We weren’t expecting to love this pie as much as we do. It’s up against tough competition from Gio’s, yet we couldn’t stop dreaming about its luscious, tomato-y flavor and thick yet airy crust. 77 Georgia Avenue, Summerhill
Double Mozzarella Gio’s Sicilian
This Sicilian shop, part of Giovanni Di Palma’s Little Italia compound, puts out beautiful, sturdy pies. We love the addition of creamy fior di latte to contrast the charred, flavorful dough. 1099 Hemphill Avenue, Home Park
If you’re seeking a regional pie:
Detroit Red Top Nina & Rafi
Spina returned to Old Fourth Ward at Nina & Rafi (he’s since parted ways with the kitchen). Remarkably, his Detroit Red Top blew away even the most ardent Grandma Pie devotees. 661 Auburn Avenue, Old Fourth Ward
Grandma Pie O4W Pizza
When it first appeared in Old Fourth Ward, Anthony Spina’s Jersey-style Grandma Pie (kinda like a thinner Sicilian) drew a cult following. Since relocating to Duluth, its fanbase is no less rabid. 3117 Main Street, Duluth
If you’re looking for something chef-driven:
“We Say Potato …” MTH Pizza
This hip spot from the Muss & Turner’s team is a gift to Cobb Countians and the rest of us. We adore this pie topped with fingerlings, ricotta, garlic, crisped rosemary, and caramelized onions. 1675 Cumberland Parkway, Smyrna
Stagione Double Zero
We dig the artisan quality of these charmingly misshapen, rustic pies. The Stagione is graced with garlic oil, trumpet and shiitake mushrooms, Emmental cheese, confit shallot, and chard. 1577 North Decatur Road, Emory Village
If you want to turn up the heat:
Porreca Piccante Varuni Napoli
Locations in Midtown and Krog Street Market
This pie is fresh; it holds up even on a long drive home. Spicy peppers and soppressata add heat, but ’nduja (spreadable pork salumi) and potent basil make this the king of spicy pies.
591 Edgewood Avenue, Old Fourth Ward
The sweet tomato sauce is the star of this pie, a perfect base for the spicy soppressata and tangy, slightly vinegary Calabria peppers. Add ricotta ($4) to help balance the spice.
If you want a Neapolitan pie:
Margherita D.O.P. Antico
It was an instant phenomenon in 2009, revolutionizing Atlanta’s current pizza game. Today, it anchors a mini-empire of Italian magnificence. And this modest margherita remains the star. Locations in Home Park, the Battery, and Avalon
Regina Margherita Fritti
The pizzeria flanking Ricardo Ullio’s iconic Sotto Sotto was way ahead of the pizza curve in 2000. And no matter how many new pies continue to materialize, we’ll remain fans of this trusty pizza. 309 North Highland Avenue, Inman Park
This newcomer, from the team behind the White Bull, serves a pie with crazy-flavorful tomato sauce and a supercharred crust. That flavor combo makes for a standout pizza. 1835 Piedmont Avenue, Piedmont Heights
Margherita Di Bufala Varasano’s
An early pioneer of the city’s Neapolitan pizza movement, Varasano’s offers magnificently subtle margherita with buttery mozzarella and a crust with a pronounced sourdough tang. Locations in Buckhead and Hartsfield-Jackson
If you want a great single slice:
Margherita Pizza Jeans
Made with Root Baking Co.’s naturally leavened dough, Pizza Jeans’ lightly charred, generously sized slices stand out in a crowded field of exceptional pizza—new and otherwise. Ponce City Market, Old Fourth Ward
This pizza occupies a special place in the hearts of longtime Atlantans. Open since ’82, Fellini’s slings distinctive pies—a little bit Neapolitan, a little bit New York. And they still stand up. Seven metro Atlanta locations
Plain Cheese Labella’s
Labella’s came along a decade after Fellini’s but it somehow feels even older—and is nearly indistinguishable in dingy vibe and spot-on execution from a Brooklyn hole-in-the-wall. 2635 Sandy Plains Road, Marietta
Plain Cheese Glide
We dig the texture of the crust on these New York–style slices—far sturdier than the intentionally soggy-in-the-middle Neapolitan and yet a little airier than a typical Brooklyn pie. 660 Irwin Street, Old Fourth Ward
Our favorite overall: Nina & Rafi’s Detroit Red Top
If you’re going to start with one Atlanta pizza, make it this pie—but then, make haste to the other 15.
If you’re fortunate enough to live within a few miles of Chai Pani in Decatur, you can (and should) make a habit of picking up food there. If you’re more geographically challenged in relation to this outrageously delicious Indian street food, well, you might choose to rely on a food-delivery app—to the detriment of your bank account and the restaurant’s bottom line.
As is clear in the comparison above, the cost of the same dish can differ on the app versus at the restaurant. That differential helps offset the fees, excessive by some accounts, that the app charges the restaurant.
So, yes, it’s inevitably going to cost more to order food for delivery than for pickup—even before you get to the delivery fee (which is clearly stated) and the other, sneakier service fees. A low or “free” delivery fee often matters less than the app’s less publicized service fee, sometimes lumped in with sales tax. In the Chai Pani example, DoorDash charged me a $2.99 delivery fee and a more than $4 service fee; Uber Eats a 49-cent delivery fee and a service fee about a dollar more than DoorDash’s; and Postmates a $2.99 delivery fee with a whopping $10 service fee. Postmates also doesn’t include a suggested tip up front, which sometimes gives the impression that its total price is similar to or less than other apps. (On the other hand, Postmates is often the only app that will deliver across town—making it a good option for when you have a craving for a specific, not very close restaurant.)
