Where To Eat In Atlanta Right Now
With all the problems that COVID-19 has brought to Atlanta’s dining scene -- and there are more than we even know at this point -- there is at least one bright spot. Some restaurants, if they’re able to somehow remain open for business and keep a healthy staff, are valiantly fighting with all the creativity they can muster. And it would be shameful to not recognize those doing magnificent work, against all odds, whether they’re patio-only, exclusively takeout, or putting meals in motion via delivery. As we salute the superheroes of all Atlanta restaurants, here are some of the newest spots that deserve extra-special recognition right now.
The gist: Grandmother-caliber southern Italian comfort food from the chef who gave us The White Bull.
The food: Robust is an overused word, but it’s probably the most accurate term to describe the flavors, portions, and joys one can have dining on Chef Pat Pascarella’s food at Grana. Where else can you find flights of mozzarella (crispy smoked, burrata di bufala, etc.) and meatball tastings that could include crispy veal with spicy mayo, pork ricotta, and Brasstown beef?
Save room for a wood-fired bone marrow pizza topped with smoked mozzarella and fried rosemary, or at least the housemade pastas -- the ribbon-cut mafalde with pork ragu and pecorino is bliss worthy of any belly growth that follows. There’s even a DIY cannoli.
The cost: Starters are $6-14, pizzas go for $14-19, and pastas average around $20, with piata entrees like porchetta on the high end of $25 per serving.
How to order: Reservations are available on OpenTable for indoor seating but the patios are first come, first serve.
Lake & Oak
The gist: After working together making airport restaurants better than some of your favorite neighborhood spots, two talented chefs join forces for smoky and saucy superiority.
The food: Chefs Todd Richards and Joshua Lee are doing the kind of work that people drive across town to sample. There’s the wickedly decadent brisket, seemingly cut from a giant smoked steak with burnt ends worth fighting your friends over. Or the expertly smoked pork ribs that don’t need a drop of sauce, but don’t let that keep you from tasting them when coated in Chicago red or Carolina mustard. There’s even smoke in the sides, including the mac and cheese and the grilled onions tossed into the tomato and cucumber salad. It’s another win for boss-level Black cheffery.
The cost: With the exception of a full slab of pork ribs at $32.99, everything’s under $20, including $10 chicken pimento cheese sandwiches, and 8oz brisket rubbed in coffee and black pepper for right around $17.
How to order: Order takeout online or walk up to the to-go window.
The gist: Known for three years as one of the city’s most celebrated pop-ups, this pandemic-born Thai restaurant with locally sourced ingredients is the new vanguard of consistently changing but always-awesome flavors.
The food: It’s not yet certain when you’ll get to eat inside Talat Market’s dining room, but the house of Chef Parnass Savang (a James Beard semi-finalist last year) and Rod Lassiter has built such a solid rep for their takeout Thai cuisine that it could come off the back of a pickup and still dominate. If you find a shrimp fried rice dish with yellow chili, or a braised short rib curry with fingerling potatoes, get both while you can and keep ordering.
The cost: Most dishes run $9-16, with an occasional special dish that gets closer to $30.
How to order: Dishes routinely sell out and there’s often a different menu by the day, available to order from 12-7pm, Wednesday through Sunday. Order through Toast.
The gist: Just when you thought Atlanta’s taco game couldn’t get any stronger, a new champion emerges on Memorial Drive.
The food: When 8ARM owner Nhan Le first put a taco truck outside the Ponce restaurant and everybody showed up and remarked at how great those tacos actually were, it wasn’t clear what was to come. Today, across the parking lot from Grindhouse Killer Burgers, Supremo is an instant landmark due to tortilla-shelled, Southern California street food you simply can’t front on, unless you’re unlucky enough to have not yet eaten the mole poblano, aguachile (that shrimp though), or simply spectacular carne asada.
The cost: Yes, these are $4 tacos, but here it’s worth every Washington. Matter of fact, get at least four tacos, and a $3 horchata.
How to order: Order takeout through ChowNow or just walk up.
The gist: It’s European cuisine that kicks toward Italy but leans and rocks with the South.
