75 Best Restaurants

75 Best Restaurants

When we set out to determine who should be included in this year’s 50 Best Restaurants issue, one thing became immediately clear:

We needed way more than 50 spots. To properly reflect the Atlanta of today—its many cultures, neighborhoods, and iterations of dry-fried eggplant—a reckoning was in order. But even settling on 75 restaurants was hard. One of the first questions we asked ourselves: Would we drive across town to eat there? In determining the top 10 specifically, we thought less about where we most want to eat when we’re celebrating than where we most want to eat, period. We ended up with a no. 1 pick that’s been open for nearly 10 years yet has never before topped this list. As for the 30 newcomers, they’ve been around for as little as four months and as long as four decades, specializing in everything from vegan wraps to modern French cuisine, $1.50 tacos to a $165 tasting menu. And yes, all of them are worth the drive—especially that Oaxacan joint in Suwanee.

Edited by Mara Shalhoup

Contributions from Mike Jordan, Christiane Lauterbach, and Jennifer Zyman

Video of LanZhou Ramen by Cori Carter

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Miller
Union

75 Best Restaurants in Atlanta: Miller Union

Sapelo clams over grouper

Photograph by Andrew Thomas Lee

75 Best Restaurants in Atlanta: Miller Union

Feta snack, crudites, housemade lavash

Photograph by Andrew Thomas Lee

75 Best Restaurants in Atlanta: Miller Union

Steven Satterfield dotes on a grouper dish.

Photograph by Andrew Thomas Lee

At Miller Union, Georgia native Steven Satterfield gathers every misguided notion about Southern food and tosses them in the compost heap. What’s left: dishes that are understated revelries (that silky farm egg in lush celery cream, oh my) and honest explorations of the modern South (see: Seasonal Vegetable Plate). That they’re served in the most unpretentious high-end restaurant in Atlanta—equally suitable for the laziest of lunches or the most special occasion—makes the fried pork chop with creamed greens and the duck breast with hoecakes and strawberry even more exceptional. When Satterfield won the James Beard Award for Best Chef in the Southeast in 2017, he was only the second Atlanta chef in 10 years to bring home the honor. At Miller Union, he has proudly picked up where his mentor, chef Scott Peacock, left off; Satterfield spent a decade working for Peacock at Watershed, the iconic restaurant that similarly modernized Southern food in that era. With Miller Union hitting the 10-year mark in November, Satterfield and co-owner/general manager/sommelier Neal McCarthy have firmly established their Westside gem as a beacon of Southern hospitality, both in the warm, all-welcoming dining room and in the inclusive, equitable kitchen. Behind the scenes and on the plate, Miller Union is a vision of an evolving South.

Westside
999 Brady Avenue
Price: $$$$

Book reservation
Westside
999 Brady Avenue
Price: $$$$
Book reservation

Ribeye tartare, halibut, asparagus

Photograph by Andrew Thomas Lee

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2. Staplehouse

Staplehouse is a fine-dining experience as innovative as it is unfussy. That makes it Exhibit A in the argument that Atlanta is finally ready for the kind of cutting-edge restaurants that flourish in other cities: ambitious, purposeful, personality-driven food served in irreverently casual dining rooms instead of on white tablecloths. The eight to 10-course menu, which shifts a little from night to night and more dramatically from season to season, features delicate interludes of decadent proteins, from an early course of king crab mingled with Cara Cara orange, fennel, turnip, sunflower, and sorrel to a subsequent one of cobia poached to the consistency of butter, topped with delicate lettuces and accompanied by curls of crispy sunchoke. But most impressive is what the kitchen, helmed as of January by chef de cuisine Jake Pollitz, does with vegetables. Like executive chef Ryan Smith, Pollitz has deep respect for local growers, allowing him to reap the benefits of our bountiful farms while bucking our deep-fried stereotypes. A little more than a year ago, the restaurant, which opened in 2015, returned to its original tasting menu–only format ($105 for the regular menu, $75 for a four-course Sunday one). It’s the ideal way to experience Staplehouse’s creativity—and it makes Atlanta’s reputation as a serious food destination stronger, too.

Old Fourth Ward
541 Edgewood Avenue
404-524-5005
staplehouse.com
Price: $$$$
Book reservation

This Sichuan feast is a certified extraordinary achievement.

Photograph by Andrew Thomas Lee

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3. Masterpiece

The average human tongue has 10,000 tastebuds, and we have discovered a way to stimulate each and every one of them with just two bites of food. The first bite: Masterpiece’s dry-fried eggplant (Eggplant with Chilli Powder and Pepper Ash Powder), which sits at the pinnacle of every iteration we’ve encountered of the beloved Sichuan dish. The exterior is crackly-crisp and salty, the interior creamy and sweet, the level of ma la (numbing spice) precisely calibrated with a liberal but not obnoxious dose of fragrant, crunchy Sichuan peppercorns. The second bite: Masterpiece’s Dong Po Pork, a braised brick of pork belly lacquered in a mahogany-hued glaze that tastes as if it were a syrup extracted from a mythical tree. The first bite will blow your mind with its electric intensity. The second will transport you to another dimension of taste by simultaneously mellowing and somehow extending the pleasure of the first. Rui Liu, a certified master chef from northeastern China, came to America on an O-1 visa given only to “individuals with extraordinary achievement.” Just wait til you bite into the other 125 dishes on his menu.

Duluth
3940 Buford Highway
770-622-1191
masterpiece-chinese.com
Price: $$$$
Book reservation

Pappardelle, morels, green garlic cream, fava beans

Photograph by Caroline C. Kilgore

4

4. Spring

In 2016, a clever little restaurant sprang onto the scene and broke all the rules. It was situated practically on top of the railroad tracks in a remote corner of Marietta Square, a destination not exactly known for culinary risk-taking. The dining room, though upscale, was spare to the point of austerity (and not in an intentionally minimalist sort of way). If the space was unusually small, the menu was freakishly so: four starters, four mains. So, how is Spring not only open three years later but also one of our top 10 restaurants? The answer is as simple as the decor: chef Brian So’s food. Pappardelle with green garlic cream, morels, fava beans, and Parmesan is a joyous celebration of the restaurant’s namesake. You’ll also find our favorite fish dish in town: pan-roasted halibut with squash, wax beans, asparagus, and beurre blanc. It might sound basic, but don’t be fooled: Nothing about Spring is as basic as it seems.

Marietta
36 Mill Street
678-540-2777
springmarietta.com
Price: $$$$
Book reservation

Art Hayakawa searing nigiri

Photograph by Andrew Thomas Lee

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5. Sushi Hayakawa

You don’t have to spend $185 to eat at Sushi Hayakawa, but if you can, you should. Not only is that your entry fee to the restaurant’s 14-course, two-and-a-half-hour honkaku (authentic) omakase (a Japanese feast in which the diner lets the chef steer); it also gets you front-and-center seats at Atsushi “Art” Hayakawa’s sushi counter. Hayakawa is the most delightful character in Atlanta’s food scene, a master of his craft who’s as skilled at handling fish and rice as he is at charming his guests. During a recent visit, he greeted a diner and quickly recalled a litany of details about the man’s life. “How long has it been since I’ve seen you?” Hayakawa asked. “Seven years,” the man responded. If you can’t swing the honkaku omakase, try to get a spot at the sushi bar, where you can choose from a $135 or $95 tasting menu. The former will get you premium nigiri (the fish is flown in from Japanese markets) that Hayakawa gently brushes with his housemade soy sauce—and, if you’re lucky, his signature dish of monkfish liver and scallops.

Doraville
5979 Buford Highway
770-986-0010
sushihayakawa.com
Price: $$$$
Book reservation

Baked Alaska

Photograph by Caroline C. Kilgore

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6. Bacchanalia

The three chapters of Bacchanalia say as much about the changing nature of fine dining as they do about the changing nature of Atlanta. In chapter one, Bacchanalia resided in posh digs in Buckhead, then the epicenter of the city’s food scene. Even before the brigade of Atlanta’s high-end restaurants (and high-end everything) began its trek toward less-exclusive zip codes, Bacchanalia entered its second chapter, boldly moving in 1999 to a repurposed warehouse in a then sleepy part of town: the Westside. It was a smart move—the area subsequently exploded in growth. In 2017, Bacchanalia began its third chapter, ditching its rarefied home for a more relaxed space even farther west. Chef Anne Quatrano and her husband, Cliff Harrison, haven’t merely stayed ahead of the curve—they’ve drawn the curve. And though Bacchanalia’s elegantly simple food—crafted with impeccably sourced ingredients (many of them from Quatrano’s own farm)—hasn’t changed much in 26 years, it’s no less influential. There’s a reason why chefs at the top two restaurants on this list worked in Quatrano’s kitchen. Bacchanalia has defined the way we eat (and where).

