-centric operation because of how easily they fall apart or get cold while traveling.
Reimagining a menu to befit a pandemic sometimes means completely reimagining the restaurant itself. Instead of crafting a high-end tasting menu for the road (which really can get lost in translation), chef Ryan Smith of Staplehouse now offers charcuterie, composed dishes, smoked meats, pastries, and pantry items out of a space that’s been completely reconfigured as a market. Jarrett Stieber never intended to serve takeout, but he overhauled his Summerhill restaurant, Little Bear, as a takeout-only joint just a few weeks after he opened.
Jennifer Yee once oversaw a pastry program that made playful, intricately plated creations like frozen persimmon mousse with persimmon puree and bruleed persimmon on top. That was back when each restaurant in the Hopkins and Company group (C. Ellet’s, Holeman & Finch Public House, H&F Burger, Hop’s Chicken, and the now closed Restaurant Eugene) used to have its own on-site pastry team. Now, Yee focuses on simpler, comforting desserts that are made in a single location by her and her small team for all the Hopkins restaurants: “Because it’s all being produced in a centralized space, you have to think about transport”—either to the restaurant itself or to the takeout customer.
The dessert menus at C. Ellet’s and H&F Burger haven’t really changed during the pandemic; they still offer sticky toffee pudding and fried hand pies, respectively. But now, Yee also supplies pastries, including croissants and cinnamon rolls, to the Buttery ATL, a hybrid online-pickup market. She misses her “a la minute” plated desserts but is eager to focus on making more pandemic-appropriate creations.
In addition to these new calculations that must factor in a dish’s viability and portability, chefs also have to make a psychological adjustment with their adapted menus: Without as much in-person interaction, it’s harder to know how well a dish works. “We don’t get to see the look on your faces when you eat the food at home,” Irani says. “That’s really hard.”
In the Before Times, donating to a toy drive was usually as simple as dropping a gift in a large cardboard bin on your way into the office. Or, maybe you took one to the corporate holiday party. With nearly everyone working from home, though, donating toys can be more of a challenge this year.
“Normally we receive hundreds of toys and gifts for the children in our community programs during the holidays season,” says Chaundra Luckett, chief marketing officer of CHRIS 180, an Atlanta-based social services organization. “Most corporate holiday celebrations and fundraisers have been cancelled because of the pandemic. Without that support, many nonprofits may be forced to come out of pocket to fund Christmas gifts for their clients, and if they can’t take on the expense they may not be able to help, which is heartbreaking,” she says.
Fortunately, there are plenty of ways to help ensure that children have gifts this year. Here’s a list of organizations collecting toys in metro Atlanta and how to help them out.
CHRIS 180 is a social services organization that serves children and families through trauma-informed programming, including foster and group homes. There are a couple of ways to help the children they serve receive presents on Christmas Day. One is by purchasing gifts off of this Amazon wish list list, which will be sent to CHRIS 180. Parents will be able to choose among the gifts, and wrap them at a wrapping party. You can also purchase gifts off of this list which are hand chosen by the children living in CHRIS 180’s group homes.
Multi-Agency Alliance for Children
MAAC is raising funds to purchase gifts for the children they serve in foster care. Most of the children have been matched with donors, but they still need help purchasing the rest of the gifts. You can contribute here.
Atlanta Dream Center
Atlanta Dream Center is a Christian organization that, “[rescues] men and women out of sex trafficking and homelessness and preventing vulnerable children from falling victim.” They are collecting presents for the children they work with and distributing them at socially distant gatherings. To help, purchase a gift off of their wishlist and have it sent straight to ADC.
Creating Connected Communities (CCC)
Creating Connected Communities is a leadership program for teens and partners up with several nonprofits around Atlanta. Every year they host “Amy’s Holiday Party” to give presents to children being served by over 40 agencies including homeless shelters, foster-care networks, and refugee centers. This year, the holiday party will be “delivered” directly to children.
CCC has partnered with Misfit Wrapping Co., located on the second floor of Ponce City Market. You can purchase gifts around PCM and have them wrapped by Misfit to be shared with CCC. For gift suggestions, head to the Misfit Wrapping Co. counter and scan the QR code for a wishlist. Items include notepads from Archer’s paper goods, games from Posman Books, and stuffed animals from Sugarboo & Co.
