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Restaurant Reviews

100 Dishes to Eat in Atlanta



I downloaded a new app the other day called Timehop. Once synced, the app compiles all of your social media updates from that day years ago into a time capsule-y newsletter you get to sift through every morning. It's like catnip for nostalgia junkies, engrossing and at times embarrassing. (Could I have posted any more angsty hip-hop lyrics between 2008 and 2009?) Each update shows what you were up to, what you were like and, maybe, if you're lucky, illuminates the ways in which you've grown.

At the outset of Creative Loafing's 100 Dishes project for 2015 I revisited the 2011 and 2013 lists. Looking at the previous dishes that were selected gave me a sense of what was going on in the Atlanta food world at those moments in time. In the last five years, menus were more static and meat-centric. Exotic ethnic cuisines commanded our attention. Today, more chefs are searching for inspiration in their own backyards, embracing simple, ingredient-driven cuisines. Local food has become the norm in many Atlanta restaurants and, as a result, there seem to be more seasonal and vegetable-driven restaurant menus.

One hundred dishes sounds like a lot. But it's not. Not when you have a city teeming with great food. We, and by we I mean all the core contributors to CL's dining section, began by compiling a long list of the most memorable dishes we recalled eating over the last two years. We added our current go-tos, mainstays, and comfort foods. Then we asked our friends and families about their favorites. We posed the question on social media and took suggestions from readers. For months I asked nearly every person I met, including the ladies at the nail salon (who dig Nam Phuong) and a pair of friendly police officers (fans of the Highlander and Tin Lizzy's) at a Midtown Starbucks.

We traveled near and far to follow up on the most promising candidates. A few of the dishes such as the cheese steak at the Mad Italian, for example, were unanimously agreed upon. For many selections, cases had to be made and argued, which led to several heated debates. At the end of the day, we gravitated toward things that felt somewhat under the radar (chicken nuggets at Quickly Bubble Tea), hidden gems with cult followings (chow kway teow at Mamak), and dishes that are available year-round (Southern fried chicken parm at BoccaLupo). In general, the list hews toward the fresh and the unexpected (Cinnamon Toast Crunch milk shake at Pallookaville), but there are also some time-tested favorites we couldn't bear to part with (drunken noodles at Little Bangkok).

Lists, or listicles as we in the media have come to call them, are contentious by nature. They're exclusive: who's in, who's out, what ranks where. We didn't want that to be the takeaway here. Much in the same way food culture says something about the people doing the eating, lists reflect the identity and opinions of their creators. Rather than only choosing dishes we thought were "the Best" - whatever that is - or the most iconic or the most famous, we wanted a list that ultimately represented who we are and what it's like to eat in Atlanta right now. Restaurants and menus change so quickly and so frequently; lists like this can become obsolete soon after they go to press. For this year's edition of 100 Dishes to Eat in Atlanta, our simple hope is to share with you a quirky and crazy-delicious snapshot of what this city has to offer — a moment in Atlanta food history frozen in time.

- Stephanie Dazey, Food Editor

Contributors: Max Blau, Rodney Carmichael, Gray Chapman, Stephanie Dazey, Kate Douds, Ryan Fleisher, Gavin Godfrey, Emily Griffin, Ed Hall, Angela Hansberger, Kaylyn Hinz, Hillary Holley, Brad Kaplan, Meagan Mastriani, Debbie Michaud, Chad Radford, Jennifer Zyman

Contributing photographers: Eric Cash, Scott Chester, Joeff Davis, Maria Lioy, Erik Meadows, Matthew Smith, Mia Yakel



Small Plates, Apps and Sides

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

Arancini with citrus and fennel pollen at Cakes and Ale

Available at Cakes and Ale
The majority of Cakes and Ale’s menu may change with the seasons, but these Italian-inspired fried rice balls are a perennial fixture at Cakes and Ale. In fact, this is the only menu item that has stuck around since the restaurant first opened its doors. Break one of these bite-sized treats apart and watch pecorino fresco ooze from the center of a crispy panko-crusted rice shell. Pop one in your mouth and delight at the subtle tang of lime, grapefruit, and orange zests. Notice the fennel’s delicate hint of licorice. This is a fantastic start to any meal, any time of year. $6.

Barbecue pork banh mi at We Suki Suki

Available at We Suki Suki
Ever since Quynh Trinh, better known as “Q,” set up shop in East Atlanta in 2012, that “Buford Hwy EAV” sign above the doorway has held true: This is the most legit banh mi one can acquire this side of Route 13, ATL’s international corridor. Q’s Vietnamese sandwiches, served on crusty, flaky baguettes, are packed to the brim with sweet-pickled daikon and carrots, a dollop of creamy aioli, and jalapenos and Sriracha should you dare to go “all the way.” The sandwich ante is upped even further when Q’s thin and tender cuts of smoky-sweet char-siu-style barbecued pork are thrown into the mix. If you’re lucky, you may even get a few crunchy charred bits in there. $6.

Bean and cheese nachos at Superica

Available at Superica
We thought the common plate of nachos, in all their messy, simple, haphazard glory, couldn’t really be improved upon. But Superica, Ford Fry’s love letter to Austin-style Tex-Mex, brings a more traditional, almost scientific approach to the staple: Every ingredient is piled on every chip. Picture thick tortilla chips coated in a generous shellacking of refried beans, then buried beneath a solid quarter-inch of melted cheese — we repeat, on every single chip — and then finished off with a dollop of sour cream, guacamole, and some pickled peppers because at this point, why not. Each bite is engineered to deliver the ideal fixin’-to-chip ratio. $10.
nachos   

Beef carpaccio at Brio Tuscan Grill

Available at BRIO Tuscan Grille
What’s gorgeous, rose-colored, and served on an oval platter big enough to hold a Thanksgiving turkey? Brio Tuscan Grill’s beef carpaccio. Although corporate chain restaurants aren’t generally known for sourcing locally, Brio’s Peachtree Road outpost buys its ravishing eye of round steak from Buckhead Beef. The paper-thin raw beef is drizzled with extra virgin olive oil and a generous zigzag of garlic aioli. A salad of tangy, balsamic-kissed greens beneath a tent of cracker-like Parmesan flatbread is placed in the center. The whole thing is finished with a sprinkling of capers and fresh Italian parsley. Run your fork across the length of the plate and devour whatever sticks. $13.45.
carpaccio   

Beef noodle soup at Ah-Ma's Taiwanese Kitchen

Available at Ah-Ma's Taiwanese Kitchen
A steaming bowl of beef noodle soup is the ultimate Taiwanese comfort food. Where better to find the genuine article than a place whose name means grandma in the mother tongue? At Ah-Ma’s, hunks of super-tender, slow-cooked flank steak; plump noodles; pickled mustard greens; and veggies simmer in a deep, full-bodied broth. If the soothing fragrance of star anise, peppercorns, and ginger doesn’t bowl you over, the meaty, tangy, and subtly sweet flavors swirling through the broth will. $13.

