The Best Restaurants in Atlanta Right Now
If 2019 ends up being the year Atlanta restaurants finally get the respect they deserve, it’ll partially be because of this past summer. Some of the best places to open their doors in ATL in years went live in recent months, and with so many of them being worthy of local and national praise, it’s a great time to live and dine in our city. Eat Seeker isn't just about the latest hot spots though. After we round up the cream of the latest crop, we break down the best restaurants in Atlanta, period -- the ones have made eating in Atlanta what it is today. Old and new, here's where to eat in Atlanta right now.
Texas and Louisiana unite in Georgia to feed you
Maybe it’s “Mexi-Cajun,” or maybe it’s “Texianan,” but whatever you decide to call Dos Bocas, be sure you know it translates to “two mouths,” which you’re going to wish you had when you check the menu of this one-two punch of flavors from the Louisiana and the Lone Star State. Get a table and stare into the strangely blissful mural of a donkey and a camouflaged cow following an alligator to who-knows-where, and check out the Tex-Mex and Cajun dishes, which include proteins in a variety of options. Your chicken can come as chorizo and three-cheese-topped chicken toluca, blackened in cast iron, or zydeco’d in lemon pepper sauce with white rice and mixed veggies. There are also starters like shrimp, which could be Napoleon (in butter, lemon and worcestershire, with French bread), fried bayou style with Tabasco aioli, or cocktailed with crab meat in lime, tomatoes, and green chiles. There’s gumbo and pozole for soup. There are chicken tinga enchiladas and catfish po-boys. There’s redfish, available with spicy butter sauce and pico on top, or meuniere with red beans and rice. It’s Southern unity, in a way that now seems strange only for never being considered before.
One of ATL’s most creative chefs soars on his own
Chef Zeb Stevenson has earned deep respect around Atlanta’s restaurant scene for both his culinary skill and boundless creativity, having run the kitchens at The Livingston, Parish, and Watershed, to name a few, and for winning an episode of “Chopped” in 2012. Not to mention he once threw a five-course, blood-themed dinner that caught pretty much everybody’s attention. Now, after working on the concept for years, he finally has his own place, Redbird, in the former space of Bacchanalia in Westside Provisions District, reworked with neutral colors and vibrant lighting, which spreads from the tall windows looking out to the bridge above the train tracks, to the open kitchen Stevenson had custom-built so he could see and interact with everyone in the restaurant. The concept is whimsical and free-spirited, and the cuisine leans on his imaginative flair, particularly in the treatment of plants and veggies. The crispy eggplant with thyme-honey sauce, grilled bok choy in candied mustard and umami XO sauce, and vegetarian spaetzle with tarragon, pepper and sweet corn, are samples of Zeb’s curiosities, but his fish dishes are where you’ll find him really taking flight, especially in the perfectly pan-seared market fish, with its picturesque topping of sizzling green scallions. The cocktails, intentionally crafted to pair with menu items, let you continually digest lunch, dinner, or brunch (which ranges from blueberry pancakes to creamy smoked trout brandade). Nothing like a negroni made with sparkling wine, or “restoratives” like melon, ginger and soda mixes, to get those broken wings back in shape.
Semi-casual charcoal-fired Tex-Mex chicken
Ford Fry has a great rate of success in opening and sustaining restaurants (this is his dozenth), and from the looks, tastes, and smells of Little Rey, another hit on his and chef Kevin Maxey’s hands. With it’s old-school neon chicken sign outside, naturally sunlit, window-surrounded interior with cartoon animal masks hanging from the wood and white brick walls, accented by tables set with teal metal chairs and mustard-leather stool seats, it’s bright and airy, with very tasty al carbon whole birds prepared for groups of up to eight. That same poultry can be served in traditional soft corn tacos, or you can instead do brisket, smoked pork, or wood-grilled skirt steak, then finish with one of the rotating soft-serve options like tres leches or salted caramel. It’s also a great breakfast hangout, beginning at 8am with bacon, chorizo, veggie, and other tacos, plus chalupas, huevos rancheros, and hotcakes under buttermilk syrup.
