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Restaurant Reviews

100 Dishes to Eat in Atlanta




Plenty has changed since we last compiled Atlanta's 100 Dishes to Eat Before You Die in 2011. Restaurants have come and gone, menus are more seasonal, and, thanks to technology, the act of eating out has become more social than ever. Needless to say, it was time for an update. So, back by popular demand, here is Atlanta's 2013 culinary bucket list. We combed the city for 100 dishes, a mix of signatures, classics, and bests, to once again help you navigate Atlanta's gastronomic glory. We also asked six prominent Atlanta food figures what their last meals in Atlanta would be to discover what dishes full-time foodies are most passionate about.

In the spirit of progress, we revamped our mobile site for easy, on-the-go access to the list and even partnered with Foursquare so you can collect badges as you check in at each of our 100 Dishes locations. So pick up a print edition, keep the list handy on your cell phone, and like Creative Loafing on Foursquare to play along as you explore CL's 100 Dishes to Eat in Atlanta Before You Die: Redux. - Stephanie Dazey

Contributors: Max Blau, Rodney Carmichael, Stephanie Dazey, Clay Duda, Brad Kaplan, Debbie Michaud, Thomas Wheatley, Wyatt Williams, and Jennifer Zyman.

100 Dishes for 2013



Small Plates, Apps and Sides

Though only the starter course, these delicious dishes may be the best part of your meal

Bacon at Pine Street Market

Available at Pine Street Market
How did Rusty Bowers manage to build a devoted following for his little butcher shop on a far-flung side street in Avondale Estates? Take one bite of his sweet, applewood-smoked bacon made from the bellies of Gum Creek Farms pigs and you'll absolutely understand. $8/lb.
bacon   

Banh xeo at Lee's Bakery

Available at Lee's Bakery
A common Vietnamese snack, this folded crêpe made with rice flour, coconut milk, and tinged yellow with peppery turmeric is filled with ground pork, shrimp, and crunchy steamed bean sprouts. Cut off a chunk and wrap it in one of the lettuce leaves served on the side along with fresh basil, mint, and cilantro. Be sure to dunk each bite in Lee's Nuoc cham, a classic dipping sauce made with garlic, chiles, fish sauce, and lime juice. While choosing a favorite version of banh xeo is a lot like choosing your favorite child, bountiful sections of an irresistibly caramelized exterior and fluffy texture put Lee's version at the top of our list. $6.95.
crepe    vietnamese   

Blue crab fritter at Bacchanalia

Available at Bacchanalia

Few dishes have remained on the Bacchanalia tasting menu as long as this ball of lightly fried crabmeat, and for good reason. Bacchanalia has built its reputation on being a pioneer of farm-to-table fine dining. The simplicity of the crab married to its seasonally shifting accoutrements - currently a Thai-style combination of chiles, avocado, and pear - typifies the restaurant's mission. $85.?

STILL THE ONE: Bacchanalia's blue crab fritter was featured in the 2011 edition of 100 Dishes to Eat Before You Die

crab    fritter   

Bone marrow with tuna tartare and fried quail egg at the Spence

Available at Spence
This starter showed up on day one at the Spence and thankfully hasn't left. Bright tuna tartare is piled over a roasted marrow bone and topped off with tiny fried quail eggs and a sprinkling of green parsley for fresh contrast. The combination of tuna, marrow, and eggs is indulgent, shockingly complementary, and unlike any other dish in the city. $14.

Boudin balls at Crawfish Shack

Available at Crawfish Shack Seafood
Boudin, a distinctly Acadian-style pork and rice sausage, is a pleasure that is almost nonexistent outside of a small corner of west Louisiana. The Vietnamese-run Crawfish Shack, which has imported the flavors of Louisiana and executes them with its own touch, serves up deep-fried balls of this greasy, soul-satisfying treat. They're not on the menu, so you'll have to ask. $5.
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Chicken nachos at Red Pepper Taqueria

Available at Red Pepper Taqueria - Toco Hills
Nachos should be piled high and super slutty. Anemic tortilla chips with melted cheddar and pickled jalapeños need not apply. At Red Pepper, thick, crunchy tortilla chips smothered in a thick white cheese dip are made hearty with creamy black beans, chunks of grilled chicken breast (or steak), shredded lettuce, chunky guacamole, a little Mexican sour cream and some pico de gallo. $12.50.
nachos   

Fried artichokes at KR SteakBar

Available at KR SteakBar
The bracing tang of vinegar surprises when you first bite into the creamy center of these beautifully prepped artichokes, their edges crisped from a pan-fry in olive oil. Intermittent bites of sliced lemons, also fried, keep each luscious bite balanced, fresh, and clean. $8.
artichokes   

Fried goat cheese at Ecco

Available at Ecco

There is a special alchemy that happens when goat cheese is warmed and drizzled with honey. At Ecco, balls of the tangy cheese are dipped in batter and fried, creating a thin crust around the soft, gooey inside. The heat slightly mellows the cheese's funk. Add to that the floral sweetness of honey and the spice of black pepper, and you get decadence incarnate. $7.?

STILL THE ONE: Ecco's fried goat cheese was featured in the 2011 edition of 100 Dishes to Eat Before You Die

Funghi Fritti at Fritti

Available at Fritti

Slices of earthy cremini and portobello mushrooms are lightly battered in rice flour, deep fried, and served with a zesty garlic aioli sauce for your dipping pleasure. Oh, and don't forget the light drizzle of truffle oil to complete this plate of shroomy bliss. $8. ?

