Food & Drink

The Best Restaurants in Atlanta Right Now

Updated On 03/15/2019 at 05:57PM EST Updated On 03/15/2019 at 05:57PM EST

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Watchman's Seafood & Spirits

Watchman’s Seafood & Spirits

Inman Park

Krog Street Market finally gets the seafood spot it deserves
Kimball House may be thought of as a cocktail bar first and restaurant second (at least if you’re the James Beard Foundation, apparently), but anyone who’s checked out the food menu will tell you they don’t slack a minute, especially on the raw bar. And it just so happened that Krog Street Market needed a good seafood restaurant -- one that sees sustainability as a North Star (the seafood is mainly from the Gulf coast), and one that is not The Luminary. Just like Kimball, Watchman’s is a great place for oysters, especially during $1-per happy hour on weekdays from 5-7pm. The menu for those, and both lunch and dinner, changes daily, but you can usually find starters like the ceviche (which includes corn nuts) and the egg-yolky snapper tartare, and there’s usually a whole fish dinner, but it’s also a good idea to get turf eats like the chicken schnitzel with smoked mushroom broth if it’s available on your visit. And of course the cocktails are killer, heralded liquid-mix-master Miles Macquarrie is a partner. You’ll definitely want to order something seasonal -- the boozy, minty Prescription No. 5 rye concoction is a good pick -- or one of the permanent "Classics" like the Demerara Old Fashioned, or a house daiquiri, which gets herbs and yellow Chartreuse mixed in with the rum and fresh lime juice.

Lazy Betty - Atlanta

Lazy Betty

Candler Park

The Hsu Family ups the elevated food ante
Going from pop-up to primetime on Dekalb Avenue, Lazy Betty is now a full-time thing, attempting to occupy a modern-centric approach to dining and hopefully challenging taste buds and minds about fine dining and how it is impacted with top-tier kitchen talent mixed with whimsical creativity. The two leading chefs are Ronald Hsu and Aaron Phillips, who both worked NYC’s Michelin-starred Le Bernardin and other big-time restaurants. Together, they offer a short a la carte menu that starts with potato-foamed Georgia shrimp causa, a crisp fried rice cake with Chinese sausage and five-spice duck, and donuts with ginger spice. They’ve also got two tasting menus -- a seven course option and a 10-course option available exclusively at the eight-seat chef’s counter. During opening season that tasting menu will include Georgia truffles, charred Spanish octopus, and a ponzu-scented-jus version of steak and eggs. Everything’s presented beautifully, and everything tastes just as lovely.  

Local Green

West End

Super-fresh, healthier fill-ups from an ATL music biz entrepreneur
Getting southern people to even consider replacing a barbecued pork slider with a fruit sandwich is sorcery in and of itself, but that’s exactly what was done by local music industry veteran “Big Zak” Wallace when he started Local Green from a catering service at Monday Night Garage. It now has a brick-and-mortar space not far from the Atlanta University Center. The jackfruit sandwich is the standout, less for tricking you into believing it’s pork and more for being supremely edible. There are also vegan pizzas and cauliflower tacos (both of which you’ll eat and actually enjoy), and a pescatarian selection that includes a jumbo shrimp burger, a salmon philly, albacore tuna wraps, and even healthier breakfast options like croissants with vegan sausage. And following the runaway success of Slutty Vegan, it’s good to have another place to go where the line isn’t wrapped around the building (yet).

Sear | Atlanta Marriott Marquis

Sear

Downtown

A hotel chophouse that’s worth a steak-cation
Sear has been here for years, and unless you happened to be visiting town or cheating on your partner, you might not have noticed the steakhouse was right there in the Atlanta Marriott Marquis. But it’s funny what an overhaul can do, and with a new design and menu refresh it appears that the new Sear might finally leave its mark on Downtown. They’re now doing things seasonal and doing a great job at it, judging from the perfectly balanced Harissa-roasted winter vegetables starter, which has a slight spice that’s cooled and sweetened with lime labneh (like yogurt, but also like cream cheese). They’re also localizing the menu, adding a Georgia baby greens salad with goat cheese from Sandy Springs’ Calyroad Creamery, a Georgia shrimp bisque, and a grouper that’s crusted with Stone Mountain pecans. But if you’re into steaks, that’s good, because they have 8-ounce prime-cut filets, 28-day-dry-aged Kansas City striploin, and a 22-ounce cowboy rib eye, all topped with creamy green chimichurri butter. Pair it with wine, or go with the blood orange boulevardier.

