Where to Eat in ATL
Every two years we publish Creative Loafing’s “100 Dishes - Atlanta dishes you must try before you die.” We present our latest thinking about the best place to go when you have a specific food you must have tonight for dinner. Here's our list on Where to Eat - What to eat... in order to live — to enjoy life in Atlanta to the fullest. Think of it as a sampler of all the culinary diversity this city has to offer.
Small Plates, Apps and Sides
Though only the starter course, these delicious dishes may be the best part of your meal
Boudin Balls at Crawfish Shack SeafoodAvailable 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.
Chicken Liver Tart at StaplehouseAvailable at Staplehouse
A striking work of art against a white plate begins with a crisp tart shell that supplies the canvas for a silky smooth liver mousse. Burnt honey gelée lends a sweet sheen. Green strawberry and ginger cut through the savory richness while pecan bits add further contrast. Like Van Gogh’s “Starry Night,” a humble sky made brilliant with layers of dynamic texture.
Foul Modamas at Ameer's Mediterranean GrillAvailable at Ameer's Mediterranean Grill
Is it a side? Is it a dip? In the Middle East, it’s breakfast. Most Americans probably aren’t ready to start off their day with a bowl of cooked fava beans mixed with olive oil, garlic, onions, parsley, and lemon. Too bad. Nevertheless, it doesn’t mean you can’t order them at lunch or dinner, as an appetizer, a side, or even a meal. You won’t regret it. You may even wish Ameer’s was open for breakfast!
Gobo Stick at Shoya IzakayaAvailable at Shoya Izakaya
Delicately fried, crunchy burdock served with a matcha powder, a green tea-based seasoning, that will have you forgetting French fries and ketchup were ever invented. Order as an appetizer. And order again. And again.
Jalapeno Cornbread With Honey Butter at Fox Bros. Bar-B-QAvailable at Fox Bros. Bar-B-Q
The Fox Brothers’ jalapeño cornbread — golden brown on the outside with corn kernels and bits of jalapeño nestled inside a crumbly, pillowy center — is good enough on its own. But a smear of homemade honey butter adds another dimension of sweet-meets-savory, melt-in-your-mouth goodness.
Lemon Pepper Wet Wings at J.R. Crickets MidtownAvailable at The Original J.R. Crickets in Midtown Atlanta
Around the year 2000, J.R. Crickets founder Paul Juliano noticed many of his customers liked to combine the heat of J.R.’s traditional hot sauce with the zest of their lemon pepper seasoning, creating a pungent scent and an even bolder flavor. Branded as “lemon pepper wet” — and not for the faint of heart — these bad boys are best enjoyed fresh out of the kitchen.
Pate Du Chef at Cafe AlsaceAvailable at Cafe Alsace
Always on the menu, and there’s a reason for it! The Pâté du Chef is absolutely délicieux. A delectable mix of homemade chicken liver with just the right amount of bacon, shallot, walnut, and port for taste and texture, it’s served with cornichons and fresh baguette slices on the side. The perfect way to start a meal — or, make it a meal, we won’t tell!
Que Wraps at Daddy D'Z Bbq JoyntAvailable 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.
Red Red at AfrodishAvailable at Afrodish Restaurant
Fried plantains and hearty black-eyed pea stew come together in this traditional Ghanaian comfort dish, served from a fragrant stall inside the Sweet Auburn Curb Market. Legumes are stewed with oil, onions, tomatoes, and spices and paired with sweet plantains fried to warm brown perfection. The tomatoes give the dish a reddish hue, hence its nickname: red red. Eat it piping hot for optimum flavor.
Signature Wood-Grilled Octopus at KymaAvailable at Kyma
Remarkably tender, streaked with smoky grill marks and served with a salad of pickled red onions and red-wine vinaigrette, these chunks of the creature from Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea transforms the squeamish into octo-addicts.
Spicy Bleu Cheese Chips at The Bookhouse PubAvailable 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 up some of that zippy cheese.
Stuffed Jalapeno Poppers at Fox Bros. Bar-B-QAvailable 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.