STILL THE ONE: Fritti's Funghi Fritti was featured in the 2011 edition of 100 Dishes to Eat Before You Die

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Meatball at No. 246

Available at no. 246
Yup, it's just one meatball. One tender, juicy, crave-inducing meatball made with veal, beef, and pork, set on a blanket of spicy tomato sauce and sprinkled with basil and Parmesan. $5.
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Pimento cheese at Star Provisions

Available at Star Provisions
In a word: addictive. Made with mayo, paprika, and sharp white cheddar, Parmesan, Gruyère, and pecorino cheeses, Star Provisions' homemade pimento cheese is served in rustic little Mason jars at the cheese counter. Each dollop is creamy, chunky, chewy, and strikingly sharp. Make sure you have plenty of crusty bread on hand, one bite is never enough. $10 per pound.

Poutine with pastrami at the General Muir

Available at The General Muir
Thick chicken gravy draped over chunks of housemade pastrami and melting cheese curds, all dusted with minced parsley, make an already sinful order of crispy, hand-cut fries the best kind of gluttonous experience. $11.
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Prime beef tartare at Kevin Rathbun Steak

Available at Kevin Rathbun Steak

The pleasure of raw steak is not lost Atlanta's reigning king of red meat. He trusses it up with a bit of shallots and capers, drops an egg yolk on top, and then gets out of the way to let that meltingly soft meat do its own thing. $14.95.↵

STILL THE ONE: Kevin Rathbun Steak's prime beef tartare was featured in the 2011 edition of 100 Dishes to Eat Before You Die

Que Wraps at Daddy D'z

Available at Daddy D'z BBQ Joynt
Snap, crackle, and pork! These pig-packed wontons fried to a toasty, golden crisp deliver a crunchy bite wrapped around a soft and savory pulled pork center. Take a dunk in the Joynt's signature barbecue sauce to add a sweet and tangy counterpoint to this delicious exercise in barbecue blasphemy. $4.25-$7.25.
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Breakfast

Wake up to the best breakfasts in Atlanta

Chef's Breakfast at One Eared Stag

Available at One Eared Stag
Very few things in life are served to you on a silver platter these days, never mind with an icy cold can of Schlitz malt liquor. Luckily, you can cross this one off your bucket list during Sunday brunch at One Eared Stag. The Chef's Breakfast includes four small portions of whatever the kitchen is feeling that morning. A recent rendition included fluffy pancakes slathered in duck liver butter and topped with crispy fried chicken; tender hanger steak tossed with springy greens; a coddled egg sprinkled with salty salmon roe; and a slice of seared pork belly on a bed of homemade kimchee with an egg sunny side up. Each dish is artfully arranged on a shiny silver tray with a regal-looking can of Schlitz smack dab in the middle. Actually, the Schlitz pairs surprisingly well, the crisp, bubbly drink cutting through all the richness. $22.
pancakes    duck liver   

Comfy chicken biscuit at Home Grown

Available at Home Grown Restaurant
Don't let the name fool you. This open-faced take on the classic Southern breakfast sandwich is an all-out knife-and-fork affair. Crispy, deep-fried chicken breasts sit atop a fluffy biscuit split open and slathered with a peppery punch of hearty sausage gravy. Get comfy and loosen your belt a notch, or maybe two. $10.
biscuit    chicken   

Country-fried tempeh and gravy at Ria's Bluebird

Available at Ria's Bluebird
This vegetarian take on country-fried steak and gravy hits all the recognizable pleasure points: solid golden crunch, smooth white gravy, and salty satisfaction. The surprise is that the nutty flavor and texture of tempeh fits right in. This isn't decadence with a vegetarian asterisk; it is an unqualified pleasure. $9.
vegetarian   

Peanut butter French toast at Highland Bakery

Available at Highland Bakery - Midtown
If giants were real and they had a sweet tooth, they'd eat this indulgent creation. Bring a buddy or prepare for a severe sugar rush before sticking a fork into the two overgrown slices of massive challah bread slathered with peanut butter and encrusted with bran flakes, cut in half and swimming in a shallow pool of brown sugar butter and caramelized bananas. $8.99.

Plain croissant at the Little Tart Bake Shop

Available at The Little Tart Bakeshop
No value for 'tracker_field_description'
croissant    bakery   


Salads

Atlanta's best salads you must try now

Chicken skin salad at Shoya Izakaya

Available at Shoya Izakaya
Let's call this Japanese cracklins. Mixed greens and sesame dressing equals a bowl of transcendence with a handful of golden-brown chunks of fried chicken skin. $4.
chicken    chicken skin   

Classic Cobb salad at Yeah! Burger

Available at YEAH! BURGER - Highland Ave.
This classic salad gets a local spin at the popular burger joint with a focus on quality ingredients. Grape tomatoes, avocado, nitrate-free bacon, grilled, naturally raised chicken, hardboiled egg, and organic blue cheese are loaded on top of local hydroponic lettuce and served with a creamy housemade Buttermilk Ranch dressing. If Cobb salad is a favorite of yours, this version is a must-try. $11.99.
cobb salad   

Kitchen sink salad at Community Q BBQ

Available at Community Q BBQ

Acid rules in this unlikely salad at the restaurant known for making beautiful dishes with local veggies that also go really well with barbecue. A big stainless bowl of local lettuces coated with vinegary dressing is made hearty by the addition of pickled mushrooms and whatever other seasonal vegetables they get from their farmer partners. Make it a full meal by adding a small portion of smoked meat. $6.50-$9.50.?

STILL THE ONE: Community Q BBQ's Kitchen sink salad was featured in the 2011 edition of 100 Dishes to Eat Before You Die


Soups

Warm up with Atlanta's best soups

Hand-pulled noodle soup at Lan Zhou

Available at Lan Zhou
If you've visited the food court at the Atlanta Chinatown Mall in the last few years, you've probably noticed a man banging, twisting, pulling, and stretching a mound of dough beneath the crimson sign at Lan Zhou's food stall. With a little expert elbow grease, he separates the dough into strands of la mian (hand-pulled) noodles, which are then chopped down to manageable lengths and tossed in a pot of boiling water to order. Go for the roasted duck breast served in Lan Zhou's traditional clear beef broth atop freshly pulled noodles. The la mian method is said to date as far back as the sixteenth century, so while you slurp, be sure to appreciate this ancient Chinese cooking method one glorious bite at a time. $6.