Pride for Parents
Pride for Parents is a program offered by Focused Community Strategies, a religious organization that offers “holistic development” to Historic South Atlanta through mixed-income housing, neighborhood engagement, jobs, and training. Pride for Parents allows residents to purchase gifts at a reduced cost. You can help by donating gifts off of their Amazon and Target wish lists.
The property at 551 Ponce de Leon Avenue has been a lot of things since it was first built in 1929. It’s been the Garner-Wallace Hotel and the Ponce Student Suites. It was even home to the first location of MJQ. In early 2021, it will be reborn again, this time as as Wylie Hotel.
Wylie Hotel is a project of Mainsail Lodging & Development, whose portfolio includes properties in Florida and the British Virgin Islands. Mainsail was attracted to this particular property because its Old Fourth Ward location means close proximity to Ponce City Market and the BeltLine Eastside Trail, says Alan Rae, general manager. Rae is familiar with chic, intown renovated boutique hotels, having opened the Hotel Clermont in 2018.
The building once housed Mrs. P’s in its basement, an LGBT-friendly restaurant that eventually became a gay leather and western bar the late 1960s. Wylie Hotel plans to have a basement restaurant dubbed Mrs. P’s Bar and Kitchen, which will serve Southern food. Rae says that future programming offered at the hotel may pay further homage to the building’s history. “We haven’t talked through the exact specifics but we’re thinking of a brunch-heavy focus [for the restaurant], and doing some things that kind of represent the former history of Mrs. P being in the basement of the building and hosting Atlanta’s first drag show,” says Rae. “So we expect it to be potentially a little bit flamboyant but definitely fun.”
The developers completely renovated the 111-room property, with a new look that Rae says is classic and charming, featuring a color palette with hues like blue, blush, clay, “green velvet,” and “sour cream.” Each room will have its own personal flair. The hotel will also feature touch-free check-in as well as an app, Intelity, that allows guess to “control their experiences.”
As for how Wylie sets itself apart from the nearby Hotel Clermont, “Well, we don’t have a club in the basement for a start,” Rae laughs. “We like to describe it as Hotel Clermont’s more sophisticated older sister. It’ll feel a lot more residential, a bit homey.”
It’s every parent’s dream to put their child in a costume on Halloween, snap a picture on the lawn, and then go right back inside—right? Yeah, not quite. For many parents this year, though, that’s what a pandemic-era Halloween looks like. As if 2020 wasn’t already like getting a pumpkin pail full of Tootsie Rolls.
But, it’s of course absolutely possible for you and your kids to still have a fun Halloween, as long as you take certain safety measures and celebrate responsibly. The CDC, for example, has Halloween guidelines that include hosting outdoor activities rather than indoor ones, as well as limiting food sharing (i.e. no potlucks) and avoiding gathering with friends and family who aren’t taking social distancing and mask-wearing seriously. Also, whatever you do, bring lots of hand sanitizer and wash your hands frequently.
Here are a few suggestions to help you plan a holiday for your family that’s only spooky in the festive way:
Skip trick-or-treating (but if you must, wear a mask) Hate to say it, but according to experts, the safest thing to do this year is to not trick-or-treat. But if you, do decide to go, wear a mask! This is the most obvious and important thing to do if you go trick-or-treating, says Travis Glenn, professor of environmental health science at the University of Georgia College of Public Health. There are plenty of festive face coverings to choose from, or you can incorporate a mask into your child’s costume.
Avoid large groups and maintain distance If you do go trick-or-treating, avoid going in large groups and stick with people already in your social circle (i.e. your kid’s classmates, your pod, etc.). “The biggest hazard is being in contact enough to pick up somebody else’s breath while you’re around them, whether you’re inside or outside. Outside is less risk, but it’s not no risk,” says Glenn.
Buy your own candy You should never accept unwrapped candies (pandemic or not!), but this year it’s good to take extra care. Glenn suggests buying a bag of candy to have on hand for your kids at home, and then setting aside any candy they receive from trick-or-treating or events for a few days. Glenn explains, “Leave it at room temperature and just let it sit for a couple days, and the virus is going to diminish. The live virus will become less and less live as time goes on.”