If you must go the app route, that at least gives you the opportunity to support a driver (hear from two of them on here). Just like a server in a restaurant, that driver is reliant on tips and, if you can swing it, deserves the full 20 percent. Apps have come under fire for failing to hand over the entire tip to the driver; DoorDash settled a lawsuit last year for “deceptive” tipping. If you’re picking up directly from the restaurant, though, please don’t skip the tip; restaurant workers and the industry are in crisis mode, and every little bit—ahem, 20 percent—helps.
By the time New Year’s Eve arrives in all its desperate, aching, thank-god-this-crap-is-almost-over relief, it will have been eight and a half months since I ordered a drink at a bar. (Never thought I’d say those words.) And while I’ll be planted at home on December 31, that hasn’t stopped me from fantasizing about grabbing a stool opposite one of my favorite bartenders and saying, simply: “Gimme something that’s a proper send-off to this flaming garbage pile of a year.” No, I won’t be lounging at impossibly chic Aziza, sipping on a Demario Wallace cocktail. I won’t be cozied up in the corner booth at Bon Ton with one of Keyatta Mincey Parker’s cool creations. But I was able to snag their recipes for the drinks that might’ve been, had 2020 turned out to be different sort of year. For good measure, I’ve also collected a recipe from the owner of our Best New Bottle Shop, from star “Drinking Coach” Tiffanie Barriere, and from the new zero-proof cocktail book by a former Atlanta editor (for those of you in need of a nonalcoholic pick-me-up). Mix and shake these drinks at home to bid adieu to 2020—and to toast the bartenders we’ve sorely missed.
The Great Reset (aka Learn to F*ing Pivot)
From: Keyatta Mincey Parker Cocktail programmer, director of A Sip of Paradise community garden, and founder of the Jim Project
Why This Drink? It was something I made up during the pandemic while I was stuck at home, with ingredients I typically have on hand. I really liked it, and it became a comforter.
Combine in a shaker:
1½ ounces Bombay Sapphire East gin
½ ounce Del Maguey Mezcal de Pechuga
1 ounce loose-leaf green tea (unsweet)
¾ ounce lemon juice
½ ounce simple syrup
Why This Drink? 2020 was very sad and unpredictable—at times, exhilarating; at other times, numbing. It was filled with friends communing virtually, drive-by birthdays, days roaming in nature, social-distance happy hours, Zoom funerals, and home-office remodeling. We found time to get out to vote, protest, or walk around our neighborhood 10 times a day. We TikTokked and doomscrolled. We broke down, rebuilt, became plant parents, baked. (Remember that banana bread we all made back in April? This recipe channels that comfort into a cocktail.) We rescheduled, adjusted, and realigned. This year was filled with a lot of twists and turns, stops and gos, sudden drops, and slow climbs—and all you could possibly do, as Samuel L. Jackson famously says in Jurassic Park, is “hold onto your butts.”
Add to a glass vessel:
a pinch of salt
10 dashes of Peychaud’s bitters (yes 10, trust me)
2 dashes of Angostura bitters
1 teaspoon of maple syrup
¼ ounce Tempus Fugit Crème de Banane Liqueur (or whatever banana liqueur you like, ’cuz that’s your business)
¼ ounce nocino (that’s a bitter walnut liqueur)
½ ounce Amontillado sherry
2 ounces ASW Resurgens Rye
Stir until the glass vessel is really cold and the liquid has almost doubled in volume. Strain into a fancy glass.
Ctrl Alt Delete
From: Tiffanie Barriere The Drinking Coach; Instagram: @thedrinkingcoach
Why This Drink? 2020 brought the vibes for a lot of anger, pivoting, and perseverance. I have been on 320 Zoom meetings since March. Between cocktail demos, parties, and, of course, the meetings of the mind to change the world, the Zoom life has been insane. There are 365 days in the year. Do the math! This drink is a play on the classic ’80s cocktail called the Mind Eraser, which I chose as inspiration for obvious reasons. Also, adding booze to your coffee gives you energy and makes you feel ambitious. Adulting at its best.
Build this layered cocktail in a tall glass of ice by adding:
¼ ounce agave
a dash of cayenne pepper
1 ounce cold coffee
1 ounce tequila
Give the drink a gentle stir with a long spoon or straw. Top with club soda. Sip with a straw.
Lenny Bruce Is Not Afraid
From: Cory Atkinson & Kristina Ferdinand Atkinson is owner of Elemental Spirits Co.; Ferdinand is sales and beverage manager
Why This Drink? I feel fine. Do you feel fine? This boozy cocktail is a lot like 2020: In some ways, you won’t remember it; in others, you’ll never forget. Since no one can be in Times Square this year, we want to bring New York home to you with this classic riff on a New York sour. We’re using ruby port instead of a typical red wine float, which brings a richness. And with the spiced demerara syrup, you get something really unexpected (but not in that bad, 2020 way).
Combine in a shaker:
2 ounces blended Scotch whisky
¾ ounce fresh lemon juice
¾ ounce spiced demerara syrup*
Shake vigorously for 20-30 seconds. Strain into a rocks glass with a large ice cube. Using a bar spoon, slowly pour 3/4 ounce ruby port over the back side of the spoon to float the port on top. Garnish with a dried apple slice.
*To make a batch of the syrup, heat 1/2 cup of water in a small saucepan; add 1 cup demerara sugar, 1/2 vanilla bean, 3 cloves, and 1 cinnamon stick; stir until dissolved; let cool.
Sea Salt Shakerato
From: Julia Bainbridge Author of the new zero-proof cocktail bookGood Drinks(from which this recipe is sourced), creator of The Lonely Hour podcast, and former Atlanta magazine food editor. Instagram: @juliabainbridge
Why This Drink? Let’s do our best to shake off a salty 2020. This drink is sweet and savory and caffeinating. Onward!