Pho at Nam Phuong

Available at Nam Phuong - Buford Highway
Pho lovers are an intense and loyal sort. They fall in love and don't stray even if their soup of choice loses its shine over time. For those willing to jump the Pho Dai Loi ship, Nam Phuong has a clean broth, just sweet enough from the star anise and rich with beef flavor. The slices of beef are rightly raw until mixed in, and the noodles are chewy enough to give this soothing soup some heft. $7.50.
pho   

She-crab soup at the Optimist

Available at The Optimist
This piping hot bowl of buttery froth is packed with crabby ocean flavor. Humming with sweet and salty notes of emulsified crab roe, heavy cream, and a dash of sherry, and served with a few chewy sticks of garlicky toast on the side, each spoonful will transport you to the sea. $9.

Tonkotsu ramen at Yakitori Jinbei

Available at Yakitori Jinbei

Many local ramen-yas have popped up, attempting to establish superiority, but Jinbei still reigns supreme. The broth made buttery with broken-down pork and chicken bones cooked on low for hours on end, springy yellow noodles, and tender spirals of pork are still a go-to when you are under the weather, hungover, or just hungry. $9.90 (lunch), $12.90 (dinner).?

STILL THE ONE: Yakitori Jinbei's tonkotsu ramen was featured in the 2011 edition of 100 Dishes to Eat Before You Die

Ramen   

Zuppa di pollo at Gio's Chicken Amalfitano

Available at Gio's Chicken Amalfitano
Made from leftovers of the restaurant's divine Sorrento lemon roast chicken, the rich, homemade broth (stock is made fresh daily) is rife with herbal, lemony flavor. Bits of carrots swirl about with tiny pellet-shaped Acini di pepe pasta and hunks of chicken, some of it still in its delicious skin. The fridge at the front of the restaurant is stocked with the stuff. Grab a quart to go - and maybe few extra to store in the freezer for a rainy day. $10.


Burgers and Sandwiches

Run, don't walk, to try these dishes - best food between sliced bread

Baguette with prosciutto at Star Provisions

Available at Star Provisions
Some things in life are good because they are simple: Bread and butter. Meat and cheese. Bread with butter and meat and cheese. Gourmet market and food counter Star Provisions' baguette with prosciutto is a paragon of straightforwardness: fresh, house-made bread smeared with sweet, creamy butter, and piled with prosciutto and shaved Parmesan. The pull and chew of the crusty baguette, the salt of the meat, the nuttiness of the cheese - this sandwich doesn't have to try to be fabulous. It just is. $8.95.
prosciutto   

BBQ pork bahn mi at Quoc Huong

Available at Quoc Huong Banh Mi Fast Food
Vietnam's most recognizable sandwich is old-school fusion: a French demi-baguette stuffed with pickled daikon and carrots, cilantro, and, in this case, some barbecue pork. Quoc Huong's crusty bread rivals that of any bakery in the city, and banh mi devotees flock here where they're jonesin' for a sandwich. $2.
bbq    pork   

Burger Stack at Bocado

Available at Bocado

The burger wars have come and gone. Chef Todd Ginsberg has left Bocado, but his burger stack and its title of Atlanta's best remain. This is a gourmet fast-food burger for people who don't like any filler: two house-ground patties topped with gooey American cheese and some homemade pickles on a crispy buttered H&F Bread. Co. bun, served with a side of freshly made fries. $12.?

STILL THE ONE: Bocado's Burger Stack was featured in the 2011 edition of 100 Dishes to Eat Before You Die

Burger    Todd Ginsberg   

Lobster roll at Atlanta Fish Market

Available at Atlanta Fish Market
At Buckhead's iconic Atlanta Fish Market, the lobster roll has been a signature item since opening in 1981. Fun fact: The crustacean is so popular here that the restaurant goes through nearly 3,000 pounds of whole, live lobsters each month. As for the sandwich, lobsters are cooked and shelled before the meat is tossed in a not-so-secret recipe of homemade mayo, cayenne pepper, and lemon. Then the mixture is stuffed into a toasty, buttered brioche bun from Buckhead Bread Co. to complete the typical New England - chef Robert Holley hails from New York - lobster roll experience. $18.95.

Original Red Hot with slaw and Hot Texan sauce at Barkers Red Hots

Available at Barkers Red Hots
Barkers has been bringing flavorful, charcoal-grilled love to Atlanta for nearly 30 years. Part of the secret to these red hots are the German-style Sahlen's dogs, a superb pork and beef combo in a natural casing that's less greasy and spicy than a typical kosher dog. Barkers gives them a nice char and a smoke-stained crunch on the outside; you choose the toppings to make it your own. Our favorite combination is the slightly sweet slaw and Hot Texan sauce with crispy onions and pickles. $3.
red hot    hot dog   

Poodle at Good Food Truck

Available at Good Food Truck
A French toast bun, all-beef dog, apple slaw, pancake syrup, and a few dabs of brown mustard make this "Poodle" the fanciest hot dog, and best food truck snack, in Atlanta. $5.
hot dog    poodle   

Pulled pork sandwich at Community Q

Available at Community Q BBQ
Last we checked, there are more places to buy a pulled pork sandwich in the Atlanta metro area than we have fingers and toes to count on. Many of them are pretty good, but none are as consistently adept at balancing the smoke, the moisture, the bark, and portion size for a pulled-pork sandwich as Community Q. Top it with a splash of the house vinegar sauce. $6.50.
pulled pork    bbq   

