NFT Atlanta Restaurants

Atlanta / Restaurants

The ‘96 Summer Olympic Games helped usher in a restaurant revolution in Atlanta, which almost makes up for “Whatizit?”—the worst Olympics mascot ever. Though Atlanta will never shed its old-school mentality completely, there are enough grits- and sweet tea-hating transplants here now to help diversify the local restaurant industry. Dining out is an integral part of Atlanta’s social scene, where trendy style often overshadows true substance. Opening a restaurant here is like being a Las Vegas high roller: one can crash and burn in record time or become the talk of the town. While indie restaurants continue to open in Atlanta at a breakneck speed despite the recession, there has been one high-profile casualty: the beloved, eclectic Flying Biscuit Café was bought out by chain-churning Raving Blands, oops, we mean Raving Brands. Expect more in suburbs from McDonough to Sugar Hill soon.

Southern for Southerners
There is no shortage of “meat-and-threes” in Atlanta, despite the city sophistication. Mary Mac’s Tea Room (Map 6) is one of the best examples of old school Southern dining. Here, servers call you “sweetie” and mean it, the tea is syrupy sweet, and mac-n-cheese is a vegetable. With a name like Bobby and June’s Country Kitchen (Map 5), you expect Southern goodness and receive it in generous portions. The Colonnade Restaurant (Map 26) is an Atlanta institution that draws everyone from blue-haired church ladies to drag queens. The two “silver” restaurants, Silver Midtown Grill (Map 6) and Silver Skillet (Map 5), are down-home cooking destinations as well; the latter is known for their awesome breakfasts. Even hip bars like Inman Park’s The Albert (Map 11) have turned to Old South cuisine like ‘cue and greens on select nights. Much to the chagrin of arteries everywhere.

Southern for Non-Southerners
Take your visiting relatives or friends to South City Kitchen (Map 5) for ultra-cool, Southern-influenced cuisine that’s anything but your typical meat-and-three. Wisteria (Map 11) serves delectable Southern cuisine in an upscale, yet inviting ambience that is also good for non-natives. Horseradish Grill (Map 17) in Buckhead is sure to impress out-of-towners, as is Restaurant Eugene’s (Map 25) three-course Sunday Supper menu, featuring amazing renditions of Southern classics served in a refined setting. Watershed (Map 29) in Decatur, especially chef Scott Peacock’s sublime fried chicken, should convert any hardened Northerner. Shaun’s (Map 11) offers southern food made with all organic products, not to mention chicken livers for breakfast. Plus, you may catch a glimpse of Atlanta’s “bad boy” chef schmoozing customers. Try the lump crab cakes. Woodfire Grill (Map 3) on Cheshire Bridge only uses locally-grown produce and organic meats. This 4-star restaurant is one of Atlanta’s best and a good place to impress crabby relatives.  

Soul Food
The large and vibrant African-American community in Atlanta means that we have some of the finest soul food joints to be found in the country. Son’s Place (Map 11) in Inman Park is known for their fried chicken and biscuits. Thelma’s Kitchen (Map 10) in Downtown Atlanta draws nearby college students, cops, and politicians, so you know it must be good. And while the original Paschal’s (Map 12), a historical civil rights era landmark, has closed for business, the other location is still serving up its brand of upscale soul food. Busy Bee Café (Map 8) is another sure-fire soul food spot, frequented by nearby Atlanta University Center students.

Sushi A-Plenty
Atlanta continues to go crazy over sushi. It seems to be everywhere, from restaurants that aren’t actual sushi places, to sushi bars in nightclubs, to grocery stores, and, of course, the Asian food mecca of Buford Highway. There’s even an elevated sushi bar hovering over the main stage at the cavernous Pink Pony South (4730 Frontage Rd, Forest Park). What’s next, sushi at the QT? The ultra-hip MF Sushibar (Map 6) is where black-clad beautiful people nibble sushi and sip hazelnut-flavored sake. More beautiful sushi lovers can be found at Twist (Map 22), where the sashimi tuna pizza is a hit. Sign up for the “Taka Tuna Club” at Taka (Map 25) and you will be notified by email whenever a special fish delivery comes in to the restaurant. If you like rolls with bizarre names, then head to Starfish (Map 25) in Buckhead and try the unusually delectable Charlie and the Chocolate Factory roll.

Barbecue joints are popping up all over the city, and that’s a good thing for ‘cue-loving city dwellers that used to have to traipse out to the country for decent pulled pork and ribs. Barbecue in the South is a serious culinary phenomenon and is fiercely subjective. A place you love will be absolutely hated by your friends and co-workers, and vice versa. NFT’s picks include Fox Bros BBQ (Map 31), located in a jumpin’ joint near Little Five, and Rolling Bones BBQ (Map 10) in the Edgewood district for drive-thru barbecue. For blues and ‘cue head to the world famous Fat Matt’s Rib Shack (Map 3) or 5th Street Ribs n Blues (Map 5) in the Technology Square development. For some finger-lickin’ good ethnic BBQ, don’t miss the Korean-style barbecue at Hae Woon Dae (Map 43) on Buford Highway. But for the real deal, both Daddy D’z (Map 14) and Harold’s Barbecue (Map 46) offer authentic barbecue in the heart of the ‘hood. Recommended dress code: bulletproof vests.

