The verdict on 5 newcomers to Atlanta’s dining scene

Barbecue, hot chicken, and a classic American diner

Coalition Food & Beverage
Vegetable plate

Photograph by Ryan Pernice

Coalition Food and Beverage
The third restaurant in Ryan Pernice’s North Fulton mini-empire (see also: Table & Main and Osteria Mattone) is meant to be an updated take on the classic American diner. But it does little to channel a diner, modern or otherwise. The space looks to be engineered for millennials—not a bad thing, and a welcome addition to Alpharetta’s quaint downtown. It’s far more hip than its upscale sibling spots, with exposed ductwork looming over iron-and-glass partitions and shiplap walls hung with paintings of oversized boomboxes. The menu more closely resembles that of an Anywhere USA bistro than a new-school diner, and a few of the dishes could use some editing. A veggie plate anchored by a mound of earthy lentils and topped with juicy, grilled zucchini, meaty portobellos, still-crisp asparagus, and creamy feta did not need that half ear of dried-out corn, and the bacon-plantain gravy on the roasted chicken didn’t deliver the merest hint of fruit (and it could’ve used it to cut through the muddiness). On the other hand, the Goserita, essentially a margarita with a Gose-style ale topper, is as on point as boomboxes were in the ’80s. 50 Canton Street, Alpharetta, 470-839-6725

Watchman’s Seafood and Spirits
It’s been nearly five years since Kimball House arrived at a handsomely revamped Decatur train depot and helped class up Atlanta’s oysters and cocktails scene. Finally comes the team’s follow-up project, Watchman’s Seafood and Spirits, next to Ticonderoga Club in Krog Street Market. And it’s well worth the wait. Slightly more casual but no less classy than Kimball House, Watchman’s largely concerns itself with regional, sustainable seafood—and, as is true of Kimball House, there are many knockout dishes here. Order from the first two sections of the menu (cold and hot appetizers, essentially) to best experience the range of talent from chef Daniel Chance, formerly of W.H. Stiles Fish Camp. There’s not a better summer dish in town than the meaty, slightly cured tuna plated with hunks of pickled beets and avocado, a pineapple-coconut mousse-like smear, and crunchy puffed corn. As rich as the tuna is light, the clams steamed in a broth of vermouth, sofrito, chili butter, and culantro are plate-licking delicious, the submerged slice of sourdough a sunken treasure. You’re also here for the cocktails, of course. Barman Miles Macquarrie’s interpretation of the classic Air Mail is, unsurprisingly, genius: a godlike nectar of aged rum, honey, and lime. In lieu of the traditional Champagne topper, Macquarrie adds a high-acidity white wine and then lightly carbonates the entire beverage. At the risk of overwhelming the bar, Krog Market–goers should pop in at Watchman’s whenever they have a moment to spare, just to marvel at the dramatic simplicity of this drink. 99 Krog Street, 404-254-0141

Hattie B’s Hot Chicken
There are plenty of places in Atlanta where you can get Nashville-style hot chicken, but Hattie B’s is the first spot in town that’s fully dedicated to the crazy-spicy fried bird. It’s also the only one to swoop in from Nashville. And Atlantans could hardly wait—though wait they must, in sometimes ridiculously long lines that snake out the front door and into the blazing sun, up Moreland Avenue toward Little Five Points. You want to know if it’s worth the hype, right? Well, that depends. Hattie B’s fried chicken comes in six spice levels, from Southern (no heat) to Shut the Cluck Up (burn notice). If you can generally handle spice, you’ll have no trouble with the Hot (level four). But if reasonable heat is what you’re after, you might be more impressed with the sublime hot chicken sandwich up the street at One Eared Stag, or with the two levels of hot chicken at Richard’s Southern Fried in nearby Krog Street Market, or with the hot chicken option at Mary Hoopa’s House of Fried Chicken & Oysters over in Kirkwood. As of now, however, Hattie B’s is the only local option for burn-your-face-off hot chicken, and that’s why you’re standing in line. The bird’s crust is crackly and crimson with cayenne, though the meat in the sandwich option is juicier and more flavorful than the bone-in chicken. And once the novelty wears off (if not the thrill of the burn), you can bypass the wait and place a to-go order online. 299 Moreland Avenue

Garden & Gun Club

Photograph by Amy Sinclair

Garden & Gun Club
What happens when you take one of the South’s most vaunted magazines and metamorphosize it into a restaurant? And what happens when that restaurant is located not on an idyllic side street in, say, Inman Park but instead in the shadow of antithetical SunTrust Park? The result is fantastical, in every sense of the word. Charleston-based Garden & Gun might be the first magazine to give not just its imprimatur but its actual name to a restaurant. The result, unsurprisingly, is the embodiment of good taste, from the knotty Southern oysters mounded on the raw bar’s chipped ice to the perfectly set egg draped across a medium-rare chopped steak to the flecks of lemon zest floating atop a cocktail of vodka, Cocchi Americano, and apricot. Chef Mike Lata of Charleston’s FIG and the Ordinary created the menu, which is flawlessly carried out by executive chef Ann Kim. The cornmeal-battered shrimp is Exhibit A in contrasting textural ideals; the turkey-neck gumbo with Carolina Gold rice is a decadent study in smoke and spice. You will emerge from the air-conditioned, filament-lit, leather-clad environs and find yourself blinking back the glare of the sun or of the ballpark lights—a shocking transition from one dreamscape to another, though not an unpleasant one. The Battery Atlanta, 2605 Circle 75 Parkway, 770-726-0925

King Barbecue
Ribs and baked potato salad

Photograph courtesy of King Barbecue

King Barbecue
It sounds weird, but the baked beans steal the show at King Barbecue. Baked beans are hardly the ideal barbecue side—a sticky-spicy-sweet protein doesn’t do much to complement a sticky-spicy-sweet protein. The vegetal contrast of crunchy slaw or silky greens holds up better against smoked meat. But beans? Brisket is the signature meat at King Barbecue, the first barbecue venture from Shaun Doty and Lance Gummere (The Federal, Bantam + Biddy). Located in Alpharetta’s lux Avalon shopping complex, in the space that formerly housed the second Bantam + Biddy location, King BBQ boasts a high-end, automated, all-wood smoker from J&R Manufacturing Co., and the brisket cooked in it is a solid mashup of fat, flesh, and char. But it’s eclipsed by those beans. Baked in the pit and flecked with the barkiest hunks of brisket, these smoky beauts are what all other beans aspire to be. Order them by the quart. 4195 Avalon Boulevard, Alpharetta, 678-248-5159