Reuben at General Muir

Available at The General Muir
Chef Todd Ginsberg has not fiddled much with the essential elements of a Reuben: the tender pile of corned beef, the Russian dressing, the sauerkraut, the rye bread ... OK, he subbed Gruyère for the more traditional Swiss. But his combination creates a fatty, salty, comforting sandwich worthy of the nation's best delicatessens. $11.95.
reuben   

Roasted cauliflower and eggplant sandwich at Bocado

Available at Bocado
A spicy, drippy, crunchy mess of a meal, the two halves of Bocado's roasted cauliflower and eggplant sandwich each arrive fitted with a giant skewer. It's as though the kitchen is winking at you, daring you to try to tidily consume all the bits of toasty cauliflower, shreds of pickled veg, and bite-size chunks of eggplant dressed in jalapeño aioli. Forget about any sense of decorum. Dig in, using your fingers to grab any stray chunks that inevitably will fall and the chewy baguette to sop up the spicy dressing. All that'll be left on the plate when you're finished should be those silly skewers. $8.25.
cauliflower    eggplant   


Pasta, Pizza and Noodles

Atlanta's best noodle and pizza dishes

Agnolotti at No. 246

Available at no. 246
The filling inside these rectangular baby raviolis varies with the season (and, presumably, the whims of the kitchen). Last time, it was goat cheese tinged bright pink with roasted beets, all topped with carrots, paper-thin slices of radish, and fresh tarragon. Another time it was roasted pumpkin, mascarpone, brown butter, and sage. While the ingredients may change, the little pastas are always the most tender, airy pillows of flavor. $19.
agnolotti   

Fresh hand-filled pasta from Storico Fresco Pasta

Available at Storico Fresco Pasta
Mike Patrick is a pasta master. If the Harry Potter series were about pasta making instead of wizardry, he would be the Dumbledore of durum. His Storico Fresco pasta has graduated from farmers market-only appearances to its own shop in Buckhead, and the results continue to amaze. Weekly specials rotate, but if you ever catch a glimpse of the elusive Tortelli Cima di Rapa, grab it like it was a hippogriff. The magical filling includes turnip greens sautéed in Puglian olive oil and leaf lard, garlic, and Italian ricotta. $12.
pasta   

San Gennaro pizza at Antico Pizza Napoletana

Available at Antico Pizza Napoletana
Since its debut three and a half years ago, this Westside spot has become a shining example of Atlanta excellence. Although there are many pies to choose from, the San Gennaro is tough to beat. Chunks of fennel-laced sausage intermix with gooey mozzarella, and those beautiful sweet, round peppers take this charred pie from good to great. Bonus: Drizzle some nearby chili oil on top if you like it hot. $21.
san gennaro    pizza   

Tagliatelle ai Funghi at Sotto Sotto

Available at Sotto Sotto Restaurant
The now trendy "ingredient-driven" mind-set of restaurant owners and chefs has been a cornerstone of Italian cuisine for centuries. At Sotto Sotto, the simplest dishes, such as the Tagliatelle ai Funghi, are frequently the most astonishing. In this dish, ribbons of yielding tagliatelle entwined with a blend of earthy Hen of the Woods, baby portobello, and meaty cremini mushrooms are bathed in delicate cream. In fact, it's almost imperceptible until the long, milky finish that follows each bite. Whether you order a half portion as an appetizer or a full portion for your meal, this pasta embodies authentic Italian simplicity. $17.

Tlayuda at Taqueria la Oaxeque

Available at Taqueria La Oaxaquena

Still a classic, this Mexican "pizza" is a fun thing to share with friends or enjoy on your own. A large baked tortilla sets the stage for chunks of avocado, shreds of chewy cheese, whatever meat you may choose (chorizo please), shredded lettuce and more. Top each bite with a spoonful of salsa from the exceptional salsa bar at the front of the restaurant. $10.99-$13.99.?

STILL THE ONE: Taqueria la Oaxequeña's tlayuda was featured in the 2011 edition of 100 Dishes to Eat Before You Die


Meatless Entrees

The best vegetarian-friendly dishes in Atlanta

Mushroom bibimbap at Woo Nam Jeong (Stone Bowl House)

Available at Woo Nam Jeong Stone Bowl House

While the regular bibimbap here is Atlanta's best, the mushroom version is a fun change of pace when you want something more earthy and light. A mix of mushrooms is nestled atop a sizzling bed of rice and mixed with shredded lettuce to lighten the dish. A sweet soy sauce mixture drizzled on top helps create an umami lovefest. $9.95.?

STILL THE ONE: Woo Nam Jeong's mushroom bibimbap was featured in the 2011 edition of 100 Dishes to Eat Before You Die

bibimbap    korean   

Orange-apple tofu at Top Flr

Available at Top Flr

Individually, the crispy slices of firm tofu, the baby bok choy, and the Japanese eggplant miso purée each taste fine. But eating them together creates absolute sweet-and-salty, soft-and-crunchy, fruit-and-soy-laced bliss. $12.

STILL THE ONE: Top Flr's orange-apple tofu was featured in the 2011 edition of 100 Dishes to Eat Before You Die

Smoked portobello sandwich at Fox Bros. Bar-B-Q

Available at Fox Bros. Bar-B-Q
A thick smoked portobello cap is topped with oozy pimento cheese and pickled jalapeños, and served on a soft and toasty bun. As far as veggie sandwiches go, this one is meaty, messy fun. $9.95.
portobello   

Vegetable platter at Wisteria

Available at Wisteria
No need to pick sides here. Executive Chef Jason Hill's vegetable platter at Wisteria is loaded with an array of stewed, roasted, and grilled veggies. While mainstays like buttery mashed potatoes, sweet corn pudding, and stone-ground grits tend to stick around, the selection of 10 vegetables changes with the season. A recent version included spears of grilled asparagus, sweet potato soufflé, crunchy haricot verts, a tangy green tomato and okra ragu, sautéed wild mushrooms, a tart Granny Smith apple relish, and corn succotash garnished with a fried basil chip. Always fresh, this mound of vegetables brims with variety and almost feels like a home-cooked Thanksgiving spread, minus the turkey. $16.

