Home 2019


10 Best Late-Night Restaurants in Atlanta


In descending order of lateness (and excluding 24-hour spots)

75 Best Restaurants in Atlanta: El Rey Del Tacos

El Rey del Taco

El Rey del Taco means “the king of the taco”—and not only does this place lives up to its name, but it stays open until an impressive 4:30 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays and 2 a.m. the rest of the week. 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. 5288 Buford Highway, 770-986-0032

75 Best Restaurants in Atlanta: Octopus Bar

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. (Closed Sunday and Monday.) 560 Gresham Avenue, 404-627-9911

Victory Sandwich Shop

Victory burst onto the scene in 2011 as a scrappy little sandwich spot with excellent sliders, an instant-hit ping-pong table, and a wicked sense of humor. Then, there was the slushie machine. It didn’t take long before Ian Jones and Caleb Wheelus’s frozen whiskey and Coke exploded in popularity, becoming an iconic Atlanta drink (and making them Georgia’s top seller of Tennessee whiskey). The original Inman Park location was razed in 2013 for a new development, but their nearby Bernina Avenue digs (there’s also a Decatur outpost) boast ample patio space, high-stakes table tennis, and grade-A people-watching, thanks to its perch near the BeltLine. And at both locations, the full menu of nearly a dozen sandwiches, as well salads, snacks, and sides, is available until 2 a.m. 913 Bernina Avenue, 404-963-1742; 340 Church St, Decatur, 404-377-9300

75 Best Restaurants in Atlanta: 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), but if you’re here for late-night eats, your only option is the sleeper-hit pizza (served until 2 a.m. every day except Sunday, when the ovens shut down at 11:45 p.m.). This pizza might not be the most name-dropped in town, but its wood-fired crust and Spotted Trotter–sourced toppings place it among the best. 470 Flat Shoals Road, 404-577-0407

Poor Hendrix
French dump­lings with carrots and thyme

Photographs 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 and Restaurant Eugene (RIP to both). Russell composes marvelous salads (think local lettuces, Manchego, peanuts, and pickled green beans) and elevates deviled eggs with duck prosciutto—but he isn’t above serving wings and Rice Krispies treats. The extensive bar menu (20-ish small plates and several sweets, and not an afterthought among them) is served until 2 a.m. Friday and Saturday and midnight the rest of the week. 2371 Hosea L. Williams Drive, 404-549-8756

75 Best Restaurants in Atlanta: 9292 Korean BBQ

9292 Korean BBQ (and D92, too)

If your ideal late-night nosh involves raw meat over an open flame, there are several exceptional Korean barbecue options. Our favorite is 9292, the flagship of a growing mini-empire that includes the almost-as-good D92 in Decatur. It’s open until 2 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays and midnight on weeknights, but be aware that the kitchen shuts down 30 minutes before close. Glistening slices of marbled brisket, pork belly, and ribeye are all cooked over charcoal grills, which we prefer to their electric counterparts often found at other Korean barbecue joints. If you don’t want to travel quite as far from town as Duluth, D92 is your next best option—though the kitchen closes a little earlier. (If it’s really late-night Korean barbecue you’re after, the totally respectable Hae Woon Dae on Buford Highway stays open until—gasp—6 a.m. five nights a week.) 9292, 3360 Satellite Boulevard, Duluth, 770-680-2951; D92, 225 East Trinity Place, Decatur, 404-514-6759

75 Best Restaurants in Atlanta: 8Arm
Beverage director Joshua Fryer shakes it up behind the bar

Photograph by Caroline C. Kilgore, mural by Carl Janes


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. 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). About half of Vega’s dozen or so dinner dishes are available on 8Arm’s late-night menu, which is available until 1:30 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays and 12:30 a.m. Tuesday to Thursday. There are no wrong choices, but a five-minute egg served over slightly crunchy rice that mingles with, say, zucchini, cabbage, radicchio, and chili paste is perfection at any hour of the day—as is a plate of oyster mushrooms served in a beautiful jumble of brassica fleurets, pumpkin seed creme, and chimichurri. This is the kind of late-night food that you won’t regret in the morning. 710 Ponce de Leon Avenue, 470-875-5856

The Bookhouse Pub

Come for the chill vibe and creative cocktails at this divey, faux–Pacific Northwestern lodge (by far, the coolest strip-mall destination in all of Atlanta). Stay for the covert Twin Peaks references and serious bar food (think poutine with mushrooms or braised beef and a grass-fed beef and chorizo burger). The back patio, anchored by an open-air tiki lounge, is as eerily enchanting as the dim interior, with its backlit panels of stained glass depicting various totems and its stern, wood-carved statues. The kitchen serves a late-night menu until 1 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays, and its full menu is available until midnight every night except Sunday and Monday. 736 Ponce de Leon Avenue, 404-254-1176

Leon’s Full Service

Leon’s U-shaped bar encourages conversation. Its clever cocktail program encourages experimentation. Its extensive beer list will delight any hops snob. And its menu of elevated, Mediterranean-inflected comfort food—served until 1 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays and 11 p.m. the rest of the week—is as much a draw as the drinks, from the warm chickpea and cherry salad with basil and aged provolone to the $7 fries (choose from nine dipping sauces) that are a meal themselves. On pleasant nights, ask for patio seating—and take advantage of the bocce court. 131 East Ponce de Leon Avenue, Decatur, 404-687-0500

This article appears in our September 2019 issue.