Re-think the candy bowl Whatever you do, don’t leave it out in a big bowl for the neighborhood kids to rifle through. If you do, Glenn says, “you’re increasing the probability that if any one child goes through the bucket and contaminates it, everybody who comes in after [them] is going to get whatever they had. Whether that’s coronavirus, or hand-to-mouth, or whatever.” While some people are making candy chutes, it doesn’t have to be so extreme. Glenn suggests arranging the candy on a card table and swapping out the pieces as kids come up, or use a tray. Mea Matsuoka, an Atlanta-area mom to three young kids, plans on putting candies in treat bags and hanging them from tree branches. “Kids can pick their candies from the trees and families can stay socially distant,” she says.
Host a mini parade The beloved Little 5 Points Halloween parade may have gone virtual this year, but that doesn’t mean you can’t have your own scaled-down parade. Siobhan Alvarez Borland, creator of the blog Mimosas & Motherhood and a Mableton resident, says she’s sad she can’t take her tots trick-or-treating but looks forward to starting new traditions, like a socially distant costume parade with her neighbors. “The kids can actually walk with their families on the sidewalks, and families that are interested in participating from their houses can toss candy towards them, which is really cute,” she says.
Have an outdoor movie and candy hunt Gresham Park resident Christan Vick and her family traditionally watches It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown outside. This year, they plan to watch with another family of three. “We’re also going to have a glow-in-the-dark candy hunt. I’m going to paint plastic Easter eggs with glow paint, fill them with candy, and give the kids blacklight flashlights to find them with,” says Vick.
Attend local events—with caution:
The Bunny Hive, a baby-parent hangout and class space located in Chamblee, is throwing an outdoor Halloween lawn party on October 24 from 1:00 to 5:00 p.m. The capacity will be kept low, so a timed ticket ($50 per family) must be purchased ahead of time. Admission includes crafts, treats, and a mini photo session. 5576 Peachtree Road,Chamblee
The Roof at Ponce City Market is inviting kids to head on up for a festive afternoon on Saturday, October 31. From 11:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. kids can trick-or-treat at 10 stations throughout the roof and snack on complimentary popcorn and cotton candy. Admission is $7 per child, $15 per adult. 675 Ponce De Leon Avenue Northeast
Now through November 8, brave souls can take a walk through Fernbank’s woods during Woodland Spirits. Fernbank worked with artist Laura Lewis to create sculptural apparitions placed cleverly in the forest. While you’re there, check out their Supernatural Science Fest with activities for all ages throughout the month. 767 Clifton Road
Boo at the Zoo, Zoo Atlanta’s annual family festival is back, with pandemic precautions in place. Treats are available throughout the zoo (follow the directional pathway) and live entertainment is available with socially distant floor markings. Visitors over 10 years old are required to wear face masks. The event takes place October 17, 18, 24, 25, and 31, and is free for children under three. 800 Cherokee Avenue Southeast
The weather lately has been just right for an afternoon at the Atlanta Botanical Garden, and Goblins in the Garden is the perfect excuse to go. On Sunday, October 25, from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m., your goblin can participate in an array of fall activities such as a costume fashion show, mini pumpkin decorating, and a painted pumpkin hunt. Admission to Goblins in the Garden is included with your ticket to the botanical gardens. 1345 Piedmont Avenue, Atlanta
Decorations drive Since people are really leaning into Halloween decorations this year, Alvarez Borland and her husband plan to take their sons for a drive. Hop in the car during the day to make the most of spooky decoration spotting. Take it up a notch and turn the drive-by into a scavenger hunt—there are plenty of printable templates found online.
Have a scavenger hunt at home Arts writer Lynne Tanzer recently moved with her family of four to the Upper Westside. Drawing inspiration from the video game Luigi’s Mansion, she plans on creating a scavenger at home by hiding toys and candy around the house. “I’m going to have them dress up as Luigi and Mario and hunt for ‘gems’ while they encounter ghosts in the closets and such, so it’s a little more spooky than an Easter egg hunt,” she explains.
