Where to Eat in the Big Peach: Atlanta's Top Restaurants
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A Newcomer's Guide to Atlanta
Atlanta’s dining scene is far from one-note, with each neighborhood boasting its own character, personality and, yes, flavor. With a slew of James Beard Foundation Award winners and a thriving community of die-hard foodies, there’s something for everyone, from high-end to down-home. So dive right in and discover Atlanta’s big-city offerings, craft producers and hole-in-the-wall neighborhood haunts, all served with a side of Southern hospitality.
Photo courtesy of Andrew Thomas Lee
Iconic Dish: JCT. Kitchen & Bar's Fried Chicken
Fried chicken may well be the iconic dish of the entire South, but if you’re going to have it at only one place, head for this west midtown spot. The Georgia-raised Springer Mountain Farms chicken is soaked overnight in a salt and herb brine, dipped in a buttermilk-egg mixture, dredged in seasoned flour, deep-fried and crisped in a cast-iron skillet. Served with housemade hot sauce and collard greens, it’s one of the city’s singular pleasures. While there are other restaurants in town producing equally exceptional fried chicken (including old-timers The Colonnade and Matthews Cafeteria), JCT. represents the newer guard of Southern-style dining, with terrific cocktails, an extensive wine list and smart service, served up in an industrial-chic dining room. For a spectacular view of Atlanta’s ever-changing skyline, sidle up to the second-floor bar.
Photo courtesy of Emily Schultz
Burger: Holeman & Finch Public House
Pizza: Antico Pizza Napoletana
Tasting Menu: Bacchanalia
Though Atlanta is packed with exciting dining options, most discriminating tastemakers would agree that the undisputed grand dame of fine dining is Bacchanalia, spearheaded by James Beard Award-winning chef Anne Quatrano and Clifford Harrison. Tuck into the restaurant’s signature tasting menu ($85) and know that you’re in for a five-course treat, with three savory dishes, a cheese course and dessert. The food is elegant and refined, drawing inspiration from classical preparations and local ingredients, many of them sourced from Summerland, the duo’s nearby farm. For extra-special occasions, there is an optional additional course of Petrossian caviar served with a soft-scrambled farm egg. It’s an experience indeed.
Photo courtesy of Andrew Thomas Lee
Date Spot: The Iberian Pig
Just six miles east of downtown, the city of Decatur has established itself as a dining enclave, thanks in no small part to the Iberian Pig. With a bustling dining room, bathed in soft light from Edison bulbs and candles, the space is perfectly suited to amorous diners. A playful craft cocktail menu, locally brewed beers and a largely Spanish wine list can help get the evening started, and the robust selection of charcuterie and small plates keeps guests connected over the food. The menu allows guests to be as adventurous or tame as they like, with standard Spanish favorites like patatas bravas and steak with chimichurri, and more daring fare like savory-sweet foie gras “Foiench” toast.
Photo courtesy of Heidi Geldhauser
Ice Cream: Queen of Cream
Though only visitors call this place “Hot-lanta,” the city is famous for its humidity and sky-high temperatures, making ice cream a welcome relief almost anytime. When cravings strike, seek out fresh-faced ice cream chef Cora Cotrim, the “Queen of Cream.” At her eponymous Inman Park parlor, she serves creative flavors like Cornflake Bacon Brittle, Thai Tea, Maple Walnut and Georgia Peach Cobbler. Cotrim’s flavors may be intricate, but she keeps the ingredients uncomplicated with sugar and grass-fed organic cream and milk. The quaint shop features a full coffee bar with housemade syrups and Relevator Coffee, pastries and baked goods (just right for crafting a custom ice cream sandwich). Pretty sweet!
Photo courtesy of Victor Protasio