Wake up to the best breakfasts in Atlanta
Comfy Chicken Biscuit at Home GrownAvailable at Home grown GA 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.
Country-Fried Tempeh And Gravy at Ria's BluebirdAvailable 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.
Folk Southern Fried at Folk ArtAvailable at Folk Art - Inman Park
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 topped with eggs might do the trick. Opt for fried eggs 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 just might make you forget about it.
French Toast Sandwich at Le Petite MarcheAvailable at Le Petit Marche
Every so often, there's an intimidating wait at Petit Marché (on Hosea L. Williams Drive), but if you're tired of every other restaurant's limp, stuffed, dry, or pumpkin-spiced French toast, get in line at this Kirkwood eatery and stay there. You can help yourself to a steaming cup of coffee while you wait to be seated, and watch everyone else adoring their food. Their French-toast sandwich is a classic: two vanilla-rum battered, butter-fried pieces of thick, eggy bread, a hefty pile of scrambled eggs nestled inside, along with your choice of pork bacon or chicken or veggie sausage, all of it finished off with powdered sugar and drizzled in buttery maple syrup. Heaven.
Ham And Cheese Bun at Sweet HutAvailable at Sweet Hut Bakery & Cafe
Sweet Hut is a chic, self-serve bakery known for its huge pastry cases filled with a stunning array of delicate, airy, buttery treats. There are sweet things such as buns filled with chocolate or mango pudding, but also other savory goodies waiting to be plucked onto a tray. 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.
Pao De Queijo Waffle at ButecoAvailable at Buteco
Buteco, the new Brazilian street food eatery and bar located at the Beacon in Grant Park opens at 7 a.m., making these delicious bites perfect for breakfast, though they are also available for lunch and dinner until closing. Choose from ham, mozzarella, and oregano; bacon, diced egg, and cheddar, guava jelly; and more – while adding an order of coxinha, because you can!
Peanut Butter French Toast at Highland BakeryAvailable at Highland Bakery - Emory
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 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.
Pecan Waffle at Waffle HouseAvailable at
What? That waffle is damn good and you know it. And if you don't know it you should. It's nutty and crispy and golden ? and a damn institution. There's a reason this place is called the Waffle House.
Toast With Avocado And Fried Egg at Spiller ParkAvailable at Spiller Park Coffee
Spiller Park's avocado toast earns a home run thanks to the thick, buttered slices of sourdough bread that serve as its foundation, and the fact that you can get a perfectly pulled piccolo ? espresso and steamed milk, twice as intense as a typical latte ? as accompaniment. The avocado comes mashed up with chili powder, salt and lime, plus a scattering of salted radish slices. Don't pass on the optional runny fried egg on top.
Atlanta's best salads you must try now
Chicken Skin Salad at Shoya IzakayaAvailable 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.
Crispy Catfish Vietnamese Salad at W.H. Stiles Fish CampAvailable at W. H. Stiles Fish Camp
Dang, this salad is good. Choose between a crispy or pan-seared catfish (crispy is where it’s at — moist and flaky on the inside, golden brown on the outside) cradled in a bed of chopped cabbage and cucumber slaw with peanuts, cilantro, and scallions. Slivers of jalapeño, a squeeze of lime, and a light dressing of tangy fish sauce-kissed vinaigrette pull the whole thing together.
Dumpster Salad at One Eared StagAvailable at One Eared Stag
Mixed greens, thick bites of bacon, chopped hard-boiled egg and a wide, creamy pool of buttermilk dressing — these are the simple foundations of this oddly satisfying salad. The rest depends on the kitchen; they’ll throw in whatever they have lying around: potatoes, croutons, parmesan, seasonal veggies like radishes and carrots. Available at lunch and dinner, it’s a little different every time, but always fresh and locally sourced.
Kitchen Sink Salad at Community Q BBQAvailable 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 steel bowl of local greens coated with house vinaigrette is made hearty with the addition of pickled mushrooms, beets, radishes, fiddlehead ferns, pears, and whatever other seasonal produce they get from their farmer partners. Make it a full meal by adding a small portion of smoked meat.