Vegetable tasting at Restaurant Eugene

Available at Restaurant Eugene
Vegetables deserve respect and at Restaurant Eugene they get it. A seasonal bounty served in a skillet, the spring harvest includes lemony carrots, asparagus, sweet summer peas, turnips, glazed bok choy, herbs, shaved radish, and more, all prepared with a delicate hand to let the veggies' natural goodness shine. $28.


Seafood

Atlanta's best fishy dishes

Butter-braised lobster with broccoli mousseline at Aria

Available at Aria
Fresh lobster meat generously braised in butter is the cherry on top of this signature Aria dish. Served in a martini glass layered with silky, emerald green broccoli mousse and truffled whipped potatoes, this dish is rich man's comfort food. Half: $17; Whole: $23.
lobster   

Duck fat poached swordfish at the Optimist

Available at The Optimist
Gently poached in glorious duck fat, this swordfish steak is all meaty and supple. Translucent sections of swordfish fall away with the touch of a fork into the accompanying smear of celery root purée and garlic chile relish. This towering piece of fish arrives still glistening with rich duck fat. It's surf and turf 2.0. $25.
swordfish   

Omakase at Tomo

Available at Tomo Japanese Restaurant
Maybe you've seen Jiro Dreams of Sushi, the documentary about an aged sushi master who offers a visually stunning, painstakingly precise, and expertly paced tasting menu? Score a reservation with chef-owner Tomohiro Naito on the back end of his glamorous sushi bar and you'll feel like you stepped inside that movie. The menu changes nightly, but always ends with nigiri sushi pressed fresh from Naito's consistent hand. $100-$150.

Pan-fried octopus at LPC

Available at LPC
LPC's pan-fried octopus is a masterful manipulation of sea and smoke and earth. Meaty chunks of octopus engage in a flavorful tug-of-war with a spicy tomato arrabbiata sauce on a bed of vinegary, grilled greens and giant white beans. The ebb and flow of each component make every bite just a little bit different from the last, adding an element of delicious discovery to each forkful. $15.
octopus   

Raw oysters at the Optimist

Available at The Optimist
For years, Atlanta's only oyster options were overpriced restaurant appetizers or low-priced specimens at questionable drinking spots. Thanks to the Optimist, we now have a solid spot to go for a carefully curated oyster selection so fresh you'd think you lived on the water. Pair them with a crisp glass of craft beer and more than one of the homemade parker house rolls, shiny with butter and finished with flaked sea salt. $3-$3.50 per oyster.
oysters   

Risotto ai Frutti di Mare at Sotto Sotto

Available at Sotto Sotto Restaurant

This notoriously labor-intensive dish of tender risotto is studded with plump bay scallops, succulent shrimp, mussels, and clams. The result is rich, creamy, and chewy in all the right places. $19.?

STILL THE ONE: Sotto Sotto's Risotto ai Frutti di Mare was featured in the 2011 edition of 100 Dishes to Eat Before You Die

risotto   

Salt and pepper Georgia shrimp at Octopus Bar

Available at Octopus Bar
This bowl of greasy, spicy late-night junk food arrives containing a small pile of scallions, jalapeños, and deep-fried shrimp still holding onto their heads and shells. Be brave and bite right into that shell. You'll be rewarded with a salty crunch and a burst of seafaring flavors that will redefine your notion of fried shrimp. $9.
shrimp   


Meat Entrees

Eat here now: Atlanta's heartiest meaty meals

All-you-can-eat Korean barbecue combo at 678

Available at 678
It may seem pricey, but grab your friends to help you take down one of these enormous and gorgeous meat assortments tidily tucked into a light wood box. Fresh cuts of meat - unmarinated and marinated - are grilled over charcoal by your server and accompanied by tangy salad, banchan (small plates), and a spicy noodle soup to finish. It's destination-worthy. $25.99-$29.99.
korean    bbq   

Beef rib with coleslaw at Fox Bros. Bar-B-Q

Available at Fox Bros. Bar-B-Q

This enormous beef rib is reminiscent of "The Flintstones'" opening scene where Fred's order tips over the car. Only available on certain days (call first, and then get there fast - they sell out quickly), Fox Bros.' bone-in rib is slow-cooked until the meat is black with bark and so tender you could eat it with a spoon. Add a little of the coleslaw that's just creamy and tangy enough to cut the fat of the rib for a truly superior gut-bomb meal. $22.95.?

STILL THE ONE: Fox Bros. Bar-B-Q's beef rib with coleslaw was featured in the 2011 edition of 100 Dishes to Eat Before You Die

ribs    bbq   

Carnita taco on freshly made tortilla at Taqueria El Rey del Taco

Available at El Rey Del Taco

Succulent hunks of slow-cooked pork carnitas with just a hint of barbecue bite are nestled with chopped cilantro and onion onto corn tortillas hechas a mano by the resident abuela. Alternate bites with a dollop of the neon-green avocado salsa or the salsa roja to amp up the flavors and wash it down with a michelada, Mexican beer poured over spicy, citrusy tomato juice. $2.?

