Food & Drink

An editor's guide to eating around town

Published On 04/18/2013 Published On 04/18/2013

The ATL has grown up from the mom & pop diners seen on TV Land sitcoms, and's now leading the Southern culinary charge when it comes to everything from sustainable eats to innovative cuisine to ridiculous twists on classics like chicken and waffles. And who better than local editor Chris Watkins to help you sift through the culinary crap and fine some true gustatory gems.

Favorite Restaurant: With meat so good it can make you moan, it's a no-brainer that my favorite restaurant is Kevin Rathbun's Steak. The filet's so tender you can cut it with a spoon. Literally, I did that.

Best Late-Night Eats: If it's 1am and I need some grub, I'm stopping by the Octopus Bar for sake-steamed octopus, salt & pepper GA shrimp, and a High West Double Rye.

Best Cheap Eats: I eat at Victory Sandwich when I'm low on scratch, which is to say that I eat at Victory Sandwich quite often. Their $3-4 sammies pack loads of flavor into a each bite, but I typically roll with the prosciutto, mozz & apple Hambo. Oh, and can't forget the Jack & Coke slushie.

Best Sandwich: The Big Nasty at Rosebud is actually all kinds of tasty, loading buttermilk-fried chicken breast with scrambled eggs, smoked bacon, and tillamook cheddar.

Best Dish: The Bocado Burger Stack is so simple, yet oh so good! Acclaimed as one of the top burgers in the ATL, it's two patties with quintessential American cheese, house-made pickles and side of garlic herb fries. Go on a Tuesday and you can score a free draft brew to go with it.

Best Italian: Decatur's No. 246 does impeccable work, turning only the freshest ingredients into everything from house pastas, to large plates of flounder and pork shoulder. 

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Best Japanese: Even though the perennially sold-out ramen is technically Chinese, Miso Izakaya offers some of the best Japanese yakitori in the city, skewering up gizzard, pork belly, prawns, and much more.

Best Mexican: Sue me, but I don't go for the super authentic Mexican food -- I take it easy peasy at The Original El Taco. The tacos are always good (especially the fried chicken), the queso is great, and the margaritas are baller. Highly recommend the Reales with Partida Blanco.

Best Food Truck: Chicken and waffles have been the belle of the ball as of late, and Nana G's Chicken & Waffles takes it to a whole new level. We're talking bacon & banana waffles with spiced-up chicken strips. Crazy good!

Best Burger: The double patty. The American cheese. The pickles. Whatever it is, Chef Todd Ginsberg just knows how to make the perfect burger, and his newest incarnation at The General Muir is no exception, adding on some savory onion slaw and subbing in a poppy seed bun.

Most Gut-busting Dish: Maybe you've seen it on Man v. Food, but The Carnivore Challenge at Big Pie in the Sky is a helluva lot of food to take down on your own, which is probably why they allow two to attempt to polish off the 11lbs of pepperoni-, ground beef-, Italian sausage-, ham-, and bacon-laden 'za.

Best Fine Dining: Not only does Ocean Prime provide stellar cuisine, but the service and presentation unparalleled -- flawless waitstaff, attention to detail, and smoking martinis poured table side make it a must visit.

Most Romantic: Looking to seal the deal? Tantra provides a sexy and intimate atmosphere for drinks, and even if you don't get lucky, the night won't be a total wash if you ordered the Tandoori red fish or tamarind pork.

Best for Partying: If you prefer your aged steaks and stiff cocktails be consumed underneath a go-go dancer shaking her thing in her underwear, then you definitely need to head to STK.

Best for Work: The top place to talk shop has to be Article 14. The huge booths in the back are equally suited for spreading out contracts or build-your-own martinis.

Best Lunch: Del Frisco's Grille bum-rushed the Buckhead dining scene with enough lunch options to satisfy the entire city. I go for the Cheesesteak Eggrolls, the Shaved Prime Steak sammie, or, if I'm feeling extra fancy, the 6oz filet.

Best Brunch: I love brunch, and have canvassed the entire city, but I always find myself heading back to South City Kitchen. Shrimp and grits, chicken and waffles, and the essential South City Breakfast: cheddar scrambled eggs, stone-ground grits, and applewood smoked bacon.

