- Bob Townsend For the AJC
In its 16th year, Taste of Atlanta has moved from Tech Square to Historic Fourth Ward Park, and added a few new wrinkles along the way.
But the food that more than 100 participating restaurants will serve over the weekend, Oct. 20-22 this year, remains the big draw for the crowds that gather to enjoy this perennial outdoor fall event.
“We want to be in a cool, hip neighborhood, and we really feel like Fourth Ward Park is the place to be,” Taste of Atlanta founder Dale DeSena said of the move. “It’s right off the Beltline and across the street from Ponce City Market.
“We’re going to be utilizing the large piece of land off North Avenue with the pond and the Beltline. But we’re also going to use the piece at Ralph McGill and Garden Park Drive. And that’s where our Grand Tasting, which is the name of our VIP experience this year, will take place.”
Metro restaurants offering tastes on Oct. 21 and Oct. 22 for general admission festivalgoers include returning favorites such as Bhojanic, Max Lager’s, Davio’s, Jim ‘n Nick’s Bar-B-Q, Waffle House and Woody’s Cheesesteaks.
General admission tickets are $25 in advance each day and include one RFID wristband loaded with 10 “taste points” to redeem for food. You will need to activate the wristband, and you can reload it with more points for more food.
If you want to go big and be a VIP, Grand Tasting Experience tickets are $75 in advance each day and include one RFID wristband loaded with 20 taste points. That gets you access to both the main festival and entry to the VIP tents for food not found at the festival, plus tastes of 100-plus craft beers, wine and cocktails.
As usual, the food and fun begin with the Friday evening kickoff party, which takes place on Oct. 20. Tickets are $85 and must be purchased in advance.
Dubbed the “Sweet 16 of Taste of Atlanta,” Friday festivities will be hosted by Jonathan and Justin Fox of Fox Bros. Bar-B-Q.
In addition to their own Fox Bros. fare, the brothers are curating tastes from the likes of Canoe, Chicken + Beer, Donetto, Seed Kitchen & Bar, the General Muir and several other restaurants, served up with cocktails from Ticonderoga Club, and music by Saved by the Band.
“For Sweet 16, we’re going to have a really great dessert tent this year,” DeSena said. “We’ll have things like High Road Craft Ice Cream’s warm apple bread pudding with bourbon syrup and vanilla fleur de sel ice cream.”
Another thing DeSena is excited about is the new Taste of Atlanta Marketplace with multiple product lines from six fancy food vendors.
“We’ll be showcasing Georgia food products and some fun new Taste of Atlanta products,” DeSena said.
Taste of Atlanta staples on the schedule, once again, include the popular Chef’s Table, hosted by Tom Sullivan, with a DJ putting some music in the mix this year.
The Kitchen Workshop hosted by Holly Firfer is a hands-on cooking experience with Atlanta chefs teaching and demonstrating in each session.
The Home Plate cooking stage showcases daily family-friendly demos and the Future Chef Food Fight, where three budding young chefs are put to the test by young judges.
Finally, on Sunday (Oct. 22), the always lively Barcraft Competition brings together Atlanta’s top bartenders to compete for the best bartender title in a contest hosted by Greg Best of Ticonderoga Club.
“I think this festival is so outstanding because all the chefs are so accessible,” DeSena said, summing up the Taste of Atlanta experience. “But more than that, you can try restaurants from neighborhoods all over Atlanta. Where else can you go to so many restaurants at one time, all in one place?”
Atlanta’s ever-growing dining scene has seen another major influx of restaurants from other cities and states lately. Here are five to try at the festival with a general admission wristband.
On Sunday (Oct. 22), Florida-based 4 Rivers Smokehouse, which opened its first Atlanta outpost on the Westside, serves up a hefty array of Brisket and Burnt End Sliders, Sweet Potato Casserole and 4R BBQ Beans.
On Saturday and Sunday (Oct. 21-22), get a taste of the famous Middle Eastern-spiced food from New York City’s the Halal Guys, which opened its first Atlanta franchise on Buford Highway, serving menu favorites, the Falafel, Gyro Plate and Chicken Platter.
On Saturday and Sunday (Oct. 21-22), Nashville’s legendary Hattie B’s Hot Chicken previews its longtime-coming Candler Park fried chicken stand (due in early 2018) serving a Chicken Tender with “your choice of heat level.”
On Saturday (Oct. 21), California-born Public School 404, which opened its first Atlanta location on the Westside, is offering its signature Chorizo Mac & Cheese, made with Emmental and cheddar cheeses, kale, sea salt and vinegar crunch.
On Saturday and Sunday (Oct. 21-22), you can sample the creativity of Boston and New York City star chef Todd English, who opened Todd English Tavern at Live at The Battery adjacent to SunTrust Park, and try his cool, nitrogen-infused Nitro Popcorn.
Getting around Taste of Atlanta, and getting the food you want, is simply a matter of checking the website (tasteofatlanta.com) to see what dishes each restaurant is serving that day. But getting there can be half the battle. Here are four ways to go.
Ride your bike and park at the secure valet area at the corner of North Avenue and North Angier Avenue.
Take MARTA to the Civic Center station and board the free shuttle bus outside on West Peachtree Street.
Park your car at Atlanta Medical Center Parking Deck B, 315 Boulevard NE ($6 daily), and follow directions to walk to the festival or VIP area.
Take Uber or Lyft to one of the designated drop-offs at North Avenue at Dallas Street or Rankin Street at Glen Iris Drive.