For us mere mortals: A glimpse into the world of Himitsu’s VIPs


For most of us, there’s only one way to get past the formidable, keypad-operated, metal door that slides open Bond-like to reveal the secret lair that is Himitsu: plead your case via email. But for a select group of VIPs, most of them holders of the Buckhead speakeasy’s all-access black card, the club is their regular playground. Himitsu allowed us a glimpse into the world of some of those regular guests, from restaurant moguls to sports execs.

After Dark: Himitsu
Giovanni Di Palma (left) and Kevin Gillespie

Photograph by Mike Colletta

Giovanni Di Palma (owner of Antico Pizza Napoletana and related empire)

Q: Who’s gonna win in a bar fight: Himitsu’s Ito-Gio Pizza [a playful nod to Giovanni from chef Fuyuhiko Ito] or your San Gennaro pie?
A: Tough call, but they tried to burn San Gennaro in a furnace in 300 AD, and he came out unscathed. I go with Gennaro.

Q: What are you and chef Kevin Gillespie chatting about?
A: We both are exotic-car fanatics, so mostly cars and a little about our next great food venture.

Kevin Gillespie (chef-owner of Gunshow, Revival, and Cold Beer)

Q: What’s good to order?
A: Funny enough, I’ve never ordered my own drinks here. The bartenders know me from [sister restaurant] Umi and know that I am a huge Japanese whiskey fan, so I trust them to choose my drinks for me.

After Dark: Himitsu
John Paulson and Rachel Powers

Photograph by Mike Colletta

John Paulson (owner of a civil engineering business)

Q: How’d you get in?
A: Farshid [Arshid, Himitsu and Umi co-owner] invited me to join. When they first opened, you were granted access with an eye scan.

Rachel Powers (Georgia State University computer programming student)

Q: Tell me about the green suit.
A: The green suit is my power move. It’s flashy without being too loud and is a great conversation starter. It fits my personality and accentuates my androgyny.

After Dark: Himitsu
Ryan and Lauren Harrison

Photograph by Mike Colletta

Ryan Harrison (professional tennis player) and Lauren Harrison (former freelance television producer)

Q: How’d you hear about this place?
Ryan: We heard of it through our friends on the ATP Tour.
Lauren: Whenever there is a tournament in Atlanta, everyone always goes and raves about it.

Atlanta After Dark: Himitsu
Carlos and Lita Bocanegra

Photograph by Mike Colletta

Carlos Bocanegra (Atlanta United vice president and technical director) and Lita Bocanegra (stay-at-home home)

Q: What do you like about Himitsu?
Carlos: It’s private. It’s like a little hideaway in the city.
Lita: The otoro tartare with caviar!

Q: Why is that duck looking at your husband like that?
Lita: He always carries duck snacks.

After Dark: Himitsu
Durana and Shahab Sean Elmi

Photograph by Mike Colletta

Durana Elmi (CEO of L’Amour Floral, a flower-design company, and owner of DuranaCouture.com, a statement jewelry retail site) and Shahab Sean Elmi (CEO of health supplements company Cymbiotika and COO of music platform Dash Radio)

Q: What interesting people have you met?
Shahab: Chris Rock and Dave Chappelle were here one night. Beyond celebs, my wife and I have made some great friends.

Q: What’s good to eat?
Durana: Never leave without having the crepe cake. Worth all the calories.

Carlos Bocanegra (Atlanta United vice president and technical director) and Lita Bocanegra (stay-at-home mom)

Q: What do you like about Himitsu?
Carlos: It’s private. It’s like a little hideaway in the city.
Lita: The otoro tartare with caviar!

After Dark: Himitsu
Matt and Lindsey Capps

Photograph by Mike Colletta

Andy Capps (founder and co-CEO of RESICAP, a provider of single-family real estate services) and Lindsey Capps (stay-at-home mom)

Q: What brought you here?
Matt: I frequented Umi often and had heard about the “private club” just a few storefronts away. A buddy introduced me to Farshid, and we hit it off.
Lindsey: Next thing we knew, we got our Himitsu black cards in the mail.

After Dark: Himitsu
Whitney and Van Council

Photograph by Mike Colletta

Whitney Council (real estate agent) and Van Council (owner and president, Van Michael Salons)

Q: What was your first impression of this place?
Van: It’s bringing a Tokyo- or New York–type atmosphere to Atlanta. One time, I did see Jennifer Lawrence here, so that was pretty cool!

Q: How good are people’s hairstyles here, on a scale of one to 10?
Whitney: I gave the bartender a complimentary service at Van Michael Men. I give him a 10.
Van: If they’re a Van Michael client, then they’re definitely a 10. All the others are about a five.