Cheap Eats
The aptly named Eats (Map 6) on Ponce de Leon has fed poor college students and fringe members of society for years. Their jerk chicken kicks ass. A couple of hot and glazed Krispy Kreme (Map 6) doughnuts is Atlanta’s best junk food breakfast, and guarantees a sugar rush all morning long. A monster slice at Cameli’s Gourmet Pizza Joint (Map 7) is a meal in itself. Grab one of the best Cuban sandwiches in Atlanta at Papi’s in Midtown for less than a five spot. A ghetto burger at Ann’s Snack Bar (Map 31) could feed a small village, but it’s so good you won’t want to share. This legendary hole-in-the-wall may close soon, as Ann has been grumbling about retirement, but she’s been bluffing for years. Other cheap meals can be had at just about any ethnic restaurant on Buford Highway, barbecue joints, and most meat-and-three’s around town.

Anything But Cheap Eats
For Russian cuisine fit for a Czar, head to Nikolai’s Roof (Map 10). Or try one of Atlanta’s 5-star restaurants; Craft in Buckhead, Bacchanalia (Map 4) and the Dining Room at the Ritz (Map 22), offer brilliant cuisine for a hefty price. Restaurant Eugene (Map 25) is sure to dazzle the well-heeled set, with its serene refinement and tastefully presented dishes. Or try one of Atlanta’s newer steakhouses, both run by Chef Kevin Rathbun. Rathbun’s (Map 11) and Kevin Rathbun Steak (Map 11) are walking distance from one another in Inman Park. Make a reservation; they’re packed every night, for a good reason. You can’t go wrong with old-school steakhouses like Bones (Map 21) or Chops (Map 21) when trying to make an impression. Downtown Atlanta icons like the Sun Dial Restaurant, Bar, and View (Map 9) and City Grill (Map 9) also are perfect for the mature and moneyed crowd.  

Café Sunflower (Map 24), with locations in Sandy Springs and Buckhead, continues to draw a loyal vegetarian crowd. Broadway Café (Map 26) is a good place to go kosher and vegetarian. Flying Biscuit Café (Maps 6, 31) doesn’t offer solely vegetarian cuisine, but their meatless offerings are yummy comfort food; try the black bean love cakes or the angel/devil veggie burgers. For pregnant vegetarians who get those middle-of-the-night tofu cravings, there is 88 Tofu House (Map 43) on Buford Highway in Doraville, open 24 hours a day. For more Asian vegetarian cuisine, including a crispy Chinese pizza, don’t miss Harmony Vegetarian (Map 43) on Buford Highway in Chamblee or Spoon’s (Map 4) tofu-based Thai delights in West Midtown. Also try Soul Food Vegetarian (Map 7) on North Highland for some down-home cuisine with a green twist. Hell, even Virginia-Highland’s new barbecue institution, D.B.A. (Map 7), offers tofu ‘cue, if you can get your mind around that.

Late Night Noshing
Despite the city-enforced early bar curfew, Atlanta still caters to the late night snack-happy crowd with plenty of night owl spots to cure hunger and hangovers. The Majestic Diner (Map 7) on Ponce is Atlanta’s legendary diner that can be considered a people-watching paradise or hell, depending upon your perspective. Landmark Diner (Maps 9, 21), open 24/7 in Buckhead, is a great place to catch business people starting off their workday along with clubbers sobering up after all-night parties. R. Thomas Deluxe Grill (Map 2) in Buckhead offers quirky and healthy vegetarian options and is open 24 hours a day. Café Intermezzo (Map 2) is the perfect place for late night coffee, cocktails, and sinful desserts. One cannot overlook the ubiquitous Waffle House (Maps 23, 25) that has helped many Atlantans nurse a hangover with an order of scattered, smothered, and covered hashbrowns and strong black coffee. Apres Diem (Map 6) offers a cool vibe with a comfy lounge area and is open until 2 am on weekends—perfect for a stop after a midnight movie next door at the Landmark Midtown Art Cinema.

Patio Dining
Atlantans will sit outside to dine any time of the year, with even the ugliest, most forlorn patios considered primo seating. Park Tavern (Map 6) offers merely average food and service, but the breathtaking view of Piedmont Park and the Midtown skyline make up for it. For fun and lively patio scenes, try Front Page News (Maps 5, 11), Vickery’s (Map 5), Joe’s on Juniper (Map 6), and Zocalo (Map 6), which are all in Midtown. If gay guy eye candy is your thing, then the huge patio at Einstein’s (Map 6) was made just for you. Oh, and they have a fine view of the Midtown skyline as well. Wahoo! (Map 32) in Decatur offers a cozy, garden-like patio that’s also kid-friendly. For the sports fanatic, there’s no beating the rooftop deck at Stats (Map 9) downtown. Just about all of the pizza joints in Atlanta have excellent patios as well, including Osteria 832 (Map 7) in Virginia-Highland.