For Pat Azogu, a battle with breast cancer was a sign to ditch the corporate world and pursue her passion for coffee and baking.
“When I got to the other side [of cancer treatment], I started thinking, ‘No, I don’t want to go back to the corporate world. I want to do something different, [something] that I’ll enjoy doing but maybe at the same time helping others,” she says. So she took the plunge and decided to open Garnet Gal’s Coffee Shop and Bakery in Buckhead.
Situated away from the neighborhood’s business tower cluster, Garnet Gal’s is located in Lenox Village (2770 Lenox Road Northeast)—a residential shopping center with ample parking—about a half mile off of I-85. When you walk in, make a beeline for the pastry case packed with baked goods. All of the pastries use house-milled flour, which results in a product that’s slightly denser and has “a really nice soft, moist texture, almost gentle,” Azogu says.
Azogu always loved baking, but when she was fighting breast cancer (“I always tell people to get tested early,” she says), she learned that freshly-milled grains retain more fiber and nutrients. So she started milling them in her home kitchen and playing around with different recipes.
Standouts in the pastry case include scones—which come in a variety of seasonal fruit flavors and sell out quickly—and a kale and cheddar biscuit that is slightly sweet with a little kick. “I think the secret ingredient in that is the cayenne pepper. That’s what really gives it its kick,” says Azogu. “Most of our recipes are pretty simple. We don’t have a lot of extra ingredients in them.” Garnet Gal’s ingredients are also mostly organic, which stems from the dietary changes Azogu made during her health battle.
If you happen to go on a day that Garnet Gal’s has the strawberry cupcake, buy it. It’s topped with a light whipped cream frosting and almond crumble which makes for an afternoon treat that won’t weigh you down. Azogu serves coffee from Counter Culture as well as locally roasted Peach Coffee from Johns Creek, along with juices.
If you’re really hungry, there’s a breakfast menu with items like quiche and baked oatmeal. For lunch, there are a variety of sandwiches made with focaccia bread, including a turkey, apple, and cheddar grilled cheese and a vegan chickpea and sunflower seed sandwich. Azogu, who once kept to a vegan diet, says the latter recipe “goes back to me trying to find [vegan] items that really tasted good, but [were] different from just a green salad.”
Despite the challenges of opening a restaurant in pandemic, though, Azogu has already made her dream of fostering a Cheers-like environment come true. She has regulars who know the staff and customers that have helped her with everything from brainstorming to marketing. “I actually had a customer come in one day and say, ‘I feel like I’m part of a family,’ and it really makes me feel good, because that’s really what I wanted,” Azogu says.
For Eric Simpkins, frozen drinks bring back childhood memories of Red Lobster. That’s where Simpkins, the managing partner and beverage director of Big Citizen (the group that owns Bon Ton, The Lawrence, and Wonderkid) and his parents would occasionally go for dinner and his mom, who was not a big drinker, would order a Piña Colada alongside those beloved Cheddar Bay Biscuits. Simpkins would order himself a nonalcoholic version of the drink and share a special sense of revelry with his parents. It was also his first introduction to the world of cocktails.
“The Piña Colada definitely has that association for me, with fun and [specialness]. It’s almost a spectacle, having the drink with the pineapple and the umbrella,” he says.
In recent years, frozen cocktails have earned a reputation for being chemical-laced, one-note sugar bombs, thanks in part to mass-produced drink mixes with ingredients like sorbitan monostearate and Red 40. But well-balanced frozen cocktail isn’t complicated, and in recent years bartenders at places like Bon Ton and the Painted Duck have gotten creative with blended drinks.
Simpkins still has a soft spot for the Piña Colada. “The coconut and rum combination is a great palate to experiment with other flavors and influences,” he says. He often incorporates orange blossom water and ginger into his own versions.
The only equipment you need to whip up your own frozen cocktail is a blender. For best results, Simpkins says to make sure your ingredients fresh. Most importantly, acidity in the form of fresh lemon and lime juices will balance your drink and prevent it from being saccharine. No spirit is off limits when it comes to blended drinks; you can even make a frozen Penicillin, which uses Scotch as a base. “It’s just about knowing how to balance strong flavors with other strong flavors, like brightening [really spicy ginger] with lemon and tempering it with honey,” says Simpkins.
