A Local’s Guide to the Best Restaurants in Atlanta
Legendary barbecue, seasonal fare, and shiny new omakase counters.
Atlanta is a city that many consider the culinary capital of the South. That’s partly thanks to a vast array of cuisines, neighborhoods, and culinarians from all backgrounds that are constantly popping up across the city—but local favorites have also been holding it down for generations.
From shiny new omakase spots that make for a celebratory meal to iconic barbecue joints that folks travel to try, we have it all. So here are the hot new openings and timeless favorites that make up the best restaurants in Atlanta right now.
Tucked away in a residential neighborhood, The Chastain is a fun New American eatery to grab a bite at after a walk at Atlanta’s urban Chastain Park. You can sit outside at what feels like a home patio and hobnob with other locals and their four-legged friends over a glass of champagne and a fresh baked pastry from the AM Cafe or make a reservation for dinner. The full-service menu includes fresh salads, pasta, and main courses like pan-roasted grouper and a smoked pork chop—plus ingredients for the restaurant and cafe are sourced from the onsite chef’s garden and local purveyors.
The Deer and The Dove
Using ingredients sourced from nearby farms, chef Terry Koval offers a skillful menu of seasonal harvests served as small and large plates. If you are an adventurous eater, jump to the novelties section to find dishes such as beef heart tartare with Spanish anchovy and wood roasted bone marrow with Burgundy snails. Wash it down with a wide selection of French and Italian wines. Also, make sure to pick up some hand rolled wood fired bagels for the next morning from B-Side next door.
This beloved sushi restaurant recently relocated into the city limits of Atlanta with an intimate setting and the same great sushi. The new digs offer just eight seats and two nightly seatings at the sushi bar, so snag a seat and you’re in for a top-notch experience. Award-winning chef Artushi “Art” Hayakawa’s is always behind the counter engaging diners with his 16-course omakase menu. Aside from the finest sushi offerings with ingredients sourced from Tokyo’s Toyosu market and all over the globe, you can also taste some of the best Japanese small bites and sakes outside Japan.
Heirloom Market BBQ
Heirloom Market BBQ has been consistently named one of the best barbecue restaurants in the country—and for very good reason. Marrying classic Southern barbeque with Korean-inspired flavors, chefs Taylor Cody and Jiyeon Lee offer a one-of-a-kind flavor pairing delivered with perfection. You’ll often find a line out the door and have to be lucky to find a picnic bench outside the small establishment. But when you do get your hands on the gochujang-marinated spare ribs, smoked chicken wings with kimchi mayo, and pulled pork sandwiches, you will quickly realize what the hype is all about.
Renowned chef Santiago Gomez has a new Atlanta concept offering upscale Mexican fare in a chic environment complete with a roving mezcal cart. The wood-fire kitchen is the heart of the restaurant, rolling out perfected Roasted Miso Cauliflower, citrusy branzino, and smoked scallops with black truffle.
Snap Thai Fish House
The stunning coast of Thailand—and all the delectable food that comes with it—is on full display at Snap Thai Fish House. Dedicated to serving sustainable, wild-caught seafood, the new Buckhead establishment offers some of the best lobster fried rice and Massaman curry Chilean sea bass in the city.
Located at the Hyatt Centric in Buckhead, Three Arches will transport you to the luxurious food and ambiance of the Mediterranean. The steel archways, breezy curtains, and stone mosaic floors lead into an outdoor terrace, perfect for summer evenings where you can sip a Santorini-AC cocktail (rye, ouzo, cardamon, fig, arak, Peychaud’s Bitters). On the menu, you’ll find dishes developed by Atlanta chef Josh Hopkins that run the gamut of Mediterranean fare and are inspired by Greece, Italy, Morocco, and Israel.
How to book: Via website
Virgil’s Gullah Kitchen & Bar
With multiple locations in College Park, West Midtown, Conyers, Virgil’s is one of the few places around Atlanta where you can taste authentic Gullah Geechee dishes in a fun, soulful environment. Executive chef Gregory (Gee) Smalls and general manager Juan Smalls (who also happen to be an industry power couple) created the menu inspired by family recipes that were passed down from Small’s ancestors. Favorite dishes include Gullah Eggrolls with gullahgal sauce and stewed Okra Perloo, or opt for something from the Fav’rit Plates section so you can try it all.
With high ceilings, white pillars, and dramatic chandeliers, this glamorous Lebanese restaurant is the perfect place for an over-the-top meal. Dishes like chargrilled kebabs, fluffy pita bread, and spreads of hot and cold mezze are rooted in traditional fare but are presented in a way that’s decidedly modern.
Known to serve some of the best seafood in Atlanta, The Optimist is the perfect place for a happy hour complete with lobster rolls or date night filled with fun cocktails and crispy fried oysters. Chef and owner Ford Fry uses locally and sustainably sourced ingredients for dishes that turn homestyle seafood into a sophisticated pick. You also can’t go wrong with the daily catch or other Southern-inspired specials.
Georgia native Kevin Gillespie named this East Atlanta restaurant as a tribute to his childhood and the relationship he had with his father. It is this emotional connection that makes Gunshow one of the best spots in the city, while the tableside cooking and interactive elements only heighten the experience. The prix-fixe menu is served dim sum-style off rolling carts—although it changes daily, expect Southern ingredients prepared in unique ways like dry-fried crawfish and catfish finished with a kosho beurre blanc sauce.
The rustic-chic restaurant is considered one of the most acclaimed restaurants in the country—so it’s certainly worth a drive to the suburbs. Helmed by chef Brian So, his wife Kerry, and sommelier Daniel Crawford, Spring’s menu is highly seasonal, locally sourced and sustainable. Expect a small menu with simply garnished proteins prepared in French cooking techniques as well as farm fresh vegetables. The menu changes regularly, but if you spot the chocolate cake with caramelized banana and praline ice cream, don’t resist the temptation. To sweeten the deal, it’s all complimented by an affordable list of wines and cocktails.
Twisted Soul Cookhouse & Pours
If there is a place in Atlanta that serves everything—it would definitely be Twisted Soul Cookhouse & Pours. Seafood, steaks, pork chops, burgers, wings; you name it, they serve it. The house motto is “good simple food,” but that may be an understatement because chef and owner Deborah VanTrece really delivers. Though she has gone on to open another restaurant in the past year called Oreatha’s At The Point, Twisted Soul remains her signature spot for dishes like fried green tomatoes, southern-marinated fried chicken, collard greens, and pigeon pea cornbread dressing.