Twisted Soul Salad at Twisted SoulAvailable at Twisted Soul Cookhouse & Pours
Invented back in the late ’90s, this healthful yet quintessentially Southern salad is a generous pile of mixed greens and local veggies. It comes topped with creamy nuggets of pecan-crusted goat cheese, house-made cornbread croutons, and zingy cranberry peppercorn vinaigrette.
Warm up with Atlanta's best soups
New Mexico Hatch Green Chile Stew at AgaveAvailable at Agave Restaurant
Hatch green chiles are one of the most flavorful varieties, and yet we rarely see them used. Luckily, they're the main ingredient of this stew, imparting a bite, a kick, and a tingly feeling all over. They share the bowl with potatoes, beef tips, corn, and onions. Dilute the stew by gulping down lots of tequila from one of the city's largest collections. Be your own mariachi band. Clank your soup spoon and sing "Bésame Mucho."
Pho at Nam PhuongAvailable 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.
She-Crab Soup at The OptimistAvailable 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.
Sopa De Pollo at La Fonda LatinaAvailable at La Fonda Latina - Poncey-Highland
This chicken soup will cure your ills and give you thrills. A hearty broth with chunks of white meat chicken, yellow rice, chopped tomatoes, green onions, and cilantro, it is served with jalapeños and limes on the side so you can make it just as spicy and tart as you want. Fair warning: Too many jalapeños will mask the delicate flavors inherent in the soup. A wintertime go-to, it’s delicious year-round.
Tonkotsu Ramen at Haru IchibanAvailable 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.
Burgers and Sandwiches
Run, don't walk, to try these dishes - best things between sliced bread
Bocadillo Vegetariano at La Fonda LatinaAvailable at La Fonda Latina - Poncey-Highland
As the yuppie blitz continues its intown face-lift, it's important to remember the old standbys. La Fonda Latina is a Ponce institution, and the bocadillo vegetariano is a rite of passage: grilled tomatoes, squash, zucchini, cheddar and Monterey jack cheese with creamy Cuban dressing packed into a warm, freshly baked loaf of Cuban bread. It's a cultural experience for those who don't do pork. Add five shrimp for just a few dollars more, and push the bocadillo experience to a wholly new level of excellence.
Chicken Salad Sandwich at Las BrasasAvailable at Las Brasas
This humble eatery just outside downtown Decatur roasts its chicken Peruvian-style on a spiced hardwood charcoal rotisserie. The pulled chicken salad that results, made with an addictively creamy avocado mayo, is one of the city's best. It comes with lettuce, tomato, and onions on a soft egg bun and pairs beautifully with a side of crisp, crinkle-cut sweet potato fries.
Dirty Bird Bao at Ah-Ma's Taiwanese KitchenAvailable 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.
Falafel Sandwich at Aladdin's Mediterranean GrillAvailable at Aladdin's Mediterranean Grill
Falafel is the hot dog or hamburger of the Middle East, though a healthy alternative to both. Praised by meat lovers and vegetarians alike, falafel in pita bread may very well be one of the first sandwiches ever known, its history dating as far back as the Great Pyramids of Giza themselves. Luckily, you don't have to go back in time to taste these delectable patties of ground garbanzo beans mixed with parsley and just the right amount of spices. Aladdin's is where you'll want to order your falafel sandwich, where the way it comes — with just the right amount of lettuce, tomatoes, pickles, and tahini sauce — is the way it should be.
Grilled Pork Banh Mi at Lee's BakeryAvailable at Lee's Bakery
Quite possibly Vietnam's most famous export, the banh mi is a culture clash of tastes: a crusty, French demi-baguette stuffed with sliced cucumber, carrots, cilantro, and barbecued pork. Mr. Lee's bahn mi is pure heaven. Order one to go, too. It will come in handy when you're excitedly attempting to describe the taste sensations to a hungry friend.
La Poutine De Georgia at The ImperialAvailable at The Imperial
The South has adopted this dish, for sure. The Imperial’s fries, covered in beef gravy with melted pimiento cheese over it all. You can use yer fingers, but a fork or a spoon is advised. Add the diced bacon and you’ve added another food group. This dish is certainly at the top of the USDA Food Pyramid!