A modern Israeli and Middle Eastern eating den
When you hear “modern Israeli,” you might immediately think of possibly indicted prime ministers, but you should think of happiness, because that’s what Aziza means in Arabic. And that’s what your mouthfeel will be as soon as you take your first bite into the fluffy, pull-apart, brioche-meets-croissant kubaneh bread, but try not to eat it all because you’ll want to save room for their delicately seared okra with labneh, octopus over squid ink tahini, and Jerusalem mix of veal sweetbreads and chicken liver mousse. And you haven’t even had dinner yet, which could be a duck two-piece (a confit leg and a roasted breast), head-on prawns from Acre, Israel, or a 48oz porterhouse that dry-aged for 30 days. With its warm, golden lighting, sleek stone bar (a great place to have a red-pepper-juiced “Harissa Explains it All” mezcal cocktail), and cushy cloth-covered booths, closed in by brick and concrete walls, it’s a model for contemporary comfort whose dishes provide the basis for a remarkably unique evening.
Masterful French-Vietnamese meals where the rich and ritzy shop
Le Colonial began in NYC and has locations in Chicago, San Francisco, and Houston, and opened in The Shops Buckhead Atlanta around the start of September. Under the direction of Beard-nominated culinary director Nicole Routhier, exec chefs Hassan Obay and Richard Lee run an efficient kitchen operation that bangs out plates of fine-tuned food that look similar to things you may have had elsewhere but taste, well, lots better here. For proof, start with the CA Song tuna tartare with avocado, cucumber, and soy caviar, then get a bowl of Hanoi beef pho in wagyu oxtail broth, or the super-tender bo luc lac “shaking beef,” or the wonderfully fried whole red snapper, bedazzled with scallions, peppers, and garlic chili fish sauce. As for the space, which was once Dolce, it is now split into separate rooms with their own experiences, such as exclusive tasting menus by request in the private, 14-seat Lotus room, or a three-course dinner in the reception ready, glass-enclosed Saigon room, or just ask for an available seat in the al fresco veranda that extends from the main lounge and dining room, which you enter after taking an elevator to the second floor.
Kevin Gillespie’s Champagne of Beers of restaurants
Opening its doors near the end of July and inviting guests to dine on its BeltLine-overlooking rooftop just under a month later, Cold Beer is the latest invention from Gillespie’s Red Beard Restaurants group, where the menu is always changing but constantly giving you 15 small-plate options, 15 cocktails, and a slightly longer list of brews: 25 currently, including 12 taps and the rest packaged, from Bud “Heavy” and Coors Banquet Beer to craft-head favorites like Une Annee Peche, and local strong stuff like Scofflaw’s 13.9% Vanilla Absentium. On the cocktail side you can have a Georgia Sour with bourbon, peach, kola nut, lemon, lime leaf, and a floater of muscadine, or zero-proof sips like the Still Lit Gimlet. Try it all, from the shrimp pancakes with herb, edible flowers and bitter lettuce, to good ol’ smoked and fried wings. And why, you ask, is there a giant mural of a polar bear in the middle of the white and yellow dining room? Don’t ask; just drink more beer until it makes sense.
Gullah Geechee begins its long-awaited ATL arrival, right near the airport
When married partners Gee and Juan Smalls decided they were going to go into business feeding traditional food from the Gullah and Geechee community of South Carolina (said to be the oldest surviving culture of African-Americans in the US), they first considered Midtown. Then they switched modes, came to the Tri-Cities area, and opened up on Main Street to a delighted crowd ready to scoop up the rice-based recipes made famous on James Island, where Gee was raised by his father, for whom the restaurant is named and whose face appears in the lush blue mural from local artist C. Flux Sing. The menu is written in the Creole language of the culture, but it’s also pretty literal, so when you see “shawk bites,” yes, that means actual shark. That fried “poke” chop is not made with cold tuna; that’s pig. And that crab rice is, well... crab rice. And you’ll take one bite and realize you should have been eating it long ago, along with the nap-inducing Chucktown chewie brownie, made with light brown sugar and topped with powdered sugar, pecans, fudge and salted caramel ice cream.