Trendy Dining Itinerary
Start with a round of cocktails at Lobby (Map 2) or Strip (Map 2) at Atlantic Station. Grab tapas from Madagascar to London in a sexed-up environ at Eros World Tapas Bar (Map 3). Finish with a few signature cocktails at Two Urban Licks (Map 11). Enjoy a view of the city through their massive windows and large lounge chairs. The bartender will most likely send you a shot if he sees you’re having a good time. Still hungry? Try the lamb lollipops or salmon chips. To wash it down, pop in the 5 Seasons Brewery (Map 4), home to several tasty brews and locally grow grub.

Best Restaurant in the Least Likely Location
Ecco (Map 5), the latest Fifth Group sensation, located at the corner of 6th and Cypress in Midtown, where your “friend from Canada” used to buy his drugs and trannie hookers. Don’t worry—tell your “friend” those illicit delights have just moved up a block.

On Our Radar:

Posted By:  Josh Green
Photo:  Josh Green

Jim 'N Nick's Bar-B-Q
Atlanta's suburbanites are fortunate in some respects: stately homes on sprawling, manicured plots, zero parking headaches, MILFs aplenty, and most importantly, Jim 'N Nicks Bar-B-Que. The franchise's five suburban locations surround Atlanta like numbers on a clock, and judging by the Suwannee location, there's serious pit-mastership at work here. The venerable father-son chain stretches clear to Colorado, but they respect true Southern prep, evidenced in how they whip the trimmings from scratch (the complimentary muffins are divine) and smoke their pork shoulder over hickory for 14 hours at least (it shows). Try the two meat combo plate for a deeply satisfying smokefest that also bites at the wallet ($15.49), or stick with an array of sandwich platters for lighter, cheaper fare (about $7, side included). So what if the joint feels as authentic as Detroiters dropping "y'all." It's the old-fashioned, muscular preparation that counts.

Posted By:  Josh Green
Photo:  Josh Green

Mediterranean Grill
For big eaters like moi, a fulfilling meal under $7 is about as common as a Black Bear sighting in the suburbs. It happens, usually near garbage, but not often. After years of driving by, I decided last week to try the Mediterranean Grill in Midtown, tucked in a tiny shopping center where Virginia Ave. spills into Piedmont Park. The Chicken Kabob Sandwich, Kufta Kabob, the Shish or tasty Gyro can be married with a wonderful Greek salad and fountain drink for $6.49. We ordered the large (i.e., Frisbee-sized) hummus, which was overkill given the sandwich portions. During the week, don’t miss the Business Lunch Special, a veritable cornucopia of Mediterranean fare (also $6.49). My only gripe: the "patio" leaves one wanting. Two tiny outdoor tables don’t suffice when Piedmont/Midtown views are so prominent.

Posted By:  Josh Green
Photo:  Josh Green

Damn it, I wish I loved PBR. Drinking this lifeblood for cheap-asses could literally save most casual bar-goers I know about $200 monthly. Every unpretentious bar in A-town hawks it for about $2 per gallon. Unfortunately, it tastes like a liquefied garden hose sucked through a dead burro's teats. Southern hipsters seem to love it, or at least the ironic look of it in their paws. I find Pabst tolerable if chilled to near-freezing (tiny icebergs within are a good sign), and guzzled while standing near a heat source (read: barbeque) or a DJ whose can is bigger than yours. Even then it's drinking for purpose, not joy.

Posted By:  Josh Green
Photo:  Josh Green

Hard to believe six years have passed since Rathbun's signaled Atlanta's u-turn from a clubby party city to a more refined collection of world-class eateries. Or at least that's what I heard. Like one million others, I wasn't here in 2004, and I've waited far too long to indulge in this Inman Park pillar. Rathbun's and its sister, the spunky Krog Bar, are strikingly beautiful spaces, first and foremost. The bathroom murals, soaring curtains and exposed brick up the cool factor. The grub is Modern American Cuisine, relying heavily on meaty offerings like the 20 ounce ribeye with blue cheese that helped this place join America's top steak houses, or so claimed Details magazine a few years back. Menu offerings range from "big plates" to "second mortgage plates" and vary from $15 to a gulp-worthy $39. The sprawling parking lot makes, well, parking a cinch. Valet is offered, in case you get off on that.

Posted By:  Josh Green
Photo:  Josh Green

The folks at Here to Serve Restaurants are famous for their specials. Twist: All you can eat tapas for $10 on Sunday. Cantina and Noche: $1 Dos Equis on Sunday. (And that all started before Recession Frugal was chic). But here, in the kitschy, corporate heart of Atlantic Station, comes a lesser known deal that's possibly the group's most alluring: Half-price sushi rolls on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 5 to 7:15 pm. Much smack has been spit about Strip since it's opening several years ago. My hunch is that that has more to do with the surrounding environs than the restaurant itself. Just be honest, the place is slick, what with multi-level dining, city-view patio and Vegas-style decor. Head upstairs on the aforementioned afternoons (as close to 5 pm as possible) and hobnob with the kind of people who make penny-pinching look glamorous.

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