Southwest Atlantans hope to entice variety of eateries to their area

“We are a community that is flourishing, and as we flourish and grow, we are welcoming others into the community to let them know that we are Southwest Atlanta, we have money and we want to spend it with you.”

These were the words from City Councilwoman Keisha Lance Bottoms as she addressed a crowd of hungry diners at Beecher Hills Elementary School on Feb. 8.

Some 140 people gathered at the school in Southwest Atlanta for a pop-up dinner prepared by executive chef Michael Bertozzi and the culinary team from Old Fourth Ward restaurant Two Urban Licks.

The pop-up dinner was part of a larger initiative called “Invest in Southwest,” which aims to bring more and diverse dining choices to Southwest Atlanta.

“One of our biggest complaints is dining options,” said Lance Bottoms. “We hope to bring attention and people to Southwest Atlanta to see that there is a want and a need.”

Lance Bottoms stated that current restaurants in the area included “fantastic mom-and-pop options” as well as fast-casual franchises and fast-food chains, but no diversity. Residents eat out, she noted, but those looking for more upscale offerings have to go outside the area to find it. “We spend money, we just spend it outside the community,” she said.

Beecher Hills resident April Daniel expressed her interest in seeing the kind of dining options available in Midtown become available near her home. “Something like Two Urban Licks — we don’t have that,” said Daniel, whose daughter attends Beecher Hills Elementary School.

“We have one Applebee’s, lots of chicken wings spots, Chinese takeout, Gladys Knight’s Chicken & Waffles, and of course Domino’s, Pizza Hut and Papa John’s. That’s about it,” said Beecher Hills Elementary School principal Crystal Jones. The school, along with the Beecher Hills Neighborhood Group, joined forces with Lance Bottoms and the Invest in Southwest Taskforce to make the pop-up restaurant a reality.

Even kids were involved, with fourth- and fifth-grade students from the school running from kitchen to tables with dinner plates of baby gem salad with cured tomatoes, entrees that ranged from short ribs to salmon to a farro with roasted shiitake mushrooms, and chocolate cupcakes.

Lance Bottoms expressed enthusiasm at the turnout for the event, particularly since it was organized in just two weeks. Another pop-up is planned for April although the date and location have not been announced.