The verdict on 3 new Atlanta restaurants: Southern Belle, Yunan Crossing Bridge Rice Noodle, and Buena Vida Tapas & Sol

A new noodle spot from the LanZhou Ramen crew, plus classy small plates on Ponce and tapas on the BeltLine

Yunnan Crossing Bridge Rice Noodle
Yunnan Crossing Bridge Rice Noodle

Photograph by Martha Williams

Yunnan Crossing Bridge Rice Noodle
China’s Yunnan Province, which shares a border with Vietnam, is home to an iconic soup that’s delicate and soul-warming and slightly reminiscent of pho. Its name translates to “crossing-the-bridge noodles,” and you can find multiple faithful versions of it at this efficient strip-mall spot. Its owners also run the wildly popular LanZhou Ramen, specializing in the artistic hand-pulled noodles of China’s Gansu Province, 1,800 miles from Yunnan—which is to say, don’t come here seeking what you love at LanZhou, or you’ll set yourself up for disappointment.

Whereas LanZhou is all about the noodle, YCBRN is all about the broth (unlike at LanZhou, these noodles aren’t housemade). There are 11 broths to choose from, and you should give them ample thought before moving onto the lesser decision of which protein to order. The “Original” might be listed first on the menu, but it’s far from the most interesting. “Sour Spicy Golden” is much more flavorful (its two-out-of-three-peppers heat level is still pretty tame), with “Szechuan Numbed Pepper” landing somewhere between the two, intrigue-wise. Most of the soups come deconstructed, with separate bowls of rice noodles, veggies, meats, and a quail egg presented next to a bubbling cauldron. The doting staff will happily compose the soup for you—and won’t laugh when you clumsily slurp and inevitably splatter your dinner all over the table. 2180 Pleasant Hill Road, Duluth

Szechuan sweet potatoes

Courtesy of Southern Belle

Southern Belle
The first restaurant from chef Joey Ward, formerly of Atlanta’s gutsiest eatery, Gunshow, has landed in one of Atlanta’s hippest locations: the Art Deco minicomplex that’s home to the Plaza Theatre and the Righteous Room. Southern Belle is a classy, shared-plates concept occupying a space that brings to mind a modernized Victorian parlor. (Through a secret door, you’ll find Ward’s second restaurant: Georgia Boy, a speakeasy-style, 16-or-so-course, prix-fixe affair.) Sounds rather whimsical, right? Just wait till you get to the Warm Sticky Toffee-Coffee Pudding, prepared tableside on a Delta beverage cart.

Southern Belle’s 10, mostly un-Southern small plates (there’s also a larger, Vietnamese pork belly that feeds two) range from a refreshing Peruvian-style ceviche with fermented chilis and leche de tigre (a spicy-citrusy marinade) to a multifaceted Szechuan-style sweet potato dish with stir-fried mushrooms and tofu mayo. They and almost all of the offerings we tried were knockouts—proof that this Southern belle is one for the times. 1043 Ponce de Leon Avenue, Poncey-Highland

Buena Vida Tapas & Sol
At first impression, this BeltLine-adjacent behemoth behind the old Masquerade appeared to be engineered solely for speed, scale, and millennial trendiness (think lots of pink, rattan, and tropical-leafy accents). The space also suffers from a certain disjointedness: The seating areas near the front are lovely enough, but the one toward the back, past the bar, feels cold and unwelcoming. The lightning-fast arrival of our first dish, a slightly salty, slightly forgettable, underfried cauliflower with romesco sauce, didn’t leave me optimistic. Then came the ceviche, and that’s when Buena Vida began to reveal itself.

A harmonious mixture of tender whitefish and octopus, dollops of velvety pureed yam, and crunchy quico (corn nuts) swimming in a masterfully balanced citrus marinade, the dish had me fantasizing about spring, when I’ll be camping out with it on the patio, iced vermouth in hand. The tapas that followed—a prettily composed artichoke salad with soft-cooked egg, frisee, and asparagus; expertly charred octopus with buttery, jumbo judion beans and microdiced chorizo; head-on Georgia shrimp in a decadent garlic and sherry broth—underscored the point that a first impression is often the wrong one. 385 North Angier Avenue, Old Fourth Ward