Off The Beaten Path: Downtown Duluth
In the sprawling metropolis of Atlanta, there is no shortage of culinary options. In the heart of Atlanta you have a diverse array of options from Soul Food to Vietnamese. You have hot spots like Inman Park and one of the most culturally diverse stretches of road with Buford Highway. In recent years, a new phenomena has emerged with acclaimed chefs and restauranteurs moving "OTP" (Outside The Perimeter/I-285 as Atlantans call it). Long thought to be the land of the strip malls and chain restaurants, the Atlanta suburbs are coming into their own with new gastronomic offerings.
As recently reported in a Creative Loafing article, OTP is the new market for growth. There are millions of people with "foodie" tastes and disposable income who want to eat gourmet food but don't want to travel into Atlanta. This has been highlighted mostly with restaurants in Vinings, Alpharetta, and Roswell. However, we think there's a smaller town in North Atlanta that deserves your attention.
Downtown Duluth (picture courtesy duluthga.net)
Historic Downtown Duluth is located about 25 miles northeast of Downtown Atlanta. It's right off of 85, and without traffic you can get there in a little over 30 minutes (without traffic is a loaded statement in Atlanta and rarely an occurence, but still). You'll notice immediately a great deal of the downtown area is being redeveloped. This is called Parsons Alley where 7 historic buildings are being renovated for new restaurant and retail space. This project capitalizes on the town's motto "Where everything old is renewed again." Also good news for visitors - there's plenty of parking. Though good food and service are thought to be the main factor in a restaurant failing or succeeding, these Atlanta natives argue parking has as much to do with it.
Parsons Alley rendering (courtesy of Parsons Alley website)
We'll start with our hands-down favorite place in Downtown Duluth, O4W Pizza. Originally in the Old Fourth Ward neighborhood of Atlanta, the owners moved in search of more space, lower rent, and less competition. From our perspective this is the restaurant that jumpstarted Downtown Duluth's culinary scene. A trendy pizza restaurant owned by Brooklyn natives with craft soda and the best pizza south of the Mason Dixon Line. The Grandma Pie is nothing short of a masterpiece. There are probably better pizzas in New York and Italy, but some members of our family claim this is the best pizza they've ever had.
O4W Pizza's Grandma Pie (Picture Courtesy of AJC)
Also new to the city is Dreamland BBQ, a franchise of the beloved Tuscaloosa original. This is the first restaurant to move into the Parsons Alley development. Pure Taqueria is right off of the train tracks and one of the earlier restaurants revitalizing the downtown area. It's a great place for groups and outdoor dining with drink specials and a fun atmosphere. We've also heard Piatto Fresh Kitchen and Bar and Epicurean Cafe are both delicious but haven't made our way there yet. The pull of Grandma's Pie is just too strong. In addition to restaurants, there's also the Red Clay Music Foundry and the Summer Stage Concert Series offering entertainment.
One of our favorite movie quotes is "If you build it, they will come" from Field of Dreams. This applies to burgeoning downtowns and not just baseball fields for ghosts in the middle of Iowa. With successful hip restaurants and trendy boutiques comes more entrepreneurs who want to capitalize on the former's success. Decatur's Brick Store Pub team is opening a new Brewpub in Parson's Alley. Remember our post on Maple Street Biscuit Company in Jacksonville, FL? Looks like our prayers to the food/blog gods have been answered. The breakfast chain will open in a 1948 Baptist Church that was saved and integrated into the Parsons Alley plans. Did we write this entire blog post just to let you know we can now eat a Squawking Goat Biscuit whenever we want? Perhaps.
Maple Street Biscuit Company coming soon to Downtown Duluth (courtesy of Gwinnett Daily Post)
A reminder of what the Squawking Goat Biscuit from MSBC looks like in case you wonder why we're so excited