PUNK FOOD IN ATLANTA: A LIVING DOCUMENT
What is this Punk Food you see below? It's stuff like Szechuan Succotash, Jackfruit Pastor Frito Pie and Pimento Kimcheese w/ Spam Jam and Scallion Salad on Honey Butter Toast. It’s what we call the 'anti-cuisine,’ a cuisine without defining or distinctive ingredients, techniques and dishes and it is born out of the increasing infusion of the diverse cultures and experiences that live in our city.
But dude…don’t call it ‘fusion.’ For each chef, it is intentional, delicious representations of who they are, where they came from and where they are going. And just as with the underground clubs of the punk rock scene, pop-ups are the venues and platforms for presenting these ‘songs of the South.’
Do check back for updates as this is a living document that comes from our passion and hard work in tracking and documenting the underground dining scene on Instagram, Twitter, our newsletter and calendar (which is how you can find when & where chefs are popping up). We write specifically about Punk Food dishes here and here.
ATL PUNK FOOD
Kamayan Atlanta (Filipino)
Ganji (Korean fusion comfort food)
One Flew South (New American)
Gabriel Tungol is the chef of Barangay, a Filipino food pop-up launched in March 2022. Barangay means “neighborhood” or “community of people,” and Gabriel connects this word to the idea of locality, terroir and hyper-regional lived narratives. His pop-up pays impassioned homage to deep-rooted culinary traditions of Pampanga and the Visayas in the Philippines with the expressions of an ‘80s-born Filipino American.
Burong Isda (Fermented Rice & Fish)
Tungol representing his heritage with burong isda – an exquisite delicacy of Pampanga, the region of the Philippines best known for its contributions to Filipino cuisine. It is a dish born of a need to preserve, transform, and coax flavors and textures from fresh ingredients. Rice and fish are salt-cured & sauteed with aromatics and served with fresh mustard leaves, eggplant, okra, and pan-fried fish. Gabriel uses wild salmon for its rich velvety flavor.
“Burong isda has always, for me, been one of the most astonishing expressions of resilience, ingenuity, craft, & talent in Filipino cooking,” says Tungol. “Like much of our cuisine, it is an honest, humble, & deeply layered food. It is one that I have been honored to be able to share as a direct extension from my family’s table.”
@vinettaatl (New American)
Vinetta originally started as Tasty Beast Supper Club in 2013 in Athens. The supper club allowed Chef Joel Penn the opportunity to try new recipes that didn’t suit his vegetarian wife and partner, Amanda Newsom Penn. In 2017, the two decided to move to Atlanta and began reimagining Tasty Beast as a new concept. This new concept is Vinetta, a pop-up restaurant devoted to hyper-seasonal, vegetable-forward cuisine.
The food has strong Southern roots, but also draws inspiration from global techniques and food preservation practices. Their menus always highlight local farmer relationships and the most current, beautiful produce. Vegetables are always the focus of the dish with Southern proteins playing a tasty supporting role. “We lean heavily on preservation, fermentation and pickling techniques, not only to preserve the bounty of each season, but to coax as much flavor out of each piece of produce as possible.”
Charred Broccoli Salad
For years Chef Penn has served up variations of charred broccoli that accentuate the earthiness of the broccoli with other seasonal ingredients. This dish celebrates the end of summer’s bounty with roasted and fermented sweet and spicy peppers. At the same time, it also welcomes fall through the lightly pickled North Georgia apples and caramelized vidalia onion sauce dressing the whole dish. It’s garnished with homemade furikake, a Japanese seasoning blend featuring Georgia peanuts. The smokiness and charred notes of the dish tie everything together with umami flavors that reflect Vinetta’s passion for highlighting the freshest ingredients with matching techniques.
@mikchanseav (gourmet comfort)
Chefs Jen and Emily Chan opened MikChan’s in March 2022 as a ‘younger sister’ to Cabbagetown’s JenChan’s. Both raised in Georgia with their families owning restaurants, they specialize in healthy-ish comfort food that invites everyone to eat at the table together. MikChan’s boasts an irreverent style of food that doesn’t take itself too seriously. The menu changes seasonally according to the whims of the two chefs. Jen and Emily wanted a space where they could cook delicious food reflecting what they most wanted to eat. Their dishes are fun and creative and may break the boundaries of any one style of cuisine.