Westside
1460 Ellsworth Industrial Boulevard
404-365-0410
starprovisions.com/bacchanalia
Price: $$$$
Book reservation

Black spaghetti with red shrimp

Photograph by Andrew Thomas Lee

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7. Boccalupo

Bruce Logue is a new breed of pasta royalty. Instead of confining himself to narrow traditions, he creates cult favorites: black spaghetti with red shrimp, hot Calabrian sausage, and scallions; 20-yolk tagliatelle with mushrooms and kale kimchi; and pan-fried white lasagna with creme fraiche and jalapeño pesto. BoccaLupo’s appetizers are creative and smart (think octopus and mortadella spiedino or wild calamari in brodetto), its scene intimate yet lively (tucked away in a calm corner of an otherwise oversaturated Inman Park), and its beverage program as accomplished as everything Logue sets his mind to. Head for the covered patio or the minuscule bar, both among the best spots in the city for conversation.

Inman Park
753 Edgewood Avenue
404-577-2332
boccalupoatl.com
Price: $$$$
Book reservation

Pitmaster/proprietor Bryan Furman

Photograph by Andrew Thomas Lee

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8. B’s Cracklin’ BBQ

Every cloud has a silver lining, even the cloud of smoke that began billowing from the roof of B’s Cracklin’ on the morning of March 6, 2019, when a fire consumed Atlanta’s best barbecue restaurant. For better or worse, smoke and fire are integral to pitmaster/proprietor Bryan Furman’s success story. His first location in Savannah also burned down in 2015, and the amount of support he received back then allowed him to reopen in four months. Of course, both smoke and fire are critical to preparing his masterful, pecan wood–smoked ribs (cut from heritage-breed hogs raised in Georgia and South Carolina) and brisket. That barbecue is so persuasive that one bank offered to help fund the resurrection of the Atlanta B’s as soon as possible, the Atlanta Hawks volunteered to temporarily hire Furman’s staff members until he rebuilds, and a Riverside resident raised nearly $19,000 for B’s through a GoFundMe campaign. Furman and his wife/co-owner, Nikki, say B’s will reopen in a new, larger Riverside location, and they’ll make their barbecue available at pop-ups around the city until their new space is ready. Furman certainly isn’t letting the setbacks sour his mood—he’s still got plenty to be thankful for, including recent acknowledgments from the James Beard Foundation and Food & Wine, a personal visit from Martha Stewart weeks before the blaze, and other developments he says will make 2020 “a big year for us.”


Photograph by Caroline C. Kilgore

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9. Kimball House

Yes, the oyster program is the best around, down to co-owner and bivalve evangelist Bryan Rackley’s impressively specific tasting notes (“green beans & cantaloupe . . . for real”). And Miles Macquarrie’s cocktails absolutely deserve that outpouring of national praise. But there’s more to Kimball House than Kumamotos and Sazeracs. The composed dishes at this dapper former train depot are playfully conceived and seriously delicious—and don’t receive enough of the spotlight. Executive chef Brian Wolfe’s decadent spin on cheesesteak includes Brie, bordelaise, and foie gras. The vegetable sides—such as a $10 stir fry of mushroom, turnip, broccoli, radish, and greens, glammed up with ají amarillo butter—get as much respect from the kitchen as the $110 steak dinner. From grouper collar to bar steak, lemon-pepper chicken skins to caviar and Carolina Gold rice middlins, there’s nothing Kimball House can’t do.

Decatur
303 East Howard Avenue
404-378-3502
kimball-house.com
Price: $$$$
Book reservation

Beef noodle soup with hand-pulled noodles

Photograph by Andrew Thomas Lee

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10. LanZhou Ramen

The city of Lanzhou is the noodle capital of China, and Buford Highway strip-mall joint LanZhou Ramen is the noodle capital of metro Atlanta. It’s not in every city that you can find Lanzhou-style, hand-pulled noodles, which are nothing short of an art form. You can (and should) observe their creation by gazing into LanZhou’s kitchen through a picture window that dramatically frames the hypnotic act of rolling, stretching, and spinning the cascading tendrils of springy dough. The resulting noodles—or, if you prefer, the thicker, knife-cut ones—show up in bowls of fragrant beef broth brimming with wilted greens and tender meat, or stir-fried with your choice of three spice options: regular, spicy, or laced with cumin seeds. These noodles are so long that your server will arm you with a pair of scissors. Of course, you might rather just slurp them until the end of time.

Doraville
5231 Buford Highway
678-691-2175
lanzhouramenatlanta.com
Price: $$$$

New

Black cocoa foie gras torchon

Photograph by Raymond McCrea Jones

Tiny Lou's

Atlanta’s dining scene has been bereft of French refinement since the closure of Joël on Northside Parkway in 2010. But there is hope. Across the country, revolutionary French cooking is staging a comeback. In Atlanta, that revival has arrived inside the recently transformed Hotel Clermont and directly above the lovably grungy Clermont Lounge. Yes, the French resurgence has materialized above a strip club. The restaurant even bears the name of a dancer who once disrobed in that space. Based on the descriptions alone, many of Tiny Lou’s dishes come across as rich and traditional, but chef Jeb Aldrich’s food possesses far more restraint than those phrases suggest. A mastery of sauces is part of what makes the kitchen so good, as evidenced by the harissa beurre monte that graces a whole-roasted loup de mer. Whatever you order, don’t skip dessert. Claudia Martinez is the rare pastry chef who can fashion a brown-butter blondie that pays proper homage to Blondie herself, the downstairs lounge’s most endearing star.

Poncey-Highland
789 Ponce de Leon Avenue
470-485-0085
tinylous.com
Price: $$$$
Book reservation

English pea toast (on rye)

Photograph by Matthew Palmerlee

Root Baking Co.

When wife and husband Nicole Lewis-Wilkins and Chris Wilkins relocated their artisanal bakery to Ponce City Market last fall, Charleston’s loss became Atlanta’s gain. In addition to its swoon-worthy bread—made from Southern wheat milled on site—you’ll find daily breakfast, all-day Sunday brunch, and, for lunch, exquisitely simple sandwiches (including roasted chicken with harissa carrots and, as the menu promises, “a lot of herbs”) and more intricate salads (such as one with soft and crispy grains, mustard greens, baby collards, pickled vegetables, green olives, and boiled egg, among other ingredients). Root also recently started serving dinner, and the menu, though compact, is filled with hits, from the Moroccan chickpea soup with saffron broth to the za’atar roasted chicken thigh with pickled turmeric and walnut salsa. It’s our favorite place to eat at PCM—morning, noon, or night.

Old Fourth Ward
675 Ponce de Leon Avenue
470-639-8046
rootbaking.com
Price: $$$$

Bar managers Faielle Stocco (left) and Katie McDonald prepare a Stately Hag.

Photograph by Iain Bagwell

Banshee

Something had long been missing in East Atlanta Village’s food scene, and that something is Banshee. The neighborhood’s most sophisticated restaurant is a tiny, highly original operation that transcends genre and remains in tune with its offbeat surroundings. The most impressive thing about the fairly brief menu is the staggering proportion of dishes unique to chef Nolan Wynn—an accomplishment that earned Wynn a Best New Chef award from us in December. Who before Wynn has served warm Native American fry bread with pepperoni butter and scallions as a form of exalted bread service? You’ll be further captivated by the moody vibe of the small dining room, swathed in peacock-blue wallpaper and subway tile and velvet drapes, and by cocktails such as the Stately Hag: a tart and herbaceous mix of reposado tequila, Cocchi Americano, Strega, lemon, and thyme.

