Atlanta has changed over the years, and she's truly come into her own in the culinary scene, taking the farm-to-table movement to the next level. Restaurants like Miller Union and Restaurant Eugene are visiting farmer's markets regularly, fostering partnerships with local farmers, and meeting the demands of customers seeking the freshest of ingredients. But these aren't your grandma's meats and veggies; they sing with creativity, flavor and boldness. It's time to build your Atlanta bucket list of gastronomic proportions. Dress up for an elegant night on the town at Cape Dutch, or come casual to Gunshow. Make a reservation (and deposit) at Staplehouse on the weekend, or shop the new Ponce City Market area during the week with a stop at Breeza Cucina. Hit up Hugh Acheson's Empire State South for a weekend brunch, or escape to Decatur for Billy Allin's passion for local and sustainable eats.Whatever your dining style, company or location in the city, we've got something you'll love. Whatever you do, come hungry!
For the traveler in all of us, let Brezza Cucina transport you to the Italian countryside with their authentic Italian fare complimented by New American influences. Anchoring the east end of the Central Food Hall, Brezza Cucina offers a laid-back environment with two relaxed dining areas and a lounge, perfect for a business lunch, a casual family gathering or a quick dinner with a friend. Brighten your Sunday morning with Brezza's brunch offerings including the frittata del Giorno, the simple yet flavorful pizza Brezza and the savory roasted chicken salad in a bed of arugula topped with prosciutto and parmesan. With an unparalleled menu created by renowned chef Jonathan Waxman and his chef-partner Adam Evans, this Italian eatery is the go-to for those looking for a fresh take on a classic cuisine. ((404) 724-9700)
Cakes & Ale
The name of this restaurant references a line of Shakespeare's, and though it does have its own sunny little bakery (which shares a similar vibe to Thomas Keller's Bouchon), the restaurant is neither pub nor bakery. Instead, Decatur's Cakes & Ale focuses on producing a rotating menu of contemporary, seasonal, American-fusion plates. Whole-roasted fish, local meats and fresh-plucked veggies dictate the menu. Well-executed dishes benefit from unexpected ingredients (a dollop of green harissa here, a drizzle of fennel pollen or raab paste there) and from the well-curated list of wide-ranging wines. Snag one of the baked goodies at the bakery next door for dessert or an impromptu snack. (404-377-7994)
Serpas True Food
A neighborhood favorite in historic Old Fourth Ward, Serpas True Food is the first independent restaurant by executive chef Scott Serpas. A New Orleans native, Serpas opened the contemporary American concept in January 2009 in a reclaimed cotton storage facility at The Pavilion at Studioplex. That same year, Serpas was awarded GQ magazine's "10 Best New Restaurants in America" of 2009. Serpas is open for dinner Tuesday through Thursday from 5:30 p.m. to 10 p.m., Friday and Saturday from 5:30 p.m. to 11:00 p.m., Sunday from 5:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. and for Sunday brunch from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. (404-688-0040)
King + Duke
King + Duke, named after Mark Twain's characters in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, sits right at the intersection of Peachtree and Paces Ferry Roads in the heart of Buckhead. The restaurant is designed to be a throw-back to how food used to be prepared: using fresh, local ingredients and cooking over open fire pits, stoked by wood. Guests can dine at the wood and marble bar, in the cozy dining room or on the expansive outdoor patio. Feast on "The King," a one-kilo bone-in prime rib eye served with marrow bones and jus. It's cooked over direct heat, offering a juicy, smoky triumph of red-meat delight. We also love the heritage pork chop with grilled plums and the coffee-cured lamb shank with pasta. ((404) 477-3500)
Empire State South
James Beard award-winning chef Hugh Acheson's first Atlanta restaurant offers an alternative take on Southern cuisine. The beautiful, rustic-chic space is teeming with a knowledgeable staff seeking to optimize your dining experience. The menu, overseen by Chef Josh Hopkins, is dictated by the season and is constantly changing. Pickled veggies, spreads in jars and tasty housemade condiments on the starters list add to the overall experience. Fish, poultry, wild game and beef dishes are typical main entrees and come with expertly rendered straight-from-the-garden sides. Ordering the "In Jars" appetizer is a must, and you'd do well to order the special on any given night. The restaurant serves breakfast, lunch and dinner and has an awesome dessert menu to boot. (404-541-1105)
