In the Local Palate’s 2022 Restaurants Issue, our state-by-state guide highlights the new restaurants that have emerged since 2020. Here, contributor Lia Grabowski gives an overview of new restaurants in Georgia.
Yao | Atlanta
Named for Yaowarat Road, the main thorough-fare of a prominent Thai-Chinese neighborhood in Bangkok, Yao is all about translating this cultural blend into stunning dishes from the familiar (potstickers, crab wontons, pad thai), to the unique—salmon panang topped with coconut milk foam, a crispy duck salad sprinkled with pomegranate seeds and hoisin vinaigrette—and the interactive, like the thin-sliced wagyu cooked tableside on a hot river stone and served with a Thai-inspired chimichurri.
Choose from the grill menu for charred takes on spicy Sichuan shishito peppers, barbecue-glazed pork belly, turmeric and soy calamari, and crispy tofu skewers or oyster mushroom steaks in a Coca-Cola teriyaki sauce. The space itself borrows heavily from its vibrant Thailand roots, with soaring ceilings; clusters of dangling glass pendant lights; and a mix of dark wood, corrugated metal, and pops of red from glowing signage and leather seating.
Owners Jakkrit Tuanphakdee and Adidsara Weerasin launched a Thai street food spot, Tum Pok Pok on Atlanta’s Buford Highway, before opening Yao as an homage to Bangkok’s Chinatown community. You may not come to Yao for dessert, but you certainly shouldn’t leave without it—specifically the red wine-poached pear topped with butterfly pea and coconut ice cream, though the pastel blue ice cream served inside a coconut shell makes for a stunning presentation.
Drink: Ask your server for a sake recommendation
Appetizer: Taro rolls, stuffed with prawns and taro root, crispy and creamy crab wontons
Mains: The catch-of-the-day, if you aren’t afraid of head-on fish, or the salmon panang; a selection from the grill menu to share
Dessert: The Belle Helene, a red wine-poached pear topped with butterfly pea and coconut ice cream
FLAVORFUL FINDS AT RESTAURANTS IN GEORGIA
Le Bon Nosh | Atlanta
Chef-owner and former chemical engineer Forough Vakili underwent a total career transformation before opening Le Bon Nosh. She created the bright and airy all-day cafe with an eye toward comfort and accessibility. “I want every guest to feel like they are at my dining room table,” she emphasizes on the restaurant’s website. Embrace Vakili’s simple-food ethos with a beef-and-lamb meatball sandwich or sink into the French-inflected dinner menu.
Rhett | Savannah
Rhett is helmed by chef Javier Hernandez, who boasts seventeen years of restaurant experience. Loaded grits bowls, mussels and frites, a half-chicken country captain make up the remarkable brunch and dinner menus are. But perhaps more noteworthy is the restaurant’s Young Guns mentorship program. Each week, one of the cooks at Rhett creates an appetizer and entree special and guests are encouraged to provide feedback on the dishes. Highlights include a miso-braised octopus.
Sea Wolf | Tybee Island
Fancy hot dogs, fresh oysters, and funky vegan food come to Tybee Island by way of Sea Wolf, cousin to local Tiki bar Lone Wolf Lounge. The menu changes biweekly, but there’s always a large selection of vegan options and gourmet hot dogs (including a Beyond Sausage veggie dog). We’re here for the smörgäsbord: an impressive selection of meats, cheeses, and accoutrements, including a tangy peppadew jam.
Hot Dog Pete’s | Atlanta
The iconic American hot dog gets a fresh spin at this Atlanta outpost of a Birmingham, Alabama, favorite. Opened by Nick Pihakis—who’s helped launch restaurants like Rodney Scott’s Whole Hog BBQ—Hot Dog Pete’s offers fresh brioche buns, custom-blended meats, and decadent toppings. Try the Sonora dog, topped with bacon, avocado, and pico de gallo, or the slaw dog, a jalapeño cheddarwurst piled high with chili and collard green coleslaw.
Che Butter Jonez | Atlanta
Run by husband-and-wife team Malik Rhasaan and Detric Fox-Quinlan, the pair is focused on serving their unique spin on the New York street food Rhasaan grew up with, like the fan-favorite That Sh!t Slambing lamb burger. Rhasaan also launched the Occupy the Hood movement to encourage people of color to get involved, specifically in Occupy Wall Street, and he brings the same values to his restaurant.
Common Thread | Savannah
From the restaurateurs behind FARM—Bluffton, South Carolina’s paean to locally sourced ingredients—comes Common Thread. Chef Brandon Carter serves ultra-modern dishes: five-spice beef tartare and congee topped with nori butter. Carter and co-owner Ryan Williamson also founded Rootstock Community Foundation, an organization committed to addressing displacement as a result of gentrification in Savannah and Bluffton and providing resources to combat mental health issues in the restaurant community.
DESSERTS TO DIG INTO
Woodstone Bakery and Cafe | Fayetteville
You may recognize Shellanne Brown from appearances on Food Network baking shows, including a winning run on Halloween Wars and a stint crafting a life-sized Dwayne “the Rock” Johnson for Cake-alikes. But Fayetteville locals can get a taste of Brown’s confections—from four-layer cakes and her signature Stone Mountain pie to delicate croissants—in person at her Woodstone Bakery and Cafe, named after the street she grew up on in Lithonia, Georgia.
Vance’s Bakery Bar | Augusta
This isn’t your average bakery—it’s the 21-and-up, cocktail and dessert fusion of your dreams. Enjoy a menu of fresh-baked boozy treats, from the Grand Marnier-infused gooey brownie to the limoncello pound cake. (There’s also a selection of cheese and charcuterie for those who skew savory.) Try the Bartender’s Ace, an herbal concoction of fernet, green chartreuse, honey, and lime, to cut through the sweetness of an indulgent dessert.