East Atlanta Village
1271 Glenwood Avenue
470-428-2034
banshee-atl.com
Price: $$$$
Book reservation

White Pekin duck, sweet potato-daikon terrine, hoisin-spiced jus

Photograph by Iain Bagwell

Lazy Betty

Chef Ron Hsu is a man of juxtapositions. He’s a Le Bernardin alum who came of age in his immigrant parents’ straightforward Chinese restaurants. And though he’s opened the most ambitious new restaurant Atlanta has seen in several years, that doesn’t mean his rarefied food is short on fun. In the magnificently transformed Candler Park space that formerly housed Radial Cafe, choose from two tasting menus—seven courses for $125 or 10 for $165 (gratuity included)—or sit on the patio and order from the a la carte “snacks” menu. Hsu’s Steak & Eggs is a nod to his family’s frequent visits to Waffle House, but in his version, a dry-aged New York strip is accompanied by a sous-vide egg wrapped in a wasabi leaf. The menu is ruled by playfulness, down to pastry sous chef Lindsey Davis’s cherry-coconut mousse, which arrives in the form of a giant glistening cherry (complete with chocolate stem). You’ll drop a lot of cash, but even for the money, it’s hard to find a more creative meal in town.

Candler Park
1530 DeKalb Avenue
404-975-3692
lazybettyatl.com
Price: $$$$
Book reservation

Tacos, as they’re supposed to be

Photograph by Cori Carter

El Tesoro

This 16-seat Edgewood oasis, in a dusty gravel lot across from a members-only biker bar and behind Rudy’s Auto & Collision, serves some of Atlanta’s finest tacos, burritos, and tamales, among other dishes (including breakfast options; currently, the restaurant is open only from 7 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.). “El Tesoro” means “the treasure,” and the restaurant’s owners have found one in Cristina Lugo Soto, a home cook who hails from the Mexican coastal state of Guerrero and runs the kitchen with her daughter, Mayra. Soto offers three tamale flavors—pork with green salsa, chicken with chipotle salsa, and rajas with mushroom and squash—and if there’s a more craveable masa in existence, we’ve yet to find it. The tacos come as tacos are supposed to, with supremely flavorful meat that requires no embellishment aside from micro-diced onion, a light shower of chopped cilantro, a squeeze of lime, and, if you must, a streak of one of three homemade salsas. Before you scoff at the tacos’ $3.25 cost, note that the “burros” (aka burritos) will set you back only $5.75. A taco or tamale and a burro would easily feed a reasonably hungry person, though they might not be enough to satisfy that person’s instant infatuation.

Edgewood
1374 Arkwright Place
470-440-5502
eltesoroatl.com
Price: $$$$

Photograph by Caroline C. Kilgore

D92 Korean BBQ

Whether you’re looking for pork, beef, or offal cooked over charcoal or—gasp!—gas, Korean barbecue is all over the map in metro Atlanta. Well, some of the map. There hasn’t been much quality Korean barbecue inside the Perimeter since Mirror of Korea on Ponce closed forever ago. D92 changed that when it opened in Decatur last August. It offers the kind of Korean barbecue that typically warrants a trip to the suburbs. Plus, there are cocktails (including a Smoky Yuzu Margarita), something most of those other places don’t bother with. Unlike its sister restaurant, the stellar 9292 in Duluth, D92 offers gas rather than charcoal grills. D92’s core offerings otherwise mirror those of 9292, including a quality selection of prime beef and pork. And in addition to barbecue, there are homestyle dishes, such as beef japchae (stir-fried clear noodles), and trendy ones, including Korean fried chicken, served spicy or soy-seasoned.

Decatur
225 East Trinity Place
404-514-6759
Price: $$$$

Snapper crudo

Photograph by Caroline C. Kilgore

Watchman’s Seafood and Spirits

Five years after they opened Kimball House, the team behind the now-iconic Decatur oysters-and-cocktail depot launched a second concept. Gracefully situated in the southwest corner of Krog Street Market, Watchman’s is the lighthearted and breezy yang to Kimball House’s dark and moody yin. All the seafood, from oysters to crudo to the whole-fish entree, is sustainably sourced from the South. The menu changes frequently, but if the tuna crudo or fish collar are on offer, jump on that. The cocktail list is the perfect beachy counterpart to Kimball House’s world-class bar program. Be sure to order the Air Mail, and follow it up with a nip of Chartreuse from the shot-dispensing chiller behind the bar.

Inman Park
99 Krog Street
404-254-0141
watchmansatl.com
Price: $$$$
Book reservation

A Pisco My Heart cocktail

Photograph by Noah Fecks

The White Bull

It takes balls—and a stiff drink—to attempt to tell stories with food the way Hemingway did with a typewriter. Chef Pat Pascarella and beverage director Matt Scott go for it at the White Bull on Decatur Square, weaving a local-global narrative with their food and cocktail menus. (The restaurant is named for Papa’s description of a terrifyingly blank page.) Though you might encounter a few recurring characters—housemade sfincione bread, the super-botanical A Pisco My Heart concoction—most of what’s available has changed from the day before, with recipes that could be rooted in Germany, France, Italy, Japan, or here in the homeland. Nevertheless, what you eat is likely sourced from a local or regional farm, which gives Pascarella the opportunity to draft new and imaginative culinary tales—or should we say A Moveable Feast?

Decatur
123 East Court Square
404-600-5649
whitebullatl.com
Price: $$$$
Book reservation

Margherita in Detroit pie

Photograph courtesy of Mia Yakel

Nina & Rafi

In 2015, Atlantans fell hard for New Jersey native Anthony Spina’s O4W Pizza—and his square, pan-cooked grandma pie in particular. When O4W moved to Duluth a year later, intowners went into mourning. Now, just steps away from the shuttered location, Spina has returned with Nina & Rafi, but grandma has stayed in Duluth. At Nina & Rafi, Spina’s Detroit pie (thick and square but light and airy) and his Super Margherita (a classic round) are meant to grab the spotlight. The Detroit pie is actually the one that gives grandma a run for her money: The crust is like a cross between a Sicilian and a cloud, and at its edges, there’s a raised lip of absurdly addictive, burnt-to-a-crisp cheese that will haunt you.

Old Fourth Ward
661 Auburn Avenue
404-549-8997
ninaandrafi.com
Price: $$$$

Tamales that will make your stomach growl

Photograph courtesy of La Mixteca

La Mixteca Tamale House

This fast-casual, family-run, Oaxacan joint brings serious foodie cred to its far-flung suburban location. Yes, La Mixteca is worth the drive to Suwanee. The restaurant’s specialties include all kinds of tamales (perfected by the owner’s mother), some sweet ones and others filled with various meats and moles; ravishingly crisp, giant, blue-corn tlayudas (Mexican pizzas) showered with fresh toppings and housemade sauces; and beautifully deconstructed tamale bowls. The mere sight of the steam table of tamales—with flavors ranging from cactus with cheese to Philly cheesesteak—will set your stomach growling.

Suwanee
1185 Old Peachtree Road, Suwanee
678-878-3483
facebook.com/lamixtecatamalehouse
Price: $$$$

Classic

Wood-grilled octopus and chickpeas

Photograph courtesy of Floataway Cafe

Floataway Cafe

Mention Floataway Cafe to any in-the-know Atlantan and you’ll be met with lustful moans. Star chef-restaurateur Anne Quatrano’s airy little Mediterranean oasis, which for more than two decades has resided in an industrial complex near Emory, is so chic it could’ve opened yesterday. Under executive chef Travis Hawthorne, some dishes conjure Greece: fire-kissed tentacles of octopus curled around chickpeas and briny Castelvetrano olives. Others transport you to Italy: veal meatballs with stout casarecce noodles. The food is both timeless and current—just like Floataway itself.

North Druid Hills
1123 Zonolite Road
404-892-1414
starprovisions.com/floataway-cafe
Price: $$$$
Book reservation

Photograph by Cori Carter

Canoe

The best table in all of Atlanta is on the covered patio overlooking Canoe’s lush gardens and the languid Chattahoochee. If you haven’t been to the 24-year-old restaurant in a while, you won’t have forgotten that view—but you might not recall how equally ravishing the food is. A California asparagus salad is stunning, served with roasted wheat, preserved lemon, Woodsman and Wife feta, and deviled egg sauce. The earthiness from hearty hunks of Purple Haze carrots is heightened with crunchy hazelnuts and a smear of Moroccan-spiced coconut. And a special of roasted monkfish with broccoli rabe and fingerlings in a caper vinaigrette is the type of thing we’d like to eat every day—for the next 24 years.

