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Historic Soul Food Restaurant Busy Bee honored with distinguished James Beard Award


A longtime historic Atlanta soul food restaurant is being honored with a James Beard Foundation Award. According to the James Beard Foundation, Busy Bee is one of six recipients of the 2022 America’s Classics Award. The James Beard Foundation, whose annual awards are often known as “the Oscars of food” gives the honor to locally-owned restaurants “that have timeless appeal and are beloved regionally for quality food that reflects the character of its community.” 

Opened since 1947, the restaurant is located at 810 Martin Luther King Drive in South West Atlanta. Busy Bee was originally opened by Lucy Jackson on what was then called Hunter Street, one of only two streets in the city of Atlanta open to Black entrepreneurs at the time.

Martin Luther King Jr. and other civil rights icons stopped by frequently at the restaurant to try its soul food including fried chicken, ham hocks, catfish, collard greens, macaroni and cheese and cornbread. Today, the restaurant is owned by Tracy Gates and her family, and remains a gathering spot and tourist attraction. 

Today, politicians, celebrities, and neighborhood residents still come for the soul food—smothered pork chops, oxtails, catfish, collards, macaroni and cheese, and cornbread, among other comforting dishes. Vice President Kamala Harris and Oprah Winfrey appeared at Busy Bee during separate 2020 visits to Atlanta (Winfrey called the restaurant’s catfish the best she’s ever had), and rapper Killer Mike and Sen. Bernie Sanders famously stopped in together for a meal in 2016.To be eligible for the award, an establishment must be in existence for at least 10 years. Over 100 restaurants across the country have received the award since the category was introduced in 1998. This year’s recipients will be celebrated at the James Beard Restaurant and Chef Awards ceremony on June 13 in Chicago. The 2022 awards will be the first in two years due to the COVID pamemoc.

Busy Bee was named in 2020 as one of Atlanta’s best classics restaurants by Food and Wine magazine.


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