Crab toast at Lusca

Available at Lusca
Lusca has found a way to dramatically improve the uber-trendy avocado toast: Pile a healthy dose of sweet Maine rock crab on top. The base is a slab of crusty, house-baked pain au levain, which is then topped with the creamy avocado and crab. While that combination of color, flavor, and complementary textures is darn near flawless, it’s the subtle sprinkling of espelette pepper, a squirt of lemon juice, and dabs of key lime mustard that truly make this crab toast a splash. $16.
crab   

Fried chicken taco at Taqueria del Sol

Available at Taqueria Del Sol
Only a few ingredients create this irresistible combo of South-meets-Mexican comfort food thanks to crispy-on-the-outside and moist-on-the-inside chicken strips. A soft flour tortilla serves as a fantastic, chewy vessel because it does not overpower the star of the show, the chicken. Zingy lime jalapeño mayo adds a stroke of brightness and just the right amount of heat to each bite. At $2 and change per taco, this little gem is budget-friendly, too.

Har gow at Best BBQ

Available at Best BBQ
Normally when you get har gow shrimp dumplings at a dim sum restaurant, you get one measly shrimp inside the shiny white wrapper. But at Best BBQ in Duluth, a stall inside the Great Wall Supermarket’s awe-inspiring Chinese food court, one little shrimp isn’t nearly enough. Best BBQ stuffs two to three shrimp in each of its har gow, making these dumplings the sweetest, meatiest around. To order, just find the handy picture of the har gow — and whatever else looks good. When it’s your turn at the register, just smile and point! $4.25/4 pieces.

Hot wings at Jamal's Buffalo Wings

Available at Jamal's Buffalo Wings
The critical point during any visit to Jamal’s, the tiny takeout-only trailer at the corner of MLK and Northside Drive, is the moment you settle back into your car. You’re hungry and the inside of your car now smells like hot wing heaven: Should you break in to that Styrofoam treasure chest right then and there or show some restraint and wait till you get back home? Whether they’re the intensely tart lemon pepper wings or the saucy buffalo variety, Jamal’s hot wings are fantastically crisp and tender. You may as well dig in and glimpse the new Falcons stadium being built across the street while you’re at it. 5 pieces: $4.59/10 pieces: $8.10.
wings   

Pirozhki at Buford Highway Farmers Market

Available at Buford Highway Farmers Market
Despite its central location, the Buford Highway Farmers Market’s section of Eastern European baked goods is weirdly easy to miss. But you shouldn’t. Next time you’re there, don’t rest until you find the counter peddling fresh-baked pirozhki. The turnovers look a lot like the typical dinner roll, but these golden beauties are stuffed with savory meats and vegetables. Buford Highway’s pirozhki are baked Russian-style, which means the filling is completely enclosed by the yeasty, slightly sweet pastry. The selection rotates fairly regularly, but we suggest the decadent mashed potato with onion or the pickled cabbage varieties. Pro tip: Warm these up in the oven for 5-10 minutes once you get home. If you happen to devour your little pirozhki in the car before you get there, though, we won’t judge. $1.99.

Spicy bleu cheese chips at the Bookhouse Pub

Available at The Bookhouse Pub
The dim lighting inside Ponce de Leon Avenue’s finest “Twin Peaks”-themed gastropub makes the books lining the shelves virtually unreadable. Bookhouse’s heaping plate of homemade chips smothered in spicy bleu cheese is harder to miss. The heap is littered with melty crumbled cheese and chewy bacon bits, and then finished with a spicy chipotle sauce, a smattering of fresh tomatoes, green onions, and fresh cilantro. If you’re lucky, you’ll pull a slightly chewy chip from the pile, one that’s been soaking in some of that zippy cheese. $8.

Spicy tuna avocado ball at Craft Izakaya

Available at Craft Izakaya
“Japanese” and “guacamole” aren’t natural partners, but at Craft Izakaya the marriage works. Slices of creamy avocado are wrapped around succulent tuna tartare that’s been infused with sesame oil and spicy Sriracha. No chopsticks needed here; instead, use the crunchy tempura seaweed chips as a vehicle to the taste buds. The multicultural mash-up is an intriguing blend of creamy, crunchy, spicy, and sweet sensations all on one plate. $9.95.
tuna    avacado   

Spicy tuna crispy rice at Umi Sushi

Available at Umi
Crispy rice is hardly revolutionary, but Umi’s rendition is extraordinary. First, a mound of rice is lightly fried and shaped into a crisp, golden-brown block. Then it’s topped with a dollop of spicy tuna tartare and kicked up even further by slices of fresh jalapeño. The fresh fish, the crunch, and the spice all swirl into one of those heavenly bites that hit every pleasure receptor in your brain. As soon as it’s gone, good luck fighting the immediate urge to order up an encore. $14.

Stuffed jalapeño poppers at Fox Bros. Bar-B-Q

Available at Fox Bros. Bar-B-Q
Ordering jalapeño poppers at a joint famous for its legendary barbecue may seem counterintuitive, unless of course the poppers are stuffed silly with some of that legendary ’cue. Fox Bros. fills fresh, hollowed-out jalapeños with a mixture of cheddar and cream cheese. Next come the gobs of chopped pulled pork and spicy barbecue sauce. The plump peppers are battered in seasoned flour and breadcrumbs and then fried to order. The result: melty, meaty, cheesy gems spiked with a hint of piquant green pepper. $9.

Tartare at Cooks and Soldiers

Available at Cooks & Soldiers
You don’t have to be a vegetarian to appreciate the brilliance of Cooks and Soldiers’ veggie “tartare” — a tomato-based riff on steak tartare made possible by a healthy dose of molecular gastronomy. Chunky cured tomato replaces the raw beef, and a stunning carrot-juice orb poses as the egg yolk typically found on the classic dish. A house-made vegetarian Worcestershire (no anchovies) plus the traditional capers, onion, and Dijon mustard, balance out the tartare’s bright tomato sweetness. You’ll never miss the beef. $7.

The chuletas at Cooks and Soldiers

Available at Cooks & Soldiers
The hulking chuletón, aka bone-in rib-eye for two, at Cooks and Soldiers does the traditional Spanish steak dish proud. Weighing at 1 kilogram — that’s 2.2 pounds for us ’muricans — it’s slowly cooked on the restaurant’s impressive wood-fire grill. When the massive cut of beef comes fresh out of the fire, it's sliced and served with the bone for gnawing if you're into that sort of thing. It’s served alongside a pert salad with shaved Belgian endive and red onion tossed in a crisp Cava vinaigrette. A small silver pitcher of sweet and complex tempranillo bordelaise is so good you’ll want to pour it all over your body and have a loved one lick it off. Just sayin’. $74.