Grab your blender, some ice, and a paper umbrella. Here are seven recipes by Atlanta bartenders to try at home this summer. (Getting caught in the rain is optional.)
Yoda Colada from Eric Simpkins, Big Citizen Serves 1
1.5 ounces white rum, (preferably Agricole rum for a funkier, fun take)
2 ounces Coco Lopez coconut cream
1 ounce pineapple juice
1 ounce white grape juice
¼ ounce lime juice
1 teaspoon culinary grade matcha powder
2 cups ice
Combine ingredients in blender. Blend for 5-10 seconds or until smooth. (Add more ice before blending for a thicker, almost spoonable, but less sweet texture.)
To make a nonalcoholic version of this drink, Simpkins suggests substituting matcha for unsweetened green tea or more juice to maintain the volume.
Frozen Espresso Martini from Angela Guthmiller, beverage director, Lyla Lila Serves 1
“The key to replicating a frozen drink from a slushie machine at home is twofold: cut the water in all of the ingredients where you can, as you’re going to have to add ice to freeze it. And make sure your blender is a bad mofo,” Sandifer says. “The reduction here accomplishes the former for the home bartender.”
Orange soda reduction
Take a 12 ounce can of your favorite orange soda, add a half tablespoon of sugar, and simmer until it’s reduced about 50 percent. Cool before adding to the mix.
Blend ingredients with a hearty amount of ice until smooth.
Sweet Ting from Breon Reynolds, bar manager, Rock Steady Serves 2
2 ounces coconut rum
2 ounces white rum
4 ounces frozen strawberries
4 ounces pineapple juice
4 ounces cream of coconut
2 mangoes, chopped
1 banana, chopped
1.5 cups crushed ice
Pineapple chunks and strawberry slices (for garnish)
In a blender combine strawberries, mangoes, banana, white rum and coconut rum. Blend to puree, strain, and transfer to a pitcher.
Clean and wash the blender. Add pineapple juice, cream of coconut, and ice. Blend until smooth.
Divide strawberry, mango, banana rum puree among 2 serving glasses. Slowly pour pineapple coconut mixture into the glass. The mixture will evenly swirl with the white mixture. Garnish with strawberry and pineapple.
Mercedes O’Brien recently left her post as beverage director of Cold Beer and launched Sippn at Home, a cocktail kit service. This is one of her favorite summertime drinks, she says, and while it involves a little more prep work, the result is worth it. (Ginger juice can be found at Arden’s Garden if you want to save a little time.)
1 ¾ ounces Plantation 3 Stars white rum
1 ½ oz curried Coco Lopez (recipe below)
1 ounce fresh pineapple juice
¾ ounce fresh lime juice
¼ ounce ginger juice
½ cup frozen pineapple pieces
1 cup ice
Curried Coco Lopez 1 15 ounce can Coco Lopez
2 teaspoons madras curry powder
Combine ingredients into blender, and blend on low until curry is well incorporated. Store in airtight container for up to two weeks.
Curried Coconut Flakes 1 cup unsweetened coconut flakes
2 teaspoons madras curry powder
Combine all ingredients into a small bowl and mix to incorporate. Spread on a nonstick pad lined baking sheet. Toast in 300 degree oven until golden brown, stirring midway through to evenly cook. Let cool.
Directions Add all of the drink ingredients into a blender, and blend until thick and creamy (add more ice if needed). Pour into a tall glass and garnish with mint blossom, Amarena cherry, straw, and curried coconut flakes.
Tahini Honey Milkshake (nonalcoholic) from Rina Serves 1
1 cup whole milk
3 scoops vanilla ice cream
1 tablespoon honey
2 tablespoon raw tahini
At first glance, the dining room at Iberian Pig in Buckhead appears to be no different these days. The eggplant and gold–hued space, designed by vintage-meets-modern pro Elizabeth Ingram, has the same warm, textured vibe as when the restaurant opened in the spring of 2019. However, upon closer inspection, things have changed. The room still buzzes but more softly, as if someone turned down the volume. Servers donning masks and gloves cautiously flit around stations stocked with hand sanitizer. To limit interactions with servers, guests are given double-sided tokens reminiscent of the ones used at Brazilian steakhouses: One side says “service please”; the other, “fine for now.”