A trendy, culinary escape just off Morningside's Cheshire Bridge Road, Cape Dutch is one of many recent additions to Atlanta's flourishing restaurant scene. Following a successful opening in November 2015, helmed by restaurateur Justin Anthony in partnership with executive chef Philippe Haddad, local foodies flock to the wine-country influenced, talk-of-the-town destination, indulging in traditional South African braai menu features, paired with signature craft cocktails, flaunting a sophisticated twist. The contemporary atmosphere, designed by Anthony's wife and renowned interior designer Kelly Anthony, welcomes patrons to savor the international flair with inviting, custom furniture and chefs tables overlooking the wood burning braai. Leave reality at the door, grab an enchanting libation and enjoy an evening of South African inspired bliss. ((404) 343-0313)
This Old Fourth Ward restaurant has received a 2016 James Beard Award nomination for Best New Restaurant. Born out of tragic circumstances, Staplehouse has had tremendous support from the Atlanta community since its inception. Not to rest on its laurels, the staff is cranking out some of the best food in the Southeast and critics have taken note. Think dishes like duck with ramps and fava or scallops and cabbage, with flavors and presentation nothing short of artistry. Don't be surprised that a deposit of $85 per person is required for the five-course tasting menu, only available Wednesday through Saturday. ((404) 524-5005)
James Beard-award winning, contemporary Southern restaurant Restaurant Eugene is an upscale farm-to-table eatery led by culinary whiz Chef Linton Hopkins. Settle into the sleek dining room of this Peachtree Battle local fixture (nestled beside sister restaurant, Holeman & Finch Public House) and dig into Chef Hopkins' five-course tasting menu for $85. Given Hopkins' focus on utilizing produce from local community farms (he and his wife, Gina, also co-founded the famed Peachtree Road Farmers Market), all dishes are fresh and seasonal, and the menu changes daily. An a la carte menu is also available for those not feeling up to a multicourse feast. (404-355-0321)
Chef Steven Satterfield's curated menu of sustainable eats has been wowing diners since he opened this ethereal restaurant on Atlanta's Westside. Like others on this list, the culinary offerings are dictated by seasonality and are expertly prepared by way of Satterfield and his stellar team. Schmooze at the spacious wooden bar over one of the varied wine options, or opt for a seat in the airy dining room--a busy spot at lunch and dinner. Though the menu changes all the time, you'd do well to order the addictive feta snack and popular farm egg in celery cream before digging into your main course. (6787338550)
Celebrity Chef Kevin Gillespie challenges the typical restaurant experience: multiple chefs work to prepare their unique creations, then leave the safety of the kitchen to hustle those dishes to customers ordering a la carte. Don't think twice about passing on something that doesn't interest you, or nod a resounding "Yes!" Your selection is immediately placed in front of you, and your dim sum style menu is checked off as having received the dish. Small plates come all night, and you only pay for those you want. There is no pretentious vibe here; the setting is comfortable, simple, and humble. However, the food is far from plain. Dishes are sophisticated, genuine, from the heart, and full of flavor. From beautiful Berkshire pork belly bulgogi to confit morel mushrooms, the flavors are unique, full and delicious. We absolutely adore the rolling cocktail cart and highly recommend the Toasted Old Fashioned. ((404) 380-1886)
About Lesli Peterson
Lesli made her way to Atlanta over 20 years ago, after living in Germany, Japan and six U.S. states. She relishes the discovery of obscure, offbeat and unwonted places, and she will chat up any willing stranger to uncover a new secret locale.
After 18 years in software development, Lesli bailed on the corporate scene. She now serves as the Family Travel Ambassador for Georgia, freelances for several publications and manages 365AtlantaFamily, a blog about traveling with kids and not for them.
When she’s not traveling, she’s hiking in the mountains or checking out Atlanta’s culinary scene, whiskey in hand.
Read more about Lesli Peterson here.
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