Food - Glutton at Large: 5 special occasion restaurants in Atlanta

Sexy sushi, an outrageous brunch, dinner with a view, and more

The season for celebrating and spending time with loved ones is upon us. And the place you choose can make or break the evening. Ask anyone where to dine in Atlanta when you have a special occasion approaching and they will undoubtedly mention two heavy hitters: Bacchanalia and Restaurant Eugene. You could splurge on calories at places like Fogo de Chao or do a staycation at one of Atlanta's fine hotels like the Mandarin Oriental or the St. Regis. But what about when you have been there and done that? Where do you go when you want to celebrate and experience something a little different? Try one of these five spots the next time you want to treat yourself, your loved ones, or put that expense account to good use.

When you want classic Italian in an opulent setting:

La Grotta's warm and pink-hued decor may be stuck in the '80s, but, thankfully, so is its service and attention to detail. Tucked beneath an apartment building off Peachtree in Buckhead, La Grotta feels like dining in a newly discovered hidden gem — even though it has been open since 1978. Go here when you want to be treated like you are the most important person in the room by dapper, veteran waiters. Some of whom speak with thick Italian accents. It's hard to go wrong with any of the pastas such as the black linguini with calamari or Gorgonzola smothered filet. The meat dishes all come with the same sides (whipped potatoes, green beans and baby carrots). If you are feeling indecisive, just let your knowledgeable waiter be your guide. The restaurant also offers a Stimulus Menu for $26.95 Monday through Thursday that includes a choice of appetizer, entrée, and a glass of wine. 2637 Peachtree Road. 404-231-1368.

When the occasion calls for steak:

Despite going through many changes since opening in 2009, BLT Steak remains a destination for chilled oysters, a solid (and pricey) New York strip steak cooked with plenty of herbs and butter and simple, yet well-prepared sides, like creamed spinach or its famous tower of onion rings. The gooey, cheesy, over-the-top potato gratin is also hard to pass up. The enormous popovers in lieu of regular bread service never fail to induce oohs and aahs when they are broken in two and the steam escapes, begging for a pat of butter and sprinkle of salt. Ask for a corner table or booth for a more intimate dinner since the restaurant is rarely full. 45 Ivan Allen Jr. Blvd. 404-577-7601.

When you want a room with view:

The Sun Dial has always been considered a landmark in Atlanta. Where else can you take in a 360-degree revolving panoramic view of all of Atlanta while eating farm-to-table food and drinking cocktails? Besides, nothing says celebration like dining 700 feet above a sea of glittering city lights. Until recently, the Sun Dial was a place with killer views, a dated tri-level dining room, and average food. The restaurant underwent a huge renovation and menu overhaul this year with some drool-inducing dishes such as the roasted mushroom flan with crispy oysters and sun-dried tomato jam and the succulent roasted lobster with pillowy potato gnocchi and roasted garlic velouté. The lobster is actually one of the cheaper things on the exorbitantly priced menu at $55. If you are looking to impress your date or maybe even pop the big question, splurge on the Flintstones-esque bone-in prime rib for two that rings in at $160. How could she say no? 210 Peachtree St. 404-589-7506.

When you want to brunch like a king:

People always think of dinner when planning a special occasion, but what about a mind-blowing brunch? The outrageous Sunday brunch buffet at the Ritz-Carlton, Buckhead ($59 per person, 10:30 a.m.-2 p.m.) should be on everyone's bucket list. While the room hasn't changed much in the past 20 some years, the brunch offerings, which span several rooms, are mostly ever-changing. Count on regulars such as the carved to order roast beef with gravy and a jaw-dropping seafood station loaded with chilled crab claws, oysters, shrimp, and caviar with all of the accoutrements. There's also an unlimited bubbly bar ($15 for all you can drink) where you can construct your own Bellini or perhaps just add a dab of cassis to your glass. The Ritz also hosts special holiday brunches where you can eat your heart out on Thanksgiving classics, dine with Santa, or treat mom for Mother's Day (prices for holiday brunches are higher and vary). Even if it's not a holiday, a reservation is strongly recommended. 3434 Peachtree Road. 404-237-2700.

When you want to blow it out on a sexy sushi dinner:

Unless you are rich and/or famous, sushi at Umi's level is not the kind of thing you can eat every day. Real sushi lovers know it's the kind of thing you don't eat on the cheap because you get what you pay for. It is easy to rack up the dollars, especially if you go for pricier items like sashimi and nigiri. At Umi, you definitely pay a premium for the sexy, dark digs and spectacular cocktails crafted by Holeman & Finch alum Andy Minchow – the Moscow Mule and Dark and Stormys are especially good here. Notable menu items include the shrimp tempura with spicy creamy sauce, uni tempura, a chef's choice nigiri assortment, miso cod, and sizzling scallops served with their own tabletop burner. 3050 Peachtree Road. 404-841-0040.

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