Our Town: Marietta Dishcrawl exposes diners to new food; new people

Ellie Hensley is on a mission to get people out of the house and into some dining rooms they may not have discovered before. As the Atlanta organizer for Dishcrawl, the Smyrna resident organizes a contemporary take on the progressive dinner, arranging for guests to samples entrees and desserts in four restaurants within walking distance.

On Tuesday, she’ll be leading a crowd of culinary explorers around the Marietta square, where four restaurants will greet guests with a sit-down selection of their best dishes. The first time Hensley led a crawl around the historic square in February, 40 diners joined the crowd that visited Johnnie MacCracken’s Pub, Simpatico, Le Cafe Crepe and La Famiglia. The guests not only got to eat, but also had the chance to meet the chefs and owners.

“I just started doing this full-time, and the square seemed like a good place to start,” said the Missouri native. “We had a lot of couples, some groups of friends, but everyone mingled. It’s a great way to bring communities together over food. And it also brings out people who might not normally come to this part of town.”

The concept appeals to a broad age range, said Hensley.

“People can come alone, with friends, or with a date,” she said. “It’s a very cool way to meet people. It’s great for me, because I’m new to the area and I don’t know anyone!”

The Dishcrawl concept was born in California and is slowly moving into other parts of the country, but so far, Hensley said it’s still developing a following in the Atlanta area. Connections are made over social media, and crawls are usually limited to 40 so the restaurants can handle the crowd. Each diner gets the same items, usually a trio of featured dishes the chef wants to share.

There’s a bit of a mystery to the evening as well. Diners only know the first destination where they will meet up; names of the other three restaurants are kept under wraps until it’s time to move to the next one. For next week’s event, all Hensley will say is that the first stop will be Taqueria Tsunami on the south side of the square, and that Chef Scott Kinsey will be serving up avocado egg rolls along with two other dishes.

“This is a great way to introduce new people to the restaurant,” said Kinsey. “And it lets them try some exciting flavors.”

Getting the restaurants to sign on is probably the hardest part of the job, said Hensley.

“We’re so new that few of them have heard of Dishcrawl, and if they’re a busy place, I have to convince them to take on 40 people for about 40 minutes,” she said. “But it’s a fun night out. Everyone laughs a lot and eats a lot. And you get to try some things you might not usually order. I would never have gotten the waffles and frogs legs at Simpatico, but it turned out, they were really good.”

Tickets to the 7 p.m. crawl are $45 and include three entrees and dessert. To purchase, visit www.dishcrawl.com/atlanta.

Each Saturday, we shine a spotlight on a local neighborhood, city or community. To suggest a place for us to visit, e-mail H.M. Cauley at hm_cauley@yahoo.com or call 404-514-6162.