End-of-Summer Szechuan Succotash
The end-of-season Szechuan succotash is an ode to Jen’s Chinese heritage and the restaurant her family owned in Augusta, Georgia. It also highlights the last of summer’s produce. With the end of summer, the chefs wanted to bring all sorts of yummy veggies from the merging of the seasons. The vegetables are charred to bring out their best flavor and tossed in their Szechuan sweet and spicy sauce.
Mia Orino and Carlo Gan started the pop-up restaurant Kamayan in 2018 as an homage to the food cooked by their ‘nanay,’ or mother. The duo had a craving for food reflective of their culture, and they also wanted Atlanta to experience and embrace Filipino cuisine. Kamayan roughly translates to ‘eat by hand,’ and it reflects the Filipino comfort food cooked by the two chefs. Orino and Gan recognize the Philippines as a melting pot influenced by each culture that previously occupied the island.
The island was “A Spanish colony for 333 years, traded with Mexico for 250 years, a US territory for 48 years and was occupied by Japan during World War II. Our cuisine reflects all that rich history.”
Ginataang Kalabasa at Hipon (Kabocha Squash and Shrimp in Spicy Coconut Milk, topped with roasted pecans)
Kamayan’s dish, Ginataang Kalabasa at Hipon, is truly reflective of Filipino comfort food with its depth of flavor stemming from traditional ingredients. It is a dish of kabocha squash and shrimp in spicy coconut milk, topped with roasted pecans. It commemorates Mia’s mom, who grew up in the Bicol region of the Philippines, which is known for growing coconuts and chili peppers. She lived through World War II, and fell in love with the kabocha squash that Japan brought to the Philippines during the war. Kamayan adds shrimp to this dish - a node to the first American Filipino settlement in St. Malo, Louisiana. It’s topped with pecans to reflect local ingredients and recognize Georgia as Kamayan’s home. For Orino and Gan, it’s important that each dish they create tells a story, and this dish is no exception.
@humblemumbleatl (gourmet sandwiches)
Chef Justin Dixon, an Atlanta native, began his career studying at the Art Institute of Atlanta and working at the famed Pano’s & Paul’s in 2007. From there Dixon went on to work under some of the best chefs in the city of Atlanta. In his most recent gig before the launch of Humble Mumble, Chef Dixon took on the unique task of opening chef for Wonderkid serving updated takes on diner classics out of a 5000 sqft space that was open 7 days a week breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
Justin's Humble Mumble is a sandwich shop by day serving a menu using sustainable proteins cooked in house, house-made pickles, condiments, fresh seasonal produce, and artisan bread elevating the humble sack lunch. At night Humble Mumble is a small plate driven pop up serving “Atlanta cuisine”.
Atlanta Infused Gourmet Sandwiches
Menu might include:
The Italian Job: A serious pile of sliced salami, coppa, sopresatta, mortadella and prosciutto with spreadable ‘nduja sausage adding some spice. Additional flavor, color and texture comes from provolone, lettuce, pickled peppers, onions and oregano mayo.
The Turkey Stack: turkey which is brined, roasted and sliced inhouse; mozzarella; a house made cranberry relish; basil mayo and fancy greens.
@westside_motor_lounge (American comfort)
Jeffrey Peterson, executive chef of Westside Motor Lodge and pop-up veteran, is a Korean American adoptee from Sokcho, South Korea who was raised in Minnesota. Growing up, he spent summers at his grandparents’ house in northern Minnesota, where he learned how to bake, farm, fish, and hunt, which sparked his interest in everything food. He graduated from Saint Paul college with a AA degree in culinary arts and hospitality and then went on to work in various James beard kitchens before moving down to Atlanta in 2019.