AIX

AIX

Westside

Nick Leahy’s back for the provencal crown
The kitchen staff comes mostly from Saltyard, back when it was owned by Fifth Group Restaurants alumnus Nick Leahy, whose has established himself as more of a culinary thought leader than just some new dude in a white jacket. This being his new thing, AIX is an experience-driven provencal French restaurant with hues of blue and wood that provide a very comfortable setting for a meal that does the most. The weekday dinner menu offers crispy chicken livers and duck confit crepe with roasted grapes, duck egg and foie brown butter, and that’s just the beginning. The mains get hearty, from the saffron-broth seafood bouillabaisse to the rack of lamb loin with chestnut dumplings, cabbage puree and sage apples. But if you really want to get upscale, call ahead for one of the before-9pm seatings at the Sunday Supper, their prix-fixe dinner that changes weekly and seriously ups the expectations ante for other newcomers. You get three courses for $40, which could be a crispy salmon rillette with green onion hollandaise and creme fraiche gel, then mussel linguine with crispy pork, mint foam and preserved lemon, and finally a caramelized white chocolate bread pudding.

Boxcar at Hop City

West End

A beer baron-turned-restaurateur hits the Southwest BeltLine
Hop City beer baron Kraig Torres made a serious come-up when he first opened his Marietta Street bottle shop, then became known as the go-to spot for homebrewing equipment, and kept his rep growing with stellar wine, tasting events, and fantastic curation of brews that were otherwise hard to find. He’s now spread out with locations at Krog Street Market, Birmingham (yes, Alabama), and if that wasn’t far enough, Alpharetta, where he partnered with The Spotted Trotter’s founders to open a restaurant, Barleygarden. Now he’s in the Lee + White development with Boxcar (and a Hop City beneath it), where he’s plating “classic American fare” with fancied-up presentation. It’s certainly a different experience than the neighborhood has been used to, but that’s not a bad thing, especially when it includes daily made tarragon aioli “lobstah” rolls, brussels with bacon cooked in duck fat, yuzu fried chicken, and a anise-spiced pork chop with fried egg. Oh, and there are 28 rotating draft beer taps. If you live nearby, you’re beyond excited. If not, you’re probably seriously thinking about buying a house in the West End now, for-real-for-real.

Parkwoods Atlanta

Parkwoods

Perimeter

A fabulous feast at... Crowne Plaza Ravinia!?
Yeah, this hotel restaurant thing is very real. On paper or in digital ink, Parkwoods sounds reasonable, but since it’s in the Crown Plaza Perimeter, you’re kinda like “Eh…” Then you go there, remember the place has a beautiful atrium, and you’re sitting near towering windows looking out at a beer garden, and all of a sudden a server brings you what might be the best cornbread in the city, topped with honey compound butter you’re tempted to rub into your own skin. Then there’s the shrimp and grits, which is damn-near gumbo, but creamy and incredible. Then there’s sous chef Sanje Harris’ perfectly fried chicken, for which he made a wickedly good Scotch Bonnet pepper hot sauce inspired by his Caribbean roots. But it’s the pan-seared red snapper, with butter-braised radishes and lemon fingerling potatoes that steals the show. Overseen by Houston-born chef Joe Gentempo, it’s worth every minute of traffic you’ll sit in trying to get away from Ashford-Dunwoody Road after dinner.

best of the best

C. Ellet’s

C. Ellet’s

SunTrust Park

The Battery’s fanciest plate
Directly across from that huge red Atlanta Braves sign just outside SunTrust is one of the most consistent steakhouses in the city. Yet you may have felt like the frequent occasion of seeing The Braves get their asses whooped last season never quite merited a fine cut of cow. Now that it’s under new management, you can feel a much more flexible atmosphere welcoming you into what’s undoubtedly The Battery’s best restaurant (after all, it’s Gina and Linton Hopkins’ spot). Of course it’s the place to be if you want a bone-in filet or 38oz Prime tomahawk from Chicago, but it’s also a great choice if you’re stuck in Cumberland traffic during rush hour and want to find refuge -- their “4 to 6” happy hour menu offers great deals at $4 - $9 per item on average, including half-off premium oysters (bartender’s pick), an outstanding salmon crudo, miniature clam sammies, and a slider version of the Holeman & Finch cheeseburger.

C. Ellet’s

The White Bull

Decatur

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.