Lobster Roll at Atlanta Fish MarketAvailable at Atlanta Fish Market
At Buckhead's iconic Atlanta Fish Market, the lobster roll has been a signature item since its opening in 1981.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 lobster roll experience.
Mix'D Up Burger at Mix'D Up BurgersAvailable at Mix'D Up Burgers
There are so many burgers to choose from in this city, what's a beef patty connoisseur to do when not ready to fire up the gill in the back yard? Head over to Mix'd Up Burger, the little food truck that could, that has now spawned two locations: the original drive-though on Boulevard, and the sit-down-and-enjoy on Hosea Williams Drive. They claim to have “rockin' burgers,” and we won't argue. The signature burger, grilled to perfection, is where it's at, but there are plenty of selections for the adventurous ? and one for the vegetarian, too.
Pimento Cheese Sandwich at The Garden And Gun ClubAvailable at Garden & Gun Club
From the very same people who gave us the Charleston-based magazine of the same name. This restaurant in The Battery, the OTP complex where the Braves play baseball, offers really interesting takes on classic Southern cuisine. Garden & Gun, the magazine, has been fascinated with pimento cheese as an art form since it first started publishing — and has chosen the best of all its recipes for this notable sandwich.
Po'Boy Sandwich at The Po'Boy ShopAvailable at The Po'Boy Shop
Any effort to produce a Cajun menu outside New Orleans produces the same kind of argument about authenticity that people have about barbecue and deli food. The Po'Boy Shop is obviously mindful of that. Their po'boys start with French bread from New Orleans' Leidenheimer bakery — and they are all traditionally dressed with a spicy remoulade, lettuce, tomato, mayo, and pickles. Oysters, shrimp, catfish, grouper, sausage, muffaletta, and chicken tenderloins are among the close to 20 varieties available, including cheeseburger, vegan burger, and the notorious Debris, a sandwich made with roast beef slow-cooked so long it falls apart, producing fat “debris” used to make gravy, served with a horseradish sauce.
Pulled Pork Sandwich at Community Q BBQAvailable at Community Q BBQ
Last we checked, there were 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 Carolina style house vinegar sauce.
The Cheese Steak at The Mad ItalianAvailable at The Mad Italian
The most noteworthy cheese steak in Atlanta is located in a small building off an access road of I-285. The sandwich's “proper roll,” as it's 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 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.
Pasta, Pizza and Noodles
Atlanta's best noodle and pizza dishes
Chengdu Cold Noodles at Gu's KitchenAvailable at
Thick egg noodles nestled into a tiny bowl are bathed in a sweet and spicy sauce. An oil infused with fried chilies and Szechuan peppercorns brings the heat, while green onion adds a bright pop. Mix it all together in the deep-red dressing, pluck a comically long strand of noodles, and be prepared to fight your tablemate for the last slurp.
Chow Kway Teow at MamakAvailable 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 a 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.
Essaouira Couscous at The Imperial FezAvailable at Imperial Fez Mediterranean Restaurant & Lounge
The seven-vegetable couscous (no, it is not a grain) at the Imperial Fez is served vegetarian, or with your choice of meats or seafood. Either way, it's delicious and tantalizing, offering a taste of the Levant with delicate herbs and spices, without the price of airfare. The Imperial Fez has been in Atlanta so long, it is sometimes overlooked for newer restaurants, but its dishes remain inspired and its service impeccable.
I Love Pepperoni Detroit-Style Pizza at O4W PizzaAvailable at O4W Pizza
Not familiar with Detroit-style pizza? Get thee to Duluth for O4W's homage to Motor City, available in a few variations that all share the same basic construct: rectangular pan, thick but airy pie. The I Love Pepperoni version has loads to love — most notably the craggy, crunchy cheese and pepperoni crust that forms around the edges. A blend of Havarti, cheddar, and mozzarella gives the pizza (and crust) a sharp and deep flavor profile unlike any other pizza I or OTP.
Mai Pai at Savage PizzaAvailable at Savage Pizza (Little 5 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.