Recipe (from Sahra Nguyen of Nguyen Coffee Supply in Brooklyn):
Combine in a shaker:
2½ ounces Vietnamese phin coffee or espresso
½ ounce whole milk
¾ ounce sweetened condensed milk
an inch of coarse sea salt
Shake for 10 to 15 seconds, until well chilled. Place a single, large ice cube in a rocks glass and double-strain the shakerato into the glass.
Chi Chi Vegan Taco Shop
Earlier this year and over the course of 24 pages, our Tacos Issue made the case (perhaps excessively) that the tortilla is the ideal vehicle not just for traditionally roasted meats but for all manner of unconventional and far-flung fillings. Of the 50 tacos that packed that issue, there were a handful of vegetarian tacos but just one, lonely plant-based one. Sorry, vegans! A silver lining: Now, there is an entire taco shop devoted just to you.
On the traffic-clogged corner of Moreland and Hosea L. Williams, you’ll find a quaint pink storefront in a tiny, historic strip just off the intersection, behind the new Hodgepodge Coffee outpost. Inside the stylish space are a handful of socially distanced tables and five or so taco options. I am generally wary of all things faux fish, but the Baja Fish taco wasn’t merely inoffensive but actually tasty, the fried bits (of what exactly, I’m not sure) served on a fragrant and highly respectable tortilla and dressed with mango slaw, sweet chili, and “crema.” Its only real flaw is one that pervades most of the tacos here, all of which are pretty damn tasty: The sweetness is a little overpowering. It’s no coincidence that my two favorites, a simple black bean and “queso” and, surprisingly, the Philly Cheese Steak, were the least sugary of the lot. I yearned for a sharp, acidic, spicy salsa to offer these a jolt, but I happily scarfed them down nonetheless.
Don’t let yourself get too fatigued by the sweetness to skip the mangonada—a cup of diced mango mingling with mango slush and a chili-spice mixture. Your Instagram demands it. 1 Moreland Avenue, Reynoldstown, 404-464-7153
Woodward & Park
This restaurant in Grant Park’s sleek Larkin development originally had lined up hotshot Robert Phalen (of One Eared Stag) as chef and promised to be a “European-inspired bistro.” Neither of those plans came to fruition, but we’re not complaining. Before the restaurant opened, Dan Brown (formerly of Torched Hop Brewing Company, 5Church, and the Porter) took Phalen’s place as chef and created a wild mashup of a menu—everything from pierogi to okonomiyaki—and his broad-minded, gastropub-ish sensibilities worked out well.
Okonomiyaki itself is a hodgepodge dish befitting this hodgepodge menu; the Osaka-
style pancake here is composed of cabbage, sweet potato, and house kimchi; garnished with sweet soy, kewpie mayo, and bonito; and heaped atop a foundation of thick strips of bacon. It’s a generous portion that tastes just as good scarfed out of a box the next day (though you’ll want to recrisp the bacon). Housemade, pan-seared pierogi come stuffed with Stone Mountain Cattle Co. brisket, caramelized onion, and potato or braised cabbage, farmers’ cheese, and potato, both with roasted apple, charred rosemary, and thyme crema. A single order won’t be enough.
Roasted chicken has been one of my go-to pandemic comforts, and the workhorse of a dish is often a bit of an afterthought at restaurants. Not so here. The juicy bird is actually smoked, and to perfection; a vibrant and vinegary chimichurri cuts through the smokiness and works just as beautifully with the crisp-edged, woodsy mushrooms and the smashed fingerlings that come with. The dining room and bar are predictably handsome, but if you’re not doing the indoor-dining thing, there are a half-dozen tables on the pleasant patio. 519 Memorial Drive, Grant Park, 404-748-1091
Brown Bag Seafood
It’s hard to rationalize a $24 lunch these days, but if you’re in Midtown at midday and crave a lobster roll, Chicago import Brown Bag Seafood at Colony Square serves a solid one, with a side of tater tots showered with flakes of Parmesan. (I did not detect a trace of the tots’ promised truffle, but maybe that’s for the best.) For half the price, you can choose from a bunch of customizable seafood dishes—just select your protein (grilled salmon, seared-rare tuna, etc.) and your preparation (salad, bowl, tacos, sandwich). A bowl with a half-and-half mix of green veggies (mostly broccoli, very tasty) and ancient grains (blandish but fine) topped with a small, unremarkable salmon fillet makes for a healthy and decent lunch. But really, you’ll be happier with the lobster roll. 1201 Peachtree Street, Midtown, 404-883-2175
In the past 48 hours, there have been something like 1,854,865,732 tweets about what’s happening with the vote in Georgia. Not all of them have been . . . accurate. For instance, ABC footage of voters confused the state of Georgia with the country of Georgia. (Hint: The country is about 6,300 miles to the east.)
Then there’s this tweet from FiveThirtyEight editor Nate Silver suggesting journalists were caught off guard by some of the bigger the news out of Georgia: “I’m not sure it’s really sunk in yet, even among reporters, that we’re probably going to get 2 runoffs in Georgia on Jan. 5 that will determine control of the Senate.” (While the race has not officially been called, it looks as though incumbent Republican Senator David Perdue will run against Democrat Jon Ossoff in a January 5 runoff.)
Roughly 86 percent (and counting) of journalists in the state stepped up to correct the record. “Here in Georgia we’ve known about/planned for the probability for months!” GPB’s Stephen Fowler fired back.
Judging from Fowler’s volume and timing of tweets since Election Day, he’s averaging about three hours of sleep per night. But he didn’t let that slow his roll: “Note to people outside of Georgia: We do have political journalism here, do it quite well, there’s more than just the stellar people at the AJC and it’s pronounced duh-KAB, HOW-stun and suh-PORT-lo-cull-JOUR-nuh-lizm.” (For further schooling on such things, see our handy Out-of-Towners’ Guide to Atlanta and Georgia; Silver might wanna bookmark it.)