The food: Lyla Lila is impressive without getting too fancy, with a gorgeous interior design, perfectly reflecting the union of restaurateur Billy Streck and Chef Craig Richards. The crispy duck lasagna with cocoa bechamel is something your mouth might not be ready for, and the smoked pork rack with ginger, molasses and popped farro is also next-level. You can have Wagyu beef and black truffle ravioli, or you can have Georgia shrimp over dandelion spaghetti with lemon butter and garlic confit. Try wines from southern Europe, or indulge in crafty cocktails like the Soul Vaccination, bourbon washed in duck fat and mixed with bitters and a beer reduction.
The cost: The grouper tops the menu at $33, and some apps (cold-smoked, Thai basil aioli scallops) are as high as $18.
How to order: Make a reservation through Resy or order takeout through ChowNow.
Twisted Soul Cookhouse & Pours
The gist: Chef Deborah VanTrece has become a culinary cultural ambassador for Atlanta, and this gorgeously funky space will make your mind, belly, and soul genuinely happy.
The food: Most dishes here are imaginatively upgraded without becoming weird, taking the hoisin oxtails as a prime example of Asian-Jamaican-amazing. At the same time, Chef Deb’s got standards like the Southern-marinated fried chicken or the deep fried pork chop sandwich on white bread that meet and beat any restaurant you’d put up against it.
The cost: The daily fish is market price, but aside from that you’re looking at $30 or less.
How to order: Make reservations through Resy.
The gist: Luca and Benny Varuni are brilliant behind the counter and in front of the blazing blue-and-red-tiled custom pizza ovens inside their Monroe Drive flagship.
The food: We can fight about this, but Varuni Napoli really can claim the best pizza in town. They made a lobster truffle pizza just for fun on Valentine’s Day and you must get it if it’s on special. This is real Neapolitan pie with all the imported ingredients required, and in addition to being open for dine-in, there’s also Margherita pizza and cannoli kits available for take-home creation, and newly added sandwiches that threaten to overtake some of the city’s best sub shops.
The cost: The pies average out around $22, but worth every penny.
How to order: Open for limited dining room and patio seating with temperature checks and touchless menus or order takeout by calling 404-709-2690 or use Uber Eats, DoorDash, ChowNow or Zifty.
The gist: Umi has some of Atlanta’s best sushi and a secret cocktail bar next door called Himitsu. The dress code is a little strict, but it is nice to get fancy every once in a while.
The food: This place wins because you can taste the freshness of the fish, which gets flown in from respected markets. Chef/owner Fuyuhiko Ito trained in French and Japanese cooking techniques and even worked in a Tokyo fish market in his early years. All that special understanding of sushi makes for nigiri that tastes as sophisticated as it looks (the fatty tuna, golden-eye red snapper, and marinated mackerel are exquisite). But don’t let sushi fill you to the point that you ignore hot dishes like the miso-marinated black cod.
The cost: Around $16 for sushi, with expected exceptions like Kobe beef. Hot dishes are also reasonable at around $25 or less. It’s the parking and that fancy outfit that will kill your wallet.
How to order: Make reservations or place your takeout order online.
Cooks & Soldiers
The gist: Spanish-French tapas inspired by the foods of Basque Country, but since COVID the Castellucci family has shown immense hustle. Hell, they became a steakhouse pop-up for a couple weekends and put a few places to shame.
The food: The mussels with Jamón Ibérico are flavor jets, as well as the grilled Spanish octopus, roasted rabbit porchetta, and Berkshire and Ibérico pork meatballs. There are also special family meals for carryout, such as the smoked chicken thighs with saffron, the Chuletón ribeye, and a whole market fish with mojo rojo. But if you’re down for mind-blowing sushi, go for their new carryout-only omakase MUJO. It’s run by Chef J. Trent Harris, who only uses the freshest raw ingredients aged and cured in the Edomae tradition to deepen flavor and ramp up umami.
The cost: Most menu items range from around $7-22, but that Chuletón is closer to $120.
How to order: Make dine-in reservations (5-9pm nightly) on OpenTable, or place a takeout order online as early as noon.
The gist: Though Ticonderoga Club was expected to impress in the cocktail department, the food and crowd of insiders make it phenomenal.