Under the state’s COVID-19 restrictions on in-person dining, restaurants must rearrange or remove tables to ensure social distancing, increase cleaning and sanitization, and require employees who interface with customers to wear masks and gloves. Those rules, which are necessary to save lives, add to the cost of doing business. They also can create a stark and austere dining room—at a time when restaurateurs want guests to feel more comforted than ever.
Of course, for beleaguered restaurants, a total redesign that takes into account these new constraints is out of the question, financially. But many owners are cleverly reimagining their dining rooms to offer as pleasant and safe an experience as possible. “We just try to be creative and not make it look so empty at the same time,” says Tamar Telahun, owner of Feedel Bistro. Telahun didn’t want to strip her intimate dining room of every extraneous table, so she instead spaced out the tables and placed magazines on the ones that can’t be seated with guests. “Then, of course, we’re wearing masks to serve and talk to customers, so that’s just super awkward—they don’t know your expression. I’m always saying, ‘I swear, I’m smiling behind the mask.’”
Some of the changes are subtle. At Morningside’s Whiskey Bird, co-owner Anthony Vipond installed an island in the center of the dining room. Topped with rolled silverware and glasses, as well as plants and candles, it’s both practical for servers and aesthetically pleasing for guests. It was an easy way for Whiskey Bird to get place settings off the table (a state requirement) while also filling some of the emptied-out space where more tables once were.
Because restaurant dining is safer outdoors than inside, restaurants are creating new patio spaces or revamping and expanding the ones they already have. They’re also trying to open up indoor dining rooms to the outdoors as much as possible, to improve airflow while relying less on air conditioning, which can spread the virus. Those adjustments actually work to create a different mood, says John Bencich, founding principal of Square Feet Studio, the design and architecture firm behind such restaurants as Kimball House, Bar Mercado, Watchman’s Seafood and Spirits, and the recently opened Little Bear.
“It’s a little more European, it’s a little more open,” Bencich says. “Everything doesn’t have to be full air-conditioned com- fort all the time. Restaurateurs are doubling down on that.”
One such restaurateur is chef Ronald Hsu, who expanded Lazy Betty’s underutilized covered patio after he realized diners felt safer outside. “We’re doing it on a budget, and a lot of our cooks and servers are now turning into landscape designers and craftsmen and helping us doll it up,” Hsu says. A fresh coat of paint, new outdoor furniture, and the installation of aqua subway tile (left over from the restaurant’s build-out) spruced up the patio. Throw in some planter boxes and bistro lights and you have a mini-oasis on the edge of a parking lot.
At Miller Union, Steven Satterfield worked with prop stylist Thom Driver to
solve the problem of the tables that can’t be occupied by guests: They placed ceramics and arrangements of leafy fronds on them. On the patio, the empty space was filled with planters spilling over with English Ivy and Autumn Fern. The pandemic gave Satterfield a chance to slow down and appreciate how green Atlanta is, and he wanted to bring that joy into his restaurant. “It’s just so lush and beautiful everywhere you look,” he says.
As Telahun points out, a restaurant’s space is about more than decor: It’s people that make a dining room feel vibrant. Since reopening Feedel Bistro, Telahun has found that, despite there being fewer guests by necessity, the conversation is more robust, with diners unwinding on the patio over cocktails for a couple of hours. “We need one another—that warmth from one another—to survive,” she says. “You don’t realize how much you miss people until it’s all gone, right?”
When the pandemic shut down Atlanta in mid-March, Nick Melvin made the difficult decision to furlough himself from his chef position at Fox Bros. Bar-B-Q. Doing so meant he could save two other employees’ jobs and also take on a bigger load of childcare while his wife worked remotely full-time. But he couldn’t keep out of the kitchen for too long and soon launched a burrito pop-up out of his house called Poco Loco.
He had two rules when coming up with the idea for the pop-up: it had to be fun and he couldn’t lose money. With just a little bit of social media marketing and word of mouth, the burritos, which come in flavor combinations like sweet potato and chorizo and ramp chilaquiles, have been selling out every week.