All-day breakfast and cool beans in that upcoming Memorial Drive development
The construction around Atlanta Dairies makes it hard to notice the central coffeehouse among the condos and retail shops getting ready to open. But being as close as it is to the Eastside Trail of the BeltLine, there’s plenty of foot traffic moving through the doors of the cozy, retro-furniture-decked restaurant. With healthy, housemade breakfasts that include colorful smoothie bowls like the pitaya (dragonfruit) and toasts like the avocado smash made with H&F sourdough bread and a six-minute egg, you have options to get your day started on the somewhat lighter side. Then again, there’s the egg and bacon sandwich, which is really pork belly, flat egg, Swiss cheese, and comeback sauce on brioche, and of course you can get a milkshake made with milk infused with rainbow-hued Cap’n Crunch cereal. Either way is fine, because they have tapped cold-brewed coffee, including their most popular nitro oat milk or the matcha latte. They don’t mind you hanging around for a bit -- they’ve even built wireless phone chargers into the tables. Anyway, that’s why they made the food good, because if you stay around long enough you’re gonna at least want an almond butter cookie or something.
Stellar fast-casual sushi from the O-Ku folks
With a bubble-gum-colored interior finally complete and sushi ready for consumption, Sukoshi survived what seems like endless Colony Square construction and months of festival pop-ups convincing all who work or live near the 14th and Peachtree intersection to save up for quick meals of surprisingly high caliber. The restaurant is from the Indigo Road group (O-Ku, Tiny Lou’s, Donetto), so everything from the maki, nigiri, and other sushi is impressive, whether you get it from the grab-and-go cooler, order it as a bowl with brown or white rice, or indulge at the sushi bar. There’s also the option to try their omakase tasting menus, including a half-hour option during lunchtime that features five courses, and slows down in the evenings since your boss isn’t checking on when you finally make it back to your desk from the new sushi restaurant after 5pm. While you’re there, pick up a box of Pocky for your cubicle mates so they’ll have your back next time you want them to cover for you while you’re downstairs doing one more round of the tempura shrimp, yellowtail, and serrano pepper Ha Ha-Machi roll, or whatever roll you decide to get on.
A whiskey-washed lounge paying homage to ATL’s prohibition roots
Declaring itself to have “hearty and honest” meals, while daring to shout out Atlanta’s infamous Free & Rowdy political party (which backed ATL’s first three mayors), Rowdy Tiger arose from the ashes -- well, not literally this time -- of Community Smith inside the Renaissance Atlanta Midtown, and now offers one of the city’s largest collections of whiskey (more than 125), and lots of serious food. Open at 6:30am daily, the breakfast menu includes Georgia pecan banana pancakes, a meat-lovers cheese omelet, and a braised short rib Benedict. From there it’s lunch and dinner, both of which include bourbon molasses-glazed wings and a lowcountry cioppino stew; dinner however gets down and dirty with pork belly mac & cheese, a 16-ounce chargrilled ribeye in stout demi glace and other such rowdy meals, which sadly aren’t free, but neither is freedom.
The best pizza in Atlanta right now
Atlanta isn't necessarily known for its pizza prowess. But Anthony Spina and Billy Streck's Nina & Rafi could change that. It’s not just the recent culling of ATL’s pizza herd (Rize, Gino’s East, The Local Pizzaiolo, etc.) that gives N&R a legitimate claim to having the city’s finest; it's the robust sauces, meats, and expert baking that create a perfectly balanced work of comfort food art. Sure, they make a stellar chicken or eggplant parm, so get that too, but don’t leave without pizza, whether it’s the round Vodka Margherita with spicy meatballs, garlic, pecorino, EVOO, mozz, and fresh basil, or the overwhelmingly meaty "Tony Pepperoni” with a generous spread of spicy arrabbiata red sauce. Thankfully, they just started serving slices every weekday during lunch hours (11am - 4pm).