The food: Normally with a seafood- and poultry-heavy menu (dry-aged roasted duck was a favorite), Ticon now serves a hodgepodge of food styles -- from snacks like fried clams and street corn to sweet and sour charred pork, a grilled yellowfin tuna burger, or smoked mackerel fried rice. You can also take bottled cocktails to-go.
The cost: The priciest item is the $22 Bali (tuna) burger, but you can get a helping of shrimp chips for $3.
How to order: Order from its “Ticon-To-Go” menu through Toast every day but Wednesday.
The gist: Chef Zeb Stevenson was bold to open a whimsical restaurant in the former space of Bacchanalia, but his uniquely imaginative flair for plants and veggies has proven he was qualified to plant his flag.
The food: The beer-battered eggplant with sweet pickle remoulade, and BBQ carrots in black garlic molasses are samples of Stevenson’s starter curiosities. But his fish dishes are where you’ll find him really taking flight, especially in the perfectly pan-roasted red trout, with its picturesque topping of sizzling green scallions. Don’t let that stop you from ordering a chili-rubbed half chicken with duck sauce, which you can order online for takeout.
The cost: The lowest is $6 for pretzeled focaccia, and it gets up to $30 for blackened redfish.
How to order: Make reservations online or order takeout through BentoBox.
The gist: This chef-driven Dekalb Avenue spot with seven- and 10-course tasting menus was the best new thing in the city, and one of the best new restaurants in America last year.
The food: Run by Ronald Hsu and Aaron Phillips, who first cliqued up at Le Bernardin, it’s pure awesomeness on plates. Obviously you can’t completely duplicate something like this with takeout, yet the to-go offerings -- family-style bibimbap or duck coq au vin with polenta -- are fantastic. The dining room also reopened, and the menu changes every day, but might include favorites like the cauliflower “bone marrow,” and the radish-crusted sole.
The cost: The coq au vin is your best budget bet at $30 for one person. The tasting menu with drinks is closer to $250. Trust that you won’t count the money when you’ve finished eating.
How to order: Book a table through Resy or order takeout through Toast.
The gist: No disrespect other prominent Atlanta steakhouses, but Marcel is the champ from the past five years. The deep booths in the beautiful and spacious dining room at this upscale brasserie are a perfect setting for some serious bovine bliss.
The food: This is decadent food, including grilled foie gras with peach mostarda, sweet chili shrimp scampi, big-time raw bar options, and -- of course -- steaks ranging from 8-ounce New York strip to a 42-ounce Porterhouse for three, insanely flavorful sauce Diane.
The cost: This is a special occasion spot. Plan to spend at least $200 on a meal for two.
How to order: Make a reservation through OpenTable.
The gist: This funked-up new American eatery has quickly become the Glenwood/Flat Shoals intersection’s most serious dining destination. Expect seamless service thanks to operations run by veterans of Wrecking Bar Brewpub and Ford Fry’s school of culinary competency.
The food: Start with the pepperoni fry bread and try not to ruin your appetite. Next, chomp into the Szechuan-glazed chicken thighs with udon noodles, or a hanger steak with ramp kimchi. And the cocktails also rule -- for a taste of originality try the snappy Stately Hag, with reposado tequila, Cocchi Americano, Strega, lemon, and thyme.
The cost: Dishes range from $7-23. This is EAV after all -- they know you ain’t got it.
How to order: Book a table through Resy or order takeout through Toast.
The gist: Totally true story: The name of this snazzy, sexy Hotel Clermont restaurant actually came from a stripper who turned down an invitation to give Adolph Hitler a table dance.
The food: Love is the word that comes to mind as you scarf down this French-American brasserie’s appetizers, whether it’s the black cocoa foie gras torchon or the simple house bread service with sea salt and whipped butter -- great bread is always a great sign. Hit the menu’s
“L’abattoir” section and order the amazing pork chop with cornbread mousseline, roasted courgette, smoked tomato vinaigrette, roasted corn and chanterelles, or the whole roasted fish. Order a classic cocktail like a Negroni, Aviation, or French 75.
The cost: You can do a proper dinner for two at around $150. Or you can be improper and do a little more.
How to order: Make reservations online or order takeout through ChowNow.