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Test Drive: Flywheel

In the dark, no one can hear you scream. Or sweat, or grunt, or sob quietly.OK, so I’m paraphrasing the movie “Alien” here. But that seems pretty appropriate, given how slimy and disgusting I looked after a recent 45-minute indoor cycling class in the dark, loud, stadium-style studio at Flywheel in Buckhead.

Seven Lamps

It’s 8 p.m. on a Friday night, and I’m huddled inside the entrance of Seven Lamps, a new restaurant in the northwest corner of Buckhead’s Shops Around Lenox, waiting for a place to sit. The snug, five-sided room incorporates the casual design elements du jour: Reclaimed wood (from a North Georgia mill) cover the floors; old bricks, stacked vertically in varying shades of red and white, make up one wall; porcelain subway tile gleam in the open kitchen.

Watershed on Peachtree

At 5:50 p.m. on a Wednesday, I've sidled up to the four-sided bar at Watershed on Peachtree to wait for a plate of fried chicken. Several couples and solo diners already have the once-a-week special in front of them: We know to arrive early before the chicken runs out (usually long before eight o’clock). Many of us mastered this routine at the original Decatur Watershed, which closed last August after a thirteen-year run. There the chicken, which earned so much press it practically needed its own agent, was served on Tuesday evenings.

Its mystique endures at the restaurant’s new south Buckhead location, at the base of the Brookwood Condominium building. But don’t expect nostalgic allusions to the old spot. The move is part of a deliberate reboot of the Watershed brand.

STG Trattoria

Luxury dining is a given in Buckhead, where you can't throw a Bentley hood ornament without hitting an expense-account steakhouse, a mall or hotel that houses white-tablecloth heavyweights, or one of Pano Karatassos's 1990s holdouts still serving Southwestern Caesars or seafood Newburg (looking at you, Nava and Atlanta Fish Market).

But what about quality midscale options—the casual haunts that won't decimate your credit line, where you can linger


The first time I visited the recently relocated Tomo, I waited in a valet line full of luxury sedans, gave the reservation name to a statuesque hostess in a slinky dress, and stared, slack-jawed, into the dining room’s shimmery vastness. And then, dwelling on the jarring contrast between this reinvention and the humble, intimate, sadly defunct original on the other side of town, I thought: They’ve ruined this restaurant.

The Pie Shop

If you met Mims Bledsoe, owner of Buckhead’s delicious new Pie Shop, on the street, you’d never guess what she does for a living. There is something about this tall woman with the coltish beauty of a young Julia Roberts that says good breeding, old money. Her patrician mother looks even more incongruous washing dishes behind the counter, keeping an eye on her twenty-seven-year-old daughter, whom she clearly thinks shouldn’t be alone at 11 p.m. on a Saturday in an isolated space that used to be a commercial bakery.


I left Atlanta for a few years in early 2006. A week before my departure, another food critic in town reached out and said, "Let me treat you to dinner. Name the place."I had already splurged on farewell meals at Seeger’s, Joël, Soto, and the Dining Room at the Ritz-Carlton, Buckhead—not because of any prescient notions that Guenter Seeger, Joël Antunes, and Sotohiro Kosugi would soon leave the city, or that the Dining Room would close not long after I returned in 2009. I just knew how much I’d miss the marvels those restaurants served. So for this final dinner, I wanted an institution that honored Atlanta’s Southern marrow but also fed off its appetite for prestige and success. "Let’s go to Bone’s," I said.

A preview of Cacao Buckhead

I stopped by to check out the progress on the second location of Cacao Atlanta Chocolate Co. at 2815 Peachtree Road in Buckhead. Bad news first: It won’t be open in time for the Valentine’s Day chocolate run (though the original Inman Park store is certainly cranking out truffles nonstop these days; try the brand-new cherry cordials). The good news? This place is going to be stunning, and will encourage lingering more than the tiny, hidden Inman Park shop.


In the late 1980s, my parents and I visited Boston for the first time to check out colleges. We naively booked the trip in January. A half foot of snow blanketed the city on the day we arrived. The concierge at our hotel encouraged us to trudge the few slushy blocks to a Northern Italian restaurant called Davio’s. It was on Newbury Street, a hub of posh shops and eateries. Davio’s had a relaxed cafe upstairs that served pizza and pasta; we descended to the more formal dining room below street level.

Tuk Tuk Thai Food Loft

Thai cuisine, in its truest form, riles the senses. Be it a classic green curry or a jumble of shrimp tossed in a scorching wok with fermented shoots and buds of plants mostly foreign to Western palates, the aromas inundate before the first bite. Smells from the most pungent dishes may slightly repulse before the flavors enchant—the culinary equivalent of how destined lovers behave in a Shakespearean play. Garlic, herbs, chiles, and lime ripple over the taste buds. Coconut calms the heat in spicy preparations from the coastal south. Hearty sausages and salads from the rugged, mountainous north bolster appetites.

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