The verdict on 5 new (or revamped) Atlanta restaurants: Hippin Hops, 8Arm, Poco Loco, Tiny Lou’s, and Karv Kitchen

Tiny Lou’s gets new chefs, 8Arm gets a Japanese makeover, popular burrito pop-up Poco Loco gets a permanent home, and more

Hippin Hops
“The Boss” oysters at Hippin Hops, topped with cheesy garlic butter and Cajun shrimp

Photograph by Martha Williams

Hippin Hops
On a sunny Sunday afternoon recently, a DJ spun tunes in the sleek, cozy confines of Hippin Hops—a new brewery whose front doors open wide onto Glenwood Avenue—while friends gathered on sidewalk picnic tables or played cornhole on the patio. It felt good to be back in a welcoming neighborhood hangout, and even better after a couple of the brewery’s fine beers. The menu, which bartenders amiably walked customers through, features a half dozen; the saison-style Bier Saigon was delicate and fresh-tasting, and an IPA called the Baby Mama Drama was briskly fruity without being overpowering (though, if fruity’s your thing, you can get this one served in a pineapple). The beer is the main draw here, though a menu of Southern-ish food—baked oysters topped with Cajun spiced shrimp, lobster and waffles, gator bites, and a by-the-book shrimp po’boy—is entirely solid. (If a bit spendy: Expect to pay $6 for a side of unremarkable fries with that sandwich.) Founded by husband-and-wife duo Clarence and Donnica Boston, Hippin Hops stakes a claim as the first Black-owned brick-and-mortar brewery in Georgia, but, happily, its days as the only such establishment are numbered: Atlantucky Brewing, by members of Nappy Roots, launches this year in Castleberry Hill. And the Bostons are already expanding, with planned locations in East Lake and Stone Mountain. 1308 Glenwood Avenue, East Atlanta Village, 678-713-2739

Tiny Lou’s
Fresh faces appeared this spring in the kitchen at Tiny Lou’s, the dim, swank restaurant below the Hotel Clermont, and, if I may anticipate your question: Yes, there is still a dessert on the menu named for Blondie, Atlanta’s stripper laureate. Under previous management, pastry chef Claudia Martinez earned acclaim for her Ode to Blondie—who performs at the Clermont Lounge—and I’m very pleased to report that Charmain Ware, her successor, has upheld the dancer’s good name and then some. Now called Hello Blondie, the dessert in its current form is absolutely bananas: Specifically, it is a banana blondie, hidden under creamy layers of hazelnut praline and caramelized namelaka, a kind of white chocolate ganache. The balance of the menu, from executive chef Jon Novak (formerly sous chef at the Napa Valley restaurant Torc), comprises favorites of the French bistro—fans of steak frites and good burgers will find both here—and other elevated preparations like a chicken “duo”: one leg whose skin has been alchemized, by way of confit, into a rich lacquer, plated with a beautiful slab of potato and poulet pressé—fine slices of chicken and tuber layered like a napoleon, its surface buttery and crisp. The menu changes seasonally, with other recent highlights including foraged-mushroom risotto, asparagus with poached egg and ramp pistou, and a salad of spring greens and rhubarb vinaigrette. 789 Ponce de Leon Avenue, Poncey-Highland, 470-485-0085

Under new chef Hiro Endo, 8Arm has been deliciously reimagined as a Japanese izakaya.