Andrew Thomas Lee Photography

Chai Yo Modern Thai

Buckhead

Premium noodles and Thai from experts who expect a dress code
The Tuk Tuk Thai team, which has roots in Midtown’s beloved Nan restaurant, knows Thai cuisine. Chai Yo brings their penchant for flavor-flexing into lunch and dinner service for Buckhead’s midday and early evening crowd, offering them inventive takes on traditional dishes, such as egg noodle-wrapped lobster tails (the fried kind) with yellow curry and mustard greens, or 12-hour sous vide beef cheeks with Brussels and jasmine rice. Yes, there’s a dress code that disinvites those in athletic or beach wear, but that just means you won’t have to run into Mark Cuban at dinner.

Andrew Thomas Lee

Staplehouse

Old 4th Ward

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.

Courtesy of Ticonderoga Club

Ticonderoga Club

Inman Park

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.

Marcel

Marcel

Midtown

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.

Chris Watkins

1Kept

Buckhead

Up-ticked Southern fare for lovers of secrets and great drinks
Known among many ATLiens as the city’s best kept secret, 1Kept slings some of the city’s finest meat-based dishes. From pork loin to steak frites and more, their meats are all melt-in-your-mouth delicious. Maybe even more impressive? Some of their most beloved dishes are meatless (or easy on the meat). Don’t let the delectable pimento cheese board, with its grilled, crusty sourdough and pumpernickel breads, assorted jams, and homemade pickles pass you by. And for a dose of healthy greens, check out the warm kale salad with spicy chorizo, quinoa, carrots, and sweet, plump golden raisins tossed in a spicy chili oil vinaigrette.

Robert Gunn

Chai Pani

Decatur

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.

Andrew Thomas Lee

Ladybird Grove & Mess Hall

Old 4th Ward

BeltLine brunches and camp-inspired cookery
Arguably the most popular Beltline-adjacent spot in town, Ladybird is the rare restaurant whose menu and ambience are both exceedingly amazing. Their outdoor, pet friendly patio is the perfect spot for people watching, eating their outrageously good eats like chicken fried chicken (or, for brunch, their French toast or chicken biscuit), and tossing back cocktails like their Fool in the Rain, a unique blend of Old Fourth Ward vodka, smoky brandy, sweet pear, and prosecco with a hint of earthly thyme. Regulars and newcomers alike will be pleased to know they’ve recently opened an outdoor “Grove” space, featuring a bar inside a vintage, painted camper, comfy Adirondack chairs, string lights, Ping-Pong tables, and a lot more.

Miller Union

Miller Union

West Atlanta

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.

Atlas

Buckhead

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.

8arm

8 Arm

Virginia Highland

Early to late-night dining and tiki with a showy simplicity that works
When Octopus Bar founders Nhan Le and Angus Brown closed Lusca, they clearly decided to simplify things a bit to not lose those of us who aren’t used to their talents with fine seafood dining. With 8 Arm, the menu -- which always changes but can be kept up with on Instagram -- is based on a few standard recipe styles that use alternating proteins. Whatever they put in it from day to day, try the tagliatelle. And then look for the main meat or seafood dish of the evening, which could be lamb shoulder, grouper, a porterhouse, or kinda anything. Just trust that it’s delicious.

Cooks & Soldiers

Cooks & Soldiers

Westside

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.

Empire State South

Empire State South

Midtown

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.

Kimball House

Kimball House

Decatur

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.

Masterpiece

Duluth

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.

Amalfi Pizza

Downtown

Crazy good Neapolitan pizza pulling locals back to South Peachtree
Amalfi partners Stephen de Haan and Greg Grant decided they wanted to make the best pizza in Atlanta, so they took courses (both here in the States and in Italy) on making traditional Neapolitan pies. Then they had two 6,000-pound brick ovens craned in through the ceiling of an old Downtown building, just so that you could eat slices of the Amalfi Carnevale, topped with spicy sausage, peppadew peppers, caramelized onion, and house-made bacon jam, with a ricotta-stuffed crust. Also, Red Phone Booth is next door and owned by the same guys. Get the code while you’re eating and walk over for a cigar and snifter of rare Pappy if you’ve got the proper funds after.

Bon Ton ATL

Bon Ton

Midtown

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.

Bar Mercado

Bar Mercado

Krog Street Market

Spanish tapas and wines go for an Inman Park takeover
Anyone can appreciate a place with reasonable prices for Spanish wine (glasses range from $5 to $14); even folks who have houses in Inman Park, who need to watch their spending as much as a fish needs fresh air. The great thing about Bar Mercado is that the wine sets up great shared dining, particularly the perfectly seared trout (you’ll swear it’s somehow deep-fried due to its crispness), charred octopus, or nightly specials such as lobster and mussels.

Tiny Lou's

Tiny Lou’s

Poncey-Highland

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.

Momonoki

Momonoki

Midtown

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.”