Nana's Pizza at Varasano's PizzeriaAvailable at Varasano's Pizzeria - Buckhead
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 mozzarella than the average Margherita. Add the perfectly airy and crackly thin Neapolitan crust, and Nana will knock your socks off. Consider adding some chewy pepperoni for a level of complexity rarely found in the pizza universe.
Pad Kee Mao at Little BangkokAvailable at Little Bangkok
Atlanta's best Thai restaurant still holds court on Cheshire Bridge Road along with other long-standing institutions like Nakato, 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 mao (aka drunken noodles) 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.
The best vegetarian-friendly dishes in Atlanta
Bun With Tofu at Dua Vietnamese Noodle SoupAvailable 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.
Divine Punany Wrap at Tassili's Raw RealityAvailable at Tassili's Raw Reality Cafe
Tassili Ma'at's self-described "psychedelic shack" in the West End (inspired by the Temptations' song of the same name) serves up raw, vegan food so good, even avowed carnivores can get down. The Punany wrap, with its mix of spicy kale, avocado, tomato, couscous, and sweet coconut corn packs a flavorful punch without overwhelming the palate. It comes stuffed with so much food that the whole-wheat wrap is the real MVP for successfully holding it all together. Chances are you're going to want to save half for later.
Lemongrass Tofu at Nam PhuongAvailable at Nam Phuong Buford Highway
Pretty much everything at this Buford Highway bastion of Vietnamese cuisine is delicious. Heaping portions go far beyond the typical standbys and include a number of excellent vegetarian options. The lemongrass tofu is a fresh, healthy dish that will satisfy vegans and carnivores alike. Crisp on the outside and soft on the inside, hearty hunks of tofu come thoroughly coated in a salty, citrusy, slightly spicy sauce and served over sautéed veggies and delicate vermicelli noodles with a sprinkle of crunchy peanuts on top.
Paneer Kathi Roll at BhojanicAvailable at Bhojanic Restaurant
This dish comes very close to what you would actually find in the streets of Mumbai, and appears regularly on Bhojanic's menu as a special. Your choice of homemade Indian bread — flaky paratha, tortilla-thin whole-wheat chapati, or warm buttery naan — is stuffed with cubes of tandoori-spiced grilled paneer (a fresh, pressed cheese) dressed in aromatic mint chutney, raw onions, and cucumbers. Add raw green chilies for an extra kick to your lunch hour.
Smoked Portobella Sandwich at Fox Bros. Bar-B-QAvailable at Fox Bros. Bar-B-Q
A thick, smoked portobella cap is topped with oozy pimento cheese and pickled jalapeños, red onion, lettuce, and tomato, and served on a soft and toasty brioche bun. As far as veggie sandwiches go, this one is meaty, messy fun.
Atlanta's best fishy dishes
Duck Fat Poached Swordfish at The OptimistAvailable at The Optimist
Gently poached in glorious duck fat, this thick, glistening swordfish steak is all meaty and supple, with translucent sections that fall away with the touch of a fork into the accompanying smear of celery root purée and garlic chile relish. It's surf and turf 2.0.
Honey Squid at PenangAvailable at Penang
No need to travel to Southeast Asia for delectable street food; simply head to Buford Highway. These tiny squid kind of resemble crunchy spiders, but in the cutest way, we swear. Deep-fried and doused in a honey barbecue sauce until caramelized and brittle, they're topped with sesame seeds and cilantro, and excellent for snacking.
Hong Kong Style Lobster For Two at Bo Bo GardenAvailable at Bo Bo Garden Asian Cuisine
Picture two lobsters chopped shell-on, battered with rice flour, and fried to orange perfection. 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. And by the way, Bo Bo is open till two a.m.
Kari Fish Head at MamakAvailable at Mamak
This once-hidden BuHi gem is no longer quite so hidden (as you'll realize trying to snag a table at lunchtime), but its menu of Malaysian street eats has stayed strong. Red snapper head, a regional delicacy, comes swimming in a rich, saffron-colored coconut milk curry packed with dry-fried green beans, eggplant, and okra. Pulling the silky bits of fish flesh out of the whole head is a task, but one that reaps big rewards. For easy access, go with the fillet option: breaded, fried, and sautéed strips of catfish.
