Cliff's top 10 Atlanta restaurants

Our longtime columnist picks his favorite eateries

In response to many requests, I'm updating my 2009 list of 10 favorite restaurants. This is not a "best of" list. All but one of these are inexpensive-to-moderate restaurants that are mainly convenient to my home in Grant Park. So don't berate me because they're not the best in town. These are not rated in any particular order except for No. 1.

I should also explain that after this column, the weekly publication of Grazing ceases and, for the time being, will continue as a monthly column. I have written the column for 24 years, as best I can remember. Elliott Mackle reminded me last week that it's the longest-running column in the city. (Mackle, who went on to become dining critic at the AJC, was the original author of Grazing. I hired him to write it during my first stint as editor of Creative Loafing in the early 1980s.)

I will also continue contributing to the paper's Omnivore blog, which I started in the spring of 2007. Meanwhile, you can keep track of my comings and goings — and my personal take on this change — on my personal blog, cliffbostock.com/sacreddisorder.

Next: Cliff's top 10 restaurants

10) Spoon in East Atlanta. I eat here nearly every Thursday. I love the staff and I love the rich, layered Thai sauces. In recent months, the restaurant has added regular, usually intriguing specials like a classic radna with shrimp and crab; a fiery, earthy eggplant; and spicy, seared ahi tuna over fresh greens. 749 Moreland Ave., Suite C105. 404-624-4713. www.spoonatlanta.com.

9) The Shed at Glenwood. Along with many chefs in town, I am still hitting the Shed every Wednesday for chef Lance Gummere's wacky, weekly changing menu of $3 sliders. My favorite, which never sells, is the stewed chicharrónes in green salsa. Compact oyster po' boys, a weekly panino, schnitzel with pear jam ... the list goes on and on. The regular menu includes everything from fried chicken hearts to rabbit legs. My favorite dessert is the Greek yogurt with honey, dates, and walnuts. 475 Bill Kennedy Way. 404-835-4363. www.theshedatglenwood.com.

8) Lunacy Black Market. Paul Luna, one of the city's most gifted chefs, is also author of a children's book and a political activist. His eccentric imagination blooms here with an absurdly inexpensive menu of cross-cultural dishes meant for sharing. Lately, he and partner Cynthia Thonet have added a good wine list. Sundays, he features the pastas and risottos that initially made him famous in our city in the early '90s. Call ahead to make sure it's open. 231 Mitchell St. 404-736-6164. www.lunacyblackmarket.com.

7) Eclipse di Luna (Miami Circle location). Notice the name Luna. This restaurant was actually created years ago by Paul Luna (see above). I lunch here on inexpensive tapas so often with friends that my car feels like it's programmed with a homing device. Favorites are the glazed, spicy Spanish-style ribs; the plate of charcuterie and cheese; lamb meatballs and piquillos stuffed with honey-tinged goat cheese. But there's more, much more. 764 Miami Circle. 404-846-0449. www.eclipsediluna.com.

6) Miso Izakaya. Guy Wong demonstrates what can happen when a chef loses his timidity and follows his muse. His restaurant has graduated from mediocrity to stardom. Wong was named Chef of the Year recently by Eater Atlanta and Bon Appetit cited him in a list of six favorite izakayas. He has most recently made a hit with his sublime, after-10 p.m. bowls of ramen, which will not remind you of your college dormitory meals. There is nothing on his menu I would not recommend. For a fun and inexpensive taste, stop by, have a drink, and sample the exotic, slider-like steamed buns that will show up in his new venture in West Midtown this spring. 619 Edgewood Ave. 678-701-0128, facebook.com/misoizakaya.com.

5) Holy Taco. This is another spot that went from ho-hum to addictive. Chef/co-owner Robert Phalen started with a menu of the usual taqueria dishes. Then his head blew up and he went tricky. Holy cow! Try the chicken heart tacos or a short-rib sandwich with local turnips, Manchego cheese, arbol aïoli and crunchy surprises. 1314 Glenwood Ave. 404-230-6177. www.holy-taco.com.

4) Octane and the Little Tart Bakeshop. Yeah, this second location of Octane, the city's best coffee shop on the Westside, just opened. But it is a new favorite. The coffee's not cheap, but you won't find better espresso drinks in the city. Sarah Brown's bakery makes the place extra special. Her butter croissant is an utterly amazing obsession. There are also groovy small plates and sandwiches for light dining in the evening. 437 Memorial Drive, Suite A5 (in the rear of the Jane complex). www.octanecoffee.com.

3) Las Palmeras. I've been eating at this tiny Cuban café on a residential Midtown street for most of the 19 years it's been open. It's by far the best Cuban food in the intown area. My longtime favorites are the masitas de puerco and the fried chicken. The fluffy tamales make a great starter and try the fried yucca. The restaurant is open for lunch and dinner Wednesday-Saturday only. Call ahead. 368 Fifth St. 404-872-0846.

2) Stir It Up. This newbie in Little Five Points has all I want in a restaurant — complexly spicy food, an amiable staff, (very) inexpensive prices, and a unique ambiance. The Jamaican food is not, as is usual around town, served out of steam trays. It's cooked to order and, if they can't cook it to order, they won't serve it. The brownstew chicken, a dish of salted cod and slaw, and the jerk chicken are among my faves. 1083 Euclid Ave. 404-963-2384. www.stiritupatl.com.

1) La Pietra Cucina. Yep, this remains numero uno for me. It's damn expensive at night but lunches are affordable. The chef is Bruce Logue, a Babbo graduate, who calls his cuisine "progressive Italian." That means he makes no pretense of preparing fastidiously authentic Italian food but he is fanatical about ingredients and the play of flavors makes that obvious. I'm still addicted to the black spaghetti, the daily specials — a panino, a crispy fish, or the daily scallopini. 1545 Peachtree St. 404-888-8709. www.lapietracucina.com.

Other moderately priced favorites: Top Flr, El Señor Taco, El Taco Veloz, Fritti, Chateau de Saigon, Daddy D'z, Pura Vida, the Bakery at Cakes & Ale, Bocado, Super Pan, Sprig, Goin' Coastal, Fox Brother's BBQ, Stone Bowl, Peter Chang's, and, of course, Popeyes.

Pricier faves: Miller Union, Empire State South, Sotto Sotto, No. 246, One Eared Stag, Serpas, and Cakes & Ale.

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