The dining scene in Atlanta is ever-changing and ever-evolving, and while it’s impossible to predict what’s next in this wild and wacky city, we have a few thoughts! Here are some of the trends and patterns we are seeing beginning to pop-up in the ATL dining scene.
1. NA (non-alcoholic) will continue to appear on menus around Atlanta.
Something we wouldn’t have imagined back in 2020 when drinking was at its absolute heyday is the appearance of more and more nonalcoholic cocktails or mocktails. But it seems now that every restaurant and bar in town has at least 1 or 2 offerings for those who are completely sober or just looking to reduce their tequila consumption a bit. The Sober Social is perhaps Atlanta’s first fully NA bar.
2. There will be many more places serving up $49 entrees.
Our pocketbooks are screaming for more casual yet delicious dining destinations, yet the Atlanta dining scene seems hellbent on opening up trendy spot after trendy spot. It’s hard not to see why–with inflation still on the rise and staffing still hard-to-find, the margins are simply better when you’re charging $49 an entree. I predict that we have not yet reached $49 entree saturation, and the dining scene will continue to see upscale spot after upscale spot open this year and next.
3. More long-running beloved Atlanta restaurants will close.
2023 saw the shuttering of quite a few beloved spots, from Henry’s to Jack’s Pizza to Little Trouble to Ammazza to Hodgepodge Coffee. For a lot of these restaurant owners, it was simply time to move on to the next big thing, while others cited leases expiring and unforgiving rent increases as the final impetuses. With that being said, we do predict that this unfortunate trend will continue into 2024, so if you have a longtime favorite spot you haven’t visited in a while, be sure to give them some love!
4. There will be more plant-based options.
Meat will always be king in the dining scene, but the Atlanta area continues to step up its plant-based game. Planta recently opened up on Krog Street and in Buckhead, and La Semilla, a vegan Latin kitchen, has opened up in Reynoldstown. We’ll never likely be as crunchy as say, Portland, but we will continue to see a slow and steady growth of plant-based spots around ATL.
5. Nostalgic decor will find its way into more restaurant design.
The last time we created a dining trends prediction guide, we predicted nostalgic foods, which we’ve undoubtedly seen in nostalgic menu items at places like Dad’s and no. 246. But even more so, there’s a huge move towards places opening up with nostalgic decor. Ranger Station, The Waiting Room, JoJo’s Beloved, Dad’s, Big Boss Chinese, are all just a few spots that have opened up in recent years that feel like a step back in time, though in a cool way. We predict we’ll see more of that in 2024 and 2025.
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6. There will be more underground supper clubs, pop-ups, and limited time offerings.
Atlanta loves a IYKYK kinda spot. There’s tons of ultra cool rotating pop-ups and supper clubs around town. Folks have been lining up every Sunday outside of Evergreen Butcher to try out their much hyped burger. Then there’s a pick-up spot called Lost in Da Souse serving up a cheat meal totally worth having, with a styrofoam white takeout box filled to the brim with wings, fries, and sliders. Brave Wojtek is a delicious pop-up for Polish and Eastern European food (they even make a lemon pepper pierogi). Then there’s rising star, 21-year-old Chef Trevor Shankman, who has created an ultra exclusive, underground tasting menu called Maria to much acclaim. There’s tons of delicious places to check out, but only in certain places, and often not strictly at a “restaurant” persay. We’ll likely keep seeing more of that in 2024!
7. More upscale restaurants will continue to open up that aren’t just Italian, sushi, or steakhouses.
A fancy night out no longer has to mean a steakhouse or sushi in Buckhead. We’re seeing an explosion of upscale Latin American spots and fancy Middle Eastern spots. Rumi’s Kitchen may have laid the groundwork, but now we’ve got Zakia, Yalda, Fia, Chelo… On the Latin American front, there’s Palo Santo, AltaToro, Tulum, Tio Lucho’s… it’s been very cool to see that neither French nor Italian cuisine no longer hold the monopoly on what “fancy” food means.
8. There will be tons of places for “Eatertainment.”
We’re way past the days of a pool table and darts board at your local dive. There’s now tons of spots to eat, play, and drink. Pickle & Social, which combines pickleball and craft cocktails, recently opened its doors in Gwinnett county. Your 3rd Spot with its options for bowling, arcade games, and so much more is perhaps Atlanta’s largest and most ambitious concept. We predict much more to come!
And on the other side of “Eatertainment,” it seems like there’s also an increase in restaurants incorporating an element of showmanship and a touch of pizazz. AltaToro brings in fire dancers, and the forthcoming Damsel from the creators of The Select will also be incorporating tons of live entertainment.
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9. There will be better service…?
When food influencer Keith Lee made a visit to Atlanta a few months ago, he started a reckoning. A handful of Atlanta restaurants were put on blast for offering poor service and confusing rules regarding dining in and taking out. I personally think it’s due to chronic staffing issues that continue to plague the hospitality industry after the COVID-19 epidemic. Lots of talented folks decided to leave hospitality for good at that time, and then of course when over 1 million people in your population die, you tend to be a bit of short-staffed. But it’s heartening to see the restaurants that continue to nail service time and time again and that service is a renewed focus for so many spots.