Southern Smoked Braised Beans
The dish is comprised of Catalina beans slow braised in a smoked chicken consommé with corn bread croutons, pickled radish, sweet potato cream, dill, and kimchi powder. It’s his take on his grandma’s beans and the types of beans I find down here. Jeffrey likes to call his style of food neo retro as it refers to an old motorcycle terminology. It's about bringing classic dishes with a modern twist or elevating classic comfort foods with modern techniques and flavors.
@leftielees (Korean/global cuisine)
Chef Vivian Lee has always been passionate about trying different cuisines from across the United States and across the globe. She previously shared this love with others through her bake sales and pop-up as Foodcation Forever. Now, she’s looking forward to opening her own brick and mortar space as Leftie Lee’s. Leftie Lee’s will focus on baked goods and sandwiches with a strong Korean influence. Chef Vivian’s professional background in cooking includes everything from baking breads and pastries at beloved neighborhood bakeries, to cooking at notable restaurants in Atlanta, Boston and New York City. She uses each of these experiences to bring authenticity to her own dishes.
Korean Corn Cheese Milk Bread Bun with Crispy Prosciutto
Chef Vivian’s Korean corn cheese milk bread bun showcases her love for milk bread and also introduces corn cheese to those that haven’t had it. “Corn cheese has a cult following for Korean BBQ aficionados and seems to be all over Korean food blogger Instagram,” says Lee. The sweetness of the corn pairs well with the saltiness of the cheese and prosciutto, and the contrast of textures between the soft bun and crunchy topping makes for the perfect couple of bites.
@ganji.atl (American food, Korean Essentials)
Ganji is Korean slang which roughly translates as ‘really dope.’ For founders Ganji Jess Kim and Jun Park, when it comes to their creations, the term means being brash, cutting and always delicious. The duo were born in South Korea and raised in Georgia, so they have an understanding of how both cultures influence who they are and how they create. Kim says, ‘by taking our favorite American fare, and injecting it with Korean essentials and flavors, we showcase how we experienced our Korean-American identity.
Pimento Kimcheese w/ Spam Jam and Scallion Salad on Honey Butter Toast
Exhibit A is Ganji’s pimento kimcheese, Spam jam and scallion salad on honey butter toast, a creation that was very intentional for the Ganji team. For the ‘caviar of the South’ pimento cheese, Ganji replaces the pimentos with kimchi, the national dish of Korea, allowing the cheese to counter the spice (little known fact: South Korea is the 5th largest importer of American cheese). Ganji then folds in their charred kimchi relish.
And why Spam jam (the cousin of bacon jam)? Because Spam is considered a gourmet item across South Korea and Asia and is a popular ingredient in several dishes, including kimchi fried rice, budae jjigae and kimbap.
The spread needs a vessel and for that Ganji offers up their honey butter toast, inspired by honey butter chips, a massively popular, relatively new snack in South Korea. Such a flavor kinda makes sense for Southerners as we have all eaten plenty of honey butter on cornbread or hot southern biscuits.
A Georgia native with an eclectic Mexican upbringing, Chef Ricky was always surrounded by lots of food at his family restaurants. Having been immersed in the culture through family owned kitchens, Ricky found an attachment to our industry at a very young age. Desserts were his favorite and that still holds true today. Despite the family tradition, Ricky ventured down a different path of music landing him at The Juilliard School studying clarinet. However, the callings of the kitchen always buzzed in his ear.
It wasn’t until 2019 when Chef Ricky decided to dive into the world of pastry. After a year of burying his head in books and flour, he was finally connected with world renowned Pastry Chef, Joshua John Russell, who quickly became an inspiration and mentor. Shortly after, Zúcar Patisserie was born and he hasn’t looked back once, rising to claim many accolades, including Executive Pastry Chef at Cafe Vendôme.
After a year of juggling music and patisserie, Ricky decided to focus on pastry as a freelance Chef. You can see Chef Ricky’s creations at Highland Bakery, pastry shops and other events throughout the city. Keep an eye out for Chef Ricky on Food Network and streaming services very soon.