Breakfast

Wake up to the best breakfasts in Atlanta

Bacon, egg, and cheese biscuit at Mountain Biscuits

Available at Mountain Biscuits
In a tiny, old wooden house off of a Marietta road lies biscuit heaven. Go for Mountain’s fat, cathead-style biscuits. Bafflingly light given their sturdiness, these buttery babes are an ideal vehicle for fluffy scrambled eggs, crisp strips of curled-up bacon, and good-old American cheese. There’s no better biscuit breakfast sandwich in Atlanta. The 20-mile drive to Marietta is so totally worth it. $3.25.
biscuit   

Folk Southern fried at Folk Art

Available at Folk Art Restaurant
Need a little hangover relief? At Folk Art, a fried chicken breast hoisted atop a huge flaky biscuit smothered in hearty-but-not-overwhelming sausage gravy might do the trick. Opt for topping it with a fried egg to add the luscious trickle of runny yolk. The Folk Southern Fried, as it’s called, won’t cure your hangover, but the pleasure that follows each glorious, gooey bite could make you forget about it. $12.99.

Ham and cheese bun at Sweet Hut

Available at Sweet Hut Bakery & Cafe
Sweet Hut is a chic, self-serve bakery known for its extensive bubble tea selection and huge pastry cases filled with a stunning plethora of delicate, airy, buttery treats. There are sweet things such as buns filled with chocolate or mango pudding, but there is also a stash of savory goodies waiting to be plucked onto a tray. There are some gnarly-looking hot dog thingies that warrant exploration, but our favorite is a user-friendly sweet bun filled with good-old ham and cheese. Inside, the cloud-like pastry — think Hawaiian roll, but better — is stuffed with layers of salty ham, white American cheese, and plenty of black pepper. The bun is a scrumptious introduction to this Taiwanese trove that has locations on Buford Highway and in Midtown. $2.

The Ultimate Pancake at Rosebud

Available at Rosebud
Savory and sweet has been done before, but not like this. Executive chef and owner Ron Eyester has managed to give brunch enthusiasts an answer to their indecision: everything in one dish. Despite the pancake’s understated presentation, each bite speaks for itself. The only thing fluffier than the scrambled eggs in this dish is the beautifully browned pancake it’s wrapped in. The savory local sausage and thick smoked bacon complement the Vermont maple syrup like a match made in hog heaven. $12.
pancakes   


Salads

Atlanta's best salads you must try now

The chopped salad at Thirteen Pies

Available at Thirteen Pies
If all salads were this addictive, the lunch line would be a healthier, happier place. Thirteen Pies’ chopped salad starts with crisp pieces of romaine lettuce. There are cherry tomatoes and fresh cucumbers for some crunch and sweetness. Chewy fennel salami gives the vegetables a meaty counterpoint; smoked provolone cheese introduces the element of cream. But it’s the happy burn from the dressing, a Parmesan-herb vinaigrette spiked with pickled chili peppers and briny Castelvetrano olives, that takes this salad from simple to stunning. $12.


Soups

Warm up with Atlanta's best soups

Grilled cheese and tomato bisque at Bocado

Available at Bocado
Few foods are as enticing as melted cheese. It’s salty, gooey, buttery, and comforting. At lunch, Bocado serves up toasted, golden, melty goodness made with three types of cheese: molten dry Jack, nutty comte, and piquant fromage blanc. Melded between griddled, crusty bread, the combo will knock your socks off. But that’s not all. A thick tomato bisque Goldilocks would dig — not too savory, not too sweet — is served alongside. Dip the golden ends in the soul-warming soup or use the accompanying Parmesan croutons to soak up every drop. $11.

Tonkotsu ramen at Haru Ichiban

Available at Haru Ichiban Japanese Restaurant
This Japanese standby was around before ramen was trendy in Atlanta and is still going strong. At Haru Ichiban, you can customize your tonkotsu ramen filled with pork, bamboo shoots, green onion, and noodles any way you want. Is spice your thing? They’ll make that creamy pork broth red as an apple with chili powder, so red you’ll have to poke around to find those chewy ramen noodles under the silky surface. It’s arguably the most satisfying bowl of ramen out there right now. $7.50-$11.
Ramen   


Burgers and Sandwiches

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

Dirty Bird bao at Ah-Ma's Taiwanese Kitchen

Available at Ah-Ma's Taiwanese Kitchen
No need to travel to Taipei for authentic Taiwanese street food when you can simply head to Midtown. Ah-Ma’s Taiwanese Kitchen Dirty Bird bao includes a Southern twist worthy of a touchdown dance. Crispy-fried-but-oh-so-moist chicken cutlet is tucked into steamed buns that are firm on the outside and pillowy soft on the inside. More impressive is the fact that the bao are made fresh in house each day. Each palm-sized bundle is topped with banh mi-like pickled daikon and carrots and brushed with a slightly spicy wasabi aioli. $4.50.

Georgia po' boy at Star Provisions

Available at Star Provisions
The not-so-secret secret behind Star Provisions’ stellar shrimp po’boys is the shrimp; supremely plump Georgia white shrimp, lightly fried until crisp, but still tender. Paired with a piquant Cajun mayo, buttery lettuce, pickle slices, and tomato (somehow delightful even out of season), each component offers just the right flavor-texture combo to complement the sandwich’s soft, toasty roll. Purists may cry foul for the lack of crusty French bread, but Star Provisions’ Georgia po’boy may actually be better than its traditional Louisiana counterpart. $11.95.
po boy    shrimp   

Hot brown at the General Muir

Available at The General Muir
This open-face sandwich starts with a sturdy slice of homemade challah and piles on a thick slab of house-roasted turkey breast and sliced tomato until it’s roughly the size of a youth football. And what’s a General Muir dish without some of chef Todd Ginsberg’s peppery pastrami plopped on top? Blanketed with an airy, cream-colored Mornay sauce, this lumberjack’s feast of a brunch dish is an example of what this place does best: throwback classics elevated with hints of creativity and refinement. $11.

Korean barbecue sandwich at Heirloom Market BBQ

Available at Heirloom Market BBQ
If you need proof that the mingling of the Korean and Southern barbecue traditions is a blissful thing, look no further than Heirloom Market’s Korean barbecue sandwich. Owners Cody Taylor and Jiyeon Lee, whose respective Texan and South Korean roots are the human version of Southern and Korean mingling, take gochujang-marinated, hickory-smoked pork rib meat, chop it up, and place it over a soft potato bun with a pile of crisp and funky kimchi cole slaw. You get sweet, you get sassy, you get smoky, all in a way that’s undeniably Korean, irrefutably Southern, and unmistakably delicious. $9.

