When Ponce City Market’s Central Food Hall opened in 2015, one of its first tenants was Bellina Alimentari, an Italian market and cafe inspired by owner Tal Baum’s time in Florence. In the intervening years, Baum—raised in Haifa, Israel—has interpreted her eclectic background in restaurants throughout Atlanta: Aziza, on the Westside, serves fancyish, modern Israeli fare; Rina, along the BeltLine, offers kebabs, pita sandwiches, and other street foods. Baum returns to PCM with this newest venture, taking the rambling corner space formerly occupied by Brezza Cucina and transforming it into what must be one of the city’s prettiest dining rooms, with tropical murals, hanging plants, and plush, richly colored banquettes.
The fare, under the direction of Brandon Hughes, isn’t as geographically specific as at Baum’s previous outings. The frequently changing menu features a few raw dishes (including a funky, umami-forward beef tartare, finished with lime zest and presented dramatically in some kind of rice-paper creation; it looks like an enormous seashell) and salads and small bites: foie gras terrine with huckleberry gelée, honeynut squash with bok choy and preserved lemon, tender little chickpea panisses with ramp vinegar and kale. The larger entrees look good—pork schnitzel with fried capers and lemon brown butter, prawns over farro risotto, the de rigueur fancy cheeseburger—but on a recent visit, my dining companion and I stuck to the shareable dishes; this is the sort of agreeable atmosphere that invites ordering one little thing after another, eating slowly with a cocktail in hand. Speaking of which: There’s a lot to choose from here, with a drink menu running the gamut from various punches (the Korean Punch, for instance, mixes rice vodka with persimmon tea, ginger, orange, and lemon) to classics (Manhattans, martinis) to seasonal inventions like the Tan and Rooty, a beguiling concoction in which bourbon’s bittersweet notes are enhanced with amaro, sherry, creme de cacao, and sarsaparilla. 675 Ponce de Leon Avenue, Old Fourth Ward
Getting together in 1995 while in college in Bowling Green, Kentucky, the members of the rap group Nappy Roots are dad-aged now, and they’re doing dad things—namely, brewing beer. Over the last several years, Nappy Roots members Fish Scales (a Milledgeville native) and Skinny DeVille have thrown themselves into a second career as beermakers, culminating in the opening of this Castleberry Hill taproom. This isn’t like George Strait putting his name on a bottle of tequila: Scales and DeVille are serious students of the art, having engaged in collaborations in recent years with Scofflaw, Monday Night, and more, and the beer on tap in their brick-and-mortar is evidence of their expertise. (The Nappy Roots still tour—the pandemic just gave them a little downtime to pursue other passions.) Not Just, a New England IPA, has bright tangerine notes and goes down easy, as does a chocolatey stout that tastes a bit less potent than its 8 percent ABV. Atlantucky’s bilevel space has terrific vibes: It’s built around one big room, offering the capaciousness you find in most breweries but much more homey and inviting, with lower ceilings, sofas for lounging, and art on the walls. The bar on the main level is almost comically small, the better to encourage mingling and direct attention to what’s happening on the stage; the brewery hosts live music, stand-up, and weekend yoga. An upstairs kitchen provides a staging ground for a regular crew of food pop-ups, including ATL Seafood Bags, Rollin Up Eggrolls, and Amorous Tacos. 170 Northside Drive, Castleberry Hill
How Crispy Express
If you’re the type who takes pleasure from a just-right combination of menu items, I’ve got a new one for you. Step up to the register at this counter-service shop and order the Big Salad (“powerful greens,” grape tomatoes, pepitas) with buttermilk-herb dressing; ask for the optional chicken “nuggies” to place on top; order, too, a side of macaroni and cheese. There you have it, the whole food pyramid: protein, vegetable, creamy noods. More likely, though, you’re at this long-awaited restaurant—from Greg Best (acclaimed bartender, partner at Ticonderoga Club) and Will Silbernagel (a chef who’s worked at Argosy and Bookhouse Pub)—for the sandwiches, the latest salvo in Atlanta’s ongoing fried-chicken-sandwich wars. Silbernagel and Best have served them at pop-up events over the last few years, meanwhile hatching plans for the permanent space they deserve. How, then, do they perform in battle? Formidably: These are towering creations, built around a thick piece of dark meat, fried twice for extra crunch, that has the juicy flavor and gentle chew of a good piece of chicken—sounds like it should be self-evident, but it’s more than you can say for some of the other sandwiches out on these streets. Whatever loss of dignity you experience ordering these dishes by name will be fleeting, succored by the sandwich itself: The Hunny Boi is topped with garlic-honey butter sauce and sesame slaw; the Tikka Boi with a smoky, lime-infused mayo; all options, including a chickpea patty (excuse me—the Crunchy Boi), come with bread-and-butter pickles. Of course, you can go for the classic chicken sandwich or—as I did—the lemon-pepper wet, which is tangy, sloppy, and outlandishly satisfying. 71 Georgia Avenue, Summerhill
On a visit to Charleston a few years ago, I walked into Butcher & Bee, drawn by the promise of breezy brunch dishes like shakshuka, chilaquiles, and avocado toast—only to walk right back out after seeing how many other people had the same idea I had. But now another chance: The pair behind that superpopular South Carolina spot, Melody and Michael Shemtov, have just opened a daytime eatery in a colorful, light-filled space off Howell Mill Road, next to Floral Park Market. It’s not yet as mobbed as the original, but it’s early days—you might want to get in on the ground floor. As at Butcher & Bee, the Shemtovs offer fare here that’s light, vegetable-forward, and trendy: avocado toast with za’atar, pita sandwiches, things in bowls. A “loaded avocado” bowl has a lot of the sorts of delicious elements—butternut squash chili crisp, pickled onions, a runny egg—that you want to pile onto toast in various combinations, though the toast portion is so puny that I recommend ordering extra. The dish demands it! The breakfast burrito, made with chewy flour tortillas from Poco Loco, is gooey and fantastic, the perfect vehicle for a few generous shakes of the hot sauce that sits on every table. There are also juices, smoothies, and seasonal coffee drinks (including, when I visited, a lightly sweet, lightly bitter molasses spice latte), and various pantry items for purchase. This is the first of several planned Atlanta outposts; this year, the Shemtovs are set to open a cafe in the former Inman Park home of Proof Bakeshop. 763 Trabert Avenue, Berkeley Park
This article appears in our April 2022 issue.