Hello Brunchlusters! I'm DL (better known as The CurvyJones) corresponding for Brunchlust from the grandest city in the southeast... The A!
I'm a big fan of brunch. I go at least once a month, even if it's by myself, and my brunch group has been brunching since 2010. It's awesome to get together with a group of people and eat, drink and be merry. That said, I have high standards for brunch, not only for the food (if they don't serve shrimp & grits, we don't eat there) but the venue, the drink situation (can we drink on Sundays before noon or nah?) and the parking. Ohhhh the parking. If you've ever been to Atlanta, you know parking is a situation unto itself.
Atlanta is a city that loves to brunch, so it only made sense, three years ago, to launch the Atlanta Brunch Festival. I attended the first year and had a blast! Although it could use some improvement, it was a great idea to bring a bunch of restaurants together to serve Atlanta's fave meal. At the very least, I could get a taste of what everyone was offering and our group could make a list of spots we want to visit.
This event has been held in years past at Historic Fourth Ward Park, a neighborhood on the East Side of Atlanta that was perfect (except for the lack of cell phone service, which made running credit cards a near impossibility). This year, the festival moved to bigger pastures-- Atlantic Station, a premiere ‘Eat, Work, Play’ neighborhood in Midtown Atlanta.
I was excited to see the festival move, because I consider Atlantic Station to be an upgrade. Upon arrival however, I began to long for the old venue. After walking around for a few minutes, I asked for directions from a security guard and walked to the Special Events area of Atlantic Station. This is code for a whole lot of pavement and no place to sit.
Undeterred, I stepped into the VIP line and got my wrist band and my free cup. HERE WE GO!
My VIP wrist band entitled me to
Early entry at 11am
VIP Food tent entry (with food from Southern Bistro, Marlow's Tavern, Buttermilk Kitchen, Smoke Ring)
3 food tickets
The idea of a VIP tent is great, but it's hard to execute this idea in real life, to where people feel they got their money's worth. I, for one, expect luxury when I pay $65 for VIP. Standing room only crowds and three tiny trays of food (it's really just a taste) and folding chairs aren't worth $65. Maybe the cost was to cover unlimited drinks?
Four restaurants were serving inside the tent (chefs Ron Eyester of Southern Bistro, Ben Krawieki of Marlow's Tavern, Suzanne Vizethann of Buttermilk Kitchen, and Jordan Wakefield of Smoke Ring) , however lines were long and undefined so you didn't know what you were in line for, or even which restaurant you were in line for. Seating left much to be desired but considering VIP was the only place WITH seating, I was grateful to be able to grab a chair.
According to the festival map, 33 Atlanta restaurants were signed up to serve food. Either they weren't all set up yet, or a few backed out because of the rain and/or venue, because there definitely weren't 33 spots to eat. I also typically get a popsicle from King of Pops but did not see them out. Of the spots that were set up, more than half were serving some variation of the southern brunch standard, chicken and waffles. Some had decadent mini versions of brunch fare like Highland Tap serving a delicious looking Grand Marnier French Toast, sausage and gravy and mini crab cake.
Around the perimeter was everything from pizza to paninis to bacon donuts, even some braised pork belly sliders, in addition to pastries and other brunchy sweets. General Admission ($20) got you entry into the festival, a cup and one serving from one restaurant. Everything else cost $3 per serving so if you showed up hungry, you spent a lot of money.
Photo credit: Atlanta Brunch Festival and RSVP Photos ATL
To quench the inevitable thirst that arises while shoveling biscuits and waffles into your mouth, drinks were available at multiple mimosa, vodka and bloody mary cash bars. The general drink tent offered pretty much get anything your heart desires. I had some orange mango flavored Honest Tea and it was delish.
I think the idea of a brunch festival sounds amazing and so much fun... and it is (or rather, it can be). Pulling it off seems to be a concept that Atlanta Beer & Wine Festival is still working out. I'd love to see this festival move back to a park setting (maybe Inman Park or Piedmont). Atlantic Station is great at city center but the miles of pavement didn't wave me over. At the first festival there was an amazing 80's band and a more laid back, neighborhood feel. At this year's festival, it was just like... here. Have your food and go buy some drinks. I also feel like early March is entirely too early for an outdoor food festival in Atlanta. The high today is 55, the sun disappeared around noon and at 1:30 it was raining on my way home.
I got 2 free hours of parking, so I stayed until my time was up and ducked out just in time to miss the rain. For the money, the value, the lack of perks (like seating)... I'd rather just go to brunch.
Not sure if I will attend the next festival... if it moves, I might see how they improve. Even if it doesn't, but they manage to book the Central Park area, I'd go again but I definitely won't do VIP.