AJC.com | Take a food tour of Atlanta’s Summerhill neighborhood

The Atlanta environs we build are in constant flux, and the neighborhoods where we eat are at the center of this change. Just 10 years ago, for example, no one would have believed that Summerhill would be a dining hot spot in Atlanta.

Located southeast of downtown, Summerhill was one of the the city’s original settlements during Reconstruction. Its earliest inhabitants were freed slaves and Jewish immigrants. After World War II, more prosperous residents moved to the northern suburbs, and in the 1950s, construction of the I-75/85 Downtown Connector spurred a mass exodus. 

Flash-forward to 2019 and Summerhill is filling with diverse businesses. A small town main street is slowly growing and it comes with accolades. Little Tart Bakeshop (68 Georgia Ave., 404-348-4797, littletartatl.com) from two-time James Beard Award semifinalist Sarah O’Brien was the first to open, serving pastries, baked goods and coffee drinks in a light filled space of brick and plaster walls. Just across the hall is her soft-serve shop, Big Softie (66 Georgia Ave., bigsoftieatl.com), where Georgia dairy products are churned into fluffy ice cream. The simple, nostalgic flavors are best in a house-made waffle cone. Custom-made Beautiful Briny Seas sprinkles complete a cone dipped in chocolate or a cup of the seasonal flavor.

Across the street is Wood’s Chapel BBQ (85 Georgia Ave. SE, 404-522-3000, woodschapelbbq.com), named for the first church to spring up after Summerhill was settled in 1865. The team behind the General Muir use wood-fired pits to smoke barbecue, the communal food of church suppers and political rallies. Whole hog barbecue and smoked salmon are both tender and delicately imbued with smoke. One could make a meal out of sides. Hanging on the patio in full view of the smokehouse with a cold beer or cocktail feels like community.

“It’s absolutely an honor to be part of the resurgence of Summerhill. I couldn’t be more proud,” says chef-owner Jarrett Stieber. His concept, Little Bear (71 Georgia Ave. SE, littlebearatl.com), is slated to open by early December. He’s kept two rusty signs that read “regular dinners” above the front entrance, and has adopted the phrase as a kind of slogan. The food will be a continuation of his pop-up, Eat Me Speak Me, which earned him a James Beard Foundation Rising Star semifinalist nod in 2016. 

Stieber’s neighbor, Junior’s Pizza (77 Georgia Ave., 404-549-7147, juniorspizzaatl.com), is a venture by Alex and Jennifer Aton. Junior’s started as a pizza delivery pop-up and graduated to a brick and mortar in August. Order New York-style pizza by the generous slice or full pie. A VHS box from classic 90’s flicks denotes your table. Graffiti-style murals adorn the walls. 

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By Angela Hansberger, For the AJC

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