Offal Tacos at Eat Me Speak Me

Available at Eat Me Speak Me
In case you’ve been living under a rock, chef Jarrett Stieber’s Eat Me Speak Me pop-up takes over Candler Park’s Gato every weekend, Friday through Sunday nights. The weekly menu changes constantly, but it always lists an item dubbed As Good as Hell Tacos. There’s always a crowd-pleasing option like braised pork shoulder or short rib among the three or four types of filling, but there is always some sort of risqué offal option like chicken heart, beef liver, or goat neck for more adventurous palates. A recent menu had an extremely succulent shredded pig face. Although the proteins are ever-changing, you can count on a drizzle of Stieber’s Yummy Sauce in every taco, although the sauce’s ingredients are ever-changing, too. One week it could be a seasonal fruit, often apples or berries, apple cider vinegar, butter, garlic, shallot, hot peppers, and sugar. No matter what combination Stieber’s dreamt up that night, one of his tacos will be the most rewarding three bucks you spend all week. $3.

Rooben at Community Q BBQ

Available at Community Q BBQ
Community Q’s take on the classic Reuben is tried, true, and will not disappoint (though it’s available only on Tuesdays). Made with thick chunks of smoked corned beef brisket, this slight variation (hence the name “Rooben”) replaces the Russian dressing with a thin schmear of Thousand Island. Tangy chopped sauerkraut and melted Swiss cheese keep the griddled sandwich together. But the bread’s golden crunch and intensely smoky beef are what seal the deal. $7.
reuben   

The cheese steak at Mad Italian

Available at The Mad Italian
The most noteworthy cheese steak in Atlanta is located off an access road of I-285. At the Mad Italian, khaki-clad office workers, after-church crowds, and scary biker dudes all unite under one roof in pursuit of cheese steak bliss. The sandwich’s “proper roll,” as its called, has its own dedicated page on the Mad Italian’s website. It’s an airy, crusty, hefty roll that stands up to the juicy filling. The tender, thinly sliced steak is grilled until the meat forms those delightful crispy bits around the edges. Along with a smattering of translucent grilled onions, the sandwich is draped with gooey melted white American cheese. It comes in 6-, 8-, and 10-inch varieties. Get the 10. Six-inch: $6.49/8-inch: $7.99/10-inch: $10.99.

The Italian Grinder at Fred's Meat and Bread

Available at Fred's Meat & Bread
Northerners may scoff at the idea of getting a proper grinder sandwich south of the Mason-Dixon Line, but chef Todd Ginsberg’s rendition at Fred’s Meat and Bread belongs on the map of grinder greatness. The stall’s masterly, house-baked hoagie rolls from baker Rob Alexander set the foundation for a mouthwatering parade of aged provolone, mortadella, salami, and house-made porchetta rubbed with chilies, fennel seed, and orange zest. There’s also a luxurious spread of creamy aioli, tart chopped cherry peppers, and a pile of iceberg lettuce threads soaked in olive oil and red wine vinegar. It’s all grinds of glorious. $11.75.
grinder    sub   

Viola panini at Toscano and Sons Italian Market

Available at Toscano and Sons Italian Market
None of the pressed paninis at Toscano and Sons Italian Market contain more than six components. Instead of bells and whistles, stellar imported ingredients and time-tested simplicity rule the menu. Toscano’s savory viola panini stuffed with Genoa salami, smoky speck, and mortadella is a flawless introduction to the neighborhood gem. Between rugged slices of crackly ciabatta, the meats join melted provolone and a smear of salty olive tapenade. There’s a taste of the Old World in every bite. $5.50.


Pasta, Pizza and Noodles

Atlanta's best noodle and pizza dishes

Cheese pizza pie at Verra-Zanno Pizzeria

Available at Verra-Zanno Pizzeria
Still looking for an Atlanta pizza place that holds a candle to your favorite New York City joint? Head to Johns Creek. Verra-Zanno Pizzeria has a menu full of old-school, New York Italian classics — baked pasta dishes; huge, tender meatballs like Nona used to make. The pizza, though, is most transcendent. The pies here are made with a slightly sweet dough aged just long enough to form a thin, crispy crust with all the requisite bubbles and air pockets. It’s a sturdy enough base to withstand Verra-Zanno’s balanced, herby red sauce and chewy mozzarella cheese that manages to stretch without slopping off when you take a bite. $11.72-$14.93.

Chow kway teow at Mamak

Available at Mamak
In food, too much smoke and char can be overpowering. Too little can be underwhelming. Mamak integrates an impeccable balance of both flavors with its flawless rendition of chow kway teow. A jumble of wide, flat rice noodles, tender squid and shrimp, and egg are stir-fried with soy sauce and chile in an intensely hot wok kissing each element with lightly charred and smoky essence. Crispy bean sprouts are tossed in at the last minute to add some fresh textural contrast to this soul-satisfying dish. $8.95.

Drunken noodles at Little Bangkok

Available at Little Bangkok
Atlanta’s best Thai restaurant still holds court on Cheshire Bridge Road along with other long-standing institutions like Nakato, Alfredo’s, Woodfire Grill, and the Colonnade. Despite its scant parking spaces, fans still manage to get in on Little Bangkok’s spicy Thai specialties. The pad thai is a perennial favorite, but the pad kee mow is a superior choice for spice-lovers. Charred after a tumble in a super-hot wok, wide rice noodles are tossed with broccoli, carrots, mushrooms, tomatoes, bell peppers, basil, and a choice of chicken, beef, pork, or shrimp. The heat level is also yours for the choosing, but don’t try to be a hero. Start with medium. When this place says Thai hot, it means Thai hot. $9.95.

Grandma pie at O4W Pizza

Available at O4W Pizza
In Atlanta, where round pizzas and those with exotic, Neapolitan names get all the attention, O4W Pizza’s rectangular masterpiece called Grandma is a tantalizing alternative. The Irwin Street Market pizza joint specializes in pies made with simple, quality ingredients and not a hint of trendy brouhaha. Anchored by that chewy, New Jersey-style thin crust, the Grandma pie is topped with garlic, slightly sweet marinara, fresh mozzarella and pecorino cheeses, and a pop of fresh basil. Pick up a slice from O4W’s handy takeout window and then walk it off on the Beltline next door. Slice: $2/whole: $22.50.

Mai Pai at Savage Pizza

Available at Savage Pizza - Little Five Points
This ain’t your average Hawaiian pizza. Although it does have the requisite hunks of pineapple and Canadian bacon, what sets this version apart is Savage’s signature spicy red pepper sauce. It’s a flawless puree of bold Cajun flavors. Topped off with pepperoncini, green peppers, red onions, and mozzarella, the Mai Pai is the ideal combination of sweet and spicy. $9.25-$19.75.

