Atlanta's Best New Restaurants of 2017
We saw a lot of new restaurants get launched this year in ATL -- almost too damn many, to be honest. If you simply add up the dining options at SunTrust Park and Mercedes-Benz Stadium, you’d have more spots than a lot of cities could handle in a year. With all that edible optimism, you have to be meticulous in making sure you get to the goods before you’ve stuffed yourself silly on second-tier suppers. Which is why you’re reading this list.
Some restaurants that were actually good were left off this year’s roundup. Others are missing simply because they’ve got a good buzz, but they opened so recently that it’s hard to give them a yay or nah so early on (shout out to Rose + Rye). Until then, here are the best of ATL’s new restaurants that arrived in 2017.
Perhaps the best new fried chicken biscuit in town
Look, Cracker Barrel is good, no matter how bad you millennials might feel saying its name and eating its glorious breakfast. But they’re thinking about your tender feelings, so they started this new biscuit chain and brought its sixth location to ATL, so you can continue to live on a fluffy cloud of flour. The fried chicken biscuit is the place to start, but don’t let that keep you from the Hamabama biscuit, topped with country ham and red-eye gravy. They’ve also got beignets, grits bowls, and cold-brew coffee. But seriously, get the biscuits.
Luda came, saw, and opened the best restaurant in our airport
The closure of Straits brought closure to the days when Ludacris was new to the restaurant biz. With C+B, he partnered with Jackmont Hospitality, Todd Richards, and others to create an easy-to-love representation of Atlanta dining, simply by giving us what he knew we really wanted at the airport.
Amazing NOLA-inspired fusion restaurant doling out catfish banh mi
This funky, ‘70s-inspired Cajun/Vietnamese seafood boil spot has had a roller-coaster year. The general consensus is that Bon Ton, located in the former space of Top Flr, does a good, consistent job on its mash-up food (catfish banh mi, smoked snow crab, Nashville hot oyster rolls, etc.), and in keeping up a great bar vibe. On the less happy side, Bon Ton lost its head bartender a few months ago due to an automobile accident. Still, the good times roll in his honor, as well as the founder of the original New Orleans Bon Ton location, via on-tap Sazeracs and other cocktails like the smoked bourbon mai tai, and an absinthe-rinsed Jamaican rum hurricane.
Inventive BBQ (pork quesadillas) in a sprawling space out west
Over on the smoked meats side of things, BBQ newcomer DAS has brought much-needed comfort food to the westside’s Defoors Ferry and Collier Road crossing. The patio’s string-lit ceiling and bourbon barrel-legged dining tables create a just upscale enough vibe that also encourages your tipsiness. The hickory and pecan wood puts the flavor into the meats that go into combo plates and sandwiches, from brisket to sliced turkey, sausage links, wings and pulled pork (try the pork quesadillas if you care about yourself). It’s always nice to have new barbecue; it’s even nicer when it’s good.
Pro ATL chef Michael Semancik is mastering traditional southern food in historic digs
It’s located inside a former Old Scottish Rite Hospital, and charges itself with a sense of duty akin to the meaning of its name... but in terms of food and not all that tying knots, reading compasses, and opening things with Swiss Army knives. Executive chef Michael Semancik, who worked with chefs Kevin Rathbun and Jay Swift before either had their own restaurants, leads the mission from the airy, naturally lit historic space. The kitchen puts out shareable snacks like split smoked chicken wings, Western-style beef jerky (basically teriyaki), and PBR-battered cauliflower, as well as regional entrees such as bowls of Georgia red shrimp Creole, and cast-iron tasso ham-crusted red fish. The drinks, courtesy of ATL barman Nate Shuman from the P’cheen days, are also expertly made.
The Jamaican food Glenwood Park's been missing is finally here
ATL could always use more Jamaican food -- especially jerk chicken. Festivals Jerk, which is amazingly located in Glenwood Park (across from Gunshow and down the street from The Shed), brings the jerk to the people in whole, half, or quarter bird portions, with deliciously tender, evenly spiced, char-grilled flavor that doesn’t overheat you and isn’t overdone. And if you’ve never had actual “festivals,” the hush puppy-esque Jamaican bread snack you get with entrees or can order as an extra side, you’ve not fully celebrated life.