This article appears in our September 2019 issue.

Storico Fresco team brings Roman fare to the Westside with Forza Storico

Forza Storico Atlanta
One of the “SuperPope” murals at Forza Storico

Photograph by Martha Williams

Storico Fresco has always been a hidden gem—not because it’s underappreciated, but it’s literally been underground. It started as a pasta-making operation in executive chef Michael Patrick’s basement, then graduated to a small handmade pasta shop in a basement in Buckhead before becoming the current Italian restaurant and market that sits in the lower-level of a building on Grandview Avenue. Now, Patrick and partners Pietro Gianni and Steve Peterson are preparing to open their second restaurant, a Roman concept called Forza Storico, located in—where else—the basement of the Westside Provisions District.

The space is unrecognizable as the former home Anne Quatrano’s Little Bacch, which closed in 2016. Westside Provisions District owner Jamestown Properties—hoping to spruce up the lower level underneath Zeb Stevenson’s Redbird—partnered with the Storico team to renovate the space, according to Gianni, adding floor-to-ceiling windows that look out over the train tracks and new staircases leading down to the restaurant.

“We applied everything really great about Storico and amplified it,” Gianni says. “We want to give the feeling of Italy; the old cantinas and wine shops that turn into restaurants [in the evenings] with simple, sharable foods.”

“It’s where the real Italians hang out. There are no white tablecloths,” Patrick adds.

The space is now light, bright, and airy, dotted with wood tables and stools. A dark wood bar in the center seats 30—as opposed to Storico Fresco’s 12. Like the original restaurant, Forza features a table in the kitchen where lucky diners can watch the action as they indulge. Adorning the brick-and-concrete walls are graffiti-style murals of the “SuperPope,” a replica of Roman street art endorsed by the Pope.

“It’s art that has been painted over in Rome. We’re bringing it back just like we brought back historic pastas at Storico,” Patrick explains.

Forza Storico AtlantaForza Storico will offer 30 types of Italian beer. “We’ll match profiles for what people are looking for,” Peterson says. “If you want a [Sweetwater] 420, we’ll have something for that.”

The wine list will be 90 percent sourced from South and Central Italy. A great deal of attention will be put into serving each glass at the appropriate temperature. All the bottles will be vacuum-sealed each night, allowing for most of the offerings to be available by the glass.

“We’re [trying] to reflect our demographic, which is predominately female,” Gianni says. “The drinks will be lighter, fresher. I call it a pregame spot for girls’ night out.”

Jose Pereiro will craft “true Italian” cocktails like negronis and spritzes. They will fall into three categories: aperitivos, cocktails, and digestivos. Ingredients will focus on campari, aperol, gin, prosecco, amaro, and cynar.

Forza Storico AtlantaPatrick will serve as executive chef and Riccardo Navas as chef de cuisine, overseeing both Storico kitchens. At Forza, the dishes will use the same pasta noodles with different sauces. Ninety percent of the menu will be unique to Forza.

“Classic Roman all-stars take the central place on the menu,” Patrick says. “There’s carbonara, cacio e pepe, amatriciana (pig cheek-based tomato sauce), gricia guanciale (pig cheek), and coda alla vaccinara (braised oxtail).”

Entrees include guinea hen and quail cooked on the rotisserie or braised. Antipasti skew more traditional and might overlap some of the Storico Fresco offerings, such as fried squash blossoms, fried artichoke, and fried cod.

Nearly everything will be made in-house—including cured meats—or imported from Italy. When the restaurant opens, it will serve dinner Tuesday through Saturday. Lunch service may come after the winter holidays.

In need of dry goods or pastas? Head to Storico Fresco, as Forza Storico will not have a retail component.

“This is a Roman beer and wine bar, not an alimentari,” Patrick says.

Bread subscriptions and vegan meals at a music store: the creative back channels of Atlanta’s food entrepreneurs

Remy Lemoine
Remy Lemoine sells baked goods out of his home in Grant Park.

Photograph by Heather Troutman @wildgrainphotography

Remy Lemoine, a 50-year-old Parisian baker who lives in Grant Park, makes a delectable kouign-amann, a croissant-like “butter cake” with origins in France’s Brittany region. “I always introduce them to people who don’t know them,” Lemoine says, “and they always come for more.”

Lemoine bakes 250 pastries on average each week, frequently selling out—once in less than half an hour. But you won’t find them on a retail shelf or in a farmer’s market booth. Instead, you’ll have to visit Lemoine’s house.

Three Sundays a month, Lemoine’s Charleston-style home morphs into a makeshift bake shop, where, in addition to kouign-amanns, he sells croissants, macarons, seasonal rolls, and a variety of cookies, from peach and almond to spicy Thai.

Remy Lemoine Atlanta baker
Lemoine’s peach almond cookies

Photograph courtesy of Remy Lemoine

He says he has no plans to turn his bake sales into a commercial operation. “When you try to do that, you lose some of the quality of your product, going from a small-scale to a larger scale,” Lemoine says. “I want to keep it small, kind of keep it a little secret in Grant Park.”

