Amanda Plumb learned early in life the pleasures of sampling different kinds of food.
When she was in grammar school, Plumb lived in a coastal resort town in South Carolina where exotic eateries were few and far between. But Plumb’s parents and their friends found a way to spice things up every now and them. They cooked up a supper club.
Every month, the host would pick a country, go to the local library, track down a cookbook from that country and photocopy a meal’s worth of recipes. Then members of the club would divide up the recipes and concoct dishes to share at a group dinner. With that, they were off around the world, at least for a meal.
Kids, of course, weren’t included in the dinners, but young Amanda got the message that it was fun to try new things to eat. “I grew up around that,” she said. And she liked mixing people with food, even back then. As a girl, she played “restaurant” with her mom and sister as patrons. In high school, she threw dinner parties.
“I’ve always enjoyed eating,” Plumb said.
Flash forward a couple of decades, including stints in other towns, college, graduate school and various jobs, and Plumb found herself living in Atlanta. In 2009 or 2010, she said, she and some friends were hanging around their apartment pool one day talking about food and decided they needed to broaden their dining experiences. They formed a club dedicated to finding interesting places to eat.
They called it the Buford Highway Supper Club.
Why Buford Highway? That’s where the food is, of course. Or at least a lot of different kinds of food. “On Buford Highway, you can find five different cuisines in one parking lot,” Plumb said.
While plenty of other areas of town serve up fine places to eat, from The Varsity in Midtown to the fancy bistros in Buckhead, Buford Highway offered something different. It’s Atlanta’s own multi-mile food court. The Buford Highway Supper Club would meet at different restaurants each month and try new things. They’d order a bunch of different things and share them. “There’s just so much food around here,” Plumb said recently over lunch at a Malaysian restaurant on (where else?) Buford Highway.
The supper club led, in turn, to something even more ambitious: Chow Club Atlanta. Plumb co-founded the club in 2017. It promises members an “underground dining experience” and hosts monthly dinners, each with a different chef, at locations kept secret until the last minute. The club now has about 1,000 on its mailing list, Plumb said; about 50 people can attend each dinner.
The Chow Club led to her latest project. She was recruited by a publisher of city eating guides to write a book surveying unusual places to eat in metro Atlanta. Her book, “Unique Eats and Eateries of Atlanta,” came out this year. She calls it a “love letter to Atlanta’s food scene.”
“One of my favorite things about Atlanta is the food,” she said.
Her book features short articles about more than 80 places to eat, from venerable restaurants such as Paschal’s or Mary Mac’s Tea Room to newcomers such as Little Bear, and from pricey places such as Bacchanalia to the inexpensive Mexican street food sold on weekends at the Starlight Drive-In’s flea market. Chow Club Atlanta gets a couple of pages, too.
The idea, she said, was to highlight and tell the stories of unusual places to eat scattered around the city. “If you want to know Atlanta—yes, we have Applebee’s – but these,” she said, “are the restaurants you can only find in Atlanta.”
Not long ago, Plumb’s parents planned to visit her. Before they arrived, each emailed her. Both had gone through her book and made a list of places they wanted to eat.