With an announcement from Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms coming late Monday evening, Atlanta officially joined other major cities implementing a stay-at-home order, due to the still-spreading COVID-19 pandemic.
For those of us who love the city, and all its amazing restaurants and bars, it’s been one bittersweet development after another -- a week of rapidly changing information that’s been hard to track but undeniably heartbreaking. You knew it was real with the closure of Ponce City Market and other previously unthinkable developments, but we are doing what we must. Of course, we’re in danger of losing something that’s very important to Atlanta’s culture: our flair for enjoying fancy food and free-flowing adult beverages in each other’s company.
One moment, restaurants are saying they’re still open and would love our support. A few hours later, they are cutting hours for employees, then actual staff, then in some cases the lights and electricity, while they wait it out like the rest of us. Yes, this too shall pass, but will our favorite places to eat and drink make it through these tough times?
There are very real, very tough stories to digest. Take for instance Chef Maximillian Hines, who’s worked under a star-studded list of A-list chefs in Atlanta and beyond (Richard Blais, Sean Brock, Patrick O’Connell), and was just recently named executive chef at The Lawrence in Midtown. He turned 40 years old on March 18, the same day he had to lay off almost his entire kitchen staff. The Lawrence remains open on a to-go basis, and the limited menu is below.
Or there’s Kevin Clark, chef and owner at Homegrown, which is one of the city’s most popular breakfast restaurants, who was very open on Instagram about deciding what to do with his business. Clark went from enthusiastically announcing that it would remain open on March 22, to asking the public for their advice and sharing that it was closing Mondays and Tuesdays on March 23, to finally announcing that it wouldn’t be opening again “until this gets figured out.”
That said, there are also signs of support and resilience from not only some of Atlanta’s most beloved restaurants, but also their customers. The #ATLRestaurantsUnite hashtag has lots of information for anyone looking for more ways to help, and places like King of Pops, Banner Butter, and ASW Distillery are doing their part to donate products while keeping their businesses alive. Plus, former Atlanta resident Adam Darby set up a searchable database called Relief Atlanta, which lists restaurant fundraisers and includes links to donation pages.
So yes, there are plenty of things you can do from the comfort of your own home. But, if you aren’t feeling sick and are responsible about keeping a social distance, there are places you can support while you’re out getting the essentials. Here are a few places in the city that have sworn to survive and are offering noteworthy only-in-Atlanta specials to make sure you still know you live in the greatest city in the South, and quite possibly the world.
MORE: Order these Atlanta takeout and delivery dishes right now.