Nana's pizza at Varasano's

Available at Varasano's Pizzeria
Once you’ve had Jeff Varasano’s benchmark-setting margherita di bufala pizza, it’s time for a little menu exploration. Don’t miss the house specialty Nana’s pizza. If a margherita pie and a New York pie had a baby, the Nana’s would be the result. The sauce is cooked down until it’s pastelike, and there’s more cheese than the average margherita. These qualities, plus a perfectly airy and crackly thin Neapolitan crust, are enough to knock your socks off. But it’s the subtle addition of chewy pepperoni that elevates this pie to a level of complexity a plain margherita rarely achieves. $13.95.

Short rib agnolotti at St. Cecilia

Available at St. Cecilia
Intense is the word that first comes to mind when biting into St. Cecilia’s short rib agnolotti. They’ve been among the restaurant’s signature items, on the menu since day one, but executive chef Craig Richards has continued tweaking the recipe to amp up flavor. The thick but delicate little purses of pasta contain tender bites of braised short rib, cooked long and slow in red wine and chicken stock before being ground and mixed with Parmesan cheese. After a quick dip in some boiling water, they are tossed in butter and sage and drizzled with a thick, beefy reduction sauce. The end result is a chewy, savory explosion that mellows the moment it hits the tongue. $14 for an entrée portion at lunch, $12 for a smaller primi portion at dinner.
agnolotti    ribs   

Strozzapreti alla salsiccia at Sotto Sotto

Available at Sotto Sotto Restaurant
Modern society generally frowns on choking spiritual advisors, but don’t hold that against Sotto Sotto chef/owner Ricardo Ullio’s “priest strangler” pasta. Named after greedy priests who allegedly gobbled this dish so indiscriminately they choked to death, the Northern Italian specialty comes bathed in a bold-looking tomato and meat sauce fortified with garlic, white wine, sage, and a touch of cream. Bits of ground sausage that cling to each scroll-like twist of hand-rolled pasta add a subtle sweetness that lingers on the palate after each bite. $17.


Meatless Entrees

The best vegetarian-friendly dishes in Atlanta

Bún with tofu at Dua Vietnamese Noodle Soup

Available at Dua Vietnamese Noodle Soup
At this Downtown diamond in the rough, tofu is far more than just a spongelike block of bean curd. Order menu item B3, and when they ask whether you like it spicy, say yes. Cubes of gently fried, chewy-in-a-good-way tofu come bathed in rust-colored peanut sauce and served over slick vermicelli noodles. Brightened by a pile of matchstick-cut carrots and cucumbers, mixed greens, and crushed peanuts, there’s just enough chew, spice, and crunch in each bite to satisfy vegetarians and meat-eaters alike. $7.83.

Cauliflower and eggplant banh mi at Fred's Meat and Bread

Available at Fred's Meat & Bread
Chef/owner Todd Ginsberg's epic cauliflower-eggplant banh mi is a holdover from his stint as Bocado’s head chef. Ginsberg and crew roast, and then flash fry, the cauliflower before tossing it in a lively Thai vinaigrette. The florets are stuffed into a crusty roll with slick sliced eggplant, cilantro, jalapeno, pickled carrots, daikon, and a spicy, chili-lime mayo. No meat, no tofu (though there is fish sauce in the vinaigrette), just the tastiest, veg-friendly banh mi around. $8.50.

Japche at Sobban

Available at Sobban Restaurant
When it comes to culinary mash-ups, there are two categories: the wild and wacky or the subtle and sublime. Thank goodness Sobban’s Korean Southern fusion falls squarely into the latter. We’ve come to expect no less from co-chef/co-owner Jiyeon Lee, whose Heirloom Market BBQ restaurant infuses the flavorful palette of her native Korea into the American South. At Sobban she flips the script, giving traditional Korean dishes the Southern treatment. Of course, japche, a heaping bowl of veggies and noodles made of sweet potatoes, is practically Southern by default. Cultural exchange aside, the real marriage here is between contrasting textures and tastes: The chewy cellophane noodles paired with crunchy black sesame seeds. The sweet squash balanced by acidic pickled radish. The squishy togarashi tofu coupled with crisp bok choy. The lightness of sweet potato chips tempered by meaty shitake mushrooms. It’s a savory hybrid made in vegetarian heaven. $14.

Ottolenghi eggplant kati at Spice to Table

Available at Spice To Table
Like most things at Spice to Table, Asha Gomez’s Indian Patisserie, the Ottolenghi eggplant kati looks almost too beautiful to eat. A halved eggplant is scored, seasoned with the restaurant’s house blend of garam masala, and baked until it forms a caramelized crust. A dollop of creamy garlic sauce counters the garam masala’s cozy heat, while pomegranate seeds produce a tart pop. Purple, pink, and golden brown, aromatic and comforting, the dish is as easy on the eyes as it is on the taste buds. $11.

Our Study in Vegetables at the Cockentrice

Available at Cockentrice
The Cockentrice is a meat mecca, but chef Kevin Ouzts’ Our Study in Vegetables just so happens to be a veggie plate game-changer. Not only is the cornucopia of vegetables and cooking methods including roasting, pureeing, and frying, all on one plate, impressive, Ouzts adds portions of composed vegetable dishes that impress with creativity and refinement. One night, the study included a scoop of creamy, risotto-style sunflower seeds, a ramekin of silky cauliflower puree, CD-sized tempura-fried watermelon radish disks, and roasted potatoes and Brussels sprouts. The plate evolves over the course of the evening based on the whims of the kitchen, but somehow the dish manages to be provocative, satisfying, and delectable every time. $23.

Tofu stew at So Kong Dong

Available at Sokongdong Tofu House
So Kong Dong is a tofu house, and the house specialty is the tofu stew — lava-hot bowls of which arrive bubbling at your table, fresh on the heels of plates of banchan that easily stoke the taste buds. Fight the urge to dive right in, or pause to carefully blow on your spoonful of stew before taking the first sip. Your tongue will thank you. Better yet, crack open that raw egg that arrived moments before, let it cook in the hot broth and add flavor to the tender tofu, then dive in. The heat will still try your mettle, but the rich and soothing stew (especially the zingy kimchi version) will reward the effort. v$9.99.

Vegan buffet at Juicy Jenny

Available at Juicy Jenny
When unhealthy eating habits have your body screaming “uncle,” it’s time for a break — the kind of break that involves a meal containing more healthy grains and veggies than you’ve probably consumed all week. At owner Jenny Levinson’s Juicy Jenny, the daily vegan lunch buffet is packed with ingredients that, let’s be honest, you probably wouldn’t prepare at home. There’s typically a veggie burger, a handful of salads packed with all sorts of antioxidant rich vegetables, and a soup. The amount of wholesome goodness you can pack in one $15 box would make your doctor — or your mama — proud.