“So often, Georgia and the South is reduced to parachute reporting, broad generalizations and fetishizations of politics+culture,” Fowler continued, “and I relish the fact that people are now extra paying attention to the work my colleagues in print/TV/radio are doing in this great state.”
In honor of Fowler and his fellow scribes, we’ve collected 20 tweets from 20 Georgia-based journalists who have helped all of us—whether you live in the United States of America or in the Caucasus region of Eurasia—process the mania of the past two days. We suggest you follow the work of each of them; it looks like the mania will continue for at least another two months, until the Senate runoffs. And this being 2020, it’s doubtful we’ll have a single slow news day in the interim.
Let’s start with one of Fowler’s tweets from (double-checks the time-stamp) 3:24 IN THE MORNING on November 4:
It's 3:22 a.m., counties have stopped uploading, there may be a quarter million ballots left an I'm going to sleep after a 20-hour day.
See y'all in a few hours to continue making sense of it all, plus a breakdown of our smooth-ish Election Day voting and wacky counting. pic.twitter.com/JZiTFDTwI8
Okay, this tweet isn’t about election coverage. But the story should be required reading for Georgians and non-Georgians alike looking to expand their understanding of the diversity of DeKalb County (Buford Highway in particular):
As it happens (and maybe @jakesilverstein + the rest of the @NYTmag crew are just clairvoyant), DeKalb County, now a pivotal factor in the tightening vote count in Georgia, will be on the cover of the Times Mag on Sunday: https://t.co/oejrGivxgm
Here’s an AJC reporter’s behind-the-scenes thread—complete with a cigar-wielding county commissioner—of the vote-counting efforts at State Farm Arena:
Here’s the beehive inside the State Farm Arena suite where Fulton County is trying to finish processing the last of the roughly 142K absentee-by-mail ballots it received by mail. @ajcpic.twitter.com/jHajwZlDRa
The “thank you, gentlemen” was such a lovely touch from this breaking-news post from a WABE host:
BREAKING: Chatham Cty Superior Court Judge James Bass, Jr. re: Trump campaign & GA GOP lawsuit alleging county counted ballots after GA deadline. Judge Bass: "After listening to the evidence, I'm denying the request, dismissing the petition, thank you gentlemen."
An AJC political reporter noted the moment when Senator David Perdue slipped below the 50-percent mark in his race against Jon Ossoff:
U.S. Sen. David Perdue has fallen below the 50-percent mark in Georgia. If this holds, he will face Democrat Jon @Ossoff in a Jan. 5 runoff that, along with Georgia’s other race, could determine control of the Senate. #gasen#gapolpic.twitter.com/nFVueLZ4jW
As the excruciatingly incremental vote tallying continued in Georgia, a former AJC reporter (and contributor to this magazine’s “The Way We Live Politics” package) invoked the late Congressman John Lewis:
I just know John Lewis is smiling. I reread his final words in the NY Times on Election Day because they would ring true in this particular election (and really beyond). Here's a reminder of his championing of democracy: https://t.co/Il2cF66Q1Jhttps://t.co/40SaQZ3Nra
Or, if you’re not inclined to read the above-mentioned AJC story, here’s a WABE reporter’s TL;DR version:
In addition to scanning thousands of absentee ballots, Fulton County also says it's adjudicating 25,000 ballots. This involves a 3-person panel: a Republican, a Democrat and a county elections official reviewing hand-marked absentee ballots that have been rejected by the scanner. pic.twitter.com/e5St2EuUp8
And we initially thought we’d have Georgia wrapped up by noon today (hahahahaha):
To be clear, nobody knows how many votes still need to be counted in Georgia. I haven’t seen a statewide count of provisional ballots. Even if such a thing existed, the deadline for military and overseas ballots is Friday at 5 p.m. #gapol
Did you think Georgia became a battleground state overnight? Think again:
Georgia isn't "suddenly" a battleground — the surge in Democratic representation at the state's ballot boxes is a consequence of focused efforts to re-engage/re-empower disenfranchised voters. An excellent and extremely timely @soljourno story from @carlisanjohnson: https://t.co/rYmRPTPu4M
And be warned: In the second most populous of those counties, absentee ballot adjudication (see those primers above!) is gonna take a while:
Elections director Kristi Royston won't say whether she expects to get done tonight or tomorrow — initial estimate was this would last thru Saturday — but she said folks will keep counting into the evening, "as long as we can still be productive." https://t.co/HJb68882qs
And just when you thought today couldn’t get any more tense, President Trump addressed the nation—and, among other indignities, slammed the integrity of Georgia’s elections. To which this 40-year AJC political reporter politely pointed out:
On TV just now, President Donald Trump says the states yet to be called in the presidential contest are corrupt Democratic-run states. So about Georgia…..
Amid the plumes of bipartisan vitriol arising from clashes over Supreme Court appointees, from bursts of violence between police and civilians (and protesters and police, and vigilantes and protesters), and, oh yeah, from waves of the deadly virus battering us on all sides, we’re all pretty bleary. In this most unprecedented of election years, it’s become exhausting to give much thought to something as implausible as empathy.
And, sure, it’s probably naive to believe that there’s room right now in political discourse for anything as uncommon as compassion, as audacious as hope.
Yet, when we set out to explore the political tensions that have trickled down into our everyday lives—not the ones that invade our psyche as a result of the actions of the President or Congress or the Court, but the ones that we simply can’t avoid because of who we married, who raised us, who we befriended—something surprised us. Yes, there are interpersonal tensions aplenty these days, but when we spoke to people about their relationships with spouses, parents, and friends who hold different political views, the resounding message was not one of despair over their differences but of confidence that they can overcome those differences. Really? In 2020?
“If we kept saying, I’m right, you’re wrong, then, no one grows, and you don’t feel respected,” 24-year-old Samantha Phelps, a Democrat, told us when describing her unusual relationship with her boyfriend, a staunch Republican.
