How do I meet people who like to eat? Atlanta dinner clubs combine chatter with chow

Hush Dinner Club hosted a recent event at Ambient Plus Studio in Atlanta. CONTRIBUTED

There’s nothing wrong with dining solo, but if you’re feeling social, there are plenty of dinner clubs around Atlanta that’ll help you meet like-minded people while eating at some of the area’s best restaurants.

Nibble & Squeak — This dining club is in its infancy in Atlanta — which is fitting, considering the target audience. Geared toward families with children, the group was started last year by Melissa Elders in New York City after she realized she wasn’t getting to eat at her favorite restaurants as much after she had kids. It quickly expanded to other cities including Washington, D.C., Chicago and London before landing in Atlanta last month with its first event at St. Cecilia in Buckhead.

Though restaurants will sometimes add special menu items specific to children’s palates, the idea is mostly for kids to order off the “regular” menu.

“We try to steer clear of chicken fingers,” said Ali Winter, head of partnerships and community for Nibble + Squeak.

Take a virtual tour during happy hour inside Kimball House, known for its Southern seafood and cocktails. Co-founder and cocktail historian Miles Macquarrie shares the experience of Kimball House, located at the former railroad depot in Decatur. Video by Erica Hernandez / ERICA.HERNANDEZ@AJC.COM and Ryon Horne / RHORNE@AJC.COM

Events are typically planned for brunch, to work around naptime, and restaurants usually set up a separate area to ensure kids are comfortable playing and interacting with each other. The tykes also get activity bags filled with crayons and stickers to keep them occupied during their culinarily focused playdate, and their parents, grandparents and other caretakers get to bond over a meal.

Atlanta host Somer McBride said restaurants in the area have been eager to work with the group, which is planning its second outing at Cakes & Ale in Decatur and is on track to host an event per month.

Get more information and sign up for the group’s newsletter at www.nibbleandsqueak.com.

Mapdancer members recently enjoyed a special French menu at Cafe Alsace in Decatur. CONTRIBUTED

Mapdancer — Formed six years ago, this group’s mission is to visit restaurants that have an identifiable international or ethnic cuisine, according to organizer Jim Macie.

Previous outings have included Basque food at Cooks & Soldiers in West Midtown, Creole food at McKinnon’s Louisiane in Peachtree Park, Greek food at Kyma and Bangladeshi food at Panahar on Buford Highway.

The group, which meets about four times a year, mostly comprises diners who “have traveled, have more of an international flair and are open-minded,” Macie said.

While they’ve never repeated a restaurant or a cuisine, Mapdancer is planning a return visit to a restaurant for the first time.

“We had a Turkish menu at Cafe Agora (in Buckhead) two years ago,” Macie said. “The managers have asked us to come back for a special Albanian dinner.”

Macie will usually do a test dinner at restaurants before Mapdancer events to choose items for the group dinner, leaning toward more traditional dishes within each cuisine.

In addition to food (and drink — most meals are BYOB), dinners might also include a talk or trivia about the cuisine.

Interested in joining? Contact Macie at jmacie@jamesmacie.org.

Chef Devon Banks shows off smoked organic leg quarters with truffle honey at a recent Hush Dinner Club event. CONTRIBUTED

Hush Dinner Club  — What started as a way for Bea Lewis to meet new people when she moved to Atlanta four years ago has expanded to a group so popular that it moved from meeting in restaurants to getting guest chefs to cook special dinners in larger venues, including production studios and private residences.

“We want people to get to know each other and have a conversation,” said Lewis, who also owns Atlanta Meal Prep, a personal cooking service.

Held every other month, events have featured chefs including Devon Banks, who has worked at Bacchanalia and 1Kept, and Tyler Williams, who previously worked at Tap.

Pitmaster-owner of B’s Cracklin BBQ, Bryan Furman answers some burning questions from his thoughts on Yelp to his feelings about tofu. (Erica A. Hernandez/AJC)

Menus are designed with an eye toward seasonal produce, but other than that, “chefs can be as creative as they please” when it comes to deciding what to cook for the group.

Prices for each meal, which are served family style, range from $60-$100 and include a one-hour cocktail reception before dinner.

Get more information and sign up for future events at www.hushdinnerclub.com.

Food lovers of a certain age who want to explore cuisines including Korean, Mexican, Turkish, African and Indian will dig this group, which visits eateries both inside and outside the Perimeter. Past meetups have included meals at Kimball House, Baozi Asian Street Food and Holler and Dash. For more information and to sign up for events, visit meetup.com/20s-and-30s-Foodies-Meetup/.

If you follow a gluten-free diet and love to eat out, this is the group for you. Past events have taken place at restaurants including Mediterranea and Sprig, and a recent meetup saw a chef creating a gluten-free fried chicken and macaroni and cheese dinner at a member’s house. Dues are $10 per year. For more information and to sign up for events, visit meetup.com/atlantagfdinnerclub/.

Organized for those who “have no shame in putting food before love,” the group hopes to help members explore their “true love language” with dinners at spots including Barleygarden Kitchen, West Egg Cafe and Krog Street Market. For more information and to sign up for events, visit meetup.com/The-Before-Love-Club-ATL/.

Explore what Gwinnett County and beyond has to offer by way of food — and make new friends while you’re at it — with this very active group, which usually plans one or two outings a week. They’ve ventured to eateries like Osteria di Mare, Adriatic Grill, Harue and La Suz Tropical Cuisine. For more information and to sign up for events, visit meetup.com/gwinnett-county-restaurant-sushi-group/.

Looking for friends who also love food? Never Eat Solo’s mission is to bring people together over a mutual love of dining. Past outings have included dinners at the Optimist, 1Kept and Polaris; future events include meals at Creations at the Art Institute of Atlanta and Stockyard Burgers and Bones. For more information and to sign up for events, visit meetup.com/NESAtlanta/.

The group’s motto is “wine, dine and socialize,” with the goal of making friends over food at various restaurants and events around metro Atlanta. Past gatherings have included dinner at Desta Ethiopian Restaurant and Sunday brunch at Novo Cucina; upcoming events include the Decatur Wine Festival. Dues are $3 per year. For more information and to sign up for events, visit meetup.com/Palate-Pleasers-and-More/.

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