Vinings
4199 Paces Ferry Road
770-432-2663
canoeatl.com
Price: $$$$
Book reservation

Sotto Sotto

Riccardo Ullio’s Inman Park stalwart turns 20 this year, and there’s a reason why Sotto Sotto is about to reach that rare milestone: It’s our most consistent and satisfying Italian spot. Classic pasta options—such as tortelli di Michelangelo Buonarroti, a 16th century recipe of veal, chicken, and pork ravioli in a butter-sage sauce—are the kind of thing you want to eat forever. And we still haven’t found a risotto that can rival any of Ullio’s four. In this age of ever-adapting seasonal menus, Sotto Sotto’s mostly unchanged lineup still holds our rapt attention.

Inman Park
313 North Highland Avenue
404-523-6678
sottosottoatl.com
Price: $$$$
Book reservation

Wood-grilled octopus with olives and capers

Photograph by Caroline C. Kilgore

Kyma

The ocean-blue and gleaming-white temple known as Kyma, which means “wave” in Greek, is Buckhead Life Restaurant Group’s brightest star. You can make a feast out of chef Pano Karatassos’s nearly two-dozen shareable meze plates—in particular, wood-grilled octopus with olives and capers, white beans stewed with tomatoes, and lamb pie. If you want to splurge, choose one of the $40-per-pound whole fish that are so beautifully arranged in the restaurant’s display case they appear to be swimming through a sea of crushed ice. Finish with a honey-laced yogurt showered with candied walnuts.


Artichoke salad

Photograph courtesy of La Grotta

La Grotta Ristorante Italiano

In the basement of an unassuming south Buckhead apartment building sits one of Atlanta’s oldest restaurants. La Grotta opened in 1978, and it’s a welcome throwback to another time—when white tablecloths still graced tables and truffles were shaved onto your plate tableside. The regal servers deliver bygone glamour, along with a wide range of pasta and veal options.

Buckhead
2637 Peachtree Road
404-231-1368
lagrottaatlanta.com
Price: $$$$
Book reservation

Hip

Photograph by Cori Carter

Octopus Bar

Even before Octopus Bar opens at 10:30 p.m., the night owls will have swooped in to claim their perch. By 11 p.m., the dining room, which won’t close until 2:30 a.m., will be packed. The food is as unorthodox as the hours, and every bite is worth staying up late for. The 2011 brainchild of Nhan Le and the late Angus Brown, Octopus Bar is still the coolest restaurant in Atlanta, and chef Alexander Young’s dishes are as punk as they are pretty: dry-fried eggplant, served skin-on, is seasoned with black garlic oil, and icicle radishes delicately intermingle with tendrils of radish pods atop a sheet of creamy chevre. There is no better meal to be had in the middle of the night—and few that are better at any time of day.

East Atlanta Village
560 Gresham Avenue
404-627-9911
octopusbaratl.com
Price: $$$$

Photograph by Brian Manley

Ticonderoga Club

In this endearingly dark little room in the corner of Krog Street Market, Greg Best and Paul Calvert—two of the city’s most ingenious bartenders—mix and stir and shake and dazzle; their concise cocktail list is reason enough to endure the weekend wait. But even those drinks can’t upstage executive chef David Bies’s nostalgia-inducing menu—including the city’s best clam roll, best steak tartare, and best Cobb salad. That’s a lot of bests, and we have one more biggie: best brunch, at which you’ll find a similarly clever high-low mix.

Inman Park
99 Krog Street
404-458-4534
ticonderogaclub.com
Price: $$$$

Photograph by Caroline C. Kilgore

Bon Ton

This relative newcomer to the Ponce corridor feels like its been part of the street’s eccentric culture forever, and that’s a high compliment. Co-owner Eric Simpkins, a longtime denizen of Ponce, teamed up with Hieu Pham of Buford Highway’s Crawfish Shack and Darren Carr of the former Top Flr to create the perfect concept to fill Top Flr’s void. Bon Ton is no doubt as cool as its predecessor, and the Viet-Cajun menu is clever without being too much so: You’ll find ground beef wrapped in betel leaves, seafood boils, oyster and cilantro dirty fried rice, and one of our favorite sandwiches: a Nashville hot oyster roll that’s extra punched up with XO sauce. Wash it down with a smoked bourbon mai tai or a frozen riff on a Pimm’s cup. Or both.

Midtown
674 Myrtle Street
404-996-6177
bontonatl.com
Price: $$$$
Book reservation

Beverage director Joshua Fryer shakes it up behind the bar

Photograph by Caroline C. Kilgore, mural by Carl Janes

8Arm

Under new chef Maricela Vega, 8Arm has turned over a new leaf. Vega’s food, perfected at a series of pop-ups in 2017 and 2018, suits the restaurant’s cool-kid vibe and its nonconformist roots. But in addition to being more deeply plant-based than what came before, these dishes also are influenced by Vega’s cultural background (Mexican) and those of her team (Polish, Bangladeshi, Vietnamese). A plate of oyster mushrooms, served in a beautiful jumble of brassica fleurets, pumpkin seed creme, and chimichurri, is so meaty it could make the most bloodthirsty carnivore forgo steak. Vega also brilliantly deploys heat against cold: a crisp strawberry and mint salad gets a pleasant jolt from fiery chili oil; the spicy Bangladeshi-style curry poured over whole-roasted trout is countered by cool creme fraiche raita. It’s a marvel that the restaurant continued to push boundaries after chef Angus Brown died in early 2017, a little more than four months after it opened. But with Vega in the kitchen, 8Arm feels new again.

Virginia-Highland
710 Ponce de Leon Avenue
470-875-5856
8armatl.com
Price: $$$$
Book reservation

House-made dinner rolls

Photograph by Caroline C. Kilgore

Poor Hendrix

Blink and you might miss this small storefront on a mostly residential stretch in East Lake. Once you’re inside, you’ll find a long, narrow bar that feels like a clubhouse for young, stylish neighbors hip to chef Aaron Russell, whose career includes influential stints at fine-dining bastions Seeger’s (RIP) and Restaurant Eugene. Russell composes marvelous salads (think local lettuces, Manchego, peanuts, and pickled green beans) and elevates peanut butter mousse with olive oil, salt, and peanut meringue—but he isn’t above serving wings and Rice Krispies treats.

East Lake
2371 Hosea L. Williams Drive
404-549-8756
poorhendrix.com
Price: $$$$

Savory cannoli with strawberries and arugula

Photograph by Cori Carter

Gunshow

Kevin Gillespie’s Gunshow is Atlanta’s gutsiest restaurant. The dining room is short on luxury—stark spotlights, metal tables, loud rock music—but high on intrigue. Seven to eight chefs cook and then deliver plates directly to diners, who can choose to accept or reject them. You might find Hawaiian paté en croute with pineapple, jalapeño, and Parmesan aioli, or confit sunchoke with peanuts, garlic, coffee, and seaweed. The experience is made all the more fun thanks to cocktail director Mercedes O’Brien’s unorthodox drinks and the restaurant’s roving bar cart.

Omewood Park
924 Garrett Street
404-380-1886
gunshowatl.com
Price: $$$$
Book reservation

Hoisin oxtails

Photograph by Brian Manley

Twisted Soul Cookhouse & Pours

Everything about Chef Deborah VanTrece, whose personality is the clear inspiration behind her restaurant’s name, is original. She’s quick to share her unfiltered opinion on the state of soul food, black restaurateurship, and any other social issue you care to discuss. She also artfully builds on culinary traditions of black Southerners—think hoisin oxtails with shallot-ginger roasted bok choy and cornflake-crusted black grouper. It’s all twisted in the best possible way.

Westside
1133 Huff Road
404-350-5500
twistedsoulcookhouseandpours.com
Price: $$$$

Photograph by Amber Fouts

Argosy

Argosy is the rare restaurant that does more than it needs to—and does all of it well. It pulls off this juggling act in a large, easygoing nerd paradise where custom-built wooden sea creatures hang from the ceiling and analog parlor games are played in the back. The menu at this East Atlanta Village gastropub offers everything from Shaolin Wings (with Tokyo mayo and purple daikon) to charred octopus (with fingerlings, fennel, and fried capers). The pizza might not be the most name-dropped in town, but the wood-fired crust and Spotted Trotter–sourced toppings make it one of Atlanta’s best. Argosy also excels in the burger department: The double-stacked Plancha and the Impossible vegan version each are at the top of their respective games.

