Atlanta Hotspots for Foodies
As any good traveler knows, one of the best ways to experience a city is by enjoying its food. Atlanta’s finest restaurants absolutely fulfill that promise; from incomparable menu offerings, to attentive service, to beautiful décor, these restaurants are truly the city’s culinary and cultural emissaries.
The Refined Palate: Bacchanalia or Aria
Considered by many to be Atlanta’s finest restaurant, Bacchanalia’s five course prix fixe menu is renowned for specialties such as its confit foie gras terrine, glazed veal sweetbreads and breast of Magret duck; all are carefully designed to surprise and impress. Bacchanalia’s elegant but casual atmosphere and impeccable waitstaff complete the experience, although you should be prepared to pay well over $100 per person for the privilege (and much more if you decide to order the by-the-glass wine pairings recommended for each menu selection). Like Bacchanalia, Aria exceeds its niche – in this case, New American – with a reputation for some of the finest cuisine in the city. It’s especially known for its mastery of slow cooking, exemplified by its Painted Hills Ranch beef short rib. Although the menu does change, current highlights include the butter braised Maine lobster and the crisped jumbo lump crab cake appetizers, the Niman Ranch Berkshire pork shank and herb-crusted red snapper entrees, and chocolate espresso cake and Fuji apple tart desserts.
Bacchanalia: 1198 Howell Mill Road, 404-365-0410, starprovisions.com
Aria: 490 East Paces Ferry Road, 404-233-7673, aria-atl.com
New Southern Fare: Miller Union or Empire State South
If you’re seeking a particularly Southern version of a true “foodie” experience, Regionalist restaurants Miller Union and Empire State South both deliver. Located in Atlanta’s trendy West Midtown, Miller Union offers an interesting marriage of country and sophistication, with careful attention to seasonal and locally-grown ingredients. The menu changes accordingly, but chances are good that you’ll find appetizer favorites such as the farm egg baked in celery cream and the chicken liver mousse toast, the grilled bone-in pork chop and housemade sausage entrees, and sweet potato tea cake or one of their must-try ice creams for dessert. Owned by chef Hugh Acheson (of Top Chef fame), Empire State South is one of Atlanta’s newer establishments, having opened in Midtown just last year, and living up to the buzz that came with it. Its current menu showcases the much-loved pimiento cheese and bacon marmalade in jars and farm egg on toast appetizers, entrees such as Georgia trout in brown butter and stuffed chicken, and sublime desserts such as the spice poached speckle pear with cardamom caramel ice cream. Aside from its “comfort food to the next level” offerings, Empire State South emphasizes its unfussy approach with casually graceful décor and a bocce court; other distinguishing characteristics include its breakfast menu (with a haute cuisine version of a chicken-on-a-biscuit), its superior coffee bar and its “grab and go” lunch menu.
Miller Union: 999 Brady Avenue, 678-733-8550, millerunion.com
Empire State South: 999 Peachtree Street, 404-541-1105, empirestatesouth.com
Exceptional Flavors: Desta or Bhojanic
Desta, an Ethiopian restaurant located in Northeast Atlanta, is a standout on this list for a couple of reasons; first, that it has a more well-rounded vegetarian menu, and second, that you can have your fill, and then some, without having to apply for a second mortgage. Yes, you’ll need to overlook its location in a strip mall, but it will be well worth it; the restaurant’s showstoppers include its vegetarian combo (a lovely selection of perfectly-spiced vegetable dishes), its Kifto (an Ethiopian version of steak tartare), and its flavorful tibs (marinated cubes of meat or fish, usually served over a grain). Switching continents, Atlanta’s burgeoning Indian restaurant scene includes many standouts; one of the city’s best, though, is Bhojanic, which has both its original Decatur location and a newly-opened location in Buckhead. A large selection of small plates allows restaurant-goers to sample a wide variety of flavors, including both the familiar (samosas, chicken tikka) and the more adventurous (seekh kebabs, chili pakora). For entrees, consider trying Bhojanic’s chat (Indian street food)… but if you’re insistent upon something more traditional, such as a curry, biryani or one of the thalis (combination platters), you’ll be equally enchanted.
Desta: 3086 Briarcliff Road, 404-929-0011, destaethiopiankitchen.com
Bhojanic: 1363 Clairmont Road, 404-633-9233 and 3400 Around Lenox Road, 404-841-8472, bhojanic.com
Prime Steakhouses: Bone’s or Kevin Rathbun Steak
Although both Bone’s and Kevin Rathbun Steak offer some of the best steaks in the city, the comparisons pretty much stop there. Bone’s is an Atlanta institution; founded some thirty-plus years ago, its dark, cozy, wood-paneled rooms convey power, luxury and masculinity. Its porterhouse, rib-eye and New York strip are legendary, and perhaps unrivaled, for their flavor and tenderness. Other standouts include the lobster bisque, the crab-stuffed trout, and the mashed potatoes with truffle butter. By contrast, Kevin Rathbun Steak is the precocious upstart, bringing a cool-modern-upscale vibe to its location in the industrial Inman Park neighborhood. Although their steaks take center stage (natch), consider trying the prime Wagyu ribeye burger, the Ahi tuna, or the lamb chops; outstanding appetizers include the grilled bacon and the eggplant fries, while can’t-miss side dishes include the jalapeno creamed corn, the creamy mashed potatoes and the surprisingly delightful agave-laced kale.
Bone’s: 3130 Piedmont Road, 404-237-2663, bonesrestaurant.com
Kevin Rathbun Steak: 154 Krog Street, 404-524-5600, kevinrathbunsteak.com