STILL THE ONE: Taqueria El Rey del Taco's carnita taco on freshly made tortilla was featured in the 2011 edition of 100 Dishes to Eat Before You Die

taco    mexican   

Crépinettes at the Spotted Trotter

Available at Spotted Trotter
Artisanal bacons are a dime a dozen these days, isn't it time for a change? Crépinettes are big sausage-y meatballs wrapped in lacy caul fat. The caul fat not only holds the crépinettes together, but also imparts a delicate fattiness that helps keep the meat juicy while cooking. The Spotted Trotter offers a variety of options each week, based in part on what's in season (salt-roasted peaches with spicy pork, or local chanterelles with Hudson Valley duck, for example), but one frequent standout is the rabbit version with Madeira-marinated figs, toasted hazelnuts and some pork belly for good measure. Sear them up in a skillet and you have a quick hit for dinner guests. Or just keep them all for yourself. $14-$17 per pound.
sausage   

Dry aged steak for two at Kevin Rathbun Steak

Available at Kevin Rathbun Steak
In chef Kevin Rathbun's temple to big steaks and expense-account dining, the dry-aged steak for two is a Goldilocks version of indulgence: Not too big, not too small, and aged for 30-40 days until the meat's developed a complex, funky flavor that is just right. This 26-ounce porterhouse is served bone-in and conveniently sliced for easy access. Enjoy the deeply flavored meat on its own or say screw Goldilocks and dunk each bite in Rathbun's outrageous, melty black truffle butter. Steaks are served a la carte, but we recommend sampling a shareable side of jalapeño creamed corn or cheesy scalloped sweet potatoes. This is not the time or place for calorie counting, temperance, or restraint, so relax and enjoy. $72.
steak   

Dry-fried eggplant at Tasty China

Available at Tasty China

When this dish appeared in the mid-2000s, it was a revelation to Atlanta diners. Batons of eggplant are dry-fried - not deep-fried - which means they aren't soggy, but as crispy as french fries. The interior is creamy like custard and the outside is seasoned with that hot and numbing Sichuan wonder Tasty China is known for. Pops of fresh scallion add brightness in between bites. Just don't eat the dried chilies. $8.95.?

STILL THE ONE: Tasty China's dry fried eggplant was featured in the 2011 edition of 100 Dishes to Eat Before You Die

eggplant    vegetables    chinese   

Duck breast at Restaurant Eugene

Available at Restaurant Eugene
Seared to a perfect medium rare in an iron skillet, sliced duck breast is served over a slick and sweet spoon bread purée with a small section of crispy, fatty duck leg confit. A towering tangle of lightly dressed wild greens and root vegetables is served alongside. A server drizzles the meat with rich duck jus tableside. Dishes at Restaurant Eugene often feel like a celebration of each main ingredient. $40.
duck   

Georgia Sampler at Heirloom Market BBQ

Available at Heirloom Market BBQ
With its subtle Korean influences, Heirloom Market consistently turns out some of the best and most unique barbecue in town. If you want to sample a wide array of Heirloom's Far East meets West meat-and-three mastery, the Georgia Sampler is the way to go - two trays piled with pulled pork, smoked chicken, a quarter rack of ribs, then your choice of brisket or turkey or Texas beef sausage (go brisket), AND three sides as well. You can't deny Heirloom's mac and cheese, but the Korean-influenced sides are especially worth exploring. Kimchi slaw or green tomato kimchi are musts and work wonders alongside smoked meats. $26.50.
korean    bbq   

Hot and numbing beef rolls at Tasty China

Available at Tasty China
They look like burritos, but taste like Szechuan dreams. These tightly rolled, tortilla-like pancakes cradle shreds of crispy lettuce and an oily mess of hot pepper and Szechuan peppercorn-coated beef. While these peppercorns have been known to cause some temporary digestive distress, it's a small price to pay for the euphoric heat they bring. These crunchy rolls are so addictive, you can expect to experience full-blown food lust for weeks to come. $7.
beef rolls    chinese   

Hot chicken at One Eared Stag

Available at One Eared Stag
You may have heard of Prince's Hot Chicken in Tennessee, the ultra-hot fried chicken that has inspired a good number of imitations. The version of that dish served at One Eared Stag is like listening to the Rolling Stones cover Bobby Womack: an entirely new hit. Deep Eastern spices, sweet notes, housemade pickles, and an addictive, numbing spice make this a dish entirely different but equally as great. $9.
chicken   

Kerala fried chicken and waffles at Cardamom Hill

Available at Cardamom Hill
This is chef/owner Asha Gomez's signature "the Indian south meets the American south" dish. Seasoned with traditional Kerala spices like ginger, cardamom, and clove, boneless chicken thighs fry up tender, dark, and rich served atop an almost savory "low-country" waffle. The dish's quintessential sweetness comes from Gomez's glorious maple syrup - thick and boldly laced with toasted coriander, cumin, and red chili flakes - served in a tiny pitcher on the side. Don't be afraid to pour, pour, and pour some more. $15.

L'arrosto pork shoulder at Double Zero Napoletana

Available at Double Zero
This massive chunk of pork shoulder appears at the table in a cast-iron skillet after hours of slow roasting with tomatoes, carrots, and herbs. Supremely tender, the meat falls to pieces with the gentle touch of a fork. Served alongside a rotating array of accoutrements like peach chutney, pickled vegetables, roasted garlic spread, or salty Calabrian peppers, the fun is in experimenting with countless flavor combinations. Wrap it all up in a piece of the pizza nuvole, basically pizza dough rolled out and baked into a pita-like form. It's a hearty, communal dish meant for sharing and comforting the soul. $15/$29 to serve two/four.
pork   

Lamb choila at Himalayan Spice

Available at Himalayan Spice
The Nepali lamb choila at Himalayan Spice calls to mind the cuisines of nearby China, India, and even Thailand with hard-to-place but pleasing flavors. Tender, spice-laden (asafetida, anyone?) chunks of lamb are grilled, and then tossed with fresh red onion, garlic, and cilantro. A sprinkle of lemon juice provides tingly acidity, while toasted cumin notes keep things down and earthy. The staff suggests trying it with beer. Who are we to disagree? $9.
lamb    choila    indian   