East Atlanta Village
470 Flat Shoals Avenue
404-577-0407
argosy-east.com
Price: $$$$
Book reservation

Photograph by Amber Fouts

Le Fat

Inside Guy Wong’s modern Vietnamese joint, the clamorous space is as chic as the rest of its Westside brethren, from the hand-painted chinoiserie wallpaper and curved wood bar to the herringbone floors and gallery wall of vintage prints. Buford Highway this is not. Feast on bao stuffed with soft-shell crab, bacon, and sambal mayo, chicken clay pot with crispy rice, and salty-crunchy lemongrass shrimp. And if you don’t order the pho with brisket, flank steak, and beef ball, at least go for the side of pho broth. It’s the best $3 you can spend on this side of town.

Westside
935 Marietta Street
404-439-9850
lefatatl.com
Price: $$$$
Book reservation

Lobster roll

Photograph courtesy of The Optimist

The Optimist

At Ford Fry’s stylishly nautical seafood restaurant, there are many ways to plot a course to an ideal meal, but here’s our favorite: a dozen impeccable oysters; one of four crudos (think salmon with chorizo, strawberry, and fava bean); a hulking tentacle of octopus; and the best lobster roll in the city. If you’re forced to wait for a table, idle away the time on the minigolf lawn outside.

Westside
914 Howell Mill Road
404-477-6260
theoptimistrestaurant.com
Price: $$$$
Book reservation

Neighborhood Gems

Chef Hoyt William

Photograph by Cori Carter

Busy Bee

Atlanta would be a lesser town without Busy Bee, which provided sustenance to Civil Rights leaders, including Martin Luther King Jr. Since 1947, the woman-owned institution has reliably served heaping helpings of soul food: smothered pork chops, oxtails, fried chicken, collards, and cornbread dressing. Old-school politicos and R&B stars alike continue to file into the tight quarters on the outskirts of Atlanta’s HBCU complex, seeking lunch or early dinner (it closes at 7 p.m.). There’s no better serving of history.

AUC
810 Martin Luther King Drive
404-525-9212
thebusybeecafe.com
Price: $$$$

Mandingo wrap

Photograph by Cori Carter

Tassili’s Raw Reality

There are 40 ounces of kale packed into the Mandingo wrap at Tassili’s Raw Reality, which has occupied the colorful ground floor of a two-story duplex in West End since 2011. Lest you scoff at its $25 price tag, take note that this wrap could easily feed you for three days—and that it’s so magical you’ll actually want to spend three days eating it. What makes it so good? Maybe it’s the superspicy, soy-marinated kale. Maybe it’s the sweet coconut corn and the couscous flecked with raisins and goji berries. Maybe it’s the sticky-crunchy combination of hemp hearts, almonds, and agave. Maybe it’s the aforementioned magic. Don’t overthink it. Just patiently wait your turn in the slow-moving line to the counter, and fixate on the beatific diners scarfing down various wraps ($9 to $14 for the normal-sized ones). That will soon be you.

West End
1059 Ralph D. Abernathy Boulevard
404-343-6126
tassilisrawreality.com
Price: $$$$

Trout over succotash and corn puree

Photograph by Andrew Thomas Lee

Empire State South

It’s been eight years since celebrity chef Hugh Acheson opened Empire State South and challenged Atlanta’s notion that Southern food is something preciously preserved in the past. A lot has changed since then, but Empire State South remains a destination restaurant in a part of Midtown that has too few of them. Among its most iconic dishes is the texturally enchanting farm egg on crispy rice with beef and mushroom sausage, shiitake, and corn. Equally seductive are the wine and cocktail programs, each among the very best in the city. The terrace overlooking a bocce court ringed by Adirondacks is a splendid gathering spot for an impromptu al fresco meal or a planned event. In short, Empire State South, no longer trendy, is more inviting than ever.

Midtown
999 Peachtree Street
404-541-1105
empirestatesouth.com
Price: $$$$
Book reservation

Pastrami sandwich

Photograph by Andrew Thomas Lee

The General Muir

There was once a time when you couldn’t get a good matzo ball soup in town. Now, you can find a sublime bowl in a glamorous space that evokes vintage Manhattan. In seven years, the General Muir has become indispensable for its upscale Jewish deli–inspired menu: If you have a hankering for piled-high pastrami on rye or chopped liver with pletzel bread, there is no better place.

Emory
1540 Avenue Place
678-927-9131
thegeneralmuir.com
Price: $$$$
Book reservation

The Chef's Breakfast

Photograph courtesy of Green Olive Media

One Eared Stag

When chef Robert Phalen opened One Eared Stag back in 2011, Inman Park was a far sleepier place. The neighborhood has since been transformed by an influx of restaurants, but One Eared Stag’s quiet corner retains its subdued charm. A taxidermied deer (yes, with a missing ear) proudly looms over the handsome bar. In the farmhouse-chic dining room, you’ll find dishes that range from quirky (the ever-changing “dumpster salad” could include bacon, fried bread, and Manchego) to revelatory (Carolina Gold rice comes with pastured chicken, kimchi, and raw egg yolk, and beef tongue pie with black truffle and rutabaga). For brunch, order the off-menu “chef’s breakfast”: five little dishes (perhaps including a peppery biscuit sandwich and thick-cut bacon protruding from a mason jar of grits) served on a silver platter with a cold can of Schlitz.

Inman Park
1029 Edgewood Avenue
404-525-4479
oneearedstagatl.com
Price: $$$$
Book reservation

Short-rib mac and cheese

Photograph courtesy of Jackmont Hospitality

Chicken + Beer

There is no better restaurant co-owned by a rapper and named for a seminal album—especially if, like the intro track from Ludacris’s Chicken-n-Beer, you prefer your comfort food “Southern Fried.” That the restaurant is located in the world’s busiest airport is just one more reason to show up to Hartsfield-Jackson early. Ludacris and his partner, restaurant group Jackmont Hospitality, don’t peddle “airport wings” (the flavorless variety created solely to sustain a captive, security-cleared audience); these whole wings rival those you’ll find at any restaurant in Atlanta, the world’s wing capital. If or when Luda and company decide to expand the franchise beyond Hartsfield-Jackson, and members of the general public have an easier time getting hold of the short-rib mac and cheese, it will be even clearer that this food holds its own against restaurants far beyond Concourse D.

Hartsfield-Jackson
Concourse D, Gate 5
404-209-3905
chickenandbeer.com
Price: $$$$

Squid ink spaghetti

Photograph by Heidi Geldhauser

La Tavola

For nearly two decades, La Tavola has quietly enchanted Virginia-Highlanders—who are perfectly happy keeping this underappreciated beauty all to themselves. If only every neighborhood could be home to a high-quality Italian spot that harbors such a creative streak. Whether you’re in the mood for straightforward spaghetti and veal meatballs, deeply murky and oceanic zuppa di pesce, or just the housemade buttermilk ricotta and a glass of Sicilian red at the bar, you’ll be right at home.

Virginia-Highland
992 Virginia Avenue
404-873-5430
latavolatrattoria.com
Price: $$$$
Book reservation

Croissant with latte

Photograph by Caroline C. Kilgore

Bread & Butterfly

If you miss Billy Allin’s now-shuttered Cakes & Ale (and who doesn’t?), know that you can now find the master of simplicity himself behind the stove at his ever-so-French, all-day cafe. Pop in for a croissant and a cafe au lait before work, treat yourself to a fine lunch of shrimp remoulade or trout salad, or linger over a dinner of garlic sausage over lentils or truffled penne au gratin with Gruyère and Parmesan. The tiny bar and the various dining areas smack of Paris at its most romantic.

Inman Park
290 Elizabeth Street
678-515-4536
bread-and-butterfly.com
Price: $$$$
Book reservation

The Fed burger

Photograph by Tuan Huynh

The Federal

The Federal is where to eat before heading to the Fox or any other Midtown destination. Not that it can’t be a destination on its own. This bistro-steakhouse from Shaun Doty and Lance Gummere offers well-sourced, cast iron–seared cuts, as well as some of Doty’s signature dishes, such as his pork schnitzel with onion salad, peanuts, and parsley. The double patty covered in American cheese and a thick slice of griddled onion, available only at lunch, might be the best burger in Midtown.