Chicano in the South - Peach Basil & Cajeta Pecan
Chef Ricky’s dish is called Chicano in the south, and it combines the flavors of peach, basil, cajeta and pecans. Being a first-generation Mexican American raised in Georgia, the idea of “Chicano in the South” seemed natural. Taking traditional Mexican flavors and adding his interpretation is vital to him, so the idea for this dish quickly manifested.
Cajeta is Mexican caramel made from goat’s milk. Its origins can be traced back to the city of Celaya, which sits on the bank of the winding Laja River in Mexico. It is no wonder this decadent dessert brings Ricky back to his childhood summers when he would walk the riverbanks of the Tepehuanes River or “el rio”, eating spoonfuls of cajeta. “Chicano in the South” evokes feelings of family and comfort with the creaminess of the cajeta and the nutty texture of the streusel. To bring this traditional dessert in line with modern palates, he wanted to add a little more body, a touch more salt and the addition of his beloved Mexican spice, cinnamon. Combining Georgia pecans with a cinnamon streusel and drizzling a hefty portion of cajeta is magic. Add to that fresh, juicy Georgia peaches, earthy basil, and just a hint of mango, and we have the perfect metaphor for America, the melting pot of flavors. He tied in his favorite dessert style, French pastry, by layering the dessert as an entremet and supporting the entire dish with a light Creme Mousseline and a vanilla financier sponge.
Chef Ricky dedicates this to his mother, grandmother, and aunt, who were always in the kitchen baking empanadas, conchas, jamoncillos and everything under the Mexican sun. They constantly inspire his culinary journey through their spirit. Every time he steps into the kitchen, he can feel them guiding his heart and hands.
@oneflewsouthatl (New American)
Born and raised in Atlanta, Georgia, southern cuisine was always a part of Chef Cedric McCroery’s upbringing; however, his initiation to cooking began with his first job in a fast food restaurant. He subsequently earned a Culinary Arts degree at Atlanta Technical College. His first foray out of school led Chef McCroery to Seasons Bar and Grill at the Doubletree Hotel. Under the tutelage of Chef Muhammad, he was taught the essentials of management and the balance of how to please both the guests and the business. McCroery then went on to work at Wolfgang Puck Catering at the Georgia Aquarium where he experienced the hectic demands of event catering. It was during this tenure that he learned the phrase that would become the driving force behind his culinary development: “You are only as good as your last dish”.
BBQ Pork Belly, Smoked White Cheddar Cheese Grits and Caramelized Apple Relish
Chef McCroery’s dish is BBQ pork belly with smoked white cheddar cheese grits and caramelized apple relish. His motivation behind the dish is his love of cross cultural cooking with Atlanta is quickly becoming the melting pot of the South. Being native to Atlanta and experiencing the growth and cultural explosion over the years inspired McCroery to explore new combinations of ingredients, techniques and flavors of different cuisines and cultures. He chose pork belly not only because of its deep Southern roots, but also because of its flavor, texture and its cross cultural appeal. He combines it with a Szechuan sauce because of his appreciation and love for Asian cuisine. For McCroery, grits were an obvious choice. “They are a blank canvas just waiting for inspiration. They are the perfect vehicle for cross cultural cooking.” The entire dish is tied together with the brightness and acidity of the apple relish.
@heritage.atl (African diaspora cuisine)
Chef Demetrius Brown started the Heritage Supper Club in 2021. Heritage was a dream of his for many years, and the pandemic provided a reflective space allowing that dream to turn to reality. Although Brown helped open many kitchens in the past, he had never worked in a kitchen honoring his heritage and Caribbean and Afro-American cuisine.
Brown grew up in Providence and a variety of cultures influenced his earliest food memories. Outside of his home, restaurants were not cooking Caribbean dishes that reminded him of his Trinidadian grandmother or the African cuisine cooked by his mother. Heritage Supper Club fills in those gaps and helps tell the stories of the African diaspora that have been lost to history.