“If you want to be heard,” said 39-year-old Elizabeth King, a conservative Christian, “you have to learn to listen.” That’s exactly what her best friend—a liberal Democrat—does best.
There are dozens of opposing political viewpoints in the three stories that follow. But there also are abundant examples of ways in which two polarized people have found elusive common ground. And no matter what happens on November 3 and beyond—no matter how elated or wrecked you might feel—common ground is the one thing we’ll all need . . . to survive 2021.
Laura Phelan and her friends have been meeting for breakfast every week for the last four years. The owner of their favorite spot, Gracious Plenty Bakery and Breakfast, makes the best biscuits Laura has ever eaten, she says, “and I had a Southern grandma.” The top left corner of the menu reads, “All Are Welcome, Hate Has No Place Here,” which feels fitting to Laura, “this Southern biscuit place with this progressive message.” Her friend group that gathers here is split politically—three lean left, three right.
They’ve met, all six women, only a few times since March, when their kids’ schools closed and the pandemic ramped up, when wearing a mask became a political litmus test, and when they unconsciously sorted themselves into two groups: those hunkering down at home, and those not.
Nationally, the political divide between younger and older Black voters is more vast than the divide between younger and older white ones. According to national polls conducted late this summer, white “likely voters” between the ages of 18 to 29 were more likely to support Joe Biden than those over 65, but the opposite was true of Black voters: Biden had stronger support from older Blacks than from younger ones, with a wider margin separating them compared to their white counterparts. And with the Democratic party relying on significant Black turnout to defeat President Donald Trump, motivating Black voters, old and (especially) young, will be crucial to the party’s success. That goes double for Georgia—a swing state with one of the nation’s largest Black populations.
Going into the relationship, Dave and Jessica knew they had their differences. He’s Black, and she’s white. He grew up in a small town in coastal Georgia; she’s from metro Atlanta. He’s a 50-year-old Gen Xer; she’s a 38-year-old Millennial. But to many people, the difference that’s most surprising isn’t any of these: It’s that he’s a Republican, and she’s a Democrat.
A stone’s throw (dough throw?) from the BeltLine in Old Fourth Ward, you’ll find a takeout window wedged between Lingering Shade Social Club and Irwin Street Market in a tin-sided, charmingly ramshackle building. The diminutive nature of this operation, Glide Pizza, belies the outsize pies and slices available here. The shop is easy to miss, but the line snaking into the parking lot is not.
Atlanta is experiencing something of a pizza explosion, mostly dominated by Neapolitan pies. In less than two years, the robust crop of new pizzerias includes Junior’s in Summerhill, Gio’s Sicilian in Home Park, MTH Pizza in Smyrna, Forno Vero in Marietta, Grana in Piedmont Heights, Ammazza in Decatur, Slim & Husky’s in Adair Park, Firewall in Westview, and, of course, the inimitable Nina & Rafi, a literal 30-second glide down the BeltLine from Glide.
What sets this little takeout window apart? It’s the most New York–influenced of the lot, more Brooklyn than Neapolitan. I dig the texture of the crust—far sturdier than the intentionally soggy-in-the-middle Neapolitan and yet a little airier/flakier than that of a more quintessentially Brooklyn pie. The flavor profile is also more delicate than that of its New York brethren (tempting me to dust it with a little salt and oregano). But it is a very fine pie, especially when graced with the house-pickled jalapenos that come on the side. Call me a purist, but I’m less a fan of the housemade ranch for dipping. Though tasty enough, it feels decidedly anti-Brooklyn; a good crust needs no embellishment. 660 Irwin Street, Old Fourth Ward, no phone —Mara Shalhoup
It can be tricky to find this Buckhead restaurant, which is tucked away behind a tattoo parlor and a yoga studio on Peachtree Road. But once you descend the long concrete ramp and climb a flight of stairs, you’ll discover an impeccably designed restaurant that exudes cool. Vinyl records, found on shelves throughout the dining room, come from the personal collection of owner Sim Walker (of Ms. Icey’s Kitchen and Bar), a more than 10,000-album treasure trove that boasts everything from Wu-Tang Clan to the Mary Poppins soundtrack. A DJ booth is set up near the bar, where patrons can order elegant cocktails and several types of rum.
Haitian-born chef Dayana Joseph serves up a Caribbean menu featuring Jamaican ackee fruit and Scotch bonnet peppers, oxtail, and plantains. Appetizers include duck wings a l’orange or lightly fried cracked conch, which comes with a sweet and spicy scotch bonnet pepper and citrus dipping sauce reminiscent of flavor-boosted honey mustard. Skip the decadent, fatty tamarind-glazed short rib for the fried whole red snapper, topped with vividly pink pickled vegetables, and don’t miss the boozy plantain cake with cashew crumble for dessert. The restaurant is open Thursday through Sunday for dine-in by reservation; call ahead for takeout or place your order at the bar. 2293 Peachtree Street, Buckhead, 404-709-2906 —Myrydd Wells
Situated right across from Kimball House, behind a few picnic tables in the takeout-only space formerly occupied by Doggy Dog hot dog shop, this no-frills barbecue spot offers a simple menu: four sides, three meats (two more on the weekend), two desserts, and a single sauce. Of course, simplicity reigns at the moment, as does relatively affordable, family-ready comfort food, which makes BBQ Cafe a solid option for carnivorous Decaturites. (No real vegetarian meal options here.)
The $15 barbecue plate gets you one meat, two sides, a drink, and a dessert, and between the pulled pork, brisket, and ribs, those ribs are the clear winner—generously meaty and adequately smoky with a well-seasoned, salty-spicy bark. The “loaded” potato salad is richly creamy and flecked with herbs and slivers of pork (and even better the next day), a fine companion to the ribs. Lightly dressed, peppery slaw rounds out my ideal plate.
