Lovers of Atlanta’s restaurant scene abound, with the city once dubbed the “American South’s new foodie capital” by CNN. But perhaps none are such avid and articulate gourmands as Amanda Plumb, author of Unique Eats and Eateries of Atlanta — part of a series of city-specific volumes that explore restaurants all over the United States. Plumb joined “City Lights” host Lois Reitzes via Zoom to share histories and recommendations from her new book.
Why Plumb was tapped to chronicle Atlanta dining:
“For a couple reasons — one, because of my storytelling background with StoryCorps, and also I hosted a radio show called the North Avenue Lounge where I interviewed folks —but also, I just have a passion for food, and the Atlanta food scene,” Plumb said.
“It’s not just a review of restaurants, there’s plenty of that on the internet right now … But I really wanted to highlight the people and the stories behind the restaurants that we love.”
On some of Atlanta’s most beloved chefs, past and present:
“[Ria Pell of Ria’s Bluebird] really just was this huge personality,” Plumb said. “She was this big butch lesbian, who was always wearing coveralls, and always had her hair high and tight, done just right. And she used to be a bouncer, and you kind of got that … but she would also do anything for people — raise money, give them things they needed.”
“What [Bacchanalia] started doing early on was sourcing local produce, and they were just champions of that … now I feel like [farm-to-table] feels ubiquitous, but at the time, when they were here in the early 90s, that was pretty new,” Plumb recalled, citing gourmet chef Anne Quatrano. “So I really think she’s the godmother of organic, local food being in restaurants here.”
On, of course, BBQ:
“I actually wrestled with this for a really long time, because there are so many barbecue places, and it could be its own book … I ended up only having two in the book, Heirloom Market Barbecue and Sweet Auburn Barbecue,” Plumb said.
“They’re both really interesting — one thing I love about Heirloom Market Barbecue is, one of the owners was a former K-Pop star,” she said. “So they’ve created a Korean barbecue mashup … a Southern-style barbecue with a lot of Korean influences.”
“We are the city of transplants, so we have that beautiful mix of cultures, and I think Heirloom Barbecue really shows that.”