Midtown
1050 Crescent Avenue
404-343-3857
thefederalatl.com
Price: $$$$
Book reservation

Espresso fizz

Photograph courtesy of No. 246

No. 246

In eight years, this Ford Fry Italian spot has become an incubator for talent: Chefs who cut their teeth here have gone on to helm such innovative restaurants as Banshee and 8Arm. Executive chef Drew Belline’s textbook pasta runs the gamut from cacio e pepe (the ultimate exercise in simplicity) to a gut-warming rigatoni Bolognese. Roasted chicken gets a hint of sweetness from agrodolce and a hint of wood fire from the charred broccoli, which is impossible to stop eating.

Decatur
129 East Ponce de Leon Avenue
678-399-8246
no246.com
Price: $$$$
Book reservation

Affordable

Clockwise from top: Jeow bong wings, laap, sticky rice and eggs, squid on a stick

Photograph by Caroline C. Kilgore

Snackboxe Bistro

Laotian food has long been overshadowed in Atlanta by the cuisine of neighboring Thailand. But with the early 2018 opening of insta-hit Snackboxe in Doraville, there’s now an excellent representation of the underappreciated cuisine right in our backyard. Inspired by the bright flavors they encountered on a trip to their native Laos, husband and wife Vanh Sengaphone and Thip Athakhanh craft street food–inspired dishes vibrant with heat and acid, including a peerless laap (a spicy and tart meat salad more commonly known by its Thai name, larb) and a sinus-clearing bowl of khao poon (its curry broth, rich with coconut milk, clings to long rice noodles). A second location is heading to the Battery this year.

Doraville
6035 Peachtree Road
770-417-8082
snackboxebistro.com
Price: $$$$

The Korean pork sandwich

Photograph courtesy of Heirloom Market BBQ

Heirloom Market BBQ

Heirloom is a love story—between its co-owners, wife and husband Jiyeon Lee and Cody Taylor, and between the homestyle Korean cooking of her childhood and the homestyle Texan cooking of his. The restaurant did not start out as an intentional crosscultural melange of cuisines. In its earliest days, Heirloom was mostly concerned with straightforward, Texas-style ’cue. As with all great love stories, the passion between miso paste and collard greens or kimchi and coleslaw was almost accidental at first, but these pairings were clearly meant to be. Our only gripe is that the mostly takeout operation offers just a few standing tables; this food is too good to rush through while on your feet and too tempting to drive all the way home with.

Cumberland
2243 Akers Mill Road
770-612-2502
heirloommarketbbq.com
Price: $$$$

Photograph by Michael Files

Chai Pani

Kudos to Meherwan Irani, who sticks to his spicy Indian roots in his six-restaurant mini empire. At Decatur’s Chai Pani, locals crowd the colorful space for street snacks, ranging from matchstick okra fries and puffed flour crisps stuffed with potatoes, onions, and cilantro to a humorously named Sloppy Jai (lamb hash simmered with tomatoes and ginger and served on a bun).

Decatur
406 West Ponce de Leon Avenue
404-378-4030
chaipanidecatur.com
Price: $$$$

Pulled pork sandwich, mac and cheese, and collards

Photograph by Caroline C. Kilgore

Community Q BBQ

Dave Roberts left fine dining in the mid-aughts to study the finer points of barbecue. Back then, hoity-toity chefs hadn’t begun to launch the kind of barbecue operations that source their meats extra carefully and support organic farms. Opened in 2009 with several partners in a tight little shopping center near Emory, Community Q offers moist and tender pulled pork that isn’t obnoxiously smoky, reliably robust St. Louis ribs, and ridiculously rich and creamy three-cheese mac and cheese. You may want to mix the vinegar-based sauce into the tomato and molasses one—but, as is true of the best barbecue joints, these meats are tasty enough to eschew the sauces entirely.

North Decatur
1361 Clairmont Road
404-633-2080
communityqbbq.com
Price: $$$$

Fried chicken tacos

Photography courtesy of Green Olive Media

Taqueria del Sol

Eddie Hernandez and Mike Klank opened the first Taqueria del Sol on the Westside in 2000, cranking out crowd-pleasing $2 tacos. Nineteen years and four additional locations later, customers still line up for Hernandez’s Southern-Mexican mashup cuisine: fried-chicken tacos with lime-jalapeño mayonnaise, refried-bean enchiladas with a side of turnip greens, and shrimp corn chowder. Want to learn how Hernandez does it? Pick up his cookbook, Turnip Greens & Tortillas, which was one of our favorites of 2018.

Cheshire Bridge
2165 Cheshire Bridge Road
404-321-1118
taqueriadelsol.com
Price: $$$$

Fried chicken, coleslaw, sautéed kale, roasted beets

Photograph by Josh Meister

Rising Son

When Hudson Rouse, formerly of Home Grown, and his wife, Kathryn Fitzgerald Rouse, opened this creative meat-and-three for breakfast and lunch in 2016, the crowds flocked. They came to the adorable Avondale Estates storefront for fried trout with cheese grits and for vegetables—collards, kale, sweet potatoes—that Hudson grows himself. The restaurant now offers dinner (think pecan-crusted trout with creamed potatoes, green beans, and orange butter) and cocktails. As the woman sitting next to us on a recent visit told her server: “I’m upset—I’ve lived here for 18 months and only just discovered this place!”

Avondale Estates
124 North Avondale Road
404-600-5297
risingsonavondale.com
Price: $$$$

Pulled pork, sliced brisket, Brunswick stew, and collard greens

Photograph by Andrew Thomas Lee

Fox Bros. Bar-B-Q

In 2007, twin brothers Jonathan and Justin Fox opened their DeKalb Avenue restaurant. More than a decade later, you’ll still have to wait for a table. The brothers’ brisket is legendary, but just as epic are their over-the-top barbecue offerings: the camp classic Frito Pie served in the actual bag, hickory-smoked jumbo wings dressed in homemade sauce, and a nine-inch, smoked beef rib that looks like something a caveman might devour. The Foxes have built upon their success with a line of barbecue and wing sauce sold at Whole Foods and other stores, a partnership with the Atlanta Falcons, and a second “Que-osk” location near SweetWater Brewing. The brothers might be from Texas, but they’re essential architects of Atlanta’s barbecue scene.

Candler Park
1238 DeKalb Avenue
404-577-4030
foxbrosbbq.com
Price: $$$$

One of 14 arepas on the menu

Photograph by Lis Hernandez

Arepa Mia

Growing up, Lis Hernandez spent countless days with her mother in the kitchen making arepas—stuffed cornmeal patties, crunchy from a hot grill—that they sold on the streets in their native Venezuela. Hernandez’s arepas first appeared in Atlanta at the Sweet Auburn Curb Market in 2012, and she still sells them there. Even more rewarding is a visit to her cheerful, stand-alone spot in Avondale Estates, where she also serves specialties such as pabellón (shredded grassfed beef with black beans, fried plantains, and queso de año) and avocado and heart-of-palm salad dressed with sweet corn juice. This is the Venezuelan food that Atlanta was missing.

Avondale Estates
10 North Clarendon Avenue
404-600-3509
arepamiaatlanta.com
Price: $$$$

Taqueria Don Sige

Located behind a gas station, in a tiny strip mall on the border of College Park and East Point, Don Sige isn’t known for its decor. Blond wood picnic benches, brown tile, and burnt-orange walls are what you get. The whiteboard menu offers a basic breakdown of the fantastic Mexican food for which the small restaurant is locally renowned. The kitchen is pretty much a flat-top and a fryer, and they’re happy to sell you a cheeseburger. But ignore any misinformed impulses because you’re here for traditional tacos (chopped onion, cilantro, lime, and radish), irresistibly priced at $1.50 each (pollo is great, but chorizo, camarones, and lengua are phenomenal). The spicy salsa verde isn’t complex and doesn’t need to be, and the expertly wrapped burrito and liberally sauced steak fajita are as flavorful as they are unfancy. You’ll have a hard time spending more than $15, but that’s not to say you won’t enjoy the challenge.