Both the meats and sides (which also include straightforward baked beans and strikingly simple corn salad) are available by the pound or half-pound. Don’t hold back on a pound of that potato salad for $7.50. 310 East Howard Avenue, Decatur, 678-235-3476 —M.S.
If you find it hard to get psyched about rice, you must be depriving yourself of Persian food—an abstinence you should quickly break by ordering the sabzi polo (“herb pilaf”) from Delbar. Persians are rice gods, and sabzi polo is their ambrosia—a dish commonly served on New Year’s but one that’s so unbelievably good you’ll want to eat it every day. The basmati takes on a springy-chewy, cheeselike texture, and the abundance of herbs adds vegetal snap, but the most amazing part is the crust of crunchy, near-blackened rice that forms along the bottom of the pan. (The pan is inverted onto a plate, so that the rice holds its form and resembles an upside-down bowl.) The crunchy layer even has its own word in Persian, “tahdig,” and, I kid you not, it is reminiscent of—and every bit as lustworthy as—the burnt-cheese raised crust of Nina & Rafi’s Detroit pizza. Even crazier, when you eat the leftovers out of the fridge the next day, they’re no less delicious. (Yes, I’m even psyched about cold rice.) What should you order with your sabzi polo? Fish is the traditional option, and Delbar’s trout stuffed with walnuts and pomegranate is lovely and travels surprisingly well, if you’re opting for takeout or delivery. The falafel is a fine choice—the fried chickpea balls appropriately green-hued from parsley—as is the kashk bademjoon (fried eggplant with crispy onion, mint, and cream of whey). But none will transfix you the way that $7 rice will. 870 Inman Village Parkway, Inman Park, 404-500-1444, delbaratl.com
The first time I tried to grab a Cubano at Buena Gente, the food truck that recently expanded into a North Decatur strip mall, the shop had sold out of everything by 1:30 p.m., a cruel blow to those stuck in line. I returned earlier the next day with better luck—and was able to determine, after a solid wait on the sidewalk (no online preordering here), what all the fuss was about. The pressed Cuban bread had a crust rivaling the crackliness of creme brulee and a center just as soft. Most impressive, though, was the pork, so deeply fragrant and superjuicy that it easily stood up to the sandwich’s interior walls of gooey Swiss cheese and salty bolo ham. Note that this sandwich is best consumed with a Cuban coffee or mango milkshake. 1365 Clairmont Road, North Decatur, 678-744-5638, buenagenteatl.com
Hero Doughnuts & Buns
Considering that some of the other occupants of Summerhill’s redeveloped Georgia Avenue include a barbecue joint, pizza place, hot dog stand, and ice cream shop, it was only a matter of time before doughnuts joined the fray. As is true of its neighbor Hot Dog Pete’s, Hero Doughnuts was conceived in Birmingham and peddles guileless comfort food—in this case, the type of straightforward sugar bombs you fetishized as a kid. While I typically prefer yeast doughnuts, Hero’s cake ones won me over: The pleasantly crunchy exterior encapsulates soft-yet-dense, not-too-sweet dough. The buns in the shop’s name cradle, say, eggs and sausage in the morning and fried chicken with buffalo sauce and ranch in the afternoon. The latter evokes a messier Chick-fil-A sandwich overdosed with Zesty Buffalo. I’m not complaining. 33 Georgia Avenue, Summerhill, 470-369-6800, herodoughnutsandbuns.com
The Savannah-based coffee roaster made a genius decision when it opened a shop in Atlanta: It brought on baker extraordinaire Sarah Dodge (who currently runs her Bread Is Good delivery service and pop-up and formerly served as 8Arm’s star pastry chef) to create and oversee its menu of pastries and sandwiches. If your culinary prayers include a fluffy biscuit stuffed with soft-scrambled egg and peppery bacon, fragrant sourdough slices piled with herb chimichurri and miso-roasted shaved squash that mimics lunch meat (but yummier), oil-slick and salt-dusted focaccia graced with sliced heirloom tomatoes and Duke’s mayo, or a just a perfectly chewy everything bagel heaped with whipped cream cheese, you can consider those prayers answered. 2380 Hosea L. Williams Drive, East Lake, no phone, perccoffee.com
In the recent history of unfortunately timed business decisions, there are those who bought real estate in early 2007, those who saved up to become a taxi driver in 2012, and those who opened a restaurant in the spring and summer of 2020.
All but one of the eight spots on this list of restaurants that launched between March and July were conceived well before COVID-19 began its spread across the U.S. (The lone exception is a preexisting restaurant that switched concepts in an attempt to survive the pandemic). The poor timing of their openings was therefore inevitable. Two of the restaurants are second locations of already-adored spots, which might help buffer their owners against the current economic squalls and definitely helps bring a particular joy to new parts of town. Several of the others are from chefs with sizable followings—which themselves offer an insurance of sorts that could spare these creative souls from the fate of the taxi driver.
The good news: The food you’ll find at these places is affordable, varied, and fun—as good a mix (albeit a much abbreviated one) as you could hope for in normal times. At these new spots, you’ll find the comfort of decadent barbecue and of equally decadent (and yet vegan!) burgers, both from Black-owned restaurateurs. You’ll also find the innovation of Georgia-influenced Thai and of harvest-driven, multicultural mash-ups, both from chefs of color. The bad news: The season could soon be upon us when even fewer restaurants will open, the chilling effect of the difficult months the industry has endured. Support the places you’ve long loved and the new ones deserving of your affection. We need them as much as they need us.
