Grazing: Get fresh at Atkins Park

Plus a visit to Chazz in East Atlanta Village

It wasn’t that long ago in the urban South that you heard can openers whirring in the summer heat.  My assumption is that people became so accustomed to the convenience and taste of canned vegetables, they weren’t really attracted to garden-grown produce.

When fresh produce did show up on urban tables, it usually came from the grocery store and was typically cooked beyond recognition — often to the degree that it was indistinguishable from canned food. I’m thinking about green beans in particular. Yellow summer squash was boiled and mashed with butter and bacon fat. Tomatoes, thanks to the miracle of hydroponic greenhouses, were mealy and flavorless year round. It was not until I was in my 20s, living in Elberton, that I tasted a garden-grown tomato.

Happily, restaurants have turned local produce into a virtual fad during the last few years. One of those is Atkins Park Restaurant (794 N. Highland Ave., 404-876-7249), well-known as the longest continually licensed bar in the city. The chef is Andrew Smith, who earlier worked for Scott Peacock of Watershed and Shaun Doty of Shaun’s.

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(Photo by James Camp)