College Park
1720 Vesta Avenue
404-762-8084
Price: $$$$

Photograph by Caroline C. Kilgore

Desta Ethiopian Kitchen

Desta is one of three Ethiopian restaurants at the corner of Briarcliff and Clairmont roads—including the stylish and formidable newcomer Feedel Bistro. Despite the competition, it’s still the best place in town to scoop up kitfo (raw, minced beef seasoned with chili powder and spiced butter) and miser (red lentils stewed with cayenne, onion, garlic, and ginger) using soft, spongy, fermented injera bread. The menu, which allows you to make decisions based on how daring you are, demystifies Ethiopian cuisine, and the tree that rises up from the middle of the covered patio and through its roof makes you forget you’re in the middle of an asphalt sea.

North Druid Hills
3086 Briarcliff Road
404-929-0011
destaethiopiankitchen.com
Price: $$$$

Expense Account

Hiramasa kingfish in a pineapple consommé

Photograph by Caroline C. Kilgore

Atlas

Located inside the opulent St. Regis Hotel, Atlas is as much a museum as it is a place to eat: The space is adorned with a rotating roster of art on loan from a $1 billion private collection. Yes, that’s a Matisse, a van Gogh, a Picasso. The room itself is magnificent and hushed, a cathedral worthy of the works of art on the walls and on the plate. Chef Christopher Grossman previously worked at the French Laundry, and most of his food is simultaneously light (in an ethereal way) and decadent (given his deft use of luxe ingredients). Pillowy mushroom agnolotti is made heavenly with foie gras-enhanced jus and Australian black truffles, and an entree of hot smoked trout with potato mousse, green apples, and celery threads is elevated by a genius stroke of smoked caviar cream.

Buckhead
88 West Paces Ferry Road
404-600-6471
atlasrestaurant.com
Price: $$$$
Book reservation

Ruby red and golden beets, candied walnuts, meyer lemon yogurt

Photograph by Caroline C. Kilgore

Aria

Whether the date night in question is prom, an anniversary, an engagement, or some less monumental event, Aria is up to the occasion. The pewter-walled room is dim and columned and draped, a modern evocation of ancient Rome. The food similarly updates the classics. Perhaps you’ve had your fill of beet salads, but you haven’t had a beet salad until you’ve had this one; with gold and ruby-red wedges mingling with candied walnuts atop thick, lemony yogurt, the dish is exceptional in its simplicity. Plates are adorned with drops and loops and smears of sauces, and even if that’s not typically your thing, you’ll still be wowed by Aria’s artistry—particularly when the plate holds caramelized scallops with perfect piles of sunchoke, Brussels, and rutabaga. The kind of romance Aria delivers never goes out of style.

Buckhead
490 East Paces Ferry Road
404-233-7673
aria-atl.com
Price: $$$$
Book reservation

Nigri sushi

Photograph by Caroline C. Kilgore

Tomo

If you want to fully experience Tomo, skip the sprawling menu; the shrimp tempura roll and teriyaki-glazed chicken breast will only distract you from the immensity of chef Tomohiro Naito’s gift for Japanese cuisine. Your best option is to snag one of five nightly spots for Naito’s omakase (tasting menu), which starts at $100 and could include fluke with ponzu gelee and a lamb chop dusted in citrusy, almost minty sansho powder. If you’re not one of the lucky five—or want to drop less cash—simply tell your waitress how much you’d like to spend, and you’ll get a sampling of Naito’s best plates. Your faux-makase could include slivers of superfresh sashimi shimmering in a shallow pool of yuzu ponzu and extra-virgin olive oil and a simple slice of miso-marinated, broiled black cod.

Buckhead
3630 Peachtree Road
404-835-2708
tomorestaurant.com
Price: $$$$
Book reservation

Squab

Photograph courtesy of Restaurant Eugene

Restaurant Eugene

When he opened Restaurant Eugene in 2004, chef Linton Hopkins expanded Atlanta’s fine-dining canon to include food that’s more Southern and farm-driven but equally fancy. In the years since, even as the restaurant scene here and elsewhere has become more casual, Eugene’s farm-to-white-tablecloth philosophy is no less profound. A late winter dish of local squab got its mineral depth from pan-roasted duck liver, its earthiness from Harukei turnip, its sweet-tart pungency from dried cherries, and its fragrant surprise in the form of lavender. A more recent dish of Grateful Pastures chicken, confit kohlrabi with its flowers, and late-season Mandarin was the edible embodiment of spring. Eugene is a restaurant for all seasons.

Buckhead
2277 Peachtree Road
404-355-0321
restauranteugene.com
Price: $$$$
Book reservation

Sliced ribeye

Photograph courtesy of Bones

Bones

If corporate bigwigs want to blow $6,000 on wine, they do it at this landmark, wood- paneled steakhouse. The 28-ounce porterhouse is as well-aged as the servers, 10 of whom have been on staff for at least a decade. Start with lump-crab cocktail or lobster bisque or a wedge salad, and pair your steak or chop with a loaded baked potato and grilled asparagus. Even lunch at the bar is a treat, a prime perch for sipping a martini, chowing down on one of the city’s best burgers, and indulging in a mile-high ice cream pie.

Buckhead
3130 Piedmont Road
404-237-2663
bonesrestaurant.com
Price: $$$$
Book reservation

Buford Highway

Clockwise from top: Sweet & sour spareribs, chow kway teow, roti canai, satay chicken skewers

Photograph by Caroline C. Kilgore

Mamak

This small, sleek, colorful dining room manages to instantly transport you to the streets of Malaysia, where vendors serve near-identical versions of Mamak’s sambal okra, Hainanese chicken, wok-fried flat rice noodles, mustard green fish head soup, and curry laksa. These dishes are but a few of the many reasons Mamak has a rabid following. The real-deal cooking—along with the fact that most entrees are priced below $15, and only one of the lunch specials exceeds $8—makes it a place that demands repeat visits.

Doraville
5150 Buford Highway
678-395-3192
mamak-kitchen.com
Price: $$$$

Photograph by Caroline C. Kilgore

Woo Nam Jeong (Stone Bowl House)

From the moment the owner introduces herself as “Grandma,” you know Woo Nam Jeong is a special place. Grandma makes nearly every item at this Buford Highway homestyle Korean restaurant from scratch. Sizzling dolsots (blazing hot stone bowls) of Atlanta’s best bibimbap come spicy with kimchi or more subdued with a mix of braised mushrooms seasoned with sweet soy sauce (there’s even an oceanic version with squid or eel). Don’t forget to order the silky, water-boiled vegetable dumplings.

Doraville
5953 Buford Highway
678-530-0844
Price: $$$$

El Rey del Taco

El Rey del Taco means “the king of the taco,” and it lives up to its name. If you’re feeling indecisive about the dozen taco options—from steak to goat, cow’s cheek to tongue, chorizo to al pastor—go for a bunch of $1.60 mini tacos (though we do prefer the full-priced $2.50 ones on a homemade tortilla). There are tons of other worthy things to eat at El Rey, including sizzled meats a la plancha and more than three dozen seafood dishes. Also: pitchers of margaritas.

Doraville
5288 Buford Highway
770-986-0032
elreydeltacoatl.com
Price: $$$$

Photograph courtesy of Food Terminal

Food Terminal

The menu looks like a highly stylized food magazine (and is about as long). The space calls to mind a hip food hall with neon lights and yellow-coated, industrial metal stools. And the well-oiled kitchen cranks out clever takes on Malaysian food, a mix of Chinese, Indian, Singaporean, and Thai flavors. There’s not a more craveable noodle dish in Atlanta than the Thai Chili Pan Mee, a bowl of silky flat noodles topped with dried anchovies, ground chicken, shiitakes, spinach, and a fried egg. But if you’re not feeling that, you can choose from more than 60 other entrees, not to mention bao, skewers, roti canai, and two dozen additional snacks.

Chamblee
5000 Buford Highway
678-353-6110
foodterminal.com
Price: $$$$

Yet Tuh

This humble hideaway just off Buford Highway offers homestyle Korean food at its most comforting: kimchi pancakes, steamed chicken and rice, and bubbling kimchi stew with pork. Most of the regular clientele is more interested in drinking tea than soju, though there are plenty of premium bottles on offer. And for non-Korean speakers, the menu became easier to navigate last year when it was overhauled with both photos and categories translated to English. You now can more easily choose from “dishes,” “combo,” “side dishes,” “hot pot,” “noodles,” and “pancake”—and you can’t choose wrong.