Most Local Food: Empire State South has led the charge when it comes to sustainable farm-to-table cuisine. We're talking the freshest produce and locally sourced meats going into mind-blowing Southern eats like GA Trout with baby carrots & confit tomato, and my favorite: a prime ribeye with potato macaire, collards, and hedgehog shrooms.

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Best Wings: When you have flavors that include strawberry, honey bourbon, cinnamon, wasabi, and sriracha, you know you've got something special. That something is Jack's Pizza & Wings.

Best Doughnuts: Sublime Doughnuts is a must try for doughnut lovers. We're talking a serious gourmet approach. I always go for the fresh strawberries & cream, or, if I'm feeling extra adventurous, the salted caramel and balsamic.

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1. STK Atlanta 1075 Peachtree St, Atlanta, GA 30309 (Midtown)

Celebrating the simplicity of a great steak by removing all those showy "vowels," STK boasts a porterhouse and a cowboy ribeye that'll fill you up, and a black truffle aioli tartare that should every meal. The restaurant is advertised as a steakhouse "for the stiletto set," though, so you'll also get the choice of plenty of salads, small plates, and three sizes of steaks, all served in a chic, glossy space.

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2. Kevin Rathbun Steak 154 Krog St NE, Atlanta, GA 30307 (Old 4th Ward)

Get into the Iron Chef contestant’s flagship spot for beef that is treated right and order up a steak cooked “blue,” which is the rarer-than-rare version that is right for every real carnivore. And for the steak-eater looking for a little more than a mac 'n cheese side, this modernized steak house cooks up a variety of cuisines ranging from American to Mediterranean, and Italian.

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3. The Octopus Bar 560 Gresham Ave, Atlanta, GA 30316 (East Atlanta)

Featuring a menu that changes daily, Octopus Bar is a quality spot for late-night eats. But keeping in tune with their name, yes, you'll be able to order octopus on pretty much any day you're there.

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4. Victory Sandwich Bar 280 Elizabeth St NE, Ste A-III, Atlanta, GA 30307 (Inman Park)

Victory's your go-to spot for sub-$5 sammies, a full bar, a projector screening thinking-man's films (Robocop, Godzilla...) & ping pong.

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5. Rosebud 1397 N Highland Ave NE, Atlanta, GA 30306 (Morningside)

Enjoy American fare with a Southern twist at this neighborhood resto serving brunch (Saturday & Sunday, plus Monday nights!), breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

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6. Bocado 887 Howell Mill Rd NW, Atlanta, GA 30318 (West Atlanta)

Bocado's burger -- two patties of blended short rib, brisket, and ground chuck, topped with American cheese and butter pickles -- is one of the best in Atlanta. You may very well come here for the burger but end up more than satisfied with the rest of the contemporary dishes, like deviled eggs that'll rival your grandmother's, a grilled cheese & bacon sandwich that's near impossible to recreate at home, and a lobster roll special that'll transport you to Cape Cod on first bite.

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7. Miso Izakaya 619 Edgewood Ave SE, Atlanta, GA 30312 (Old 4th Ward)

If you want to taste their signature ramen, go there often and get there early (i.e. it tends to sell out quickly). But if you're willing to forgo that staple, there are plenty other delicious Japanese meals to masticate.

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8. The Original El Taco 1186 N Highland Ave NE, Atlanta, GA 30306 (Virginia Highland)

They might not have invented the taco, but they've pretty much perfected it. And with plenty of other options for any size appetite, the Original El Taco is el jefe of Tex-Mex in Virginia Highland. We suggest you wash down the popular friend chicken and corn taco and build-your-own nachos with a margarita or Tecantes.

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9. Nana G's Chik-N-Waffles 199 Armour Drive, Atlanta, GA 30324

Unequivocally proving fried foods make you live forever, Nana G's is a red/white/blue meal rig run by the family of a breakfast-cookin' ATL centenarian (check the drawing of her on the truck), using natural ingredients from local farms to make every Southerner's favorite battercake/bird combo. Each waffle gets powdered sugar, maple syrup, and bacon plus two pieces of fried chicken in extra-sauced combos like "Papa G's" w/ hot sauce, or the Bananas Foster-topped "Auntie P's", also what your uncle told a young you when asked why they have separate beds.