Lemoine is hardly alone; Atlanta food entrepreneurs increasingly are using back channels beyond the local farmers market to connect with customers.

There are at least two options in town for “bread subscriptions,” through which a baker sells homemade loaves directly to buyers. Sarah Dodge, who was responsible for 8Arm’s stellar baking program, now runs the equally delightful Bread Is Good. Dodge delivers bread several times a week to homes across town. She also offers pre-ordered goodies—from olive pain au levain to sourdough bagels to cinnamon rolls—for pick-up at the Edgewood Avenue outpost of Ammazza pizza, where she also bakes. “I use the kitchen during their off times in the morning,” she says. “When I am utilizing woodfire for bread and bagels, I’m actually using their residual heat from the night before, which is pretty cool.”

Osono Bread Atlanta subscription
Betsy Gonzalez sells her bread through a subscription service, Osono Bread.

Photograph courtesy of Betsy Gonzalez

Betsy Gonzalez, a 23-year-old baker and pastry chef from Sylvan Hills, also runs her bakery, Osono Bread, as a subscription service. Customers pay a monthly fee to pick up a loaf each week from one of several locations. Gonzalez focuses most of her efforts on sourdough loaves, which she prefers to call “naturally leavened bread” (because hers isn’t specifically sour).

Through her baking, Gonzalez wants to emphasize the need to invest in local wheat farmers and grain millers; she bakes only with Southern flour. “The main reason behind Osono’s concept was taking the opportunity to shift the dialogue on bread and move away from the commodification of our grains,” Gonzalez says.

Osono Bread Atlanta subscription
Country sour loaves from Osono Bread

Photograph courtesy of Betsy Gonzalez

Both bakers point out that this unorthodox way of doing business keeps costs down and provides more freedom in deciding what to bake and how many orders to accept.

The work of Gonzalez and small business owners like her is made easier by Georgia’s Cottage Food Laws, which were passed in 2012 to allow home bakers and cooks to use their own kitchens to prepare food for retail sale.

In addition to the opportunities provided by the Cottage Food Laws, incubation spaces have popped up to help food entrepreneurs find a foothold in the market. Dymetra Pernell, founder and CEO of Atlanta-based First Batch Artisan Foods, got her start selling ice cream by the pint in a gym in south Atlanta. “We sold over 3,000 pints in a three-month span, and that’s when I realized I had a business,” Pernell says.

She now sells vegan comfort food and desserts in an unexpected location: Little Five Points’ Moods Music store. From a nearly-hidden nook, Pernell hawks ice cream, cookies, cobblers, and sweet potato pie, as well as savory dishes such as gumbo and nachos.

Pernell’s business got an early boost from the Pittsburgh Yards development project, spearheaded by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, in partnership with Columbia Ventures and Core Ventures. The project includes the development of a 31-acre site in Atlanta’s Pittsburgh neighborhood into a commercial hub for small businesses.

The first phase of the development is set to be completed this summer, but Pernell already has been receiving advice from members of the Annie E. Casey Foundation on everything from financing and banking to developing relationships with other small business owners.

“It wasn’t a project that they just decided to develop,” Pernell says of Pittsburgh Yards. “They actually included us in the process, asking us what we needed and how they could be of service to us.”

A few miles away from Pittsburgh Yards, Marddy’s, a shared kitchen space on the edge of Ashview Heights, doubles as an incubation hub for aspiring food entrepreneurs. One of them is Amber Khan-Robinson, who learned about Marddy’s after her three kids—Nur-jehan,11, Qadar, 9, and Ayah, 7—came up with their own idea. In 2016, Robinson and her husband declared a device-free summer and asked their kids what they’d like to do for fun instead. They wanted to start selling the homemade popsicles they had been making for family members. Their business Mokipops was born.

With a little help from Marddy’s, the family started offering the popsicles at festivals and corporate events. Mokipops’ vegan popsicles—in flavors ranging from hibiscus strawberry to basil lemonade to lemon ginger—are now available to order online (a minimum order is 25 pops).

The family’s experience had as much to do with crafting popsicles as it did with building a community. Marddy’s was a conduit for the family to share resources with and find a network of other entrepreneurs. “We help them in some ways,” Khan-Robinson says, “and they’ve helped us.”

8Arm’s Maricela Vega is hosting a dinner to help restore the culture of the tortilla

8Arm review
Chef Maricela Vega is known for her masa-making skills and her sense of food justice.

Photograph by Alex Martinez

It’s not every day that you can find in Atlanta a five-course, plant-based meal that weds the techniques and ingredients of ancient and modern Mexico. But you can on Monday.

As part of her effort to spread awareness of her native cuisine—and to raise funds for a masa-making machine and, eventually, a brick-and-mortar shop that sells fresh, heirloom masa and tortillas—8Arm chef Maricela Vega will be preparing a dinner on September 16 with courses such as an eggplant tostada with frijoles guisados in chile negro and a salad of “many greens,” king trumpet mushrooms, serrano honey, and pumpkinseed oil.

