Southern cuisine is having its moment. According to NY Magazine, Southern food, is in fact one of the major trends for 2010. It's a chicken or egg scenario - did the cultural zeitgeist's affinity for Southern food lead to Southern chefs figuring prominently on Top Chef, or did sudden attention accorded to Southern chefs lead to the overall trend?
Regardless, the overall trend is more towards Southern comfort foods than anything particularly upscale. According to NY Mag, southern-fried cooking, in its greasy, queasy glory, is all the rage. I suppose it makes perfect sense - a lousy economy is the perfect time for the unique comforts of fried chicken, or cheesy buttery grits. Alas I'll never try any of the restaurants the article mentions because when I visit NY, the last thing I want is Southern food.
However, Southern food's newfound popularity has it's downside, too. Is it just me, or do 90% of the popular restaurants in Atlanta serve some variation on upscale Southern? When I was recommending restaurants to wedding guests, I realized that my description of each restaurant sounded virtually the same. JCT, Dogwood, Food 101, Woodfire Grill, Serpas, etc - they're certainly not identical, but they all serve variations on Southern food. Now of course that's often because they're serving seasonal, local cuisine, and we live in the South, so that's going to lead to an abundance of Southern-influenced cuisine.
That said, I wish a few more restaurants would come out with something totally different. I could use some better Italian (not pizza!) options, or what about something David Changy serving tweaked Asian cuisine? I know there are some places like the Straits at least attempting to do something different, so perhaps there's hope yet for Atlanta to become a truly cosmopolitan, diverse eating scene. If awesome ethnic food could cross over from Buford Highway to the trendier parts of town, then we could be an on-trend dining city even long after the Southern trend becomes "so 2010."