The family behind Savi Market opens an Indian spot that stands out amongst the crowd
There will never be enough Indian food in Atlanta. Maybe Decatur, but that’s another city. As for ATL city limits, Jai Ho had a running start, since it’s from the family behind Savi Market which began selling grab-and-go Indian meals before branching out into a standalone restaurant brand. Now you can get a plethora of Pondicherry (think French-Indian) food, including the super-tender sous vide tandoor rack of lamb, as well as bowls of tandoori chicken, tikka masala, and all the usual suspects.
The best "authentic and inauthentic Chinese food" you'll find around Oakhurst
Why did it take so long for an Atlanta Chinese restaurant to be named after one of the greatest low-bit arcade games ever? Did you forget that the two main characters in the beat-’em-up game were named Billy and Jimmy Lee, as if that doesn’t sound country as hell? Never mind the failings of the past; get to DD and enjoy local, seasonal, and sustainable meats and produce in the form of some of your standard favorites, as well as a few things you might find unfamiliar. Start with Chinese boiled peanuts (which being in Georgia, you should dig), and don’t leave out the pan-fried pork or chicken dumplings before you get into General Tso’s, shredded moo shu pork, honey-walnut Georgia shrimp and broccoli, or specials like spicy Sichuan white fish.
Your new soul food staple from chef Darius Williams
Chef Darius Williams is a force on social media and in the celebrity chef world. He also had the foresight to place a restaurant with a can’t-fail name in a historically African-American neighborhood currently being revitalized by the Southwest BeltLine and other new construction. It’s certainly up-kicked, creatively imagined soul food, which you’ll know when you bite into the lemon pepper honey fried chicken, or the banana pudding (or peach cobbler) waffle, or the sweet potato grits, or the watermelon chow chow. Oh, there’s no alcohol, so keep that in mind. You’ll probably be so full after dinner or brunch that you won’t mind. OK, that’s a lie, but it’s still amazingly good.
In a sea of restaurants, C. Ellet's and their steaks stand out as the best in SunTrust Park
Not to be outdone by Arthur Blank (with the tiny exception of personal net worth), Linton Hopkins opened a steakhouse in the new home of the Braves, and named it after his great-grandfather, a US Army Corps engineer who died from a gunshot wound after fighting alongside the Union Army in the Battle of Memphis. Hopkins went all out on beef, sourcing his from farms in Nebraska, Georgia, Iowa, Kansas, Alabama, and wherever else he can source the very best bovine meats. The fresh seafood and daily rotating oyster selection are also major league draws, and the burger will be more of a steakhouse format than the all-American diner version you get at Holeman and Finch. It’s easily the best restaurant in the ballpark, but it also gives every other steakhouse in town a run for the plate.
French food and Southern food combine to give you sandwiches so good you'll want two
French food and Southern foods have a lot in common. They’re both really good when done right, and you want to eat them constantly. Combining both in Cabbagetown, this little bistro that decided to fill you up with sandwiches -- there’s even a note on the menu that says “I take sandwiches very seriously.” The declaration is proven through the Sarah-Witch, which is shaved ham, Brie, arugula, and house preserves on a Southern baguette, along with the house biscuit with Boursin and chicken sausage, and the croque monsieur (“the French version of ham and cheese”).
Many hopped on the pho craze... but Co mastered it
Pho is good any time of day, but it’s not always good depending on how close you live to some of the city’s best pho houses. Co brought fantastic bowls of the brothy noodle soup from its original Charleston location to Ponce, along with lots more Southeast Asian fare that ranges from sushi to banh mi, Thai noodles, ramen, Malaysian coconut curry soup, tuna tacos, and kimchi beef dumplings. It’s all part of a cooking philosophy that emphasizes four words -- "open-mindedness, desire, eagerness, and art,” -- none of which you can eat, but still things you can appreciate when you’re slurping down delicious bowls of steaming noodle soup without having to drive up to Doraville.