Lao dry fried beef jerky at Hot Café

Available at Hot Cafe
Beautiful is not a word often used to describe beef jerky, but a plate of Hot Café's Lao dry fried beef is indeed a thing of beauty. The mahogany-hued twists and curls of glistening jerky arrive like a small serving of modern sculpture dotted with white sesame seeds. Each bit is crunchy and chewy and sweet and spicy. This is no convenience store, teriyaki-soaked, plastic bag-encased jerky. This is art, served inside a somewhat seedy strip mall south of the airport - exactly the kind of place one should find great beef jerky. $7.
beef jerky    thai   

Pork and green chile burrito at Bell Street Burritos

Available at Bell Street Burritos - Inman Park
Atlanta's signature burrito is surely the pork and green chile at Bell Street Burritos, an homage to the well-remembered 1980s Atlanta joint Tortillas. It's a classic sum-is-greater-than-its-parts combination of slow-roasted pork, Anaheim green chiles, and heavenly slow-cooked pinto beans. Maybe it's the fact that those ingredients cozy up so nice, swaddled tightly in a flour tortilla, but something about this humble mix of browns and green feel like comfort and home. There are red and green salsas served on the side, but no extra sauce is needed for this bundle of joy. $7.
burrito   

Sorrento lemon roast chicken at Gio's Chicken Amalfitano

Available at Gio's Chicken Amalfitano
Has eating something ever not been enough? Like, you'd only be truly satisfied if you also could crawl into the bowl and be physically surrounded on all sides by the food? Such is the experience of eating the Sorrento lemon roast chicken at Gio's Chicken Amalfitano, Antico mastermind Giovanni Di Palma's Westside chicken joint. Rubbed with salt and seasoned simply with olive oil, chopped garlic, and wild oregano, the chicken is served in fist-size chunks in a big bowl and garnished with flatbread, potato wedges, and lemon slices. There is also a sauce in this bowl, an insanely aromatic broth emanating with the bright perfume of Sorrento lemons. Dip the rich chicken in it; let the potatoes soak it up - they're thick enough to handle it - and leave none behind. $15-$38.
chicken   

Steak frites at Floataway Cafe

Available at Floataway Cafe
Few dishes in Atlanta are as good, if not better, than they are in their countries of origin, but the version of steak frites at this Quatrano-Harrison joint rivals any Parisian bistro or brasserie. The wood grill almost quick-smokes the tender hanger steak rubbed and seasoned with just a hint of sweetness. Picture-perfect, hand-cut French fries are substantial and crispy. Try sopping up the steak's juices with them for an over-the-top mouth smackdown of salt and fat. $27.
fries    frites   

Three Little Piggies at 4th & Swift

Available at 4th & Swift

Featuring an array of contrasting porky textures, chef Jay Swift's signature dish continues to evolve over time. Currently, cubes of cotechino sausage, seared on the outside and almost creamy on the inside, a centerpiece of tender pork loin with diced apples infused with bourbon, and buttery bursts of chicharrón "popcorn" grace the plate. $27.?

STILL THE ONE: 4th & Swift's Three Little Piggies dish was featured in the 2011 edition of 100 Dishes to Eat Before You Die


Desserts and Sweets

Atlanta's best treats for those with a sweet tooth

Cheesecake at the General Muir

Available at The General Muir
Game-changing is not something you think of in relation to cheesecake, but the Muir's version might make you question whether the version you had in New York last time was this good. The keys are density and creaminess. This cheesecake is firm where others are too soft, and tangy enough to offset its inherent richness. $6.
cheesecake   

Chocolate cake at Wright's Gourmet Sandwich Shoppe

Available at Wright's Gourmet Sandwich Shoppe
Chocolate cake is one of those "eye of the beholder" things. Everyone has a preference, most likely based on a childhood memory. Yet the cake at Wright's is one to obliterate any subjective loyalties you may have. It's at once light and decadent. Fudgy and creamy. The right ratio of frosting to cake. In a word, it is perfect. $3.95 per slice.

Chocolate sea salt popsicle at King of Pops

Available at King of Pops
If Chef from "South Park" were still alive, this would be his light saber. The silky blend of sea salt and dark chocolate transforms the act of public licking into a perverse thrill. But it's a guiltless pleasure, thanks to King of Pops' all-natural recipe. Just make sure you don't start humming "Chocolate Salty Balls" while sucking it. $2.50.
popsicles   

Classic apple pie at Pie Shop

Available at Pie Shop
Let's face it, if you're in the mood for baked sweets, most of the doughnut and cupcake shops around town tend to err on the side of overindulgent extravagance. The Pie Shop takes the opposite approach with its refreshingly restrained classic apple pie. It's clear from the first whiff of warm apples and cinnamon that you're in for a traditional apple pie experience. A delicate, buttery thin layer of crust graces the top, no fancy lattice or frill. Thinly sliced apples within remain crisp and tart - no sweet or gloopy overload here. It's what your memories of homemade apple pie wish they were. $4.60 per slice.
apple pie   

Frosted orange at the Varsity

Available at The Varsity
The Varsity's iconic frosted orange strikes a perfect compromise between a thick milkshake and a mouth-watering slushie. This sippable orange creamsicle doesn't overwhelm with its sweet and fruity flavors, and is surprisingly subtle for a fast-food joint. So the next time you're asked, "What'll ya have?", don't forget to wash down those greasy chili dogs and fries with this bright, creamy frozen treat. $2.39-$3.19.

