Why Atlanta's Hotel Restaurants Are Now Must-Hit Spots
Try these six ASAP.
Mrs. P’s opened its doors earlier this summer in Poncey-Highland. The restaurant has a midcentury vibe with nooks formed by deep velvet banquettes and views of Ponce de Leon Avenue from the sunroom’s bar. For the moment, you forget all about the fact that you’re within the Wylie Hotel. Because, in case you missed it, Atlanta’s hotel restaurants have gone from generic to must-visit in recent years—even for locals.
“I think there was a time, maybe even a few years ago, when a lot of the hotels we were working on were so work travel and business travel-focused,” says Kendal Rogers, co-founder of Pixel Design Collaborative and one of the designers behind Wylie Hotel. “And for whatever reason, there's definitely been a shift towards travel for leisure and pleasure.”
Hotels opening in Atlanta the past few years have eschewed a box setup with a corporate vibe and opted for a boutique model instead (even if they’re not actually boutique). This is done through adaptive reuse projects like Hotel Clermont and the Kimpton Sylvan or new construction like the Bellyard Hotel and the forthcoming Epicurean Atlanta. These smaller properties tend to have a nimble approach to design which translates to a more personalized aesthetic. Where corporate hotels of yore tended to have restaurants without a “named” chef or dining options that are usually reserved for special occasions (like the pricey but iconic Sun Dial atop the Westin Peachtree Plaza), these newer hotels have restaurants are more likely to be locally driven with a chef from the area and a menu that matches the restaurant’s intricate design.
At Mrs. P’s, for example, Rogers and Pixel’s co-founder, Maria Garza Gossett, paid homage to the building’s former tenants, the original Mrs. P’s (Atlanta’s first gay bar) and the first location of dance club MJQ. This combined with the fact that the property was built in the 1920s and is located in Atlanta’s historic Old Fourth Ward made Rogers and Garza Gossett think of Mrs. P’s as a haven. “When you think about that type of place, a haven, you think of a more sort of residential experience. So we really wanted it to feel as much as possible like you were walking into one of the grand homes in the neighborhood or any area from the era when the hotel would have been built and then really nod to that sort of fun history, nod to MJQ, nod to Mrs. P,” says Garza Gossett.
In Buckhead, the Kimpton Sylvan opened in February and has three dining options found in The Betty (an homage to a Midwestern-meets-Hollywood-glam supper club), Willow Bar, and St. Julep, a rooftop lounge. “Aside from being a design-forward brand, I think we also pride our company in having really successful restaurants that could almost be considered standalone,” says Diana Martinez, senior design director of Kimpton. “In the Sylvan, the restaurant space has such a strong identity and following and representation through social media and marketing aside from the physical presence of it, that I think makes it not feel like a hotel restaurant per se.”
It’s not just boutique hotels offering respite in their cool dining rooms. In 2015, Bar Margot opened in the Four Seasons Atlanta. The restaurant was a collaboration between the hotel, Ford Fry, and barmen Greg Best and Paul Calvert.
When bartender Thandi Walton first visited Bar Margot she was shocked. “The leather chairs, the color and the decor, the people. The vibe was level,” says Walton. “Not to mention, I had one cocktail and said, ‘Okay, I’ll be back.’” Now Walton has worked at Bar Margot for two and a half years and witnessed firsthand the crowds a hotel bar can attract. By day she’ll observe business people enjoying the lunch menu, and by night the crowd becomes a mix of locals and visitors, especially on Fridays and Saturdays.
“I think a lot of people really like the calmness and the vibe and that it’s less pretentious,” says Walton. “You can buy a bottle of wine and just relax.”
Travel is picking up again (even amid rising concerns of the Delta variant), but locals have been happy to explore the offerings in their backyard. “Having these nice, flexible lounge spaces that can be food-focused where you can come and have a drink and have a cup of coffee is really nice,” says Rogers. “But then also being able to have a place where locals can come and sit and work during the day since so many people can work remotely. We've seen a little bit more of that, and more of an interest in that in Atlanta than maybe has existed previously.”
From French fare to rooftop views, here are six hotel restaurants to visit in Atlanta.
Tiny Lou’s opened in the basement of the reimagined Hotel Clermont in 2018. Diners first came for the chic pink-hued interior and stayed for the French-inspired fare served by then executive chef Jeb Aldrich and pastry chef Claudia Martinez. Chefs Jon Novak and Charmain Ware are still keeping things exciting these days and Tiny Lou’s remains a lovely option for dinner followed by a visit to the rooftop for drinks with a view.
Found in the Four Seasons Atlanta, Bar Margot’s name is an homage to Margot Tenenbaum from Wes Anderson’s The Royal Tenenbaums. While the movie Margot might be dark and moody, Bar Margot is a lively, tastefully appointed spot. Order one of the dishes created by executive chef Edgar Kano and sous chef Chad “Sosa” Hester, like the charred octopus with patatas bravas or the seared mahi mahi with jalapeño mashed potatoes. We wouldn’t blame you if you went straight for one of Thandi Walton’s drinks, though, like the Terribly Attractive, a blend of gin, chartreuse, orgeat, bitters, and a floral ice cube.
Within the confines of the St. Regis Atlanta is one of Atlanta’s crown jewels, Atlas. Atlas exudes luxury from the art on the walls from The Lewis Collection to the wine selection chosen by sommelier Samuel Gamble. You might as well splurge on the tasting menu. It changes often but you’ll find delectable bites like farro risotto with wild ramps and cod brandade and Snake River Farms coulotte with mushroom ketchup.
Just outside of Atlas is The Garden Room. It’s essentially a glass-enclosed patio but feels like a trip to Wonderland with no shortage of florals—real or in pattern form. You’ll want to start booking your reservation now, though, as the spots go quickly.
One petite hotel, three different options for food and drink. Start your evening at Willow Bar where they make killer gin and tonics and serve a plant-forward snack menu (don’t skip the warm nuts and pickle plate) then head to the Betty for a supper club-style menu with offerings like the wedge salad, spaghetti with crab, and crispy duck magret. Then take the elevator all the way up for a rooftop drink at St. Julep. There’s also soft-serve ice cream if you need an extra cool factor.
Located in the lobby of the Bellyard Hotel which opened in May, Drawbar is casual and comfortable with plush seats and views of the city and bustling 14th street. Brunch is a great time to enjoy the skyline and a frittata packed with veggies (or go for the banana bread French toast if you want something carbier). But the real, well, draw, is the terrace which has greenery and plenty of comfy seats. Go after work for happy hour (called “recess” here) and sip a $10 cocktail alongside bar snacks like pimento cheese arancini and charred shishito peppers.
Old Fourth Ward
Mrs. P’s is a great all day spot, which is to say you should go in the morning for breakfast or lunch, work on your laptop, and then order the next meal. The fare is light but substantial with breakfast options like avocado toast with poached egg and prosciutto and dinner treats like grilled peaches with burrata and BBQ lamb lollipops.