I was born and raised in the charming southern city of Atlanta, Georgia and am one of few Observant Jews who can claim bragging rights to being a fourth-generation Atlantan (a real Southern gent’). I guess you could say “I’m the real thing” (with apologies to the Coca-Cola Company). That being said, I very much feel a part of Jewish Atlanta. I also very much feel a part of Kosher Atlanta, in particular, as my father ran a popular and very much missed Kosher bakery in Atlanta for close to twenty years and conducted business with many of the city’s synagogues and kosher hotels- giving me an inside look into many of the city’s kosher venues. Always one who has been enraptured by food, I have also seen many restaurants come and go, from our short-lived French bistro-Élysées Buckhead to -the southern family style Twelve Oaks BBQ- to the great neighborhood pizza place, Wall Street Pizza (which is also very much missed). Many Atlantans have enjoyed the flavors and cuisine-culture that these bygone restaurants all respectively brought to Kosher Atlanta.
Times have changed and the Jewish community of Atlanta has grown by leaps and bounds in the past couple of years. With that growth comes the expansion of kosher offerings in the city, most recently a specialty food store ‘The Spicy Peach’. Think Gourmet Glatt/Pomegranate, Amazing Savings, and Oh Nuts! all combined into one tiny store with the Southern heart of roadside Cracker Barrel. Artistically packed into the cozy store are dozens of gourmet cheeses, scrumptious chocolates & candies, high-end disposable dining wear, and other hard-to-find gourmet specialty kosher items (like exotic international/ethnic sauces and snacks) that the city was missing until the Spicy Peach’s arrival. The Spicy Peach also offers a full line Panini and sandwich bar, soup station, and cholov-yisroel iced-coffee drinks and soft serve ice cream. It’s the new one -stop -shop for kosher awesomeness!
In the Atlanta dining scene, Fuego Mundo is really where kosher is at! Fuego Mundo, meaning “world of fire” is the city’s “hottest” kosher restaurant. Located in the heart of one of Atlanta’s busiest business districts and just a short drive from all of the city’s Jewish neighborhoods, is a fusion style South American wood fire grill- specializing in healthy, organic, vegan, and gluten free dining options. I dare say I don’t think you’ll find a kosher restaurant quite like Fuego Mundo anywhere else in the U.S. Originally opened as a non-kosher restaurant in 2010, the owners decided to cater to the kosher community of Atlanta two years after their initial opening- a decision that was met with great excitement and appreciation from the kosher community. Diners get to enjoy watching their entrees being grilled right before their eyes on an open-fire wood grille while they sit and spend quality time with their family and friends. The entrée menu offers a variety of options from pineapple glazed citrus-pepper grilled salmon -to spicy grilled chicken breast- to their 16 oz. Uruguayan grass fed rib-eye steak. They even offered a grilled tofu steak and a number of amazing South American and traditional side dishes. Live musical entertainment is just an added bit of excitement to the atmosphere on a Saturday night. There’s something for everyone at Fuego Mundo.
The reigning kosher establishment in Atlanta is Chai Peking. Located inside the Toco Hills Kroger supermarket, the ever-popular Chinese take-out has been catering to kosher Atlantans for over 15 amazing years. I was amused when some friends of mine who recently moved to Atlanta seemed surprised on how good kosher Chinese food in Atlanta was, smiling with satisfaction as they told us about their meal. Chai Peking is a unique kosher Chinese place…let’s admit it: how many Chinese places do you know that serve Cholent on Thursdays as a fundraiser for a local charitable organization? But of course it’s their food (in addition to the great Southern service) that makes them stand apart. With over 150 menu options including veal, fish, and Americana and Israeli dishes, there is something for everyone at Chai Peking. My childhood favorite was their Chinese hot dog (hot dog wrapped in pastrami and deep fried a wonton wrapper) and our family favorite is the General Tso’s chicken and garlic chicken and beef.
The summers in Atlanta can be schvitzing, to say the least. To remedy the hot and humid summer days are two great spots for frozen treats: Bruster’s Ice Cream and Menchie’s frozen yogurt. Bruster’s fresh made ice cream and waffle cones have been delighting Atlantans for over a decade while Menchie’s Frozen Yogurt has joined the kosher scene within the past couple years. In my opinion, what’s more fun than cooling myself off with frozen yogurt is being able to sample all the self-serve yogurt options myself before deciding on my flavors.
The sweet tooth offerings in Atlanta don’t stop at ice cream and frozen yogurt. The city boasts five kosher certified Krispy Kreme donut locations, the coolest cotton candy you have ever heard of by ‘Cotton Cravings’ (located in the heart of uptown’s Lenox Mall), and a fun gourmet cookie shop known as Ali’s Cookies, that are so good they were featured as “snack of the day” on Rachel Ray’s daytime Talk Show. And for those who think they’re in heaven with 7-11, Atlanta’s QuickTrip convenience stores have many frozen and hot beverages that are kosher( by AKC list approval) that put 7-11 Slurpees to shame.
Atlanta also boasts a number of Kroger Co. grocery outlets which offer a full line of kosher products, kosher deli and take-out, and fresh-cut kosher meat and poultry. Not to mention, Atlanta has the only Publix Supermarket that has a kosher meat department, kosher deli (good fried chicken) and sub-sandwich shop, and a fully-kosher bakery. One can also find fresh kosher meat and poultry, dairy products, as well as fresh baked goods at two of the city’s Costco locations.
While the local supermarkets offer wonderful fresh meat and poultry options, many of the city’s residents buy their meat from Griller’s Pride. Griller’s Pride is a local purveyor of fine fresh meats, specializing in premium glatt-kosher beef, fowl, and homemade authentic South African sausages (AKA: Boerewors) and biltong. The best part is that they ship anywhere in the U.S.
Steve Gilmer’s ‘Kosher Gourmet’, Atlanta’s oldest independent kosher meat-market, offers fresh cut meats to customer specification, a colorful array of Shabbos takeout, traditional NY deli sandwiches, and specializes in catering for special occasions and corporate events.
The city also boasts two Middle-Eastern/Israeli restaurants (Pita Palace and Pita Grille) and a vegetarian family -friendly restaurant, Broadway Café, where customers can go to enjoy hot pizza and a selection of fresh dairy fare. Pizza lovers can also get some amazing pizza (really amazing!) on Thursday evenings from Congregation Beth Tefillah (Chabad of Georgia), which has been selling quality stone-oven pizza (for takeout) as a weekly fundraiser for over 12 years. This is some of the best pizza I have ever had and the funny thing is that a lot of kosher Atlantans are not even aware that this exist!
As I continuously watch the Atlanta Jewish community grow by leaps and bounds, I watch with anticipation as what the growth will bring next to Atlanta’s kosher scene. A sushi place? Hamburger Joint? A House of Dog? Carlos & Gabby’s??? Until then, I will enjoy the many great kosher establishments that bless the capital of the Sweet South.