atlanta.eater.com announced the winners of the 2021 Eater Awards, celebrating the new restaurants and pop-ups that made the largest impact on all 24 Eater cities since January 2020.
Tum Pok Pok, Chamblee
5000 Buford Highway
Atlanta includes a multitude of American Thai restaurants, some better than others. But when Tum Pok Pok opened on Buford Highway in April, it captured the attention of not only dining critics, but those seeking tried and true Thai dishes in Atlanta. The Chamblee restaurant specializes in Isan street eats and foods sold by vendors or found in homes throughout northeast Thailand bordering the Mekong River.
Talat Market, Summerhill
112 Ormond Street
After successfully transitioning from pop-up to permanent restaurant in April 2020, Talat Market is now a dining destination. That commitment to family recipes, original takes on Thai dishes, and Georgia farmers continues in Summerhill, too, where dishes like fish head soup, crispy rice salad, and grilled spiny lobster pair with martinis, natural wine, and beer slushies.
Little Bear, Summerhill
71 Georgia Avenue
Little Bear is a charming Summerhill spot where Stieber and his crew poke fun at fine dining’s proclivity for tweezer food with dishes rivaling the five-star establishments the chef lampoons. But, just three weeks after opening, the pandemic caused Stieber to shut down the dining room and shift Little Bear to takeout. The takeout menus continued to be as interesting and fun as those Stieber created at the restaurant and for Eat Me Speak Me.
Staplehouse Market, Old Fourth Ward
541 Edgewood Avenue
Staplehouse, the award-winning tasting menu restaurant on Edgewood Avenue, transformed into a neighborhood market and counter-service establishment with a glorious garden patio last fall after the restaurant’s chef Ryan Smith and wife Kara Hidinger purchased it from non-profit Giving Kitchen. Don’t skip the pastry case here, or an opportunity to create a charcuterie and cheese board with the Staplehouse Everything Crackers and spongy focaccia topped with onion jam. Order cocktails or grab a bottle of wine from the market and head out back to enjoy on the covered patio or tables in the garden filled with friends and families gathered for a casual afternoon.
Grass VBQ Joint, Stone Mountain
5385 Five Forks Trickum Road
What started out as a pop-up, first at the Global Grub Collective and then at Orpheus Brewing, has now become one of metro Atlanta’s most successful vegan restaurants. But what sets owner Terry Sargent’s Stone Mountain restaurant apart are his vegan takes on Southern barbecue staples. At Grass VBQ Joint, Sargent doesn’t skimp on the flavors expected in barbecue down South, doling out smoked pulled jackfruit, smoked chick’n with Alabama white sauce and bread and butter pickles, and veef brisket sandwiches topped with celery slaw and Vidalia onion sauce.
La Chingana, Various locations
Chef Arnaldo Castillo first launched La Chingana in 2020 while working as the head chef of Minero at Ponce City Market. With his own business, Castillo says, he can begin building generational wealth for his future children. Now, the chef can be found popping up at restaurants across Atlanta offering menus filled with classic and deeply personal Peruvian dishes packed with flavor and heart, like ceviche clásico, jamón del país sandwiches, choros a la chorrillana (mussel escabeche on sourdough toast), and causa limeña. Castillo plans to turn La Chingana into a permanent restaurant, an homage to Lima and northern Peru, where his family hails from, and his godmother’s restaurant there.