Everything old is new again. The Atlanta environs we build are in constant flux, and the neighborhoods where we eat are at the center of this change. Just 10 years ago, for example, no one would have believed that Summerhill would be a dining hot spot in Atlanta.
Located southeast of downtown, Summerhill was one of the the city’s original settlements during Reconstruction. Its earliest inhabitants were freed slaves and Jewish immigrants. After World War II, more prosperous residents moved to the northern suburbs, and in the 1950s, construction of the I-75/85 Downtown Connector spurred a mass exodus. Georgia Avenue, a thriving area filled with mom and pop establishments became a desolate stretch of vacant buildings. Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium, and later, Turner Field, brought baseball fans who paid to park in vacant lots. When the Braves moved to Cobb County, that foot traffic moved on too.
Flash-forward to 2019 and Summerhill is filling with diverse businesses. A small town main street is slowly growing and it comes with accolades. Little Tart Bakeshop (68 Georgia Ave., 404-348-4797, littletartatl.com) from two-time James Beard Award semifinalist Sarah O'Brien was the first to open, serving pastries, baked goods and coffee drinks in a light filled space of brick and plaster walls. Just across the hall is her soft-serve shop, Big Softie (66 Georgia Ave., bigsoftieatl.com), where Georgia dairy products are churned into fluffy ice cream. The simple, nostalgic flavors are best in a house-made waffle cone. Custom-made Beautiful Briny Seas sprinkles complete a cone dipped in chocolate or a cup of the seasonal flavor.
Across the street is Wood's Chapel BBQ (85 Georgia Ave. SE, 404-522-3000, woodschapelbbq.com), named for the first church to spring up after Summerhill was settled in 1865. The team behind the General Muir use wood-fired pits to smoke barbecue, the communal food of church suppers and political rallies. Memorabilia of past Atlanta politicos hang on the walls of the vast space. The line — one filled with young and old — grows long for counter service, but service is speedy. (Pro tip: boiled peanuts come out immediately.) Whole hog barbecue and smoked salmon are both tender and delicately imbued with smoke. One could make a meal out of sides: lush creamed corn with lime and cotija, smoked pork belly fried rice and the salad of the day are wise choices. Hanging on the patio in full view of the smokehouse with a cold beer or cocktail feels like community.
Scheduled to open in November, Talat Market (112 Ormond St., talatmarketatl.com) will occupy a former Asian market, and its owners, Parnass Savang and Rod Lassiter, are preserving interior pieces to pay homage to the past while incorporating their own Thai style. From an open kitchen (and the original butcher block table from the market positioned at the pass), they will serve a menu of stir-fries, curries, crudos, soups and salads to patrons in the 40-seat dining room and small patio. Savang and Lassiter's Georgia Thai fare combines traditional Thai cookery with locally sourced ingredients, and netted them a James Beard nomination in 2018, when Talat was a mere pop-up.
"It's absolutely an honor to be part of the resurgence of Summerhill. I couldn't be more proud," says chef-owner Jarrett Stieber. His concept, Little Bear (71 Georgia Ave. SE, littlebearatl.com), is slated to open by early December. He's kept two rusty signs that read "regular dinners" above the front entrance, and has adopted the phrase as a kind of slogan. The food will be a continuation of his pop-up, Eat Me Speak Me, which earned him a James Beard Foundation Rising Star semifinalist nod in 2016. Vegetable focused, hyper-seasonal and extremely clever dishes will be paired with a beverage menu in the 30-seat setting.
Stieber's neighbor, Junior's Pizza (77 Georgia Ave., 404-549-7147, juniorspizzaatl.com), is a venture by Alex and Jennifer Aton. Junior's started as a pizza delivery pop-up and graduated to a brick and mortar in August. Order New York-style pizza by the generous slice or full pie. Customize with a long list of ingredients. A VHS box from classic 90's flicks denotes your table. Graffiti-style murals adorn the walls. Pick a Greek salad to nosh on while your pizza bakes.
Also open in Summerhill:
More coming soon:
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