An all-star team puts all-day breakfast and java in PCM
Unless you’re on some ridiculous diet, it's in your best interest to eat all-day breakfast at Pancake Social. It’s a partnership from one of the best chefs in Atlanta (Anne Quatrano), former Chick-Fil-A executive Dan Jacobson, and the founders of Octane Coffee (Tony Riffel) and Tin Drum Asian Kitchen (Steven Chan). Consider starting your day with an iced shakerato and dark chocolate buckwheat pancakes, or a Dutch baby with apple and Gruyere. They’ve also got bowls (sweet or savory ancient grain porridge; quinoa with roasted carrot, avocado, kale, and peanut vinaigrette) and sandwiches like hot honey fried chicken on an English muffin or avocado toast on a sesame bagel. Or just get the flapjacks -- you can’t go wrong with three stacks in Atlanta.
Atlanta’s favorite meatless burger truck gets a home on the Westside
Yes, all the celebrities are eating the hell out of the Slutty Vegan’s food-porn-tastic Impossible Burger, but you don’t really need the blessing of Lena Waithe, Tyler Perry, and Big Boi to tell you it’s delicious. (But yes, that helps.) Get there with plenty of time to spare; there will almost certainly be a line for CAU grad Pinky Cole’s wildly successful food truck and brick-and-mortar burger business. Just trust us, you don’t want to risk getting there after all the hornily-named burgers (Menage a Trois with vegan bacon; Sloppy Toppy with vegan cheese on a Hawaiian bun) are sold out.
Old-school, tongue-in-cheek eatery with on-point specials and cheap beer
As retro as retro gets, LLoyd’s truly doesn't take itself seriously, which you can tell from the uncle-esque design, heavy on wood paneling, leather, and brick. It’s a refreshing rejection of the pomp and circumstance of many new Atlanta restaurants, but it’d be nothing without food you’ll actually like eating. As is often the case with Vic Brands restaurants (Victory, Little Trouble, etc.), the food’s actually banging, especially if you get there when the blue plate special is their deeply flavorful Peruvian chicken. Happy hour means $5 vespers and Manhattans, but the real action is the super-cheap American beer -- when’s the last time you had a Champagne Velvet, the pre-Prohibition-style German lager from Indiana? Tonight.
Funked-up New American with creative cocktails
This funked-up “New American” eatery has quickly become the Glenwood/Flat Shoals intersection’s most serious dining destination by taking its food just seriously enough without being pompous, so you don’t feel like you’ve left the neighborhood when you’re chomping into the bar-cut flounder with grapefruit and sunchokes, or out of place for a wagyu steak salad. It’s one of our favorite spots of 2018, with seamless service thanks to operations run by veterans of Wrecking Bar Brewpub and Ford Fry’s school of culinary competency. And the cocktails also rule -- for a taste of originality try the Fernet-Branca-mixed Staccato, a bourbon-based beverage that mixes citrus, spice, and tawny port.
Farm-forward, Hemingway-inspired fare
This restaurant is named after what Papa Hemingway called blank sheets of paper, and similarly wants to create timeless meals while sticking exclusively to Georgia-sourced ingredients (from farms like Finch Creek, Riverview, and Stone Mountain Cattle Co.). They’ll also be serving up to 80 guests at a time with a menu that offers 15 always changing dishes that could include Sapelo Island clams with pigtails, kohlrabi, celery, lemon, or maybe tilefish with aji amarillo, daikon, tapioca, and kale. Also, maybe not! You’ll have to stop in and see.
High-level cuisine with a charitable heart
Staplehouse has seasonal, farm-fresh ingredients, and an inventive kitchen that make for a rotating chef’s tasting, and a la carte menus that are complex, unique, and delectable. Plus, proceeds benefit the Giving Kitchen, which provides aid to industry folks in need. Pro tip: don’t miss out on their perfectly executed wine pairings.
Perfectly paired supper and cocktails from ATL bar veterans
This quiet new restaurant in the corner of Krog Street Market has a seafood and poultry-heavy menu with standouts like the clam roll and dry-aged roasted duck, but their cocktails are the true attractions. Belly up to the bar and sip on everything, including their signature Ticonderoga Cup: a ridiculously good combination of rum, cognac, sherry, pineapple, lemon, and mint.