Lake & Oak
Chef Todd Richards, who launched Richards Southern Fried at Krog Street Market and serves as culinary director at Jackmont Hospitality (One Flew South, Chicken + Beer), finally brings his mastery of barbecue to the masses. Lake & Oak, on a quiet East Lake corner formerly inhabited by Greater Good BBQ, arrived without much forewarning—but that didn’t stop the crowds from lining up (if only to pick up their takeout orders). Lake & Oak’s brisket has just the right of smoke and tug and the brisket is downright buttery, but I was no less impressed with the briny collard greens (no sign of mush in these leafy beauties) and the collard fried rice, punched up with slivers of ginger. 2358 Hosea L. Williams Drive, East Lake, 404-205-5913, lakeandoakbbq.com
The city’s food lovers could hardly wait for chef Parnass Savang to turn his long-running pop-up into a brick-and-mortar—and though the Summerhill stunner opened in April, the wait (for a table) continues. But even operating as a takeout-only operation, Talat Market has been wildly successful, regularly selling out of the prix fixe meals it initially offered. It later switched to a la carte, and its ever-changing menu is brimming with such delights as short-rib red curry with chanterelles, pearl onion, lime leaf, and Thai basil, or a wild summer salad of peach, watermelon, cantaloupe, mint, lemongrass, cilantro, fish sauce, scallop floss, and toasted coconut. Had this been a year of abundant new restaurants, Talat Market still would be at the very top of our list of favorites. 112 Ormond Street, Summerhill, 404-257-6255, talatmarketatl.com
Hot Dog Pete’s
This cheerful Summerhill hot dog shop sources its snappy wieners from Fritz’s Smoked Meats and Superior Sausage in Kansas City and its pillowy brioche buns from Alon’s. Choose from seven different dogs (including an all-beef, a jalapeño cheddarwurst, and a Beyond vegan sausage) and 10 builds (the Pete’s Original is a smart choice, topped with kraut, diced onions, yellow mustard, and Pete’s tangy and tomato-y hot sauce). The waffle fries are salty and fresh, the fried onion straws golden and fragrant, and the collard green slaw crisp and spicy. In case you’re wondering, the Pete in question is co-owner Pete Graphos, founder of the 64-year-old hot dog joint Sneaky Pete’s in Birmingham. 25 Georgia Avenue, Summerhill, 470-369-6777, hotdogpetes.com
The team behind the White Bull on the Decatur Square earned deserved praise for that restaurant’s housemade pasta. And they deserve just as much praise for their char-kissed Neapolitan pizza at their new spot, Grana. A margherita pie is a good indicator of a pizza place’s chops, and this one doesn’t disappoint—but I’m more deeply moved by the New Yorker, simply topped with shredded cheese, tomato sauce, and oregano and infinitely noshable. If you’re feeling more spendy, go for the burrata, stracchino, robiolina, and black truffle pie. The cannoli are barely sweet (and therefore perfect), which means you should eat two. 1835 Piedmont Avenue, Piedmont Heights, 404-231-9000, granaatl.com
Andy Gonzales, the longtime chef of the beloved Steinbeck’s Ale House in Decatur, has opened a companion watering hole on the other side of town, in a former hardware store near the intersection of Marietta and Bolton roads. The menu may look straightforward—burgers, smoked wings, a fish sandwich, smothered tater tots—but this food is lovingly prepared and worthy of your regular takeout roster. Mark your calendar for Wednesdays, when the nightly dinner special is buttermilk fried chicken, served with a wedge salad, mac and cheese, baked beans, and Texas toast. A full order feeds three to four for $32. 2316 Marietta Road, Bolton, 404-228-1632, facebook.com/thecompanionbar
When 8Arm started doing takeout in the pandemic’s early days, the dinner I brought home was among my top-three lockdown meals. I was distraught when the restaurant halted its takeout operation (though their decision to shift their focus to a Community Supported Agriculture program was admirable). 8Arm hasn’t yet reopened, but it launched an excellent concept in its parking lot. Housed in a shipping container equipped with a wood-fired oven, Sidepiece slings exquisite flatbreads (think foraged mushrooms with eggplant muhammara, turnip paste, spigarello greens, and green garlic sauce), juicy skewers (pork belly with summer veggies and aji sauce), and seasonally perfect small plates (a salad of tomato, plum, pickled fennel, aji dulce, dill, and mint). My despair is over. 710 Ponce de Leon Avenue, Virginia-Highland, 470-875-5856, 8armatl.com
Aviva by Kameel (Midtown)
I am not alone in feeling a painful yearning for the lunchtime line that snaked out the door of Aviva by Kameel, tucked away in the heart of downtown in Peachtree Center’s food court. More than the samples of pasta fagioli and baklava that sustained customers as they waited, I miss Kameel Srouji’s beatific face and proclamations of love for his loyal followers. Alas, fewer of us are headed downtown these days—but lucky Midtown dwellers now have an Aviva of their own. Order me a falafel wrap, Kameel-style, extra hot sauce, would ya? 756 West Peachtree Street, Midtown, 404-698-3600, avivabykameel.com
Slutty Vegan (Jonesboro)
If you’re unacquainted with Pinky Cole’s Slutty Vegan burger, you must be really good at avoiding both Instagram and the intersection of Ralph David Abernathy Boulevard and East Ontario Avenue, home to the first brick-and-mortar location of the popular food truck. (The line around the block is impossible to miss.) The term “viral sensation” was coined for Cole and her sloppy, scandalously good, plant-based creations. Those on the far south side of town can now more easily get their fix with the arrival of Cole’s second location. And intowners need not get huffy: Another Slutty Vegan will take up residence in Old Fourth Ward soon. 164 North McDonough Street, Jonesboro, 855-439-7588, sluttyveganatl.com
I’m from Atlanta and grew up wanting to be an attorney. The reason for that centered around my belief that it was the best way to help people. All of my heroes growing up were civil rights figures, and many of them had law degrees.