Photograph by Martha Williams

Like a cicada on a 17-year schedule, shedding its youthful exoskeleton to embark in search of a mate, 8Arm undergoes an occasional profound metamorphosis. Shutting down in April following the departure of redoubtable chef Maricela Vega, 8Arm emerged several weeks later in an entirely new guise, reconfigured by owners Nhan Le and Skip Engelbrecht in the style of a Japanese izakaya. That’s a world of flavors away from Vega’s plant-forward, locally rooted but globe-spanning cooking—but in no way a bad thing. New executive chef Hiro Endo (Ginya Izakaya) and chef de cuisine Allen Suh offer both pitch-perfect renditions of Japanese street foods—like gooey-centered takoyaki: spheres of battered octopus, decorated with umami-rich bonito flakes and Kewpie mayo—and bespoke creations such as a spicy tuna roll with fermented chili paste, pumpkin oil, cucumber, and just a hint of brown sugar. Vegetal and candylike at once, the dish is enchanting. Delicately flavored chilled vegetable ramen will especially hit the spot at the height of summer, and the rest of the small plates on the menu—seaweed salad, sweet and smoky grilled skewers, many nigiri—will reward repeat visits. One might quibble with one aspect of that menu: The only way to view it is by scanning a QR code, a rising dining-world trend that (like the restaurant’s cashless policy) seems needlessly exclusive—what about diners who don’t have smartphones?—as well as a vibe killer: We should at least have the option of putting our phones away at dinner, especially dinner as head-turning as this. 710 Ponce de Leon Avenue, Virginia-Highland, 470-875-5856

Poco Loco
Genius is forged in the fires of necessity and, this past year, in the oven at Nick Melvin’s Lake Claire home, as well. Leaving a job at Fox Bros. Bar-B-Q when the pandemic hit, Melvin (who cofounded Doux South Pickles) turned to selling breakfast burritos out of his driveway. He amassed a following that’s set to grow now that he’s expanded Poco Loco into a takeout counter in the old Dish Dive space, across from East Lake MARTA. Your mileage may vary, but, to me, Melvin has seized on the perfect setup. Here’s how it works: You go, you get a tremendously good Tex-Mex–style burrito—a chewy handmade flour tortilla encasing richly spiced fillings like achiote-roasted pork shoulder, beans stewed with Pine Street Market bacon, and cauliflower “chorizo.” Then, you get a second burrito, and maybe a third, fourth, and fifth—these guys are frozen, so you can heat them up at home at your leisure. Then, you select some groceries from the cold case, with ever-changing options including green chili pork, beans, pints of salsa and chimichurri, and housemade tortillas. Plenty of restaurants have gotten into grab-and-go during the pandemic, but the abbreviated menu Melvin has assembled here is no less than irresistible. Check each week’s menu online and consider ordering ahead—currently, Poco Loco is open only Thursday through Saturday. 2233 College Avenue, Kirkwood, no phone

Karv Kitchen
Every spring, Atlanta’s Papadopoulos family celebrates Easter in big Greek style, with a locally famous blowout involving music, ouzo, and an egg hunt. And—importantly for our purposes here—a feast of spit-roasted animals, among sundry specialties. Not long after Easter 2021, the family (who own Athens Pizza in Decatur) brought those meats to the masses with Karv Kitchen, where they serve a kind of fast-casual version of the roast beasts prepared by chef Sandy Papadopoulos at the annual shindig. It abuts a Five Guys on the ground floor of an apartment development overlooking busy Peachtree Boulevard; suffice it to say, the food outshines the location. Similar to how Chipotle has burritos and bowls, the basic unit here is the “Karv,” either a wrap or a “stack” atop rice, fries, or potatoes. That’s the first choice of several diners will make: Next one selects a meat (rotisserie chicken or pork, slow-cooked lamb, short rib) and a “flavor profile” combining various ingredients, sauces, and garnishes. Because I can only be me, I went the route that involved the most french fries—that’s the “Greko.” I ended up with a fluffy pita stuffed with hand-cut fries, supertender chicken thigh, pickled veg, mustard, and a rich, tangy tzatziki sauce—it was pleasingly spicy and so juicy (not a complaint!) that next time I might get it over rice. Meatless options are not only available but plentiful and thoughtful—for instance, a corn-avocado salad with the sheep’s-milk cheese kefalotyri and tempura-fried zucchini and eggplant chips. No ouzo, but there is beer. 5126 Peachtree Boulevard, Suite 200B, Chamblee, 770-710-0119

This article appears in our July 2021 issue.