Delicious and delectable bites... like steak. Get the steak.
Settle into one of the deep booths in the beautiful and spacious dining room at this upscale brasserie and prepare for some serious bliss in the form of a couple of courses, including the foie gras with fig terrine, escargot, and the L’Entrecôte steak with frites and insanely flavorful sauce verte.
Easily the coolest and tastiest Indian restaurant around town
Their food is legendary, but now, their service model has changed, which makes impatient patrons love this place even more. Instead of dodging servers in their charming dining area, you can place your order at the counter, take a seat, and wait leisurely for your meal. No matter what you get, don’t even think of missing out on their signature matchstick okra fries. That said, it’s impossible to go wrong with the Maharaja Lamb Burgers: a thick, juicy lamb burger flavored with ginger, mint, garlic, pistachio, and more. And then wash it all down with a Lime Rickey.
Farmstead-driven, James Beard-certified food that never falls short
Consistency earns respect in Atlanta’s culinary community, and Steven Satterfield’s talent with preparing organic local goodness has kept him and the Miller Union team in the city’s top tier of places to feast. In other words, not many places could pull off having a seasonal veggie plate and housemade pork sausage that are equally popular, along with other super-authentic regional meals, from smoked rabbit mousse starters and shrimp/andouille gumbo at lunch to sauteed quail w/ smoked beets and Vidalia onions. Their wine list, curated by sommelier/GM/partner Neal McCarthy, is one of the top 100 in the US, according to Wine Enthusiast, and their dessert menu includes a peach and buttermilk cake.
Posh New American power dinner with Picasso (no, really)
It will be you that shrugs when other guests of this titan-inspired restaurant marvel at the amount of newly added pounds you carry after eating at this European-inspired American supper house. Advised by Gerry Klaskala (the founder of superstar ATL restaurants Aria and Canoe), and run by Christopher Grossman, who Klaskala trained at Aria and swiped from Napa Valley’s The French Laundry (which Anthony Bourdain calls “the best restaurant in the world”), Atlas gets its food exclusively from local farms, changes its menu weekly to spotlight seasonal goodness, and even has an exquisite collection of curated 20th-century art. So what the burger is $29? It’s so damn good that you’d willingly carry the chefs on your shoulders for all eternity.
A new chef brings a season of veggie-forward love to the funky little Ponce restaurant that could
8ARM has been exceptional since the BYOB days. But now that the talented Maricela Vega -- locally famous for her killer tamales and Mexican pop-up dinners -- has taken over as executive chef, there’s a noticeable new spark on the menu. 8ARM is still focused on shared-plate seasonality, but Vega’s interest in vegetables is the biggest and best new thing, which is evident in the galactically delicious oyster & chanterelles mushrooms; the tagliatelle, with its gorgeously green and red blend of cherry tomatoes and basil in a parmesan broth; and the yellowedge grouper, which comes with a perfect portion of fairytale eggplant, cucumber, and chili oil, topped with red sorrel leaves. Plus, there are great tiki drinks like the Painkiller. Without drastically changing the fundamental spirit of 8ARM, Vega has brought a new sense of plant-based creativity to match the restaurant’s consistently craveworthy food. After dinner here, you might find yourself hugging the building with as many arms as you have available.
Lofty, classy, feisty Basque cuisine
The name enough should draw you in. You almost expect a brawling gang of chefs in camouflage and red Rambo bandanas. But C&S is only at war with whack food, which it fights with “pinxtos,” or Spanish-French tapas inspired by the foods of Basque Country. For evidence, try the escabèche toast w/ Georgia white shrimp, Bayonne, chili-saffron oil, and marinated salad. Or go for small plates like grilled Spanish octopus, local rabbit, beef hearts from White Oak Pastures, and Berkshire and Ibérico pork meatballs. Regardless of your diplomatic tendencies, this is one culinary draft you’re not going to wanna dodge.