Between my first and my second year of law school at Georgetown, I was working at a law firm back here in Atlanta. It was the same summer as the trial of Trayvon Martin’s killer. I got an email from some of my friends when George Zimmerman was acquitted, and they were like, Hey, what are we going to do? What I wrote back to them was the start of the Gathering Spot.
I had an idea for a space that could serve as a meeting place for people that want to create, share, and listen to ideas that can change the world—taking what we loved about the university setting and giving people a space where they can interact with others and turn dialogue into action. They could come to discuss issues in our community and ideas that can make our community better. We could bring in members to lead and attend sessions on how to write a business plan and go through all the different ideas. We now have 100 people on our team and counting.
Atlanta is one of the few cities that has a significant enough Black population to where we could engage in these conversations meaningfully. We have positioned ourselves as a city that engages in conversations around race relations and economics, but the whole “City Too Busy to Hate”—that’s a false narrative.
Atlanta, for five years now, has been the city with the most severe income inequality in the nation. This city cannot prosper with the type of inequality that we have here. It is not possible. We will never be able to get to our full potential when so much disparity exists. We’re now in the worst economic event of our lifetimes, and we cannot continue to act like this is not a collective problem. We’ve ignored that there are people in our city and communities who are struggling, whom we have historically neglected. We just can’t afford to do so anymore.
“I think that the mistake we’re making right now is to assume that our gestures or statements are enough. They’re not.”
Even pre-COVID, Black folks didn’t have access to adequate healthcare, to equal education, to healthy food, to stable housing. Those who already didn’t have much cannot be expected to have even less. I don’t know a better way to say it: We’re talking about a several-hundred-year journey to get to a place where folks still don’t have access to basic resources. That’s unacceptable.
We’re at a point right now where we’re going to have to reconcile this system that has left Black folks on the outside throughout our history as a nation. This is the moment when everything is going to come to a head. It is coming to folks’ doorsteps because, frankly, at this point, it has to. We, right now, as a community, have to decide what we want this city to be moving forward.
The conversation we need to have is about resources. It’s about white folks in our community having access to a ton of them. And Black folks—historically, due to a system that’s stacked against them—not having any. We could talk about health, education, homeownership—pick any social issue that you want to. There’s a reason why Black folks are always on the worst end of all of those statistics: We have a system that routinely keeps Black folks from being able to participate in it.
How is it that in 1865, Black folks owned one half of 1 percent of the nation’s wealth and now, in 2020, own 1.5 percent of the nation’s wealth? That’s a 1 percentage point gain in 155 years—despite this idea that there’s been a ton of progress.
If homeownership primarily has been the way that Americans have made money and built wealth in their families, and if you prevent Black folks from being able to purchase a home, you do significant damage to their ability to build wealth. Why does wealth matter? It matters because it impacts nearly every other system that folks want to participate in. It has an impact on your schools, and, unfortunately, it has an impact on your healthcare.
This system has been built so effectively that it actually doesn’t rely on individual actors to continue to operate it. That’s the brilliant move of racism over the last 100 years. It used to require overt action. But once you institutionalize racism, it’s like being on autopilot—like driving a Tesla. Your hands don’t have to be on the steering wheel anymore. The system is working toward the desired outcome without you having to do anything to aid it.
I think that the mistake we’re making right now is to assume that our gestures or statements are enough. They’re not. Actually, in some ways, they make things worse. Because when you’re trying to dismantle a system of oppression but you focus on performative gestures—renaming buildings, tearing down statues, declaring solidarity on social networks and with company mission statements—you never actually talk about the root causes of why things are the way they are. We’re confusing the performative gesture for erasing the system. The system still exists.
My very short message to the white community is that we’re at a point right now where both your time and your treasure are needed. We need specific capital injected—not symbolic efforts, not statements.
For most Black folks in Atlanta, their dollar doesn’t last in their community but for a couple of hours. That’s because there are too few places to spend that dollar locally, in a way that benefits their neighbors, and too little opportunity to save or invest that dollar, because there aren’t enough dollars to go around. And this is where we get back to COVID. What we’re facing right now is even fewer resources coming into communities.
The conversation that we have to have collectively is, what happens when a side of town does not have basic resources already established within it—and then, all resources that were coming into it, which were minimal, get cut off? That’s what this moment is about: actually rolling up our sleeves, having hard conversations, doing the tough work, and talking about why it’s necessary to build Black businesses and build Black wealth in our communities. Then, the conversation can shift from what someone is going to do for us to what we can do with our own resources.
If you consider yourself an ally, we’re going to measure allyship by activity. So, let’s look at your part. How much money last year did you spend with Black-owned business personally? How intentional were you with your personal spending? I’m not going to suggest the go-read-a-book or go-watch-a-movie or go-make-a-friend route. Those are all bonus points if you can do it. That would be great, but what we immediately need right now is to allocate our resources differently.
The person who has influence inside of a company or organization has the ability to do the same thing: Apply that same sort of intention to the way you direct resources. To dismantle part of the system, it is not about well wishes. It never has been. It’s about intentionally looking at where resources are currently allocated and how they specifically can be allocated differently—or where resources can be built in communities outside of your own.
I don’t suggest that what I just said is easy, but if you are a person who says that you would like to engage, that’s what engaging is. It’s not tweeting out “Black Lives Matter.” After you post your black square on Instagram, if you aren’t intentional about making sure that you participate differently in the system, if you aren’t making different decisions, building different relationships, then the system still will be there.
Look at where you have the ability to influence where resources go, and try to make sure that someone who historically would not have had that resource gets it. That’s it. And for folks to say, I don’t know how to do that—well, to me, that is part of the problem. That’s a form of privilege in and of itself.
Since 1961, Atlanta magazine, the city’s premier general interest publication, has served as the authority on Atlanta, providing its readers with a mix of long-form nonfiction, lively lifestyle coverage, in-depth service journalism, and literary essays, columns, and profiles.