Nigiri at Shoya IzakayaAvailable at Shoya Izakaya
Here in Atlanta, it seems that Japanese food is associated with a certain snob appeal: The more expensive it is, the better it must be. Fortunately, that is not the case at Shoya Itzakaya. You don't have to mortgage your home to dine here, and the ambience is open and fun (read: no attitude) as a traditional itzakaya house should be. Nigiri is what people commonly think of as sushi — a small clump of sushi rice with fresh fish on top. Sashimi is the thinly-sliced fresh fish itself. Sushi is actually the vinegared, hand-formed clump of rice itself. Got it? No matter what you call it, the nigiri here is as good as it gets in this city — a fresh and tasty, melt-in-your-mouth gift from the sea!
Poke Bowl at Fish Bowl PokeAvailable at Fish Bowl Poke
Located Downtown just a few blocks from CL's office, Atlanta's OG poke restaurant opened last year and serves up deconstructed sushi bowls like hotcakes (one of our staff members may or may not have already eaten here 10 times and earned $5 off her next order). Bowls are highly customizable, with an order sheet to pencil in the base, proteins, and toppings of your choosing, but here's our tried and true: brown rice with salad, salmon, and ahi tuna topped with everything (and we mean everything) — crab meat, cucumbers, seaweed salad, sweet onion, pickled ginger, avocado, masago, tempura flakes, sesame seeds, and green onion. A spiral of wasabi aioli completes the dish. Delicious and nutritious.
Raw Oysters at The OptimistAvailable 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.
Roasted Salmon at Rumi's KitchenAvailable at Rumi's Kitchen Sandy Springs
The salmon at Rumi's Kitchen is among the simplest dishes on the Persian menu — a thick fillet seared on the grill, served alongside basmati rice punched up with fava beans and dill. But simplicity belies the magic that happens when fire meets fish meets a dusting of Persian spices. It's a safe choice among Rumi's more exotic specialties, but this salmon delights time after time.
Salt And Pepper Georgia Shrimp at Octopus BarAvailable 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.
Seafood Risotto at Sotto SottoAvailable at Sotto Sotto Restaurant
Just call it gourmet baby food for adults. Carnaroli rice is cooked with butter in white wine and chicken-fish stock until it is slightly al dente. Then, heavy cream is added. Shellfish, cooked separately, is placed atop the rice. That adds up to a velvety background foregrounded by springy bites of slightly briny seafood.
Shrimp Fried Rice at Ming's BarbecueAvailable at Ming's BBQ Doraville
On Buford Highway, where else? Their shrimp fried rice is not over-fried, brown, or greasy. It's fluffy white, lightly tossed in oil with hefty butterfly shrimp, not those tiny sea monkeys you find in some Chinese takeout. Go! But take cash or be scorned by the owners.
Eat here now: Atlanta's heartiest meaty meals
Carnita Taco at El Rey Del TacoAvailable 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 freshly made 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.
Chicken Mole at Zocalo TaqueriaAvailable at Zocalo
Mole sauce, to its lovers, is as controversial as barbecue is to its fanatics. All Mexican cooks have their own version. Zocalo's, the owners' own Mexican family recipe, has no equal in town. It's complex with nuts, chiles and countless other ingredients, including a bit of chocolate, and emits a mouth-watering fragrance. Zocalo serves it over a chicken breast.
Dolsot Bibimbap at Woo Nam Jeong (Stone Bowl House)Available at Woo Nam Jeong Stone Bowl House
There may be no dish more comforting than the classic Korean rice bowl known as bibimbap. And when you're in Atlanta, there's still no better place to find it than ye olde Woo Nam Jeong. The dolsot “stone bowl” variety is king: rice, veggies, bulgogi, your choice of protein, and a sunny-side up egg on top, served still sizzling in a hot stone pot so that the rice on the bottom, if left to do its thing, gets delightfully toasted and crispy, and accompanied by a plethora of tasty banchan.