Amazing Malaysian food in what's easily the best new restaurant in ATL
Malaysian street food is probably unbelievably good in Malaysia, and sure, ATL has flights, but the drive to Chamblee is much more convenient and highly convincing that you’re eating an authentic facsimile thereof, so skip the air travel and hit Buford Highway instead. The look of the interior is almost rewarding enough, with its glowing street-light-inspired design against dark wood. But you’re here to eat, not stare, so have a curry noodle soup or the Cheese N’ Cheese tomato-braised fried rice, which is cooked in cast-iron and mixed with Cheddar, mozzarella, smoked bacon, and yes, grilled Spam. If that doesn’t sound good, clean your ears, then opt for wonton BBQ pork noodles, or poached Hainanese chicken, which is one of the most popular dishes in Singapore. Read why Thrillist chose Food Terminal as one of our Prime 13 best new restaurants of 2017.
Have you ever had an Italian brunch? Come by Buckhead and treat yourself.
Any new restaurant in Buckhead will automatically be expected to show and prove, and that’s especially true when it comes to Italian food. Doing the northern Italy thing, Taverna goes big on risottos (the burrata/heirloom cherry tomatoes/prosciutto version is killer), and their pastas are also amazing, particularly the rustic spinach and ham lasagna. Definitely come back on weekends before 3pm for Italian brunch, which includes a serious brisket hash and vanilla French toast with mascarpone -- maybe not the most Italian menu items, but Italians know how to cook everything, so just be there and eat whatever you can.
Italy comes to ATL via small plates, amaro, and Italian sodas
The Indigo Road is a well-respected restaurant group in Charleston, but we know by now that a Charleston success does not necessarily make an ATL hit (just ask your favorite Charleston-based rap artist). Donetto earns props for meaty Tuscan dishes from small plates to big pastas; the duck sausage fusilli is a standout, as well as the ripiena, or stuffed pasta with quail and smoked mushrooms. They’ve also got an outstanding beverage program, with tapped Negronis, an extensive amaro program, and a host of Italian sodas.
The Spanish tapas spot needed to make Krog Market complete
If you were thinking, “Damn, why aren’t there any Spanish tapas at Krog?” you are surely ecstatic to know that the group that brought us Cooks & Soldiers, Double Zero, and other noted restaurants around ATL were reading your brainwaves and fixed your life. The Madrid-inspired market bar has certainly fancied up KSM a bit, with little plates of full garlic/sherry shrimp, braised octopus, seared trout and other seafood, but there’s enough plant-based items to invite your vegan friends for a round or two. Think Catalan spinach, padrón peppers, oyster mushrooms, or thrice-fried saffron potatoes. You can also nab wagyu beef tartare, pork cheek empanadas, béchamel, chicken and mushroom croquetas, and cured meats and quesos. They also serve booze. And speaking of, you should totally try the rum, Creme de Framboise, orgeat, pineapple and mint Cadiz Punch 2.0, or one of 18 wines by the glass. Spoiler alert: they’re Spanish.
A rooftop beer garden that'll make you actually go to Alpharetta
Not many people would have guessed Hop City’s Kraig Torres would eventually open a restaurant in Alpharetta when his craft beer shop first arrived on the Westside of Atlanta. Yet here we are, braving terrible traffic (lest you actually live in Alpharetta) and pretending to be able to afford upscale shopping, at Barleygarden. The partnership between Torres and Kevin Outz of The Spotted Trotter is a meaty and sudsy match made in heaven, or literally Avalon, because the rooftop beer garden atmosphere stays extremely casual -- which is important when you’re wolfing down a perfect pastrami grilled cheese sandwich. They also serve Spotted’s amazing pepper umami beef jerky (worth any drive), pork brat burgers and hot dogs, including a chicken Cheddarwurst that might be the Cheddar-best in the ATL metro area.
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