Curried Goat with Roti, Chickpeas and Mango chutney
Brown’s dish of curried goat with roti, chickpeas and mango chutney highlights the diversity of his cooking style and the many influences of his culinary heritage. The roti was introduced to the Caribbean by way of India. Since its introduction, the roti has taken on a new identity in all corners of the Caribbean with slight changes and variations of flavor. For Brown, roti holds special, nostalgic value. “I grew up eating roti made by my grandmother who was from Trinidad,” says Brown. “I remember going to New York and getting roti skins (dough) from the corner store when we didn’t feel like making our own.” Then, the family would only have to prepare the curried chickpeas, which often accompany the roti. This dish truly honors Brown’s family and the history of the Caribbean.
@stolengoodsatl (African American chef collective)
Stolen Goods is a chef collective led by Chef Maximilian Hines, executive chef of Midtown Atlanta mainstay, The Lawrence. The pop-ups led by Stolen Goods intentionally highlight minority chefs in Atlanta - particularly Black chefs. Despite having his hands in many projects, Hines really hopes to continue moving Stolen Goods forward as a way to express not only his own style of cooking, but also the cooking styles of the other chefs in the collective.
Jackfruit Pastor Frito Pie
Hines focuses on marrying local Georgia ingredients with global influences to create refined but approachable dishes. His featured dish is a jackfruit pastor Frito pie. Hines says the idea for this dish came from tamales in Mississippi and “that lane where Black and Mexican laborers intersect.” Hines incorporates global ingredients through the addition of jackfruit married with the spices and chilis of al pastor. “This is my homage to Black and Mexican cooks,” says Hines. “We should be coming together more. There is more that unites us than divides us.”
@illegalfoodatl (Asian centric stoner food)
Chef Steven Lingenfeltermay started Illegal Food in 2013 as one of the first pop-ups in Atlanta. The pop up eventually turned into a brick and mortar and garnered praise from all sorts of local and national media, especially for his famous Hank burger. Illegal Food is now a pop-up again, with a residency at Sister Louisa’s Church of the Living Room and Ping Pong Emporium Wednesdays - Saturdays from 5 pm - 11 pm
Illegal Food serves what Steven affectionately calls Stoner Asian Food, which includes a heavy dose of Vietnamese cuisine. Why Vietnamese? Trips to Quoc Huong on Buford Highway for banh mis as a high school student served as his gateway drug to escape the vanilla food tastes of his family growing up and eventually led to multiple trips to the country to explore the cuisine.
Cà Tím Nướng (Vietnamese grilled eggplant)
Illegal Food’s take on Vietnamese Grilled Eggplant (Cà Tím Nướng) is inspired by Steven’s first experience of the dish in Vietnam at a roadside stall while sitting on plastic stools. He says that since Vietnamese food is regarded as highly customizable, he decided to tweak the recipe by adding some of the other flavors and textures he had tasted while exploring the country including peanuts, shallots, the herbs tía tô and Thai basil and a finish with a squeeze of lime and nước chấm dressing. He says, ‘I am inspired by Vietnamese flavors and cooking techniques but as an outsider, I use these as a jumping off point, never attempting the most “authentic” version, just a great tasting one.”
@ebichopbarl (African diaspora cuisine)
Chef Cleophus (Ophus) Hethington is a Miami native who grew up around the table, eating and cooking delicious Soul-Caribbean food - food that would eventually shape his culinary trajectory. He opened Ȩbí Chop Bar in 2017 as a pop-up dinner series meant to truly honor the African diaspora. His contribution and the contribution of other African American and African chefs sparked a growing interest in African spices and cooking traditions in the Atlanta area. In 2019, Chef Ophus launched Triangular Traded Spices, a small business specializing in spice mixtures representing Hethington’s roots that trace back to Cameroon and Senegal by way of the Caribbean.
Hethington’s endeavors both through Triangular Traded Spices and Ȩbí Chop Bar “honors the diversity of the African diaspora and its families and communities.” His food reflects the resilience of Africa and its people, “having always displayed their fortitude and influence while shaping world history through food, music, wars and revolting against oppression.”
Yuca on Mojo & Jamon