What do you get when 5 people gather around a table eating burgers and discussing life? That's what the guys behind The Burger Coalition aim to find out. Atlanta's James Martin and Birmingham's Dan Gavin are the brains behind the concept that launches May 1.
It works like this: starting tomorrow, each month Martin and Gavin will open up spots for ten people to attend dinner over hamburgers.The first gathering will be the evening of May 15 (at Bocado in Atlanta and Ollie Irene in Birmingham). It's exclusive because there are only five spots for each dinner. But it's not exclusive because anyone can sign up, and that's exactly what they want — a cross-section of people to gather for community and conversation.
"Open mind and empty stomach, that's our focus," says Dan, who works as a designer for a local advertising firm. He and James struck up a friendship when James visited Birmingham recently as part of a documentary about creativity in the South. Though they are both originally from the North, they each say they've chosen the South as home for the long-term — in no small part because of the communities they've discovered, and meals they've eaten here.
Piggybacking on these commonalities, together they came up with the idea to hosts these monthly dinners concurrently in their respective cities.
There's no agenda, no set topic — just a chance for people to gather and get to know one another in a relaxed setting. "When you're eating burgers with someone it's pretty casual. So it's not necessarily going to lead to serious conversations, but it's ok if that happens too," says James (also a designer by trade).
Tickets are free (though attendees are responsible for their meals). Because the spots are so limited, they encourage participants to sign up as soon as soon as the slots are made public on their website: Tuesday, May 1 at 2:05 pm CST and 4:04 EST in Atlanta (get it? area codes).
And if you don't make it in for the first one, no worries — they will continue to host these dinners each month at burger spots around both Atlanta and Birmingham. (From mom-and-pop spots to fancier options, they have a list going, but are open to your suggestions as well.)
They'll post summaries and nuggets from each of the meals on their website and via social media (@burgercoalition). They'll also write about the restaurants, the experience, and of course the burgers, but stress that they're not on a mission to find the best burger in the South — just some good conversation.
They're also considering hosting larger scale events with the possibility of showcasing emerging Southern burger whizzes.
Why burgers? "The burger is so approachable. It's the common connecting point for all of us," Dan says. Dan knows something about the power of conversation that happens around food. He helped build and operate PieLab, the James Beard award-nominated bakery in Greensboro, AL that serves as a community gathering spot (all based around pie.)
"Food is a simple starting point for conversation," he says. Where the conversations will go; they aren't sure. But we have a feeling it's going to be juicy.