A modern Southern restaurant still making Hugh Acheson a household name
There’s no way you can leave Hugh Acheson off a list of where’s-where in ATL’s eating scene -- not while the Canadian transplant is still proving his mastery of authentic Southern food from breakfast to dinner (and even during brunch). Just look at what he’s doing with catfish: In the mornings it’s smoked and slapped on a bagel, during lunch you can get a catfish banh mi hot dog with pickled trimmings, and for dinner it’s an entree served with Hoppin’ John, dashi, sweet potato, and cucumber. During weekend middays, it’s served with rice pudding, celery, tomato, and shrimp jus. Your grandma is jealous, and she’s an actual ATLien.
Metro ATL’s undisputed oyster champion with a special ice secret
There’s simply no way to beat Kimball House’s raw bar happy hour -- it’s worth the drive from wherever you are, even during rush hour, to eat those high-quality bivalves. Not only that, but it’s a great place for steaks and other seafood. Plus, partner Miles Macquarrie continues proving, through his constantly changing cocktails, absinthe program, and one-off events such as a recent dinner he hosted with KH menu items paired exquisitely with Sipsmith gin, that he’s a beast with a shaker. For proof, here’s a homework assignment: next time you’re there, just ask him (or any bartender on staff) what’s so special about the ice. You’ll never question the value of a $13 drink again.
Of course the city’s best Szechuan is in an OTP strip mall
A few years ago, food critic Jennifer Zyman said Masterpiece had “the best Chinese food in the Atlanta area.” Unless you already live in Duluth (and if so, you should be there daily), go on and make the long-ass drive, because she wasn’t lying. Don’t waste time looking for an online menu; just head out there and have a hot plate of your go-tos for an introduction: they have incredible pork dumplings and spicy shaved/fried chicken. Hell, even good ol’ beef and broccoli is artisan-level compared to anything you’ve eaten lately at Perimeter Mall.
Vietnamese-Creole eats complemented by a superior cocktail program
Everything’s good at Bon Ton, from the blackened catfish banh mi to the sausage and seafood gumbo, applewood-smoked snow crab, boiled crawfish, and pretty much everything else. And how can you not love a place with drinks as delicious as its food, a lovable red neon sign that says “Fancy Service,” and an even more lovable low-tech website? You can’t. It’s simply impossible.
A Downstairs French kiss at The Clermont Hotel
Don’t let your mind wander to what’s going on in the basement when you’re at Tiny Lou’s. Just take in the snazzy, sexy, low lit atmosphere, and if you’re going to T-Pain it and fall in love with a stripper, let it be the one for whom the restaurant is named. After all, she turned down an invitation to give Adolph Hitler a table dance (true story!). But love is the word that comes to mind as you scarf down this French-American brasserie’s appetizers, whether it’s the duck confit crêpe or the dark-chicken-au jus’d Maine diver scallops. Hit the menu’s “L'abattoir” section and order the amazing grilled venison (even if you don’t like venison, you’ll like this venison), or the whole roasted sea bass on the “La Mer” menu. And drink “The Stripper’s Real Name” -- it’s Libelula Plata tequila, Aperol, ruby port wine, and a little orange and chocolate bitters. Then go downstairs and lovingly ask for Blondie.
Stellar service and captivating Japanese comfort food
Answering a question long agonized over by… well, maybe no one (“How do you say “Peachtree” in Japanese?”), Momonoki takes care to show appreciation to Atlanta by shouting out the name of too many local streets while treating us to excellently casual Japanese cuisine. Yes, there’s ramen if you want it, but it’s done with style here. You can get dippable Tsukemen ramen, which is cooked and contained separately from the pork belly broth. You can keep it standard with your poultry, fish and/or pork (they offer the last two as a combo), and you can even have it prepared stir-fry-style without any broth. They’ve also got protein bowls in both cooked and raw format (salmon tataki, curried beef, etc.), sandwiches cut into squares (try the Wagyu sandwich, which is not cheap but not-not-delicious), and bistro-ish bites over in the adjacent Momo Café, where you’re welcome to enjoy matcha brownies, black sesame coffee and more. How do you say “hell yeah” in Midtown Japanese? Also “Momonoki.”
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