Harold Shumacher on how the dining scene fared in 2011


ATL Food Chatter: November 29, 2011
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As 2011 winds down, it’s time for some analysis on how Atlanta’s dining scene fared in 2011 and what things we can expect for 2012. And who better to address the topic than local restaurant real estate guru Harold Shumacher, president of The Shumacher Group Inc.? Before opening his prominent brokerage company twenty years ago, Shumacher was a dining critic for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and author of two restaurant guidebooks.

Q: This year has been somewhat of a roller coaster ride for Atlanta’s restaurant industry, with some notable closings like Bluepointe as well the arrival of some bold-face names like Art Smith. How would you characterize 2011 from an industry perspective?
HS: I think 2011 will be looked upon as a catch-up year. Many existing restaurants were able to begin to return to normalcy and have seen decent sales increases from where they were at this time in 2009. There is a sense that people are back out spending money, as evidenced by the growing number of specialty markets, wine stores, food boutiques, and upscale restaurants such as Ocean Prime, which opened about the same time as Southern Art. In the neighborhood restaurants we’re seeing daily specials priced above $20, whereas chefs were deliberately trying to price more toward the $12 to $15 level a few years back.

Q: What are some of your predictions for 2012 for Atlanta’s dining scene?
HS: Continuing expansion of international/ethnic cuisine; more seafood restaurants like Ford Fry’s the Optimist; continuing improvement in quality of neighborhood restaurants; and a continuing emphasis on fresh, local ingredients.

Q: What restaurants are you most looking forward to opening in 2012?
HS: Pano’s new spot in Buckhead.

Q: What are some of the most dynamic intown neighborhoods for dining in Atlanta?
HS: Decatur is the current fair-haired child but Brookhaven, Roswell, and to an extent East Cobb (particularly with the opening of Doug Turbush’s Seed Kitchen & Bar) are all showing improvement.

Q: What are some of your favorite places to eat around town?
HS: Depends on who’s treating. At the higher end Bacchanalia is always a treat, as is Kyma and La Grotta. I’ve recently enjoyed meals at Miller Union, Empire State South, No. 246, and Bocado. After that it’s a wide variety, from Gu’s Bistro on Buford Highway to 5 Seasons at the Prado.

Julia LeRoy and Joe Treux’s “Anything But Fried Chicken” dinner event, mentioned here last week, announced its location: the Goat Farm on the Westside, this Sunday, December 4, beginning at 7 p.m. Email thedeviantchef@gmail.com for reservations.

Buckhead. Eater Atlanta is reporting that Tomo Japanese Restaurant will open for lunch by December 1. The article also suggests that chef Naito may add handmade Japanese ramen noodles to the menu in the near future.

Mood Lounge, located at 3081 East Shawdowlawn Avenue, is under new management. According to a press release, the new owners, Frank Grillo and Justin Breland, have remodeled the interior and revamped the menu to include innovative craft cocktails and gourmet light bites.

Decatur. Tomorrow’s News Today reports that the Decatur Diner is once again up for sale. The former Atlanta Bread Company space at the corner of East Ponce de Leon and Church Street had already changed hands once in the past month but the new owner is now motivated to sell, according to the report.

Downtown. According to What Now Atlanta, the new restaurant going in the long-vacant All Stars Cafe space in the 270 Peachtree Building will be called White Oaks and will serve—what else?—contemporary Southern!

Midtown. Tomorrow’s News Today is reporting that Irving, Texas–based Mi Cocina, featuring Tex-Mex cuisine, will open its first Atlanta store in the 12th & Midtown development late next fall. The restaurant will operate on two levels in the street level space of 1010 condominiums at Peachtree and Eleventh streets.

Roswell. Look for Lazaro’s Cuban Cuisine to open soon at 25 Woodstock Road.

Sandy Springs. According to the Atlanta Business Chronicle, Burlington, Vermont–based Bruegger’s Bagels is planning to enter metro Atlanta with its first store at 6370 Powers Ferry Road, slated to open by early 2012. The article further notes that company officials believe the Atlanta market can support thirty more Bruegger’s stores.

Westside. Foodie Budda is reporting that the new Bell Street Burrito spot at 1663 Howell Mill Road is now open.

Question of the Week: What recently opened intown bar has already changed its name?

PS: The answer to last week’s QOTW—What restaurant was chosen as a landmark for Atlanta’s Legoland Discovery Center slated to open in April 2012 at Phipps Plaza?—is the Varsity, according to an Atlanta Business Chronicle story. (Commentor AJ called that one out in last week’s post.)

Do you have restaurant openings, closings, or other news to share? Email James Oxendine at atldiningchatter@gmail.com