By GABRIEL RAMOS
ATLANTA – Brunch has long been a staple of the weekend crowd, catering to the barflies who went a little hard the night before and are in dire need of something to combat the hangover wreaking havoc on their mornings. Atlanta’s ever-growing popularity with millennials has produced a younger crowd willing to explore new textures and flavors and exotic ingredients, contributing to the growth of the brunch in the restaurant scene here.
Promotional companies Atlanta Beer Festivals and Atlanta Wine Festivals took note of this burgeoning reputation and held the first Atlanta Brunch Festival in the Old Fourth Ward district to give restaurants from all over the metro Atlanta area a chance to promote themselves while trying new ideas out with the public. Food was sold from stalls and food trucks, while bartenders sold brunch alcohol staples like bloody marys and mimosas in addition to wine, beer, and cocktails. Local ‘80s cover band Electric Avenue provided live music for the attendees.
Tickets for the event were available online but sold out quickly. General admission tickets, which included one drink and one food ticket, were sold for $10 to the first 500 buyers, $15 in advance and $20 after the advance deadline. VIP tickets brought guests unlimited drinks, three food tickets, and early admission. These sold for $40 to the first 250 buyers, $50 in advance and $55 after the advance deadline. General admission and VIP were meant to be $25 and $65 at the door, respectively, but due to the large online sales were unavailable.
The participating restaurants showed great variety, as local favorites like Venkman’s, Einstein’s, D.B.A. Barbecue, Two Urban Licks, Wahoo! Grill, Food 101, Ladybird Grove & Mess Hall and Arcadia were joined by nationally known chains like Shake Shack and Hard Rock Café. Food trucks like Tex’s Taco’s, Nana G’s Chicken and Waffles, and The Mobile Marlay rounded out the lineup. Food offerings included brunch staples like French toast, bacon, pancakes, smoked salmon, and more.
“Shrimp and grits is one of our house favorites,” said Reggie Provo, manager and event manager of Wahoo! Grill. “That’s always a favorite of the restaurant, so we always feature that on everything, it’s such a big item everybody loves.”
Where the restaurants did their best was in the creativity, as many restaurants combined ingredients to bring together new ideas that proved extremely popular. New takes on macaroni and cheese sold out quickly, as did Pijiu Belly’s pimento cheese grit stix and Portofino’s duck prosciutto on buttermilk biscuits. Guaco Joe’s chicken sausage tacos and Atlanta Breakfast club’s lobster and grits were also big hits with the crowd.
“A lot of things were sold out when I got here because I got here kinda late,” said attendee Nicole Pio. “I got the xtapa scramble from Einstein’s, which was like a taco with eggs and cheese and sausage and tomatoes. It was really good.”
The event also enabled the restaurants to spread awareness of legislation that would help their sales. Ryan Costigan, director of membership of the Georgia Restaurant Association, had a booth meant to educate festivalgoers of House Bill 535.
“The House Bill 535 enables all municipalities to vote to allow Sunday sales – pouring sales, excuse me – at 10:30 a.m. as opposed to 12:30 p.m. on Sundays,” he said. “… We believe that should this bill pass, and should all municipalities to vote it in and allow 10:30 a.m. sales that it would generate roughly $1 million in the first year alone to the Department of Revenue in Georgia in sales tax.”
With a highly successful turnout for the Atlanta Brunch Festival, it’s widely expected that the event will continue annually. The general feeling of the event was highly positive, both with festivalgoers and restaurateurs.
“I think (the Atlanta Brunch Festival) went really well,” said Dustin Holder, managing partner of Einstein’s. “Because you know you always expect a hiccup or something that you don’t want it to go wrong and I really haven’t seen any. I think they did a great job. It seemed really well organized and it seemed like all the people that were here, like all the guests, they had a great time. They’re all smiling, you know, I don’t see anybody that wasn’t just having a blast.”