Doraville
3042 Oakcliff Road
770-454-9292
Price: $$$$

OTP

Yay for tlayudas!

Photograph by Cori Carter

Taquería La Oaxaqueña

You can fight us on this, but you won’t change our minds that this is the best Mexican restaurant in the metro area. Oaxaca is considered one of the culinary capitals of Mexico, and the Oaxacan specialty that eaters have raved about for years at this Jonesboro gem is the tlayuda: a large, grilled tortilla covered pizzalike with refritos, string cheese, avocado, lettuce, and your choice of meat (pork sluiced in chili is tops). You’ll also discover some of the finest tacos in town here; handmade corn tortillas are folded around delicacies such as stewed beef cheeks, tripe, and pork al pastor. Chicken tamales, flavored either with mole or salsa verde, have a surprisingly delicate texture. Huaraches, the sandal-shaped boats of masa dough, are loaded with rich meat. No matter what you order—and you should order it all—you can’t go wrong.

Jonesboro
605 Mount Zion Road
770-960-3010
Price: $$$$

Kashk badenjoon

Photograph by Greg Dupree

Rumi’s Kitchen

Ali Mesghali’s Persian restaurant is big, brash, and beautiful. Staged against a turquoise-tiled open kitchen, the dining room is a glamorous setting for grazing on kashk badenjoon (fried eggplant, cream of whey, crispy onion, mint) and charred lamb kebabs perfumed with citrus and saffron. To accompany the main courses, opt for buttery basmati rice flecked with orange zest and pistachios. Since the day it opened in 2006, the restaurant has been swamped. A second location, which opened at Avalon in 2017, has done little to ease the crowds.

Sandy Springs
6112 Roswell Road
404-477-2100
rumiskitchen.com
Price: $$$$
Book reservation

Photograph by Caroline C. Kilgore

9292 Korean Barbecue

Korean barbecue is the sum of its parts. At 9292—the flagship of a growing mini-empire, including the almost-as-good D92 in Decatur—each part is a cut above: a rainbow of daily changing side dishes (banchan) like pickled radishes and soy-glazed peanuts; glistening slices of marbled brisket, pork belly, and ribeye; charcoal grills (which we prefer to their electric counterparts); and a sleek, industrial space. (As for the name: Say “92-92” in Korean, and it sounds like the word for “grill.”) It’s a marvel to watch the servers navigate the labyrinth of semiprivate dining cubicles. Need a water refill? More meat? Push the call button, and your table number flashes on a screen near the kitchen.

Duluth
3360 Satellite Boulevard
770-680-2951
facebook.com/9292KBBQ
Price: $$$$

Octopus over chickpeas

Photograph by Patrick Heagney

Osteria Mattone

Sister restaurant Table & Main gets more buzz, but these days we’re partial to Osteria Mattone. Co-owners and siblings Ryan and Daniel Pernice are ever-attentive and easy to spot—think the Property Brothers with beards. They imbue the cozy restaurant, housed in a bungalow in historic Roswell, with a familial vibe that feels as genuinely Italian as the menu’s Roman staples. Pasta options (including gluten-free ones) range from plump agnolotti di oxo (braised short rib—stuffed ravioli) to hearty tagliolini Bolognese. For lighter fare, go with the grilled branzino with broccolini and sweet-onion puree. Dividing the casual barroom from the white-tablecloth side is a partially enclosed tasting room, which showcases an award-winning, mostly Italian wine cellar—though our favorite spot is the covered front patio, where you can soak up Canton Street’s convivial energy.

Roswell
1095 Canton Street
678-878-3378
osteriamattone.com
Price: $$$$
Book reservation

Nam Phuong

Both locations of Nam Phuong are worthwhile starting points to explore the joys of Vietnamese cuisine beyond pho and banh mi, though the Jimmy Carter Boulevard outpost has a bit of an edge on the Buford Highway one. The number of menu options can be overwhelming, but you can’t go wrong with bone-in, steamed chicken over a crisp pile of shredded vegetables, eggless crepes bursting with fragrant shrimp and pork, and cubes of marinated, flash-seared beef tenderloin with fried rice and watercress.

Norcross
5495 Jimmy Carter Boulevard
770-409-8686
Price: $$$$

Cumin-spiced St. Louis ribs and sofrito mac and cheese

Photograph by Willett Photography

Porch Light Latin Kitchen

Rathbun Steak’s former executive chef Andre Gomez draws on his Puerto Rican heritage at Porch Light, where he serves a half or whole citrus-brined, beer-can chicken; cumin-spiced St. Louis ribs with guava-chipotle barbecue sauce; and sofrito mac and cheese with pork-rind crumbs. The star order is the Puerto Rican Fried Can Can Pork Chop, a massive, prehistoric-looking cut that extends from loin to belly and includes ribs, which will easily feed three.

Smyrna
300 Village Green Circle
678-309-9858
porchlightlatinkitchen.com
Price: $$$$

Braised fish with soft tofu in hot chili oil

Photograph by Cori Carter

Tasty China

Tasty China was the first restaurant in town to serve undiluted Sichuan cuisine. Back then, in 2006, the kitchen was helmed by the talented and elusive Peter Chang, who ignited a love of ma la (hot and numbing spice) that paved the way for Masterpiece and Gu’s. Without Chang, who’s drawn a cult following to restaurants across the South, the original Marietta location faltered at times and flourished at others. (There are also locations in Smyrna and Sandy Springs, and a Ponce City Market offshoot, Jia.) But Tasty China currently is in superb—if not quite Changian—form, churning out stellar dishes including confit-like fish filets in chili oil and velvety, mild chicken with three types of mushrooms.

Marietta
585 Franklin Gateway
770-419-9849
tastychina.net
Price: $$$$

Pork belly sliders

Photograph courtesy of Seed Kitchen & Bar

Seed Kitchen & Bar

Back in 2011, Doug Turbush opened a trailblazing restaurant the likes of which East Cobb hadn’t seen—one with a bright-white, modern, Scandinavian aesthetic, a sophisticated cocktail program, and an idiosyncratic menu. Turbush’s food is mainly modern American but with Southern and global influences. Chicken schnitzel is served with miso mustard, pork-belly sliders arrive on Chinese steam buns, and braised local greens are spiked with soy sauce and chilis. Seed remains the most revolutionary restaurant in the area, and it’s still the best.

East Cobb
1311 Johnson Ferry Road, Marietta
678-214-6888
eatatseed.com
Price: $$$$
Book reservation

A classic iceberg wedge salad

Photograph by Caroline C. Kilgore

Kaiser’s Chophouse

After more than 30 years in some of Atlanta’s finest kitchens, Liechtenstein-born chef Peter Kaiser gets his name above the door of a restaurant. His steaks are listed in two sections: Uptown Meats, expensive prime cuts such as New York strip and an extraordinarily tender spinalis, also known as ribeye cap; and Downtown Meats, less flashy, leaner cuts, including a set of three four-ounce, bone-in baby filets. Sweet, little ice cream bonbons by old-school pastry chef Joannie Trotochaud are the thing to order after a meal.

Sandy Springs
5975 Roswell Road
404-549-2882
kaiserschophouse.com
Price: $$$$
Book reservation

Grandma pie

Photograph courtesy of O4W Pizza

O4W Pizza

In 2015, the city fell hard for New Jersey native Anthony Spina’s O4W Pizza—and his square, pan-cooked grandma pie in particular. The Old Fourth Ward location was short-lived (it closed in June 2016), but the concept was not. Spina relaunched a month later in Duluth, with an expanded menu that includes a chicken parm hero on housemade bread and handmade cavatelli. But the biggest draw remains the game-changing pizzas: classic round pies, thick-crust Sicilians, thick-yet-airy Detroit-style, and, of course, grandma. Thankfully for ITP-ers, you can find most of those pies (but, alas, no grandma) at Spina’s new spot, Nina & Rafi, which opened on the BeltLine late last year.

Duluth
3117 Main Street
678-587-5420
o4wpizza.com
Price: $$$$