Sam Flemming is a former social media entrepreneur, a world traveler and lover of food. Upon moving to Atlanta a few years ago, he was smitten by the burgeoning underground dining scene filled with pop-up chefs — aspiring restaurateurs serving some of the most interesting, cutting -edge, unique food in Atlanta. They have no set schedule, but simply ‘pop up’ at breweries, pubs, and restaurants for an afternoon or evening. Many of Atlanta’s hottest restaurants started off as pop-ups including Talat Market, OK Yaki, Little Bear, Lazy Betty, and CHE BUTTER JONEZ. Kinda like if you had seen R.E.M. at that Episcopal church in Athens…if you catch some of the chefs popping up now, you can say you saw them before they made it to the big time.
Sam launched the PunkFoodie platform as a love letter, fanzine, and directory for the Atlanta pop-up chef scene. Follow @Punkfoodie.atl on Instagram or subscribe to the PunkFoodie newsletter to know the ‘who, when, and where’ of the local underground dining scene.
Here are Sam’s Top 5 venues to find the hottest pop-ups in Atlanta:
1 Dead End Drinks (Kirkwood): The recently rebranded Ration and Dram has opened its kitchen to pop-up chefs almost every day of the week. Monday through Wednesday, uber pop-up scenester Laura Polmear curates the most cutting-edge chefs ,with regular appearances by TKO (Korean), Mighty Hans (Taiwanese-American), Humble Mumble (inventive sandwiches), and Seoul Chikin (Korean street food); Thursday through Saturday, Dave Mouche’s Jackalope (Asian + Southern fusion) holds residency.
2 a mano (O4W): This neighborhood Italian joint has long been a center of pop-up activity. Abby Singer (Midwestern comfort food), Pho Cue (Vietnamese + Texas BBQ), and Kamayan ATL (Filipino) are just a few chefs that ‘made it’ to their own brick and mortar restaurants after popping-up at a mano. Currently, Bite of Korea (Korean fusion) hosts a block party every Sunday with multiple chefs, including occasional appearances from Foodcationforever (Korean fusion) and Soupbelly (dumplings). On Mondays, you might find Happy Seed (Latin-inspired vegan), at least until next spring when they open their own restaurant, La Semilla.
4 Boggs Social & Supply (West End): Located in the pop-up and food truck hotbed of West End, Boggs hosts pop-ups most every day of the week. Heaps (New Zealand meat pies) holds residency on Fridays and Sundays. On other days, you’ll find Phew Pies (pizza), The Fly Trap (gourmet fries), and DMT Taqueria.
5 Pontoon Brewing (Sandy Springs): Pontoon is the only OTP venue on the list, and they pull in some mouthwatering pop-ups on weekends. Pontoon was one of the first places to host Secret Pint BBQ, an elusive, Texas-style BBQ with unique, infused sausages like their must-have pimento cheese links.