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Mouthful - Season's eatings

Four great restaurants for fall

Ever notice how certain restaurants lend themselves to a particular season? Something about the food they serve and the mood invoked by their atmosphere makes you crave these places during a specific time of year. There are obvious choices, like drinks on Apres Diem's patio on a sticky summer night or a warming bowl of My Dad's Turkey Chili at Souper Jenny in winter. Spring and fall are more nebulous though.

Autumn is a slippery season — warm and rainy one day, cool but crystal-clear the next. In this weather, I want to eat at restaurants where the food is a bit heartier and mood is cozy and perhaps more subdued than the hot spots of summer. Following are four restaurants that are good any time of year but where I especially want to chow right now.

Au Rendez Vous

You drive through a tree-lined street in Brookhaven to reach this modest, sparsely decorated bistro housed in a small building next to a dry cleaning business. A recent lunch found chef/owner Kiet Jean-Claude Changivy, a Parisian transplant, pulling off his one-man culinary show in fine form. Rich entrees, including tilapia in a bechamel sauce spiked with apple cider (how autumnal is that!) and beef bourguignon, come with a simple salad or a cup of deftly seasoned soup. Dessert bonus: They make the best crepes in town, and they're so cheap you can order two for yourself, guilt-free.

1328 Windsor Parkway, 404-303-1968.

Salvatore Trattoria

I want sturdy Southern Italian fare when the weather gets chilly, and this is one of my favorites in the metro area. I'm not alone in this opinion either, judging from the crowds at the bar waiting for a table (try this one during the week). The classics are done right here. Pasta e fagioli has a haunting yet soothing depth and the penne all' amatriciana is assertively lusty in all the right ways. Ask your suave server if the kitchen has made its light, soulful lasagne that night, and take an order to go with you for lunch the next day. It's incredible.

292 S. Atlanta St., Roswell, 770-645-9983.

Woodfire Grill

Perhaps it's because this restaurant opened in August last year and I ate there on several occasions last fall, but this seems to me to be Atlanta's quintessential autumnal restaurant. The iridescent, pumpkin-hued shadows and the smoky aromas wafting through the dining room set the tone for seasonally appropriate eats like squash soup with apples, figs wrapped in prosciutto and roasted quail with onion-sage stuffing. Chef/owner Michael Touhy is constantly changing the menu, but you can always depend on a gorgeously roasted chicken with garlicky greens and the best pommes frites in town.

1782 Cheshire Bridge Road, 404-347-9055. www.woodfiregrill.com.

Zapata

This regional Mexican restaurant housed in a small strip mall may not look like much from the lonely stretch of highway you take to reach it, but doubts melt when you step through the door. You feast here first with your eyes — the art, from the collection of owner Alí Silva Chapellín, is way more provocative than the soothing landscapes you typically see in restaurants. Food-wise, focus on fun stuff, like the queso fundido and the bubbling concoctions served in a molcajete, to be scooped up in warm tortillas. Chapellín also makes a mean margarita.

5975 Peachtree Parkway, Suite 2, Norcross. 770-248-0052. www.zapata-ga.com.

Suggestions for sublime autumnal eats? E-mail bill.addison@creativeloafing.com.





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