6 of the biggest metro Atlanta food stories of 2016

Gladys Knight's Chicken & Waffles BOB ANDRES  / BANDRES@AJC.COM

Gladys Knight’s Chicken & Waffles BOB ANDRES / BANDRES@AJC.COM

The Gladys Knight Chicken & Waffles saga

It’s been quite a year for this iconic Midtown spot. The restaurant, owned by soul music legend and Atlanta native Knight, is owned by her son Shanga Hankerson. He was arrested in June after state Department of Revenue investigators said he collected taxes at the restaurant but failed to turn them over to the state.

An Atlanta Journal-Constitution investigation found that Hankerson spent on marijuana and sex parties as the restaurant sank, according to witnesses.

The restaurant’s Lithonia spot closed permanently in August, and the Midtown location was closed temporarily after failing a health inspection. In September, Knight filed suit to have her name removed from the restaurants, with Hankerson responding Knight’s “lack of mental capacity” bars her from removing it.

 

Staplehouse hits big

The small restaurant in Old Fourth Ward hit it big in 2016 — AJC food editor Ligaya Figueras gave it a rare three-star review, was the top pick on GQ’s Best New Restaurants list and  Bon Appetit named it the best new restaurant in the country.

It was also a 2016 James Beard Award finalist for Best New Restaurant, with executive chef Ryan Smith getting a James Beard nod as a semifinalist for Best Chef: Southeast.

The restaurant is the brainchild of Jen and Ryan Hidinger (Hidinger passed away in 2014 after a battle with cancer) Staplehouse serves as the for-profit arm of the Giving Kitchen, a not-for-profit charity that provides emergency grants to metro Atlanta restaurant workers.

 

The return of Tom Catherall

The end of 2015 saw the unfolding of the Here to Serve saga, wherin 10 popular restaurants shuttered, without warning, on the same night. Chef Tom Catherall, who opened the restaurants that included Noche, Prime and Twist, was no linger affiliated with them at the time of the closure (his ex-wife, Leigh Catherall, was serving as owner and CEO as part of the couple’s divorce settlement).

But that didn’t make it any less of a triumph when Catherall returned to the Atlanta restaurant scene  in February with a new Virginia-Highland restaurant, Tom Tom,  in the space formerly occupied by Noche. Catherall ending up having to change the name of the restaurant after legal battles with Here to Serve, and ending up changing the concept — the spot is now the casual Mexican spot Taco Cowboy.

 

Closings that hit hard

2016 saw several Atlanta institutions close their doors4th and Swift shuttered in Old Fourth WardAlfredo’s closed after 41 years at its Cheshire Bridge location,  and popular sports bar Famous Pub is closing at the end of 2016 after 30 years. (to say nothing of the sad passing of Murder Kroger).

 

Controversy at Cochon

A photo taken at culinary competition and pork festival Cochon555, held in Atlanta in October, angered many after it was posted on Instagram. The photo showed one individual wearing a kimono, conical bamboo hat and costume glasses with slanted eyes that appear stereotypically Asian. Other chefs, including Atlanta veteran chef Dennis Lange and Andre Gomez of Porch Light Latin Kitchen, as well as Cochon founder Brady Lowe, posed for the picture. The intention of the dinner was to pay homage to the diversity of Asian cuisine. Lowe quickly released a video apology.

 

Terrapin changes hands

Over the summer, MillerCoors struck a deal to take a majority stake in Terrapin Beer Co., the popular Athens craft brewery. Terrapin was founded in 2002 by Brian “Spike” Buckowski and John Cochran. The partners  sold a minority interest in the company to MillerCoors’ craft brewing division, Tenth and Blake Beer Co., in 2012.

 

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