The verdict on 3 new Atlanta restaurants: Baffi, Ford’s BBQ, and Scoville Hot Chicken

Italian with convivial Cali vibes, heavenly Texas barbecue in Tucker, and a strip-mall spot whose whole thing is hot chicken

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Baffi Atlanta
Roast chicken with salsa verde

Photograph by Martha Williams

Baffi
Over four decades, Jonathan Waxman has built a small empire of convivial Cali-Italian restaurants, notably Manhattan’s iconic Barbuto. If the name of that restaurant (“bearded” in Italian) nods at Waxman’s now gray facial hair, his newest—Baffi—salutes the mustache. Situated in the old Donetto space in Atlanta’s Westside neighborhood, Baffi is a leaner version of Waxman’s Ponce City Market restaurant Brezza Cucina, which closed in 2020. What’s amazing is how effortless he makes it all seem. True maturity, the art of not doing too much or too little, is in evidence everywhere—in Baffi’s modern-rustic look, its talented staff, and a menu that includes the same wonderful roast chicken with warm salsa verde (fresh herbs, capers, and garlic in extra-virgin olive oil) and crisp rosemary potatoes Waxman has served at his restaurants for as long as I can remember. Also on offer: a couple of simple but perfect wood-oven pizzas, one topped with burrata, burst tomatoes, and basil; roasted oysters with breadcrumbs; trout cooked in cast iron; and a dish of astonishingly tender and eerily smooth pork and veal meatballs served over rich mascarpone grits. The wines, including options from small producers in Italy’s Friuli and Abruzzo regions, are eminently drinkable. The patio scene is civilized. A pantry just inside the restaurant’s entrance, meanwhile, sells some of the same products the kitchen uses. 976 Brady Avenue, Westside, 404-724-9700 —CL

Ford’s BBQ
What’s apparent as you enter this new barbecue restaurant deep in the heart of Tucker: Someone here loves both Texas (as evidenced by the giant Tito’s vodka sign and the powerful scent of beef brisket greeting you at the door) and Ford automotive memorabilia. Like other restaurants from the same ownership group (Local No. 7 across the street, Stratford Pub in Avondale Estates), this spot feels mainstream cozy. Of course, you can order Saint Louis ribs by the rack and chopped pork by the pound, but the main deal at Ford’s is the beef. Answer the classic brisket questions (fat or lean? sliced or chopped?) and you are on your way to meat heaven. My standard answer is half and half and, of course, sliced. I don’t normally care to slather barbecue sauce on smoked meats, but Ford’s marvelously tangy and balanced house sauce is the ideal thing to elevate its deeply charred, tender brisket. While the platters feel generous, the sandwiches are a bit miserly. The skinny smoked sausage, for instance, arranged awkwardly on an onion bun, is no great shakes. But the sides and extras (chili con carne, queso and fresh chips, fried okra, vinegar slaw) make for a jolly experience in a place where families can be at ease. Heaters warm half of the patio, which is almost as big as the entire dining room and bar space, and there are good safety protocols in place. 2337 Main Street, Tucker, 678-691-7075 —CL

Scoville Hot Chicken
This brightly painted spot in a Sandy Springs strip mall does only one thing—fried hot chicken sandwiches with French fries—and does it extremely well. Made with tender, juicy breast meat, the sandwiches come in six spice levels ranging from “Not Spicy” to “Reaper,” which the restaurant claims has a blistering 1 million Scoville heat units—the scale used to rank hot peppers. (For comparison, a jalapeño ranges from 2,500 to 10,000 units.) Warning signs posted on the wall and floor caution that the Reaper could cause “stomach pain, sweating, hiccups,” and even “rare instances . . . of ‘thunderclap headaches’ that may require medical attention.” Yikes. But for lovers of spicy food, the “Hot” level is plenty. Don’t skip the coleslaw on top, which helps tame the heat, and consider springing for an extra container of creamy garlic aioli for the seasoned crinkle fries. The restaurant is optimized for takeout, with touchscreens to take your order and lemonade, tea, and a variety of cane sugar–based Stubborn Sodas on tap. (Go for the agave vanilla cream soda.) Word of Scoville Hot Chicken has spread, so if you’re going on a weekend night, think about ordering in advance online. 4959 Roswell Road, Sandy Springs —MW

This article appears in our April 2021 issue.

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