In the Local Palate’s 2023 Restaurants Issue, our state-by-state guide highlights the new restaurants that have emerged since 2022. Here, contributor Lia Picard highlights new restaurants in Georgia.
PUMA YU’S | Athens
Puma Yu’s is a dream realized for co-owners Pete Amadhanirundr, the chef, and Ally Smith, the beverage savant. What started as the aptly named Side Hustle pop-up in 2017 evolved into a Kickstarter to raise funds for a brick-and-mortar restaurant. Now it’s here, with an industrial-meets-vintage vibe in the historic Southern Mill development.
The couple works to set their restaurant apart from others with careful intention in everything they do, from paying the staff a fair wage to thoughtfully selecting their vendors. The produce is as local as possible, and the wines are often natural, selected by Smith from producers who are women or from under-represented communities. “I feel like it’s almost our job to also find like-minded people who share a love for their land, the produce that their land produces, the people they work with, [and] the community that keeps all these small growers, producers, companies, and restaurants alive,” Amadhanirundr says.
For Amadhanirundr and Smith, the restaurant is a chance to share what’s most important to them, whether it’s the producers they work with or the dishes they serve. It’s why Amadhanirundr always has a curry on the menu. The dish varies regionally in Thailand and shows how diverse the cuisine is. “There’s a lot of abundance of fruits and herbs and aromatics,” says Amadhanirundr. “I think Thai curries are a really good representation of how food mixes and culture mixes to become what it is.”
More New Restaurants in Georgia
Sitting atop Atlanta’s Interlock development, L.O.A. has stunning views and ambiance to match. The Instagrammable spot has an outdoor pool as well as a shaded lounge, but the glam restaurant is the star. Upbeat music creates a high-energy backdrop in which to enjoy dishes like squid ink chitarra; brunch is also a delight.
Bar Julian offers the chance to see Savannah from an elevated vantage point. The bar crowns the Thompson Hotel and is worth a visit regardless of whether you’re staying there, if only to sip a Reckoning (that’s gin, peach mead, prickly pear, and soda) and indulge in a mezze platter while watching the sunset.
LOOM | Macon
Macon is on the rise as a destination—and Loom has undeniably played a role. Located in the art deco beauty of Hotel Forty Five, Loom serves modern Southern dishes in a sophisticated setting. The crispy cauliflower with smoky tomato vinaigrette and the carbonara with pork belly are among the must-try items.
Peruvian chef Arnaldo Castillo (of the popup La Chingana) teamed up with established restaurateur Howard Hsu to open Tio Lucho’s in Atlanta‘s Poncey-Highland neighborhood. Here, Castillo serves his take on Peruvian coastal cuisine in a colorful setting. The dishes are meant to be shared and, like the cornmeal-battered fried fish, have an Atlanta twist.
Located in southwest Atlanta is one of acclaimed chef Deborah VanTrece’s latest ventures. Inspired by dishes prepared by mothers around the world, chef Christian Bell aims to serve elevated global comfort food. Items like lasagna made with oxtail, goat cheese, and shiitake mushrooms or fun appetizers such as the steak egg rolls make dining here an adventure.
Executive chef Todd Harris is a Savannah transplant from the Midwest bringing international flavors to his bites, which include items like crab toast and his version of the Crunchwrap Supreme. The playful spirit befitting a concert-venue-adjacent locale also includes late-night snacks served until 1 a.m.
No one does omakase in Atlanta like Mujo. The restaurant is comprised of a single sushi bar that seats 14 people at a time. The minimalist aesthetic makes it easy to focus on the sushi as it’s placed in front of you—and take note of the ceramic vessels, as many of them were handcrafted by sushi chef Gusan Jang.
Georgia Restaurants On Our Radar
This bar-centric, hospitality-driven, “chefless kitchen” opened in Buckhead Village at the end of February—look to them for food, wine, and cocktails from the city of Rimini in Italy’s Emilia-Romagna region.
The team that conceived Lazy Betty and Juniper Café has just opened an eclectic Westside pizza spot with topping combos like cheddar, broccoli, and Calabrian chile.
Duane Nutter’s Southern-global cuisine is coming soon to the Peach State, with a familiar menu that contains some newly inspired dishes as well.
- by Hannah Lee Leidy
- by Hannah Lee Leidy
- by Amber Chase
- by Emily Havener