In every issue of Atlanta magazine, we highlight a different pop-up or food truck worth seeking out, and we’ve compiled all of our recent picks below. We’ll update this list monthly. By their nature, these businesses can be inconstant; best to check their Instagram accounts for the latest on where to find them.
Some bakers specialize in national cuisines (Mexican, French), some in broad categories (cakes, cookies). It is the rare pastry artist who builds a business around a single technique. Pâte à choux is one of those alchemical culinary processes whereby a few nothing-special ingredients—flour, eggs, butter, water and/or milk—become altogether something else: the delicate golden shells that serve as the basis for eclairs, cream puffs, and more. It’s the focus of this pop-up from Paul and Amanda Westin, who’ve recently been selling their exquisitely flavored, beautifully wrought pastries on Saturdays at Skate Escape in Midtown, alongside another pop-up, Tic Tac Coffee. The opportunity this presents: You can pick up an airy, crackly, cream-filled pastry (rotating flavors include pistachio, Meyer lemon, raspberry-rose, salted caramel, and more), grab a latte, and enjoy your treats across the street in Piedmont Park. The Westins are hoping this year to break into the farmers market scene, too.
“Shoemaker” is kitchen slang for somebody who sucks at their job; their food tastes like leather. “When I was starting out, I wasn’t very good,” Paul Westin said. “So I have been called a shoemaker plenty of times.” But since entering the restaurant business in 2004, Westin worked his way up, eventually becoming executive pastry chef for Kevin Rathbun’s restaurants. He and Amanda went all in on the pop-up when the pandemic hit, finding a way to reclaim the term: In this case, Choux Maker means something delicious indeed. March 2022 issue
So So Fed
“Lao food in memory of Grandma Nouphone” is how Molli Voraotsady describes what she serves through So So Fed—incidentally, one of the finest names an Atlanta pop-up could possibly have. Her grandmother cooked “the best Lao food in all of Atlanta,” Voraotsady says, and when she became sick with cancer, it spurred Voraotsady to learn to make her family’s recipes: “She was always force-feeding us food. That was her love language. We come from a refugee family, so nobody says ‘I love you’—they didn’t talk about feelings with us. It was just like: ‘Here, eat this.’”
These days, Voraotsady serves those dishes Tuesday nights at the Bookhouse Pub (736 Ponce de Leon Avenue, Virginia-Highland), and Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights at Qommunity (477 Flat Shoals Road, East Atlanta Village), as well as at other occasional pop-ups around the city. Lao food is “very soulful,” Voraotsady says. “It’s like the funkiest Thai food you can imagine. Lots of fermented flavors, lots of fish sauce, lots of herbs, and lots of grilled meat.” Sticky rice is the staple. She also serves laab (aka larb—the spicy, funky meat salad), papaya salad, beef pho, fried chicken hearts, red curry chicken (or tofu), and more. The menu changes frequently, and isn’t huge, which is a hidden benefit: Bring a friend or two and you can order just about everything. February 2022 issue
“In my mind, it’s just like soul food,” says Fu-Mao Sun, describing the Taiwanese fare he serves at his pop-up, Mighty Hans. “It’s very near and dear to my heart.” Growing up in Massachusetts, Sun took summer trips to Taiwan, where his mother is from; in Taipei, he fell in love with the night markets. Taiwanese cuisine reflects Chinese and Japanese influences among others, and the prominence of street vendors means grub that’s simple, satisfying, and easy to take on the go. “Every vendor serves one thing,” Sun says.
For instance, fan tuan: sticky rice wrapped around assorted fillings and eaten at breakfast. Sun’s version is stuffed with a fried egg, pork floss, pickled radish, bean paste, and a cruller fried twice for extra crispiness. It’s a wonder of contrasting textures and salty, umami-rich flavors, and it’s been on the menu this winter at Gato, where Mighty Hans has been doing a breakfast pop-up on Saturdays. Sun, who previously worked in Manhattan at NoMad, puts his own spin on the dishes he’s fond of, like scallion pancakes filled with bacon, egg, and cheddar cheese. (Your McMuffin could never!) In other venues, Mighty Hans does nonbreakfast items, too—bao, Taiwanese fried chicken. And, importantly, Sun has a sweet side: If you can, grab a piece of the custard toast with pineapple, and a mochi doughnut or two. January 2022 issue
Wojtek was the name of a brown bear adopted into the Polish army in 1942, achieving the rank of corporal before retiring to Scotland as the war ended. A kind of folk hero, Wojtek enjoyed the familiar creaturely comforts: beer, cigarettes. In that sense, he makes a good mascot for this new Polish pop-up from Matt Reeves, a restaurant-industry vet who was formerly the general manager at One Eared Stag. Reeves had thought about starting the project over the summer—but “the heat index was just out of control,” he said. “Polish food is kind of heavy.”