Seafood

Atlanta's best fishy dishes

Hong Kong Style lobster for two at Bo Bo Garden

Available at Bo Bo Garden Asian Cuisine
Picture two lobsters chopped shell-on, battered with rice flour, and fried. When the platter of stunning Hong Kong-style lobster for two hits the table, it’s time to roll up those sleeves and dig in. Don’t be afraid to eat with your hands, the way you would with ribs or peel-and-eat shrimp. Each bright orange section is speckled with crunchy bits of fried garlic, scallion, and spicy ginger. It’s a messy enterprise, but totally worth it in the end. Oh, and did we mention Bo Bo is open till 2 a.m.? $35.
lobster    hong kong   

Langostino at St. Cecilia

Available at St. Cecilia
Cold mesquite-smoked New Zealand Langostinos look like giant shrimp, or tiny lobsters depending on your point of view, and are just gorgeous. Chef Craig Richards marinates the crustaceans in olive oil, thyme, and garlic before he smokes them. The succulent meat takes on a creamy, sophisticated sweetness. Dabs of preserved lemon oil, black truffle vinegar, and pickled spring onions add brightness, earthiness, and bit of vegetal contrast. $14.
lobster   

Nigiri at Lusca

Available at Lusca
Great nigiri happens when grains of vinegar-kissed rice and pristine fresh fish meet in a moment of zen-like calm. At Lusca, chef/owner Nhan Le delivers those Zen moments daily — often with rarities such as sea robin, halfbeak, and threeline grunt sourced from Tokyo’s Tsukiji fish market. Nowhere else in town will you find such dedication to the fresh and unusual. The live scallop, when available, epitomizes Le’s love of serving simple bites that channel the essence of the sea. $3-$10.

Omakase at Craft Izakaya

Available at Craft Izakaya
For Craft Izakaya’s Jey Oh, every chef’s-choice sushi tasting he crafts is an emotional undertaking. The skilled Korean sushi chef is so exacting with the creation of each course, and his descriptions so entrancing, you can almost feel the intricacy as much as you can taste it. Recent strokes of brilliance include a rose made with paper-thin slices of flounder and dotted with pickled wasabi stems or a bowl of crispy rice, yam, uni, and salmon roe mixed with nori and red chili oil. It’s artistry and mastery with fish as a medium; pricey, but worth every penny. $75 and up.

Sambal pomfret at Mamak

Available at Mamak
This whole, beautiful, flat fish is known for its flaky, white meat. At Mamak, the whole thing is dusted with flour then fried. Once on the plate, the fish is smothered with electric-red sambal sauce. Mamak’s Malaysian-inflected version comes alive with chile peppers, tamarind, lemon grass, garlic, and sugar. The combination of the sweet and spicy sauce, scrumptious crunchy fish skin, and most of all the slightly sweet meat creates an explosion of umami flavors that should not be missed. $13.95.


Meat Entrees

Eat here now: Atlanta's heartiest meaty meals

A chivo taco at Taqueria el Rey del Taco

Available at El Rey Del Taco
Maybe it’s a nostalgia thing, but being there, on a lazy Sunday, watching an apron-clad doña at Taqueria El Rey del Taco make homemade tortillas like a boss is comforting. Choosing the filling can be tough, but the slow-cooked chivo never fails. The goat meat is slow-cooked for hours with chilies, tomatoes, and secret spices until it is fall-apart tender. Add a little cilantro, onion, and one — or both if you’re a fiend for hot, hot heat — of El Rey’s green salsas and that Sunday hangover won’t stand a chance. $2.25.

Bulgogi nachos at BBQ Takorea

Available at BBQ Takorea
To be quite honest, we would be happy to enjoy co-owner and cook Eun Pak’s delicious, sweet and spicy grilled Korean beef, aka bulgogi, in just about any format — taco, burrito, on its own eaten with our bare hands, whatever. But this Decatur hole-in-the-wall’s heaping portion of nachos suggests that bulgogi might be best enjoyed as a hot mess that comes in a Styrofoam box. The tender pieces of beef are scattered over a bed of crunchy tortilla chips, loaded up with jalapeños, shredded cheese, black olives, corn, and lettuce, and topped off with a generous dousing of spicy gochujang. $7.
nachos   

Char siu barbecue pork at Hong Kong BBQ

Available at Hong Kong BBQ
The beauty of this Cantonese-style barbecue pork does not lie in its lustrous red exterior, but, instead, its versatility. You can enjoy sweet, smoky slices of it over a mound of white rice, plunged into clear broth with bright yellow noodles and bok choy, or just by the pound. At this Chinatown food stall, the slabs of pork hang seductively in the window, beckoning you to savor the fantastic meat in any and every form you see fit. Char siu eggs Benedict, anyone? $9.29 per pound.

Chicken nuggets at Quickly Bubble Tea

Available at Quickly Bubble Tea
At Quickly Bubble Tea on Buford Highway, “Taiwanese Chicken Nugget” is code for stupidly addictive popcorn chicken. The bite-sized puffs are Quickly’s version of Taiwanese salt-and-pepper chicken. Despite the name, the most prominent flavor comes from Chinese five-spice powder, a traditional blend of clove, star anise, fennel seeds, Szechuan pepper, and cinnamon. Cooked to order and piping hot, these nuggets succeed where spiceless American-style nuggets fail. And they’re served with the customary wooden skewers perfect for popping nugget after nugget without the threat of greasy fingers to slow you down. $3.48.

Confit of suckling pig at the Cockentrice

Available at Cockentrice
Chef/owner Kevin Ouzts initially wanted to put a whole pig on the Cockentrice’s menu but had to settle for one 12-ounce section per plate. Each towering hunk of pork is slow-cooked in its own fat, and then deep-fried till golden. This two-step method creates a flavor-texture combo that’s a cross between crisp pork belly and braised pork shank. Accoutrements change often, but a recent version included toasted amaranth (an ancient grain similar to couscous), pickled Brussels sprout petals, and a smattering of cinnamon-black pepper apple chips. Ouzts finished the dish with a sweet, local-peach barbecue sauce, ham-fat mustard, and roasted pork jus. $29.

Fried chicken at the Busy Bee Café

Available at Busy Bee Cafe
Busy Bee’s fried chicken is an Atlanta food landmark. The friendly café down on MLK has been serving up crunchy, juicy, fried-chicken ecstasy since 1947. Busy Bee’s birds soak in a secret 12-hour marinade before getting a light toss in flour and a bath in hot peanut oil, all of which helps produce a crisp, thin crust. If you’re feeling saucy, opt for the sassy smothered version tossed in pan gravy. Either way, soak in the atmosphere, choose a couple of old-school sides such as the yams or collard greens, and be thankful for a fantastic plate of fried chicken that continues to stand the test of time. $14 (including sides).