Krispy Kreme Original Glazed at Krispy Kreme

Available at Krispy Kreme
So what if the North Carolina-based Krispy Kreme doesn't originally hail from the ATL? It's been a Ponce de Leon Avenue institution for almost 50 years now. All it takes is the neon glow of that "Hot Now" sign to conjure a Pavlovian response from late-night passersby drawn, like moths, to the 24-hour drive-thru window. And the fluffy, melt-in-your-mouth goodness of a warm glazed original still runs circles around the newfangled doughnut competition. $7.87/dozen.
doughnuts    donuts   

Mortadella mousse at Seven Lamps

Available at Seven Lamps
Is it an appetizer? Is it charcuterie? Is it dessert? Who cares? Chef Drew Van Leuvan's silky mortadella mousse comes sandwiched between two airy pistachio macaroons. It's either the fanciest bologna sandwich ever or the meatiest dessert in town. One: $7; three: $18; five: $25.
macaroon   

Red velvet cupcake milkshake at Delia's Chicken Sausage Stand

Available at Delia's Chicken Sausage Stand
Ever had the urge to drink a cupcake? Well, someone at Delia's certainly did. Here a whole red velvet cupcake is swirled vigorously into a stainless steel mixing cup filled with creamy vanilla ice cream. The result is a shake so thick, it can be chewed as much as sipped. Thoroughly laced with cakey crumbs and morsels, this melt-in-your-mouth drinkable cupcake is delicious to the very last bite/drop. $2.99.
milkshake   

Salted caramel ice cream at Morelli's Gourmet Ice Cream

Available at Morelli's Gourmet Ice Cream
A scoop of this frosty treat blends sweet, luscious caramel and a sharp pop of salt into a creamy, frozen silky state. The subtly sweet and crispy shell of a freshly made waffle bowl or cone completes the sweet and savory trifecta. Single cone: $3.65.

Slice of Midnight cake at Alon's

Available at Alon's Bakery & Market - Morningside
Silky white chocolate mousse sandwiched between three layers of moist chocolate cake keeps things light. Instead of an impossibly rich chocolate overload, each bite is reminiscent of sweetened cocoa powder and airy whipped cream. $3.99.

Sweet potato bourbon cupcake at Atlanta Cupcake Factory

Available at The Atlanta Cupcake Factory - Permanently Closed
Southern clichés may not always do the region many favors, but they sure as hell can taste good. This moist, sweet potato spice cake is brought to attention by a bourbon-infused cream cheese frosting. They do say clichés exist for a reason. $2.75.
cupcake   


Cocktails

Atlanta's ten best mixed drinks

Blue Jay at Paper Plane

Available at Paper Plane
The Blue Jay is barkeep Paul Calvert's riff on the classic Toronto cocktail - a rye whiskey and Fernet Branca drink he recalls making in huge batches back in his SoundTable days. While SoundTable's Toronto included large doses of bitter Fernet, bonded rye, sugar, and a flamed orange, the Blue Jay is a lower-alcohol version. The big, brassy rye is replaced with dry and peppery Sierra Nevada Ruthless Rye beer; sugar and Fernet are combined to make a sweet(ish) syrup. Bitter citrus notes come from the herbal Amaro CioCiaro and a squeeze of fresh lemon. With hints of fruit and a mellow herbal edge, the Blue Jay is easy drinking for Fernet-lovers. Or a friendly introduction to the Italian bitter liqueur for anyone interested in becoming better acquainted. $9.

Hot Buttered Rum at the Optimist

Available at The Optimist
It's hot. It's sweet. It's a lump of brown sugar dissolved in hot water, doused in a healthy dose of the Kraken spiced rum. Finished with a pat of homemade cinnamon-clove butter (Who puts butter in cocktails?!) it's a clear coffee mug filled with slow-sipping, Christmas spice deliciousness. $9.
rum   

Mai Tai at Trader Vic's

Available at Trader Vic's
Some say that Victor Jules Bergeron Jr., also known as Trader Vic, invented the Mai Tai. (There's some disagreement about this, but isn't there always when cocktails are involved?) He passed away decades ago, but the barkeeps at this hotel chain still make a faithfully bracing version of his enduring concoction of two rums, Cointreau, lime juice, and orgeat syrup. A big garnish of mint is what you'll notice first, but the rum is what will stay with you. $7.
mai thai   

Mexican RX at 4th & Swift

Available at 4th & Swift
Head bartender Kevin Bragg is known for quirky homemade concoctions like a sage-infused Pinot Blanc reduction, or lemongrass-black sesame syrup. But perhaps even more impressive is Bragg's ability to draw us in with something familiar and add a splash of something new to keep us interested. To that end, the Mexican RX is basically a cross between a Moscow Mule and a margarita. Tequila and smoky mezcal are blended with spicy ginger liqueur, agave nectar, and fresh lime juice. Drink up! $11.

Moscow Mule at the Sound Table

Available at The Sound Table
The Sound Table fiddles only slightly with this classic combination of vodka, lime juice, and ginger beer (Gosling's here) by adding orange bitters. Served in a Collins glass with a hunk of lime, the drink is a little spicy, a lot refreshing, and hardly too sweet thanks to those bitters that do their job of cutting through the sugar. $8.

Root Punch at Bocado

Available at Bocado
Root beer for grown-ups! Dark Scarlet Ibis rum pops with Root herbal liqueur, fresh lemon juice, cane syrup, and nutmeg finished with a spritz, or five, of licorice-y Herbsaint. $10.
root beer   

Sazerac at Leon's Full Service

Available at Leon's Full Service
Rightly located on Leon's "Classics" cocktail list, bartender Miles Macquarrie makes his Sazerac with high-strength Rittenhouse rye whiskey, Peychaud's bitters, sugar, and Herbsaint Legendre. Sipping this silky smooth glass of chilled bitters and booze is like taking a trip to New Orleans circa 1850 ­ - where and when the drink is said to have originated. $9.
sazarac