Reeves, whose mother’s side of the family is Polish, grew up eating this sort of fare. Dishes this winter range from the familiar—pierogi, stuffed cabbage rolls, barszcz (aka borscht)—to the less so, like zapiekanka: a snacky street food that’s basically a French bread pizza, topped with wild mushrooms, smoked cheese, and onions and drizzled with ketchup. It’s as satisfying as you might imagine. The menu also includes hearty dishes like bigos, a stew with sauerkraut, sausage, “and, traditionally, wild game like boar or venison. But I’m not a hunter”—Reeves laughed—“so that’ll be, like, beef shoulder or pork shoulder.” December 2021 issue
Kajun Asian Food Truck
After Hurricane Ida blew through in August, Thuan Nguyen put out the call: He was heading home to help. Using $2,000 he raised in Atlanta, partly from sales from his food truck, Nguyen bought supplies to deliver to Houma, Louisiana, where he grew up. New Orleans and surrounding areas are home to a robust Vietnamese population—which has produced, Nguyen says, a culinary “match made in heaven.” Vietnamese cuisine already has a pronounced French element due to colonialism. In the Delta, that mixes well with French-inflected Creole foodways; the Vietnamese affection for herbs and spices, meanwhile—cinnamon, cloves, chilis—complements local African and Caribbean influences. So, yes, Nguyen serves gumbo.
But he also does kimchi fries, a lobster roll with yuzu aioli, and a fantastic shrimp po’boy with chili mayo and a ginger vinaigrette. (Also: great french fries.) A classically trained chef who’s cooked at South City Kitchen and Noble Fin, Nguyen struck out on his own in 2019 and makes regular appearances around town—often in the northern burbs. Find him on Instagram, or via a calendar of upcoming dates at kajunasianfoodtruck.com. November 2021 issue
Lindsay and Nebi Berhane met on a cruise ship—not sightseeing, but dancing. Both are professional dancers who have performed in New York, Chicago, and elsewhere, but when they moved to Atlanta from Manhattan last year, it was in pursuit of a different art: pastry. The pair’s burgeoning business, Sugar Loaf, has two weekly farmers market gigs—Avondale Estates and Piedmont Park— selling biscuits, cookies, pies, and assorted other sweet and savory treats.
“I guess, as a dancer, I started learning how to cook and bake out of necessity,” says Nebi—not much disposable income. Lindsay previously worked a series of pastry jobs while keeping up her obligations on the stage. Both Nebi and Lindsay were influenced by their mothers (Ethiopian and Albanian, respectively), which helps account for the global flavors on their menu: for instance, in their “sticky buna,” topped with caramel infused with Ethiopian coffee (“buna” = “coffee” in Amharic); in liege-style waffles flavored like churros and served with dulce de leche ganache; and in seasonal specialties like a Provençal-style tomato pie. October 2021 issue
If the Korean dishes served some nights lately at Ria’s Bluebird have a particularly homecooked flavor to them, there’s a good reason for that: They’re prepared by a seven-member family under the direction of Kajo Kim—or, as she’s sometimes called in Instagram posts, “our mom.” The Kim parents work in construction and design, where jobs can be unsteady. “Whenever it’s a slow period, we’re like, Oh, man, we should open a restaurant,” says Onyew Kim, the eldest of five siblings involved in Kimchi Joy, which got underway in April and now pops up about twice a month at Ria’s in Grant Park.
Often focusing on Korean classics such as buhlgogi and japchae, the dinner menu follows the Kims’ whims. One week, it may be a subtly spicy dahkdoritang—braised chicken with potatoes and carrots; another, bibimbap and chilled cucumber soup. Come winter, the Kims hope to focus on the preparations “where Korean food really shines,” Onyew Kim says: warming dishes like dduhk mandu guk (rice cakes and dumplings in bone broth) and kimchi jjigae (kimchi stew typically made with pork belly). “I know everybody says their mom is the best cook,” Kim says. “But we say that, too—and believe it to be true.” September 2021 issue