“It is a complete expression of the current seasonality and how I can relate that to dishes that spark memories from my childhood,” Vega said a few days before the dinner, picking through the squash blossoms that a local farmer had just dropped off (and that will show up in a “quesadilla” at the Monday dinner). “You will hardly ever find that on the menu at 8Arm.”

Vega was fresh off a trip to New York for its Corn Symposium, which brings together people devoted to restoring, importing, and growing heirloom corn. “It was really nice to be there with people who understand what you’re trying to do,” Vega says. “It reinforces that there can be a marketplace for that.”

A marketplace is what she’s trying to build here: specifically, a brick-and-mortar retail masa shop and tortilleria on Buford Highway. She wants to offer an alternative to tortillas made with commercially produced corn flour, which she says has “zero nutrients and no flavor at all. You can’t even taste the kernel.”

The trip to New York included a visit to mom-and-pop shop Tortilleria Nixtamal in Queens. “That was the first store—it’s also a mini restaurant now—that started grinding corn in New York,” she says. “Of course, this was a while ago. Now, they would have been fine if they opened up in the city. But they chose that area because it has a rich population of Latinos.”

Vega wants to work with Georgia farmers to grow heirloom corn varieties, so that her masa can be predominantly locally sourced (with the remainder imported from Oaxaca, Mexico). She intends to start making masa at a “beta shop” inside 8Arm, and plans to travel to Oaxaca, Mexico City, and the Yucatan to figure out how the locals create and use specially carved stones on which to cook differently textured tortillas. But first she needs a proper machine, which will be at least $10,000 in order to produce the 500 pounds of masa per week she hopes to yield.

“I want to just get an entire perspective of what it means to run that business so that people will understand how important it is,” she says. “It’s really important that we restore the culture of the tortilla.”

Tickets for the five-course dinner will be available for purchase until Monday morning; the $100 covers tax, gratuity, and beverages, including samplings from women-run Yola Mezcal and wild sumac and sorghum wine from Athens-based Cherokee Moon Mixology.

Wild Heaven’s new West End brewery is designed for snacking

Fina WIld Heaven West End

Photograph courtesy of Rank Studios

Wild Heaven opened its new, 21,600-square-foot brewery last weekend in the Lee + White development in West End, the beverage magnet that’s also home to Monday Night’s Garage, ASW Distillery, and soon-to-open Best End Brewery. Officially dubbed the West End Brewery & Gardens, the seven-barrel brewhouse features a taproom, two private event spaces, a large patio and lawn area, and an order-at-the-counter restaurant called Fina.

Led by executive chef Eddie Russell, Fina offers a concise menu of nachos, tacos, and Mexican pizzas. And with Monday Night, ASW, and Hop City’s West End shop all in walking distance (and the fact that Lee + White has an open container policy for the entire development), Russell says he expects patrons to want some snacks during their visit: wings, chips and queso, guacamole, spiced pork rinds, and walking tacos, to name a few.

The brewery has 68 taps featuring Wild Heaven’s year-round offerings like Emergency Drinking Beer and ATL Easy Ale, plus experimental small batch beers. The patio has eight taps, plus canned beer (for convenience, Russell explains). Brewmaster Eric Johnson will sell 16 oz four-packs to-go as well.

We spoke to Russell to learn more about Fina.

Fina WIld Heaven West End
Al pastor taco

Photograph courtesy of Rank Studios

Where does the name Fina come from?
It’s named after my 7-year-old daughter, Delphine. Fina is her nickname. It means fine. It’s “comida fina” which means fine food, except it’s tacos [laughs]. It’s meant to be fun and enjoyable.

What’s the inspiration for the menu?
[Wild Heaven founder] Eric [Johnson] and I have been best friends for a decade. Our other best friend, Matt Palmerlee of Root Baking Co., is here, too. This taco shop has been our dream for the last 7 years. We used to do a supper club, the Four Coursemen. We loved to do fine dining but also just wanted to do something different (for us). We wanted to escape the trappings of fine dining, of working 96 hours a week. Tacos are something we love, something we gravitated to on our days off.

Matt and I [led the kitchen] at the Last Word, a Lebanese restaurant. We discovered that a lot of amazing Latin food was inspired by Lebanese immigrants. It’s this amazing tradition in Mexico that no one talks about. Fina has the same ethics as Farm 255 [where Russell worked]—heritage-free meats and local and organic items whenever possible.

The brewery opens pretty early. What will you offer food-wise in the mornings?
We’re opening early in the day [8 a.m.] to be a coworking space. Right now, we’ll start with Tremolo nitro coffee on tap and drip coffee. We’re trying to partner with people in the neighborhood who are doing pastries. The tasting room opens 8 a.m. We’ll have Coke products and eventually house-made, fruit-based syrups with soda water.

West End is a destination at this point. We’ll serve lunch on weekends and will grow as the neighborhood allows us to. We’ll serve dinner Tuesday through Friday and have the same menu all day Saturday and Sunday.

Fina WIld Heaven West End
The brewery will have 68 taps.

