Southwest Atlanta’s rising restaurant hot spot

New concepts from Deborah VanTrece, Shema Fulton, and others are upping the food options in an area that’s long been underserved—and turning Cascade Heights into a dining destination.

Shema Fulton
Shema Fulton

Photograph by Growl

This story is part of Atlanta magazine’s Streets Issue—a block-by-block exploration of our city and the stories it tells. Find the entire package here.

When Shema Fulton moved to the Cascade Heights area in 2009, she found herself driving to Buckhead on the weekends to eat out—there weren’t a lot of full-service restaurants in her new neighborhood. But she saw an opportunity: Originally from Philadelphia, Fulton had a successful restaurant in her hometown called Baltimore Crab & Seafood and started making plans to open an outpost on Cascade. Some investors were skeptical about the prospects of a full-service seafood restaurant in the predominantly Black area, even though it has some of the city’s lowest crime rates and highest home values. However, a chance conversation with Magic Johnson—at the time, the retired basketball player owned a Starbucks on Cascade Road and a TGI Fridays at Greenbriar—solidified her decision.

“I asked him what made him choose those locations and he said, Because our communities are underserved,” recalls Fulton, who opened Baltimore Crab & Seafood at the intersection of Cascade and Fairburn Road 10 years ago. Today, it’s a neighborhood favorite, with customers drawn to entrees like lobster and shrimp fried rice and sides including kale with smoked turkey. And Fulton has added two other restaurants in Southwest Atlanta—a brunch concept called Garden Parc as well as Bella, a seafood and all-day breakfast place. They join a growing number of eating and drinking spots that have put down roots in the area in recent years, including the Caribbean restaurant Spice House, Gocha’s Breakfast Bar, Blaze Steak & Seafood, and the brunch destination Milk & Honey.

Similar to Fulton, Tre Perry says he opened Buzz Coffee and Winehouse in April 2019 because he was tired of leaving his neighborhood for wine tastings. Perry works with small-batch makers such as Atlanta’s Inkwell Coffee Roasters for the offerings at Buzz, which is at the corner of Cascade and Beecher roads. He also strives to keep the wines unique and affordable by working with family-owned vineyards around the world; no glass is more than $10. The quaint cafe has become known for monthly tastings, Saturday morning yoga classes, and a quarterly book club.

“During the pandemic, we did virtual wine tastings and sold cases of wine, and the community supported us,” says Perry. “We’re more than a coffee shop and wine bar. We try to make sure folks feel connected. The idea is that you can start and end your day at Buzz.”

A few steps away, chef Deborah VanTrece, who owns the popular Blandtown eatery Twisted Soul Cookhouse & Pours, is in the process of launching several restaurants. VanTrece says that when her business partner, Shea Embry, who owns other businesses in the area, approached her about opening a place in Southwest Atlanta, she was immediately on board. “I wanted to bring something special to this neighborhood and hopefully let it be the start of something really big,” says VanTrece. Being down the street from the Beautiful Restaurant, a soul food pillar, sweetened the deal.

VanTrece opened Oreatha’s at the Point in April. The menu is VanTrece’s take on dishes cooked by mothers around the world, such as duck pot pie (inspired by her own mom’s chicken pot pie) and salmon and latkes. In addition to Oreatha’s, VanTrece’s “Latin soul cuisine” concept Serenidad launches this summer, and the cocktail-centric fine dining restaurant Dulcet—owned by VanTrece’s daughter, Kursten Berry, with VanTrece helping develop the menu—is slated to open next door later this year.

“At the very heart of what we do as chefs is to provide a place where people can come to get away from the stress of everyday life and enjoy a delicious meal that nourishes the soul,” says VanTrece. “So, if you want to start the process of coming together once again, make a reservation at your favorite restaurant, or maybe a new one.”

This article appears in our August 2022 issue.