Fesenjan Stew at Falafel CafeAvailable at Falafel Cafe
The term bittersweet is often used to evoke beautiful melancholy, but at Falafel Cafe there is no sadness to the interplay between the smashed bitter walnuts and sweet pomegranate paste in the fesenjan stew. The dark brown sauce clings to chunks of chicken, and when ladled over the fluffy Persian rice, creates a sticky, sour, nutty mess that'll make you long for it like a lost lover.
Filet Pepper Steak at Chop's Lobster BarAvailable at Chops & Lobster Bar
At most steak houses, the ribeye is usually the go-to. Not at Chop's. The signature filet pepper steak, available both upstairs in the restaurant, or downstairs in the lobster bar ? is devastatingly good, with its cracked pepper crust, green peppercorn brandy sauce, mushrooms, and port-braised shallots, sitting atop a potato confit. It doesn't get any better than this.
Fried Chicken at The ColonnadeAvailable at The Colonnade
Some things must be eaten for the same reason certain movies must be seen ? because they are classic. The Colonnade has been serving gigantic portions of batter-fried chicken since 1927. It's super crispy, steaming hot, juicy, and served in a dining room full of gays and greys by servers with major mother complexes.
Hot Wings at Jamal's Buffalo WingsAvailable at Jamal's Buffalo Wings
The critical point during any visit to Jamal's ? once housed in a tiny takeout-only trailer at the corner of MLK and Northside Drive and now tucked into the back of the 2001 building on MLK ? 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 into 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.
Hummus With Lamb at Ameer's MediterraneanAvailable 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.
Lamb Choila at Himalayan SpiceAvailable at Himalayan Spice Restaurant and Bar
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 to earth. The staff suggests trying it with beer. Who are we to disagree?
Mixed Grilled Kabob Plate at The Jerusalem Bakery And Grill, MariettaAvailable at Jerusalem Bakery & Grill
Why settle for one dish when you can try three? The Mixed Grill Plate offers three chicken kabobs, three skewers of shish kabob, and three kofta kabobs with onions and tomatoes, grilled to perfection, with savory spices from the Middle East that treat your taste buds. Rounded out with sides of hummus, baba ganoush, and fresh-made pita bread ? the best outside of Jerusalem's Old City ? and you've got a meal for at least two, though we predict you'll ask for extra servings of the pita bread.
Pabellon Arepa at Arepa MiaAvailable 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.
Peking Duck at Royal ChinaAvailable 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 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.
Pork And Green Chile Burrito at Bell Street BurritosAvailable at Bell Street Burritos (Inman Park/Stoveworks)
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 feels 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.
Pork Ribs at Fox Bros. Bar-B-QAvailable 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.
Sorrento Lemon Roast Chicken at Gio's Chicken AmalfitanoAvailable at Gio
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. 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.
Steak Frites at Floataway CafeAvailable 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 the pomme frites at 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.
Desserts and Sweets
Atlanta's best treats for a sweet tooth
Beignets at The Corner GrilleAvailable at The Corner Grille
Inside a century-old corner building that once housed an Episcopal church, the Corner Grille is a laid-back spot to grab brunch, lunch, or dinner in historic College Park. The husband-and-wife owners’ Louisiana roots are proven by the beignets: deceptively thin pillows of chewy, layered yeast-raised pastry covered in a blizzard of powdered sugar. Eat them piping hot with a cup of coffee for the ultimate NOLA-inspired treat.
Cake Shake at Delia's Chicken Sausage StandAvailable at Delia's Chicken Sausage Stand
Ever had the urge to drink a cupcake? Well, someone at Delia's certainly did. Made fresh to order every time, this ultra-thick treat is like the cool girl on the menu: It doesn’t have to try too hard to be admired. Whether you go for the chocolate-chocolate chip, red velvet, or flavor of the week, ingredients are perfectly blended into soft-serve ice cream smooth enough to make you drool. The staff will hand you this rich and creamy guilty-pleasure-in-a-cup, but grab a spoon instead of just a straw. It can be chewed as much as sipped.
Cinnamon Apple Fritter at Revolution DoughnutsAvailable at Revolution Doughnuts & Coffee - 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.
Cremolatta Fruit Cup at LottafruttaAvailable at Lottafrutta
For 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.