Fryinstein corndog at Pallookaville Fine Foods

Available at Pallookaville Fine Foods
Health nuts and vegetarians, avert your eyes. Pallookaville’s Fryinstein Monster, a hulking corndog thicker than a Wiffle Ball bat, is not for the faint of heart. Whether you attack it with a fork and knife or give it the Renaissance-Fair-turkey-leg treatment, cracking the corny, caramel-colored coating takes a little muscle. The foot-long sausage encased within is a mash-up of Pallookaville’s beef frank, polish kielbasa, and Italian sausage all skewered on one, heavy-duty stick. The Fryinstein may be the natural enemy of beach bods and cardiologists everywhere, but if indulging in this masterpiece every now and then is wrong, we don’t want to be right. $6.75.

Hand-rolled couscous with lamb at the Last Word

Available at Last Word
This dish has comfort food written all over it: fall-apart meat, stewed vegetables, savory sauce. The braised lamb comes on a bed of soft, sand-colored couscous made with Lebanese semolina flour. Accompanied by tender carrots and Hakurei turnips with green tops still attached, the dish hums with notes of saffron and peppery, exotic harissa. $15.

Lamb biryani at Cafe Bombay

Available at Cafe Bombay
If Chinese fried rice and Indian lamb curry hooked up, the lamb biryani at Cafe Bombay in North Druid Hills would be their love child. Saffron tints the shimmering yellow rice, while the tender, cilantro-flecked lamb hums with cinnamon and cardamom. Drizzle some of Bombay’s thin raita (yogurt) over the meat and rice to temper all those warm spices. The cool tang lightens the dish, making each bite sing a little softer. $13.
lamb    biryani   

Lamb with hummus at Ameer's Mediterranean

Available at Ameer's Mediterranean Grill
Located inside a nondescript strip mall near LaVista and Briarcliff roads, Ameer’s has some of the most authentic, no-frills Middle Eastern food in the city. Falafel and shawarma here are exemplary, but Ameer’s lesser-known lamb on hummus should not be missed. Spiced with a blend of oriental peppers, the mound of ground lamb rests on a bed of silky hummus topped with olive oil, parsley, and pine nuts. Swipe a piece of pillowy, toasted pita through both piles and scoop. Herby notes from the pine nuts and the creamy hummus transform the lamb’s natural gaminess from a rugged roar to an alluring whisper. $11.99.

Pabellon arepa at Arepa Mia

Available at Arepa Mia - Sweet Auburn Market
Inside the bustling Sweet Auburn Curb Market, diners line up for a taste of Venezuelan street food at Arepa Mia. The pabellon arepa is particularly worth the wait. A crispy cornmeal patty is packed with savory shredded beef and fried sweet plantains, and topped with Venezuelan white cheese, organic black beans, and cilantro sauce. It arrives hot off the grill in minutes. The caramelized banana sweetness underscores the savoriness of the beef and balances the tanginess of the cheese in a way that transcends the realm of street food fare. Eat fast and tear off some extra paper towels from the communal table’s rack to keep the delicious mess from falling apart. $9.50.

Peking duck at Royal China

Available at Royal China Restaurant
There’s plenty of Peking duck out there, but Royal China’s is a show-stopper. Seriously, heads turn when this glistening guy travels through the dining room. If you go with the three-course Peking duck dinner, a server will carve the roast duck carved tableside. Next come the pillowy, white steamed buns in which you stuff slices of this beautiful, crispy-skinned bird. Dress it all up with plum sauce, shreds of green onion, and batons of cucumber for a picturesque, crispy duck skin sandwich. Two-course: $36.95/three-course: $41.95.
peking duck    duck   

Pork ribs at Fox Bros. Bar-B-Q

Available at Fox Bros. Bar-B-Q
Since making the switch from baby back ribs to the fatty and arguably more flavorful St. Louis-style in 2014, Fox Bros.’ pork ribs have achieved barbecue nirvana status. After rub and brown sugar are massaged into the meat, the racks are smoked over hickory wood until the bones are easy to pull apart. Tearing into a spicy, sticky rack is an all-consuming experience that will have you shamelessly sucking your fingers clean in public. You won’t be the only one. Half rack: $13/full rack: $26.
pork    ribs    bbq   

Roast chicken and coconut sticky rice at Spice to Table

Available at Spice To Table
At Asha Gomez’s posh Old Fourth Ward cafe Spice to Table, a steamed banana leaf is all that stands between you and greatness. Wrapped up like a small present, the deep green pouch contains a roasted chicken leg, sprigs of wilted thyme, bits of chili pepper, and what might be the best sticky rice in the world. The chicken’s caramelized exterior is lacquered with pomegranate molasses, and the meat inside is impossibly tender. But that luscious brown rice — a balancing act of intense ginger and smooth coconut milk — is an addictive treat all by itself. The hardest part once you unwrap the thing is deciding where to stick your fork first. $14.

Sliced beef brisket at Grand Champion BBQ

Available at Grand Champion BBQ
Grand Champion BBQ, now with two suburban outposts and a Krog Street Market counter in the family, does Texas-style brisket right. Place your order by the pound and Grand Champion will slice it to order. Before you reach for a bottle of barbecue sauce, taste the meat solo. The hickory-scented slabs are strikingly tender, tantalizingly smoky, and plenty good all on their own. $16 per pound.
beef brisket    beef   

Steak and Stout Pie at Panbury's Double Crust Pies

Available at Panbury's Double Crust Pies
The only duo that works better together than the slow braised beef shoulder and Guinness sauce in Panbury’s steak and stout pie is its owners: Lauren Duxbury and Chef Adam Panayiotou. The pair’s South African roots and British influence is evident in the pie’s buttery crust and wholesome ingredients. Fresh thyme and rosemary complement the already robust flavor of thick-cut beef chunks. A subtle onion and mushroom combo confirms it: This pie is comfort-food central. $8.


Desserts and Sweets

Atlanta's best treats for those with a sweet tooth

Almond croissant at the Little Tart Bake Shop

Available at The Little Tart Bakeshop
One tool to ease the decision process at owner Sarah O’Brien’s Little Tart Bake Shop is to consider how fast a certain pastry sells out each day. By that measure, Little Tart’s almond croissant rules the pastry case. O’Brien picked up many croissant tricks while working in Paris, but the success of her almond croissant is due in part to the use of Southern bourbon in place of French brandy. Impossibly flaky and creamy in the middle from a spread of bourbon-infused frangipane, they also benefit from a spritz of bourbon syrup. French pastry chefs may yet learn something from us here in the south. $3.75.

Aztec sipping chocolate at Cacao Atlanta Chocolate Company

Available at Cacao Atlanta Chocolate Company
If the sippable chocolate at this bean-to-bar boutique were any thicker, you’d have to chew it. Made with melted bars of Cacao’s Dark 60 Blend, as in 60-percent cacao, the stuff comes in 4-, 8-, and 12-ounce cups. Cacao won’t give up the ingredients to its secret mix, but the warm, peppery Aztec spice that’s dusted across the top mellows the bittersweet chocolate as if the two were made for each other. You get to choose between a dollop of whipped cream or a cloud-like house-made marshmallow on top. Go for the ’mallow. $5.

