Adam Richman (Emory '96) honors Atlanta on May 13 'Man Finds Food'

By RODNEY HO/ rho@ajc.com, originally filed Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Emory University graduate Adam Richman, Class of 1996, had serious nostalgia pangs last year when he came back to Atlanta to shoot his latest Travel Channel show "Man Finds Food."

"I feel a kinship with Atlanta," said Richman, a 40-year-old Brooklyn native, in an interview Monday. "I've always considered the place a home I love so much."

The episode airing at 9 p.m. Wednesday, May 13, features an off-the-beaten-path eatery near downtown Atlanta Daddy D'z BBQ Joynt and "secret menu" items at Old Fourth Ward's TWO Urban Licks, Virginia Highland's Yeah! Burger and Bad Dog Taqueria, a taco hotspot in Emory Village across from his alma mater that didn't exist when he was a student.

Richman said he has seen the foodie scene grow by leaps and bounds since he left town in the late 1990s. "Restaurants in Atlanta are making food that can stand toe to toe with anything in San Francisco or Chicago or New York," he said. "I hope I did Atlanta justice [with this episode.] I hope people can watch with a sense of hometown pride."

Credit: Rodney Ho

Credit: Rodney Ho

He is saddened that some eateries he frequented as a college student are gone including Emory Village's Everybody's Pizza and nearby Taco Mac, which is now "a bunch of grass across from a Domino's." But Atlanta will always have a special place in his heart because it's where he began writing his food journal which eventually led to his breakthrough competitive eating food show "Man vs. Food" in 2008.

"I became a fledgling foodie in Atlanta," he said. "My education began there." He reminisced about catching shows at the Yin Yang Cafe, then scarfing down deviled-egg sandwiches at the Varsity in Midtown, grabbing a burger at Zesto in Little Five Points or taking in sushi late at night at Nakato on Cheshire Bridge.

Credit: Rodney Ho

Credit: Rodney Ho

Filled with memories, Richman said it was a no brainer to choose Atlanta as one of his stops for the first season of "Man Finds Food."  It helped that he knew one spot to go from his memory bank: Daddy D'z.

He remembered eating there after performing "Romeo & Juliet" in Grant Park during his early acting days. On the show, he'll highlight Daddy D'z signature que wraps, barbecue pork wrapped in fried bite-dized dough.

Reading food blogs, he heard about Two Urban Licks' "secret" menu, which is only available at certain times for certain tables.

Richman said he filmed the crew's comical efforts to even find the restaurant. Once there, he was able to procure a special Georgia quail dish. "It was kind of bananas," he said.

While he thinks many "secret" items started as special requests by regular patrons, others are marketing tools. "Sometimes, I think it's really to build a little bit of cachet," he said. "Build that urban myth, that restaurant lore... I think that people just sort of buy into it. They really like being the guy behind the guy."

TV PREVIEW

"Man Finds Food," 9 p.m. Wednesday, May 13, Travel Channel