Cupcakes at The Baker Dude CafeAvailable at Baker Dude Bakery Cafe
Invented to bypass too much sugary icing on a cupcake by owner Orran Booher, the Baker Dude's version is comparatively small, with a French twist of icing that doesn’t entirely overpower the cake. The dulce de leche is a marvel. Ditto for the German chocolate. You can even buy vegan and Paleo cupcakes here.
Frosted Orange Shake at The VarsityAvailable 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.
Ginger-Lavender Ice Cream at Morelli's Ice CreamAvailable at Morelliâ€™s Gourmet Ice Cream
At a shop with totally novel flavors, what makes this particular seasonal treat so compelling? Could it be its powerful link between olfaction and taste? It's sweet, custardy-creamy, musty-perfumy, gingery-sharp. It cures depression and anaesthetizes the spine.
Krispy Kreme Original Glazed at Krispy KremeAvailable 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.
Pineapple Habanero Popsicle at King Of PopsAvailable at
There are many pops to love from the King, but none rivals this riot of tropical chill with its slow-burning spicy pepper undertones.
Sunflower at Sarah DonutsAvailable at Sarah Donuts
This beautiful creation conquered all in our 2016 Ultimate Atlanta Doughnut Smackdown for good reason — the combination of cinnamon, sugar, and petal after petal of dough-to-oil surface area creates a texture that regular doughnuts just can’t touch. In fact, Sarah’s sunflower comes dangerously close to being classified as a cinnamon roll, but it’s the gentle bath in hot oil that allows it to bloom into doughnut supremacy.
Supreme Bean Pie at Blue Seas Express & CateringAvailable at Blue Seas Express & Catering
You can visit this cafeteria-style restaurant, located in the Bluff, a long-overlooked neighborhood in Atlanta’s Westside, but try to go easy on the tantalizing dishes served on its steam tables and save room for dessert. The highlight here is the Supreme Bean Pie, made from navy beans flavored with cinnamon, nutmeg, and vanilla, which is also sold on street corners in the West End by Nation of Islam members sporting black suits and bow ties, hawking The Final Call. This is a seriously tasty pie: at once rich, sweet, and savory with a crumbly, melt-in-your-mouth crust, it’s a meal in itself!
Atlanta's best mixed drinks
3rd Coast Drip at Nine Mile StationAvailable at 9 Mile Station
This tantalizingly tasty treat of Treaty Oak Antique Gin, lime, mint, Campari, Yellow Chartreuse, Angostura, orange, and bubbles is a must the next time you are on the roof at Ponce City Market. Newly concocted for this season — the drink alone is worth the one-minute, 15-second elevator ride up — it will certainly put hot fun in your summertime!
Mai Tai at Trader Vic'sAvailable 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 a disagreement 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, orange curaçao, 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.
Martini at the Highland TapAvailable at Highland Tap
Hands down the best martini in Atlanta! Comes with a side car, too!
MOSCOW MULE AT . . . ?Available at Creative Loafing Atlanta
We are still searching. Suggestions now being accepted.
Sazerac at Leon's Full ServiceAvailable at Leon's Full Service
This Sazerac, rightly located on Leon's "Classics" cocktail list, is made 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.
Shochu Yuzu Chu-Hai at Shoya ItzakayaAvailable at Shoya Izakaya
While many may define shochu as a Japanese vodka, it is so much more. Usually distilled from rice — though barley and sweet potato are also used — shochu can be had straight, on the rocks, or as a chu-hai (cocktail) when mixed with sparkling fruit flavors. Go with the yuzu (Japanese citrus). Again and again.
Spiritual Sangria at Sister Louisa's Church of the Living Room and Ping-Pong EmporiumAvailable at Sister Louisa's Church of the Living Room & Ping Pong Emporium
Sister Louisa’s spiritual sangria has been crafted with the same expertise as more “spirited” cocktails, but they won’t save your soul! Certainly a driving-force of 16th-century conquistadors, this sangria will have you conquering your fears, for sure.
Where to Eat in Atlanta - Restaurants, Dishes, Cocktails, Special Dinners