Photograph courtesy of Rank Studios

Will you offer pairings or flights?
I’m happy to make a suggestion for someone, but if you really want to have a stout beer with your chicken tinga taco, who am I to tell you you’re wrong? Flights are an operational nightmare, so we’re doing half-pours instead.

What kind of specials will you have to go with new and experimental brews?
There’s this sort of weird side project we’re doing called Mani di Lupo, which is “hands of the wolf” in Italian. It’s a long inside joke—basically I went gray at 15 and was called “wolf.” Maybe on Friday and Saturday nights we’ll do some things that aren’t on the menu, a little more fun and adventurous, to go with Eric’s weird, esoteric beers, probably starting in November. We inherited a hearth stone pizza oven so we can bake bread, roast fish, maybe do ceviches and oysters. We’ll pull in our friends, maybe Spencer [Gomez], who is opening Southern Belle with [former Gunshow chef] Joey Ward, and Trey Rayburn from Watchman’s. This will allow us to do beer dinners, too.

View the menu below. (Tap to enlarge.)

The verdict on 3 new Atlanta restaurants: Wood’s Chapel BBQ, Sceptre Brewing Arts, the Deer and the Dove

Fresh on the Scene: The Deer and the Dove
Coffee-dusted venison at the Deer and the Dove

Photograph by Martha Williams

The Deer and the Dove

On a prime corner of the Decatur square, in the space formerly occupied by Cakes & Ale (one of the most revered restaurants of the past two decades), comes an ambitious second act from chef Terry Koval of Wrecking Bar Brewpub fame. Koval’s new venture is farm-driven (check), kid-friendly (check), and evokes a hipster hunting lodge (check). But if you’re going to compare this restaurant to its predecessor—and who isn’t?—well, Cakes & Ale it ain’t. At least not yet. On a recent visit, the menu’s more creative compositions needed a bit of editing; though the octopus and shrimp terrine with pickled beans and mint emulsion sounded enchanting, the sum of the parts did not equal a cohesive dish, and a whole roasted trout with sweetbreads was an overload of mushiness. Instead, graze on the verdant, seasonal Weekly Salad Pickings or a well-dressed, dry-aged burger. Those simpler dishes, along with the sophisticated but low-key vibe, make for a charming night out. 155 Sycamore Street, Decatur, 404-748-4617

Sceptre Brewing Arts

The team behind Argosy, the East Atlanta Village beer-nerd paradise, has imported some of its cool-kid cred to Oakhurst’s relatively tamer drinking and dining scene. At Sceptre Brewing Arts, they’re also crafting and canning their own beer, which is appearing on taps and, soon, retail shelves around town. The restaurant is tucked away at the end of an ignoble strip mall, yet it’s dramatically fronted by a glassed-in brewing room with towering, gleaming fermenters and tanks. The beer list is mostly concerned with what comes out of those tanks—10 to 12 options available in small or regular pours, from a funky-sour cultured peach ale made with Georgia wheat to a signature India cream ale made with Southern corn. The lofty dining room and bar, hung with a light fixture fashioned out of skateboards, has glass garage doors that open onto Sceptre’s finest asset: a capacious, partially covered beer garden. The snacky food is slightly better than much of what you’ll find in Oakhurst (think jars of smoked beet puree, decadent mesquite fries, and a sandwich of velvety, slow-cooked short rib) and makes for a fitting companion to the craft beers. 630 East Lake Drive, Decatur, no phone

Wood's Chapel BBQ Atlanta
Ribs on the smoker

Courtesy of Wood's Chapel

Wood’s Chapel BBQ

Summerhill, wedged between booming Grant Park and ghostly Turner Field, is set to become the city’s next big dining neighborhood, and Wood’s Chapel BBQ is exhibit A. Chef and co-owner Todd Ginsburg (the General Muir, Fred’s Meat & Bread, Yalla) has now added wood-smoked barbecue to his repertoire, and with the help of pitmaster Craig Hoelzer, he nails it. The luscious brisket strikes the ideal balance between smokiness and meatiness and appears to be the early star, but you’re best served by ordering the two-meat sampler platter and tacking on a charred and juicy jumble of whole hog (chopped pork). Ginsburg and Hoelzer also earn all the bonus points for including smoked Scottish salmon among the meats, allowing pescatarians to get in on the smokehouse’s action. Sides by chef Wilson Gourley, formerly of 8Arm, include a transcendent buttermilk potato salad and an over-salted (at least on one recent visit) but otherwise solid mac and cheese. Weather permitting, soak up the smokehouse vibes (and smells) on the patio and adjacent Astroturf lawn, decked out with cornhole and Adirondack chairs. 85 Georgia Avenue, 404-522-3000

This article appears in our October 2019 issue.