“I didn’t realize how much I needed to feed people,” Melvin says. “At the beginning of this, I didn’t have that fire that always just kind of keeps me pushing no matter what direction I’m going. And the second we did this, it was like the best day I could remember.”
Melvin isn’t alone in experiencing success as a restaurant-less chef during the pandemic.
Sarah Dodge, the self-proclaimed “rogue baker” behind Bread Is Good, experienced an increase in her sales almost immediately in mid-March. “It’s crazy, because I essentially built a pandemic-proof business, it feels like, without intending to,” says Dodge. Along with one part-time employee, Dodge runs her pop-up out of Ammazza’s kitchen on Edgewood Avenue. They bake pastries and a variety of breads like focaccia and biscuits, then deliver to people in a close radius. They also host weekly contactless pick-up at Ammazza.
Dodge suspects the increase in her business is two-fold. On the one hand, the contactless logistics are appealing, and customers worried about food safety took comfort in knowing that only two people had handled their baked goods, she says. Bread is also a staple and comfort food that people are drawn to in times of panic.
“Bread, at its root, is a very simple thing. I think people are going to always get a little bit drawn back to feeling that connection,” says Dodge. “I kind of had this double whammy of people want bread and then people want it delivered in a safe and easy way.”
Mia Orino, the chef behind popular Filipino pop-up Kamayan ATL, isn’t so surprised that she’s been busier since the beginning of the pandemic. Her pop-up dinners, which are based around a communal experience, are on hold, but the catering side of her business is flourishing.
“I think some people are going stir crazy and they’re tired of cooking for themselves. At the same time, it’s fun [for customers] to pick it up since we don’t deliver. So it’s a chance for them to go out and drive,” says Orino.
Orino says her phone began ringing off the hook in early April when Georgia’s shelter-in-place order went into effect. Since Kamayan ATL isn’t a restaurant, they can’t deliver using a service like Grubhub or Door Dash, and Orino’s meals are large. She started taking orders for party trays and learned that customers would divvy them up among neighbors and friends.
Beyond staples and meals, many still want to celebrate events such as graduations, weddings, and birthdays with a treat—even when those celebrations are held on Zoom. Larissa Neto operates her custom cake business, Bakey Bakes, out of her home kitchen in Ormewood Park. As Atlantans began to self-isolate in mid-March, about 10 cancellations rolled in right away. “I thought my life was over,” she says. But a couple of weeks later, orders began to once again pick up.
“People are still finding ways to celebrate on a smaller scale. They’ve just been saying ‘I want a mini cake,’ and I say that’s totally fine,” Neto explains. She’s had to adjust her workflow to accommodate the different requests, such as making extra batter when baking full-size cakes so that it is readily available for mini cakes. “Everything is just scaled down, for the most part. [But business has] definitely not slowed down,” she says.
Even as these chefs experience success in a pandemic, there are new challenges to contend with. For Melvin, it’s juggling parenting alongside running the pop-up. For Neto, who relies on ingredients from the grocery store (as opposed to a restaurant supplier), shortages have been the biggest issue. First it was flour—she solved that problem with a bulk bag from Hodgepodge Coffeehouse’s market. But yeast has been scarce on grocery shelves and even eggs can hard to come by, she says. The shortages have made her limit the amount of orders she takes. “So far, we’re okay. [But] I’m always waiting. Am I going to have to disappoint someone this week?” she says.
An increase in customers for Dodge has meant more stressful customer service interactions. People are quick to be unkind, she says, whether it’s about delivery times or the face masks she wears for protection. She says it’s taken a toll, but every day she still bakes about 50 loaves of bread.
“For every rotten customer, I have 20 of the most beautiful people that are so grateful,” she says. “I love that bread dough has this ability to bring comfort, nourishment, and community.”
As Atlanta restaurants reopen their dining rooms and patios, inching toward a new normal, Melvin suspects that more chefs will crop up in niche spaces. Atlanta has always had a great pop-up scene, he says, and challenging times birth new creations. “Anything could work at this point,” says Melvin. “As long as it’s good, wholesome, simple, and approachable, it’s a new ball game on some fronts.”
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