Atlanta’s best kept underground secret is definitely not a secret to the foodie community! On Saturday, September 10, the Atlanta Underground Market overwhelmed Atlanta foodies by hosting 30-40 food artisans in the parking lot behind Dillard’s at Atlantic Station. Initially when I saw the website, I had assumed that since this was a private club – which only announced the event location on the night before the event – that it would be a very hushed, secret small affair in a fairly quaint location. I couldn’t have been more wrong and yet was kind of disappointed that I didn’t get to say a special password or give a members-only handshake with a knowing wink. (But I’m probably better off because remembering magic words and handshakes has never been my forte.) This was the exact opposite of what I had expected. There were hundreds of people taking part and eating small plates or tastes of food everywhere. I was overwhelmed with options, but found myself cash poor. The market currently has no fee to sign up and it’s only three dollars to enter the event, but the website neglected to note that each artisan vendor charged a per plate or taste fee for their edible noms. Don’t worry, I did manage to get a few delectable bites in before I had to leave for a show later that evening.

So foodie, want to see what all the yum is about? First off, you have to go to their website and sign up, acknowledging that by doing so you understand that the food artisans may have created the dishes in spaces that are not inspected by the health department and you waive your right to hold the Underground Market or its participants liable for any bodily harm or negative reactions you may have to the food. For some that may not sound legally sanitary, but when you think about it – it’s probably similar to eating at a friend or relative’s house (the health department doesn’t regulate them either). Well, except I don’t believe that I have any friends who use kudzu, hibiscus, or nightcrawlers in their edible dishes. On the flip side, I may have a friend who cooks beef tongue, beef heart, or can whip up some Ethiopian tacos, maybe. There were also easily recognizable dishes like cured salmon, gourmet popsicles and lollipops, curry, salads, bacon, fruits, chicken, and meats.

The food artisans I talked to were all very nice and gave some interesting culinary lessons about their dishes or ingredients. The vendors ranged from caterers, restaurateurs, and local private foodies who were looking to get into the catering or restaurant business. A couple notable vendors I spoke to ran booths for Three Day Cured Salmon (what can I say, this Danish girl loves gravad lox or in Danish – gravad laks) and Dal Cuore Market, which supports local organic farmers and has plans to become a restaurant in Johns Creek soon.

The Atlanta Underground Food Market happens once a month. The next one is scheduled for Saturday, October 15 from 6-9 p.m. My recommendation is to sign up on their websites, get some friends to go with you, and remember to bring cash. The nibbles were a decent size, so if you are just interested in tasting a few different bites, I’d recommend sharing a variety of dishes with friends to get the most bang for your buck. The prices were reasonable and most ranged from one to four dollars per dish.