Son of a Bear closes after service today, but new restaurant Salaryman opens next weekend

Salaryman Atlanta
The exterior of Salaryman

Photograph courtesy of Salaryman

Michael Lo and George Yu, founders of Korean Wives Hospitality Group, are closing their Korean restaurant Son of a Bear in Oakhurst after service on Saturday, September 7, in order to focus on a new Japanese-Korean spot called Salaryman. Opening in East Lake next weekend, Salaryman is playful and a little tongue-in-cheek. Lo and Yu—who are known for Noona, Ramen Station, Suzy Siu’s Bao, and defunct Taiyo—named their newest spot after the term used to describe Korean or Japanese white-collar workers who join companies for life.

“Salaryman is a term of endearment because these workers work so hard and play so hard. It plays off the idea that coworkers go out together in the evenings,” Lo explains.

Braised short ribs

Photograph courtesy of Salaryman

The tavern, which is slated to open mid-month, promises to be a neighborhood spot “that just happens to have delicious, approachable, Japanese and Korean food,” he says. Located in the space formerly home to Mary Hoopa’s House of Fried Chicken & Oysters, Salaryman will feature an ample sake-by-the-glass program, family-friendly seating, and a dog-friendly patio with games like cornhole and shuffleboard.

Lo describes the bar decor as what you’d imagine if your idols were sumo wrestlers and Japanese baseball players. Jerseys and sumo wrestling programs and photos provide points of interest for the 25-seat space. Televisions will broadcast sports, while the beverage menu offers Creature Comforts and Three Taverns brews, as well as Japanese beers like Hitachino Nest. Up to 15 sakes will be sold by the glass, poured overflowing into masu boxes (the overflow symbolizes kindness and generosity). There are Asian spins on classic cocktails, such as a gin and tonic made with Japanese gin and yuzu, too. Expect a concise wine list.

Shio chicken ramen

Courtesy of Salaryman

Jinkuk “Jay” Lee of Son of a Bear will be the executive chef. He’s created a dinner menu with plenty of izakaya elements such as fried and grilled meats and vegetables, sashimi, and ramen. Entrees include braised short rib and grilled fish, as well as an Asian-influenced burger and fried chicken sandwich.

The 40-seat dining room maintained the wooden floors and large windows from its Mary Hoopa days. Lo and Yu added wooden furniture, booths, and halfmoon tables looking out onto 2nd Avenue. The patio adds an additional 45 seats.

Review: With Urban Wu and Hai Authentic Chinese, two legit Sichuan restaurants arrive in town

Review: Hai Authentic Chinese
Sichuan dumplings at Hai Authentic Chinese

Photograph by Cori Carter

The best Sichuan restaurants in the metro area have always been outside the Perimeter. There’s the trusty standby Good Luck Gourmet on Buford Highway; the O.G. “ma la” palace Tasty China in Marietta; and the aptly named Masterpiece way out in Duluth. Now come two new Sichuan options more proximate to intowners, which means many of us can more conveniently satiate our hot and numbing Sichuan desires.

The chefs/owners at both Urban Wu in Buckhead and Hai Authentic Chinese in Decatur claim similar bragging rights: They each worked with Peter Chang, the enigmatic former (and founding) Tasty China chef whose nationwide fanbase makes him a touchstone when it comes to Sichuan food. But these two Chang proteges aren’t ripping off the master; their takes on Sichuan feel all their own. Their restaurants have similar menus with long lists of traditional options, but dishes at each are differently and interestingly executed.

Located in the “Disco Kroger” shopping center, Urban Wu is notable for its restrained yet masterful use of Sichuan peppercorns. Dry-fried eggplant is a good litmus-test dish for Sichuan cooking, and Wu’s version is light and less oily than most, making the French fry–like batons crunch just so. The fish in red-hot chili oil is a showstopper that arrives in an enormous, stainless-steel mixing bowl, the slick and gurgling broth teeming with cilantro, dried chilies, and Napa cabbage. You’ll find a milder table fellow in the chicken with three types of mushrooms, a tender and earthy jumble that’s robed in a light and silky sauce.

Compared to Urban Wu, Hai Chinese is more salty and fiery, but it still puts out beautifully balanced food. Chef Hai Wang, who previously worked his way up to chef/partner at Chang’s Maryland restaurant, runs the restaurant with his wife, who’s responsible for the supple Sichuan dumplings that are a proper start to the meal. Noodles abound at Hai, and the dan dan noodles are peerless in Atlanta. When tossed, each noodle gets coated in the salty and umami-heavy sauce flecked with chewy bits of tofu and imbued with Sichuan cuisine’s signature, hot and numbing (aka “ma la”) flavors. Hai’s garlic cucumber salad differs from other versions—the sauce is a bright green puree (practically a pesto) of potent garlic that will knock any flavor out of your mouth. The dish is a fitting companion to the Sichuan chili chicken, whose dangerous-looking chili paste makes it one of the spiciest dishes on the menu.

If asked to choose between Urban Wu and Hai, I’d give the former a slight edge, given the precision of the execution. But since I can get to either in about 15 minutes, there’s no reason why I wouldn’t hit up Urban Wu one week and Hai the next.

Urban Wu
★ ★ ★ ★
(Very Good)

3330 Piedmont Road

Hai Authentic Chinese
★ ★ ★

2641 North Decatur Road, Decatur

This article appears in our October 2019 issue.

