During the pandemic, Atlanta restaurants weren’t a treat – they were a lifeline


Illustration by Ryan Snook

Throughout 2020 and most of 2021, some of my most trusted sources of serotonin come in the form of pepperoni butter, apple and maple scones, and tonkotsu ramen. The first – a sumptuous condiment served with Banshee’s fried bread – was a “special occasion” treat to break the monotony of the lockdown. The second, at Little Tart’s Summerhill, a 15-minute walk from my house, offered a dose of sugar with fresh air and endorphins. And the third, courtesy of Wagaya, was just heartwarming on nights when I desperately needed to soothe myself with a pot of slippery noodles in rich broth. There have been a lot of those nights over the past year and a half.

The pandemic has strangled local restaurants. At the same time, it revealed how much we rely on them, for reasons far beyond sit-down meals. Restaurants have become havens: for parents tired of searching for food for their newly home-schooled families, for people to safely congregate in loneliest times of isolation, for underfunded Atlantans needing a meal. They made our sad office lunches less sad. They fed us when we were too exhausted to wash a single fork. Some have turned into grocery stores or drive-thru ATMs; others have redesigned their operations and procedures, providing safe spaces (and much needed fresh air) for locked up families. Many succeeded in serving as both a beacon and an anchor for their quarters, at a time when everything else was not tied up.

“Buford Highway was my lifeline,” says Maria Fernandez, a healthcare worker who lives in Tucker. Fernandez says she frequented restaurants like Yokohama Sushi, La Mei Zi and Food Terminal throughout the pandemic because they enforced safety guidelines more strictly than other restaurants: “These were the only places where I felt safe. ” Megan Kibby, of Pine Lake, found a similar hideaway on the makeshift outdoor patio at Decatur’s Brick Store Pub (which has now become a permanent beer garden). “It became a refuge for my little quaranteam,” Kibby says, especially during the long, lonely winter, thanks to the fairy lights, fireplaces and Christmas movies on the projector.

Best of Atlanta 2020 Little Bear
Little Bear

Photograph by Martha Williams

In the West End, Boggs Social & Supply’s revolving pop-ups (and outdoor patio) gave Sarah Lawrence and her partner a regular change of scenery, in their own neighborhood. “It definitely helped us feel like we were going to different places yet still being very close to home,” she says. At Summerhill, Little Bear’s take out was “a big part of making things less terrible” for Ashley Finch and her partner – “whenever we wanted to feel a little fancy or needed a pick-me-up when the going. were dark, ”says Finch. In East Atlanta Village, Banshee seized the opportunity by making the aforementioned pepperoni butter, normally served as a condiment on the appetizer menu, available to take out by the pint.

Some Atlanteans have found solace in the go-tos of their youth, “regressing” to simpler times with take-out from Burger Win or a delivery from Chico & Chang. Carleigh Knight, of Cabbagetown, gave birth to a baby girl in early March, bringing her home just before the pandemic brought the town to a halt. In the lonely, lonely days of the postpartum period, she found solace in an unlikely place: 97 Estoria, whom she hadn’t dated since she was in her twenties. “Being able to safely get a beer before taking my pandemic baby to the park was the only outlet I had,” she says, “and it was a glorious one.”

As our daily routines were turned upside down, new ones took their place and became crucial milestones as the days bled together. Traditions as simple as regular walks to get ice cream or pizza seemed like a prize for getting through another long week (and remembering what day it was). Kelly Cornett, a wine educator, has made a weekend tradition of pairing some of her favorite wines with delivery from El Indio to Tucker, New York Pizzeria to Chamblee, and Raduni on Shallowford Road. “They don’t even know it, but they kept us hopeful even on the darkest days,” she says.

And for Brittney Gove of Grant Park, weekly walks to the neighborhood café kept her whole family together. “Every Friday we commemorate spending another week through lockdown by ending our morning family walk, a way out of the house before all day zooming in for work and school, complete with the pastries. of the Grant Park Coffeehouse, ”she says. “It gave our children something to look forward to every week, when there was not much else to look forward to.”

Some restaurants have literally become lifelines for their own communities. Best End Brewing in the West End, Refuge Coffee in Clarkston, and several other subway restaurants have teamed up with Free99Fridge to host community fridges stocked with free fresh food for anyone in need. Others have turned to community soup kitchens, feeding healthcare workers (Forzo Storico in the Westside) and service industry workers (Staplehouse). In East Atlanta Village, Argosy regularly held drives for neighbors in need, including one for snacks and games for the Branan Towers senior center in Glenwood.

Almost 20 months into the pandemic and grateful for the gift of vaccination, I don’t self-medicate with pepperoni butter as often as I did around this time last year, although , given the threat of new variations, I’m not really overcrowded shoulder to shoulder in a bar anytime soon, either. Either way, I don’t think I’ll ever forget the restaurants that gave me the rare gift of comfort and normalcy during the most bizarre, isolating and frightening year I can remember. . Frankly, the tower of plastic takeout deli containers in my cabinet doesn’t allow me that.

Pepperoni ButterFrom the fans

Hawkers Asian Street Food provided a handwritten thank you postcard in every order, noted each dish on the top of the box, and hand-delivered the bag to my trunk when times were uncertain. ??

We were at Poor Hendrix when my caring husband got a call regarding Emory’s first Covid patient in March 2020. It was also our first terrace experience in March 2021. We also made a lot of take out cocktails. They were a lifeline when we needed them.

At first, as everything closed, Hodgepodge Coffee House began selling hard-to-find staples like flour and toilet paper, as well as bulk quantities of their own specialties like cookies and tuna salad. . Now they have a great variety. And we always have cookies ready in the freezer!

@ BKFoodie97
The Companion on Bolton was and is my go-to. They opened during the Covid. Their terrace saved me last year. I prayed that they would be successful, and they did.

A weekly bowl of pho from So Ba during the harsh winter of 2020 and election season was sure to be mental medicine.

We had take out at Tacos Hermanos in Tucker at least once a week and we ate on our front porch and talked to our neighbors as everyone was out with their kids like us.

El Tesoro is that restaurant for everyone in the Edgewood neighborhood. It was amazing watching them grow and transform from 2020 until now. Never seen anything like it.

This article appeared in our October 2021 issue.


About Mohammed B. Hale

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