By George, the new Hugh Acheson restaurant in the lobby of downtown’s historic Candler Hotel, feels less like a Hugh Acheson restaurant than like a hotel lobby restaurant. The space, whose grand bones are diminished by a needlessly drab color scheme and oddly chintzy lighting, isn’t nearly as playful or stylish as celebrity chef Acheson’s other restaurants: Empire State South in Atlanta and Five & Ten and the National in Athens. By George’s (mostly) classically French menu and the stiff cocktails are not as creative as what you’ll find at the James Beard winner’s other spots. But while this is not a great restaurant by Acheson’s standards, it is a great restaurant by downtown Atlanta’s standards. Nowhere else in the neighborhood can you find perfectly plump escargot, nestled in toast a la Toad in the Hole; blue-crab salad flecked with capers and texturally punched up not with celery but with celeriac; house-brined swordfish that’s as meaty and satisfying as mignon, paired with velvety white beans and luscious lardo; endive gratin kissed with bitterness and richened with a heart-attack level of cream. The convivial mood at the bar and the bustling energy of the dining are reason enough to convince you of downtown’s potential—and remind you of Acheson’s star power. 127 Peachtree Street, downtown, 470-851-2752
Food Terminal (West)
When the original Food Terminal opened on Buford Highway in 2017, its hip, food hall–inspired space and its menu styled after a trendy magazine brought an intown-Atlanta sensibility to BuHi. Now that a second location has opened, this time on the Westside, Food Terminal brings a bit of BuHi intown. The space is just as hip, unsurprisingly, if significantly smaller. And the menu is, for all we can tell, identical, though we didn’t compare the 100-plus, majority-Malaysian dishes on offer. We did, however, check to see whether our favorites are as good at the new location. They are. The Thai chili pan mee—a jumble of flat noodles, wood-ear mushrooms, ground pork, sauteed spinach, and fried egg, swimming in spicy chili sauce—is just as deliciously funky thanks to an abundance of chewy dried anchovies. And the Cheese ’N Cheese is just as ridiculously over the top, the sizzling skillet mounded with rice, Spam, corn, cheese, bell peppers, and onion that rest atop a layer of egg. Thanks, Food Terminal, for bringing fun and, ahem, affordable food to the Westside: You might be our favorite suburbs-to-intown transplant ever. 1000 Marietta Street, Westside, 404-500-2695
If the term “pizza a la Smyrna” induces debilitating levels of skepticism, have I got a shocker of a pie for you. Unwilling to commit to calling its pizza New York–style or Neapolitan–style, the founders of MTH Pizza—from the Muss & Turner’s team—settled on that less-than-appetizing phrase, and, as a result, I wasn’t exactly thrilled to drive out to Cobb County for a pizza a la Smyrna when Atlanta has so many solid (and even a few truly great) options. But one bite of the margherita convinced me that maybe I shouldn’t rush to conclusions. One bite of the clam pizza—the chewy bivalves mingling with near-buttery mozzarella and brightened with gremolata and a squeeze of charred lemon—had me considering relocating to Smyrna. MTH’s high-protein dough is fermented for three days and produces an undercarriage not as soft as that of a traditional Neapolitan and not as firm as a New York slice. And honestly, it’s the ideal compromise, texturally perfect and packed with flavor, as were the sauce and toppings on all three pies I sampled so far (I intend to get to the others posthaste). Yes, Atlanta has some great pizza. It turns out Smyrna has some really great pizza. 1675 Cumberland Parkway, Smyrna, 678-424-1333
This article appears in our February 2020 issue.