In most respects, these are pretty bleak times, but if I had to identify one group of people who are really getting what they want these days, I’d probably say that it’s chicken lovers. Frankly, they’ve never had it better—whether their preference is for Nashville hot, Korean fried, or the Southern-style sandwich that, increasingly, you can’t leave the house without tripping over. Or, now, Sinaloan-style pollo asado, the specialty at this latest venture from restaurateur Nhan Le and chef Duane Kulers, the pair behind the superpopular taco counter Supremo. Following the prevailing fashion in chicken restaurants, Pollo Supremo does more or less one thing, and happens to do it very well: In the manner of roadside stands in Mexico (and Southern California, where he grew up), Kulers marinates the birds in citrus, chili, and spices, and cooks them over live flames till they’re smoke-kissed and succulent, with skin that’s to die for. They’re served in whole, half, and quarter portions with chewy housemade flour tortillas, rice and beans, and pico de gallo; an abbreviated menu of other extras includes guacamole and limey, creamy esquites. There’s every reason to order more than you need, or get it to go—the chicken travels well, tastes great the next day. But if you require a reason to stick around, consider the plentiful, heated outdoor seating and consider, too, the margarita: frozen, with a splash of hibiscus tea floated on top. 792 Moreland Avenue, East Atlanta Village
Ron Hsu—chef and cofounder of the Candler Park tasting-menu destination Lazy Betty—recently wrote a New York Times op-ed describing the impossibility of running a restaurant these days; one can only imagine. And one hopes Hsu and his partners are having an easier time of it with this more casual cousin to their James Beard–nominated flagship, which provides a low-fuss counterpoint to these high-fuss times. Throughout the day, Juniper Cafe transitions from being a morning hang (with an ambitious pastry program overseen by Chao Wen) to a cheery lunch spot (pho and banh mi are at the top of the menu) to a dinner place with estimable chops. Pork chops, even—prepared by executive chef Timothy Rufino with lilting lemongrass notes offset by a rich succotash. Rufino’s menu of “chef specialties” also includes banh xeo—coconut crepes with shrimp and shiitake mushrooms—and Vietnamese spicy fried chicken. When I visited, the restaurant had yet to receive its liquor license, but was serving thoughtful soft drinks made and bottled in house; my honey-sweetened orange soda had candylike notes from the citrus fruit buddha’s hand and a touch of cinnamon. You can get okra fries anywhere these days, but nowhere can you get them like they’re served here, sliced paper-thin on the vertical as if vivisected, and tossed with peppers, herbs, and salt infused with the flavors of nuoc cham, the sweet-sour-spicy-savory Vietnamese dipping sauce. Every bite is different, every bite terrifically exciting. 2260 Marietta Boulevard, Bolton
Belle & Lily’s Caribbean Brunch House
Though some members of the management team are alumni of the city’s flashier Caribbean establishments—Ms. Icey’s Kitchen & Bar, Apt. 4B—this little strip-mall restaurant resides on the more casual, dressed-down end of things, with fare that’s homey and flavorful. The menu—designed by Tasha Cyril and her cousin Aliyah Cyril, who serves as executive chef—skips around the islands like a puddle jumper, offering Bahamian conch fritters, Cubanos and Cuban steak sandwiches, Dominican mashed plantains (aka mangú), and a Jamaican-style sorrel that’s lovely on its own but right at home, one imagines, mixed with Champagne in the restaurant’s house mimosa. It’s one of a short menu of sweet, fruity midday cocktails, including sangria with cherry wine and rosé. This is, first and foremost, a brunch place, with the slightly decadent entrees that the Atlanta brunch crowd has come to expect: spiced coconut-bread French toast with mango and rum caramel sauce, jerk chicken and buttermilk pancakes with ginger hibiscus syrup, fried parrot fish and plantains. The dining room—this used to be the Havana Soul Cafe—is as cheerful and comforting as the food, with one wall filled with green plastic plants spilling out of empty painting frames. 3350 Chamblee Tucker Road, Embry Hills
This article appears in our March 2022 issue.