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10. The General Muir 1540 Avenue Pl NE Ste B-230, Atlanta, GA 30329 (Atlanta)

This sleek, white subway-tiled deli in Victoria Estates looks more like a demure ice cream shop or bakery than it does a place you'd go to stuff yourself with a stacked, saucy sandwich. Oh, but that's what it is -- the cured meats on the sandwiches at The General Muir could compete with even a New Yorker's go-to deli (they're very heavy on roast beef, corned beef, and pastrami). And that's just at lunch: Breakfast and dinner options include all the egg dishes you could think of and big servings of fresh fish and steak.

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11. Big Pie in the Sky Pizzeria 2090 Baker Rd NW, Kennesaw, GA 30144 (Kennesaw)

If you're "hungry for pizza" you should be "starving for Big Pie in the Sky." You and your buddy COULD get single slices that're a reasonable size, or you could take on an 11lb behemoth that looks like it should be attached to the axle of a Hummer.

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12. Ocean Prime 3102 Piedmont Rd NE, Atlanta, GA 30305 (Buckhead)

This Buckhead spot serves up top-notch steakhouse eats alongside surfier seafood options. The wine list is specifically designed to pair well with their dishes, so you can't screw it up!

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13. Tantra 2285 Peachtree Rd, Atlanta, GA 30309 (Buckhead)

Tantra Restaurant & Bar, located in the center of Buckhead, is an American restaurant whose dishes transport you to other exotic lands via savory experience. Sounds heady? This menu item speaks for itself: large plump scallops caramelized in a basil rub with a dried lime beurre blanc, and there's more where that came from.

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14. Article 14 1180 Peachtree St, Atlanta, GA 30309 (Midtown)

A restaurant and lounge, Article 14 is sleekly designed with an old-school finish. Named for its 14 items that rotate daily on its menu, pairing its indulgent dishes with a large glass of wine makes for a fine evening.

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15. Del Frisco's Grille 3376 Peachtree Rd NE, Atlanta, GA 30326 (Buckhead)

Situated in the upwardly trending Buckhead neighborhood, Del Frisco's Grille is a bustling steakhouse serving premier steaks, fresh food, and an array of other gourmet fare. And with a glass of wine from its extensive stock, you can take it all in from one of its scenic patio.

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16. South City Kitchen Midtown 1144 Crescent Ave NE, Atlanta, GA 30309 (Midtown)

Open for lunch, dinner & brunch, this award-winning Midtown restaurant puts a contemporary twist on classic Southern cooking.

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17. Empire State South 999 Peachtree St NE, Atlanta, GA 30309 (Midtown)

Empire State South is Hugh Acheson’s ode to Southern food, and despite its office building locale (and Acheson's Canadian roots) serves plates authentic enough to be home-cooked. It's rare to find a restaurant that excels at breakfast, lunch, and dinner, but Empire State South manages to do so. The morning line-up boasts standouts like peanut brittle porridge and smoked catfish on an everything bagel, while lunch forces a corporate crowd to think outside the box with jars of baba ganoush, pimento cheese with bacon marmalade, and catfish mousse. Acheson fuses Southern ingredients to a new level at dinner, where the small plates-heavy menu features out-there dishes like rabbit boudin and grilled octopus on kimchee rice. Okay, maybe you can't recreate these recipes at home.

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18. Jack's Pizza & Wings 676 Highland Ave NE, Atlanta, GA 30312 (Old 4th Ward)

The folks at Jack's fashion the place as a dive bar and they aren't wrong. But with some of the cheapest beer and tastiest pizza and wings around the Old Fourth Ward, labels don't matter much in this joint.

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19. Sublime Doughnuts 535 10th St NW, Atlanta, GA 30318 (Home Park)

Sublime is to donuts what Picasso was to painting. They're serious about the craft of creating sweet dough with a hole in the middle and their huge variety of gourmet donuts convey that with every delectable bite.

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