Review: Little Rey, Ford Fry’s first fast-casual spot, proves there’s little he can’t do

Review: Little Rey
Little Rey’s counter usually has a line out the door.

Photograph by Iain Bagwell

Compared to the taco stands and chicken joints of his Texas childhood, Ford Fry’s new restaurant, in a former tattoo parlor overlooking the gnarly intersection of Piedmont and Cheshire Bridge roads, is a big-deal production—the Hummer version of a rusty taco truck.

Little Rey is Fry’s 16th restaurant in an empire that includes JCT Kitchen, the Optimist, No. 246, St. Cecilia, and King + Duke. Simpler than Superica and the El Felix, his other Tex-Mex blockbusters, this fast-casual spot primarily serves wood-roasted chicken, tacos, and margaritas on tap. Who knew what kind of people would show up in a neighborhood better known for sketchy strip clubs than gastronomy? Apparently Fry did. Ansley and Morningside families came rushing in, followed by a crush of outliers.

Review: Little Rey, Ford Fry
Of his inspiration for the new restaurant, Ford Fry says: “I wanted to cook over wood.”

Photograph by Iain Bagwell


Fry, a Houston native who grew up as the not–especially academically oriented kid in a family of doctors and businesspeople, first appeared on Atlanta’s radar in the late ’90s, when he became the corporate chef for Eatzi’s Buckhead, the ahead-of-its-time gourmet grocery. With plenty of capital and an uncanny sense of which neighborhoods were ready for conquest, he went on to open one splashy and successful restaurant after another. Why Little Rey? “I wanted to cook over wood, and I thought the neighborhood needed help,” he told me, beaming about a $2.5 million investment that is already doing twice as much business as anticipated.


There are many ways to cook pollo al carbon on both sides of the border. The chicken, typically grilled over charcoal, is wood-roasted at Little Rey, which uses natural birds—spatchcocked, brined aggressively for four hours, then marinated for 24 more with citrus and achiote. They’re cooked on racks in a custom-made, fully enclosed wood-burning contraption backed by a formidable exhaust hood. Throughout the day, the chicken, juicy and rosy from the smoke, is served family style, hacked into burnished and fragrant pieces, with tortillas, smoked onions, charred jalapeños, cilantro rice, and rancho beans.

The breakfast tacos, served on supple, homemade flour tortillas, are easily the best in town, filled with sliced skirt steak, potatoes, chorizo, and/or poblano pepper layered over migas (eggs scrambled with crumbled tortilla chips) and twice-fried beans. From huevos rancheros to pancakes with buttermilk syrup, the breakfast menu is deeply comforting.

Starting at 11 a.m., diners can gorge on chicken al carbon, regular lunch tacos (such as ones stuffed with Oaxacan cheese, mushrooms, and poblano peppers, or slow-smoked brisket and tomatillo) served on corn tortillas, or fancier al carbon tacos served on the house flour tortillas and available “rico style,” with grilled jalapeños and chili con queso. Among the sides, the creamy esquites-style corn off the cob with mayo and crumbled cotija is a big hit, but others, including the “super greens” with radish, pumpkin seeds, and lime vinaigrette, are merely trendy and ultimately boring. While the various house salsas in squeeze bottles (including a smashing creamy garlic one) are spot on, the weirdly seasoned, pinkish queso is not. And the arroz con pollo is a bland aggregate of chopped chicken and cilantro rice topped with super greens.


The chemical-tasting, relatively weak margaritas are served on tap out of plastic cups. There are no options for those who appreciate a fine tequila, and the margarita choices are limited to frozen or on the rocks; big or small; and with grapefruit juice or not. One of the biggest problems with counter service—the fact that nobody wants to stand in line to get a second drink—has been resolved with a separate, dedicated drink counter. The selection of beers, including some on draft, and wines (many canned) is better than decent.


Loud and fun, the mood is modern-day Texas roadhouse—spectacularly organized to get you in and out with a minimum of fuss. You pour your own water (sparkling or still), grab your own salsa and cutlery, and find your own niche in a large, sun-soaked room that’s cheerfully and stylishly adorned with primitive art, Mexican festival masks, and touches of neon. The patio out front, edged with string lights, is perched high enough above the street to be desirable.


Don’t worry about the lines or the chaotic parking lot: Everything moves quickly in this high-style, fast-casual joint done right. The wood-roasted chicken is king, but the tacos (particularly the breakfast ones and the giant steak al carbon on a superb flour tortilla) also are worth the trip.

★ ★ ★ ★
(Very Good)

1878 Piedmont Avenue NE, 770-796-0207

What to order

Review: Little Rey, pollo al carbon

Pollo al carbon
It’s the specialty of the house . . . er, roadhouse.


Review: Little Rey, soft serve

The rotating flavors include chocolate, banana, and churros.

Review: Little Rey, bacon breakfast taco

Bacon breakfast taco
Yes, you have to drive to the dreaded intersection of Cheshire Bridge and Piedmont for the best breakfast taco in town.

This article appears in our October 2019 issue.

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