While 2015 will be looked back on as a record year for Atlanta restaurant openings and closings, chefs are gazing into the future and wondering what 2016 will bring.
The growing national discussion about tipping doesn’t seem likely to have much impact here any time soon, according to most. But rising food costs and growing competition top the list of worries. And the Beltline, Krog Street Market and Ponce City Market are still hot topics
Here’s more of what some of Atlanta’s top chefs are thinking and talking about.
SIMPLE, NOT EASY
I think simple is really going to be the new catchword. Simple does not mean easy food. It just means pure. And I think we’re going to see a going away from so much risk taking in a lot of younger chef’s minds. It will be a big hug to sort of really classic stuff. I think you’ll see an explosion of better and better Chinese food in Atlanta. It’s what I’m hoping, anyway. I think Masterpiece laid the groundwork for a couple of others to move into that market. — Hugh Acheson, 5&10, the National, Empire State South, the Florence
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FOOD WITHOUT BOUNDARIES
With rents going up in the central core, I think we’re going to see more restaurants pushing out further and further into some of the lesser populated areas. I think that’s a really good thing. Great cities have great food in all neighborhoods. I’ve been saying this for a while now, but I don’t think you have to commit to one style of food or ethnic cuisine. One of the great things about American cuisine is that you can use the world as your looking glass. We are an international city and I hope we see more of that on menus. — Kevin Gillespie, Gunshow, Revival, Terminus City
TOO MUCH OF A GOOD THING?
So many restaurants are opening and so many restaurants are closing right now. I think there’s going to come a point in time soon that there are too many places to go to. I think the places like Ponce City Market and Krog Street Market are saturated already. These developers all want a new concept from a well-known chef, like fried chicken or a fish camp. I think that’s here to stay in 2016. But I think there may be too much of that soon. — Kevin Rathbun, Rathbun’s, Kevin Rathbun Steak, Krog Bar, KR Steak Bar
A BETTER BUSINESS PERSPECTIVE
With all the competition, I see the focus on us becoming better operators and becoming more flexible in listening to the guests and resonating that back through the menus. But also trying to stay relevant and current in pushing things forward, because I think Atlanta diners are becoming much more discerning and demanding more of our food than they ever did before. We will be doing a new concept at Rosebud in 2016 and we’re very aware of that. — Ian Winslade, Paces & Vine, Murphy’s
The resurgence of simple, delicious desserts made with classic technique, and thoughtful, fun, nostalgic desserts based on traditional ideas. I think this is what people will keep coming back for — food that they can relate to and connect with, and food that comforts and satisfies them on some level. No to foams, gels, any food so laden with chemicals that it doesn’t even resemble food anymore. Can’t we really just say goodbye to this, already? It was cool five years ago. Let’s move on. — Chrysta Poulos, Rocket Farm Restaurants
MORE GLOBAL FLAVORS
I’m seeing a lot of chefs that are playing with some more global flavors. I noticed that Empire State did a Chinese menu over the holidays. And I see a lot of people playing with more exotic spices and adding more, bolder flavors to their repertoire. I personally have been using my food dehydrator a lot, which is really fun. I don’t like to alter food too much from its original state, but I really like the way it concentrates the flavor and changes the texture. I’m also concentrating on food waste and using things like stems from greens. — Steven Satterfield, Miller Union
BRIGHTER FUTURE AHEAD
I’m very encouraged with what’s going on in the city. The dining scene has never been better in Atlanta. I think it feels like we’re turning a page and the young talent that’s bubbling up is quite good. There will be more and more dining choices in more places. Decatur is an example of what we’re going to see more of here. It’s one of the most vibrant dining scenes in the country. That will replicate in other neighborhoods. You’re seeing areas like Roswell and Alpharetta booming now. The Beltline, Krog Street and Ponce City Market will be continue to be game-changers. — Gerry Klaskala, Aria, Canoe, Atlas
NAKED OYSTER NUANCES
Consumers are beginning to understand the story behind oysters — the terroir, and the family farmers that are raising certain types of oysters and how the flavors are different. What I want to see in 2016 is more people eating naked oysters and appreciating the nuances. I will be using more sustainable seafood. We’re seeing a lot more good Georgia flounder and wreckfish and shrimp. We’ll be opening Drift in February with classic fish house preparations, a wood-burning grill and a raw bar. — Doug Turbush, Seed Kitchen & Bar, Stem Wine Bar, Drift Fish House & Oyster Bar
I’m hoping that more chefs will stop trying to be interesting for the sake of being interesting, as opposed to just cooking great food. My goal is to get back to just tasty food. I’m thinking the pendulum will swing further that way in 2016 and by 2017 it will be right in the middle. This year was so big and heavy in openings, I assume 2016 will be lighter in openings. I think people are going to let their restaurants settle in and revisit opening more in 2017. As far as more closures in 2016, I hope not. — Ford Fry, Beetlecat, Bar Margot, Marcel, Superica, the Optimist and more
ENTREES GOING UP?
I think we are going to see more things that are almost micro ethnic cuisine, just digging down into a real sense of place. I think desserts are going to head in a more savory direction, with less of the overly sweet and cloying, and adding savory elements and herbs and spices. But I think the biggest thing we’re going to continue to see is the rise of the vegetable as the centerpiece of the plate, as opposed to the protein. I think protein will go deeper as an accent. And I hate to say it, but I think entree prices will go up because of costs, so that $30 is the new $20. — Chris Hall, Local Three