What follows are some of my favorites in some of our city’s neighborhoods. Atlanta’s restaurant growth remains in manic overdrive. At this point, finding a good restaurant requires no more effort than throwing a dart at a map. What does take effort is getting there in this traffic-knotted city with inadequate parking. Uber and Lyft may be your only hope. Oh. I’ve skipped Buckhead. Sue me.
Chamblee/Buford Highway Corridor
I start here, because it offers endless choices of my two favorite flavors: cheap and exotic. Vietnamese is my favorite cuisine. Pho, the dense broth with meats and herbs of your choice, is best at I Love Pho, while a broader menu (including juicy salads) is at C’om Vietnamese Grill. Chinese? Right now, it’s the Sichuan fare at Yummy Spicy. Don’t be a wimp. It’s not that spicy.
I know you love your nook in the queen bees’ high-rise on Peachtree, but the rest of us despise trying to find parking. So if we don’t want to Uber, we go to the Midtown periphery. I still love the fried chicken at both Mary Mac’s, which happily removed the huge photos of post-slavery kitchen laborers long ago, and the Colonnade, where the gay crowd has grown nearly as old as the oxygen-tank-toting blue hairs. Roxx is good for a burger and a bear. Fuck the line and head directly to a bar seat at Taqueria del Sol. Rather pricey Atmosphere still outdoes nearly every French restaurant in town. You may hate vegetarian, but try to be healthy one day in 2018. Go to Green Sprout and order the tofu skin stuffed with sprouts. Closer to the beehive district: Empire State South, South City Kitchen, Campagnolo, STK Atlanta, Ecco. I’m going to slip Murphy’s, actually in Virginia-Highland, in here.
Don’t be an idiotic purist. Let your tongue fall in love with Chef Bruce Logue’s brilliantly Americanized Italian food at Bocca Lupo. For something more traditional from Northern Italy, hit Sotto Sotto. You must go to Billy Allin’s Bread and Butterfly. It’s open 7:30 a.m. – 11 p.m. most days. How can you not love a bistro whose name is drawn from Alice and Wonderland? Perfect omelets, roasted pheasant and pastries to die for. You can, by the way, get off the train at the Inman Park station and waddle across the street to Allin’s Proof Bakeshop for a light breakfast or lunch. Do not fail to order an almond croissant.
First up is Cakes and Ale, which offers a café lunch (ricotta and persimmon butter sandwich?) and dinner (gimme that duck leg). The Iberian Pig is probably the first area restaurant to offer real Spanish cooking. Many regard Community Q’s barbecue as the best around. Chai Pani offers Indian street food concoctions. Gastropubs are everywhere; Leon’s is my favorite.
My go-to is Grant Central Pizza, which is in walking distance of my home. Go Wednesday for the special of chicken piccata. I also like the kitschy, unpredictable Mi Barrio for Mexican, and Ria’s Bluebird for breakfast. The Shed (American) and Gun Show (crazy-delicious American served dim-sum-style) are both on Glenwood on the way to East Atlanta Village.
Old Fourth Ward
This is a huge section of intown Atlanta with confusing boundaries. Technically (I’m told) it includes EATS, the city’s best bargain, on Ponce de Leon. At completely the opposite end price- and location-wise is Staplehouse. You have to pay a $25-per-person deposit in advance and expect to spend more for Chef Ryan Smith’s kitchen alchemy. This is also the hood with Krog Street Market (KSM) and Ponce City Market (PCM). I don’t have space to list the many worthwhile choices. At PCM, consider: El Super Pan (Latino sandwiches), Hop’s Chicken and Ton Ton’s ramen. At KSM: Todd Ginsberg’s famed burger at Fred’s and his Middle-Eastern fare at Yalla, plus the tapas at Bar Mercado
This is another oversized, ill-defined neighborhood. Lately, I’ve been in love with the way-west B’s Cracklin’ BBQ. Try the brisket sliders. Steven Satterfield’s Miller Union has garnered national fame for its fidelity to farm-fresh Southern cooking. Bacchanalia remains the city’s crowning jewel, and its café-market, Star Provisions, really is unparalleled. Yes, I will have the prosciutto baguette with butter and parmesan. Also: Bocado, JCT, Bone Garden, and the (incomparable) Optimist for seafood.