2012 year in review

Oh, what a year it’s been!

A handful of hotspots opened, longtime staples closed, and more and more local chefs became reality TV stars. Foodies tried to counter the effects of pork over-indulgence by eating more kale. Bitter-laced cocktails maintained their momentum, and farm-to-table fatigue set in (for the expression and the overload of pimento cheese, anyway; local, seasonal ingredients should be a given in any ambitious restaurant). Food trucks banded together and opened a park—twice. The list goes on and on. Read on for the monthly highlights . . . if for no other reason than to say “remember when.”

Cardamom Hill opens on Northside Drive, featuring cuisine from Kerala, the southwestern-most state of India. Executive chef and owner Asha Gomez is later featured in the September issues of Food & Wine and Bon Appetit and named one the Top 10 Chefs You Need to Know in Atlanta by the Braiser.

Cucina Asellina, the Italian restaurant adjacent to STK Atlanta, opens, providing a trendy yet comfortable place for pasta and pizza on the Midtown Mile. In the suburbs, Little Alley Steak launches, making Roswell’s Canton Street restaurant row an even buzzier destination.

Award-winning restaurant critic Besha Rodell is laid off from Creative Loafing along with several other longtime staffers. Creative Loafing later asks Rodell to freelance for the paper, but she picks up a more high-profile gig at LA Weekly.

Shane Devereux (Dinner Party Atlanta, Top Flr, and Sound Table) opens the Lawrence with partners Patrick La Bouff and Darren Carr. He departs just eight months later and is replaced by executive chef Jonathan St. Hilaire.

Atlanta’s first food truck park opens on Howell Mill Road, then temporarily closes and reopens. The Atlanta police cite permit issues, but the Atlanta Street Food Coalition stands its ground. Food trucks become a permanent fixture in the city—as well as an easy way for aspiring restaurateurs to get their name known.

The new LEED-certified international terminal at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport opens with space planned for Ecco, Lorena Garcia Tapas Bar, and the Varsity.

Richard Blais (previously known for burgers, hot dogs, and Top Chef) returns to the kitchen with the opening of the Spence, making headcheese (mixed with macaroni) palatable to Atlantans.

Watershed moves from Decatur to Brookwood with Joe Truex in the kitchen. The restaurant’s official name becomes Watershed on Peachtree.

The Atlanta Nosh, an evolution of the Atlanta Underground Market started by Michaela Graham, closes its doors. Graham flees to Seattle, hoping the free-spirited population there will better embrace her vision.

Fifth Group (the Original El Taco, La Tavola, Ecco, Alma Cocina, and South City Kitchen) opens a sustainable seafood spot called Lure. Buzz-worthy touches include an anchor from the bottom of the Boston Harbor and a lamp made from the nose of a World War II bomber.

The New York-based 5 Napkin Burger shutters its 10th and Piedmont location, proving once again that what succeeds in other major cities doesn’t always work in the ATL.

Buckhead Life Restaurant Group’s Southwestern spot Nava also closes. Ford Fry later announces plans to open a colonial-American eatery here.

Giving Antico Pizza some real competition, brothers Jason and Hugh Connerty open Ammazza in the Old Fourth Ward. Glitter pizza becomes a thing.

The Optimist is named “Restaurant of the Year” by Esquire Magazine, boosting chef Ford Fry’s popularity more than anyone thought possible, and raising expectations for his next restaurant (likely opening in spring), King Duke.

Shaun Doty gets into the chicken market with the opening of Bantam and Biddy in Ansley Park. Most reviewers are surprisingly quiet about the restaurant.

The Georgia Restaurant Association honors Linton Hopkins—owner of Restaurant Eugene, Holeman & Finch Public House, H&F Bottle Shop, and H&F Bread Co.—with the 2012 Innovator Award.

Sorrento lemon chicken

Dante Stephensen, founder of Dante’s Down the Hatch, is inducted into the Atlanta Hospitality Hall of Fame. Shortly thereafter, he regretfully announces that Dante’s will be closing in March.

Antico Pizza’s Giovanni Di Palma opens Gio’s Chicken Amalfitano, the first component of his planned Piazza San Gennaro. (Pictured right: Gio’s Sorrento lemon chicken.)

Longtime favorite Pura Vida announces on its Facebook page that owners Hector and Leslie Santiago will close its doors at the end of the month.