Cake Shake at Delia's Chicken Sausage Stand

Available at Delia's Chicken Sausage Stand
Made fresh to order every time, this ultra-thick treat is like the cool girl of the menu: it doesn’t have to try too hard to be admired. It’s literally a milk shake with an entire cupcake blended in. Whether you go for the chocolate-chocolate chip, red velvet, or flavor of the week, ingredients are perfectly blended into soft-serve smooth enough to make you drool. The staff will hand you this rich and creamy guilty-pleasure-in-a-cup, but you’re going to want to grab a spoon instead of leaving with just a straw. $2.99.

Chocolate chip whoopie pie at Cookie Studio

Available at The Cookie Studio
The next time you’ve got a sweet tooth to satisfy, think Cookie Studio. The dewy whoopie pies at this Buckhead cookie palace beckon like a siren’s song. Imagine a cloud of sweet buttercream nestled between puffy discs of chocolate-chocolate chip cookie cake. With brownie-, cupcake-, and cookie-esque qualities, these delights occupy a particularly sweet spot in the dessert world. $3.30.
chocolate    pie    whoopie pie   

Chocolate-dipped coconut macaroon at Maison Robert Fine Chocolates

Available at Maison Robert Fine Chocolates
At Maison Robert in historic downtown Chamblee, the classic cookies are made with just a few essential ingredients: feathery coconut, sugar, egg whites, and butter. Robert ups the ante by partially dipping each one in good dark chocolate. A bite through the crisp shell quickly melts into an ecstatic, buttery-chewy coconut experience; the likes of which an Almond Joy can only dream. $2.
macaroon   

Cinnamon apple fritter at Revolution Doughnuts

Available at Revolution Doughnuts - Decatur
Revolution Doughnuts’ cinnamon apple fritter triggers memories rooted so deep, it’s as though the flavor combination were written into the human genome. The knotty jumble of cinnamon-laced dough is fried to a deep molasses color and then glazed. The crunchy crust — of which there is plenty, thanks to all the lumps and bumps of dough — surrounds a moist, subtly spiced interior and bits of soft apple. The fritter has a freshness rarely found in such deep-fried, sugarcoated treats. It’s big enough to split. Or not. $3.
fritter   

Cinnamon Toast Crunch milk shake at Pallookaville Fine Foods

Available at Pallookaville Fine Foods
In addition to monstrous meats on sticks, Pallookaville has lots of playful beverages to choose from — shaketails, boozecreams, adult custom sodas. The milk shakes, however, are among the city’s best. There are normal flavors including chocolate and strawberry, as well as a few oddballs such as Sriracha. At brunch-time, Pallookaville’s got 10 or so shakes inspired by such breakfasty eats as cheese Danishes or cherry Pop Tarts. The most slurp-worthy is an ode to Cinnamon Toast Crunch cereal: a vanilla ice cream base infused with butterscotch, cinnamon, and a swirl of brown sugar. The whole thing is topped with a pouf of whipped cream and a few of the crunchy cereal squares for good measure. Parents may have to start rethinking that no ice cream for breakfast rule. $6.

Cremolatta fruit cup at LottaFrutta

Available at Lottafrutta
For nearly a decade, Myrna Perez has been serving up cups of luscious, gem-like fresh fruit at her Old Fourth Ward cafe, LottaFrutta. There are five refreshing variations to choose from. The Cremolatta, overflowing with ruby-red strawberries, succulent grapes, bananas, melon, and papaya, is Perez’s most decadent. Sweet, tart, crisp, chewy; the symphony of fruit flavors and natural sweetness teases the taste buds with variety in every bite. But it’s the addition of fluffy coconut crema, a cloud-like whipped cream made with coconut milk and laced with nutty, slightly smoky Mexican vanilla, that makes this fruity treat destination-worthy. Small: $5.25/Large: $6.25.

Golden oolong bubble tea at Kung Fu Tea

Available at Kung Fu Tea
Between the milky liquid and chewy boba pearls, it’s hard to find a fault with bubble tea. Kung Fu Tea’s Golden oolong is possibly the most nuanced flavor, ever. Stab the sealed plastic lid with an oversized straw and take the first sip of freshly brewed tea, sweetened just to your liking. Keep slurping until you get to the irresistibly chewy tapioca balls at the bottom. The secret to Kung Fu’s perfect pearls is the honey coating, brushed on just after the bubbles have cooked and cooled. It’s the little things that make all the difference. $3.75.

Opera cake at Alon's Bakery

Available at Alon's Bakery & Market - Morningside
Chef Alon Balshan created a drama in three acts with one dainty but glamorous layered sliver of cake. It glimmers in the glass case where it’s housed next to colorful macarons and fruit tarts. Layers of almond sponge cake soaked in coffee syrup, decadent bittersweet ganache, and luscious espresso buttercream mingle beneath a sheet of glossy chocolate glaze. It’s sleek and smooth, light but rich, and as dazzling as it is delectable. $4.99.
opera cake   

Popcorn ice cream sundae at Canoe

Available at Canoe
Plunging a spoon into this parfait glass of novelty yields drizzles of sweet, luscious caramel; lightly salty, popcorn-infused ice cream; and silky crème fraîche. Sweet, salty, and tangy sensations meld together in this velvety swirl accented by the pop and crunch of house made Cracker Jacks. It’s a frozen indulgence that comes with a view of the Chattahoochee. $8.
ice cream   

Sticky toffee pudding at 4th and Swift

Available at 4th & Swift
“Decadent” is one of those foodie food words that has become painfully overused. But 4th and Swift’s cult menu item, a warm bowl of sticky toffee pudding, is a textbook example of the D-word. The dense piece of sponge cake, sweetened with Medjool dates and candied pecans, is covered with a warm, buttery caramel sauce and melty vanilla ice cream. This stuff is pure, over-the-top, rich, eyes-rolling-back-in-ecstasy decadence. Seasonal menus may come and go, but sticky toffee pudding is forever. $9.

Trio at Jeni's Splendid Ice Cream

Available at Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams
Apart from a few core flavors, Jeni’s selection is ever-changing. With 20-or-so flavors up for grabs on any given day, the exquisite, high-end ice creams are best enjoyed three at a time. Purists can go with classic flavors such as salty caramel, bittersweet silky dark chocolate, and nutty brown butter almond brittle. If venturing into more inventive territory is your thing, go for the curry-clove-and-turmeric spiked Milk Chocolate Bombay; the graham cracker and smoked almond seven-layer bar; and Yazoo Sue with rosemary bar nuts, packed with almonds, cashews, peanuts, and pecans. Ideally served in a vanilla-scented waffle bowl, this is one threesome you should definitely say yes to. $6.


Cocktails

Atlanta's best mixed drinks

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