As far as size goes, Atlanta may be a second-tier city (it ranks number 40 in terms of population). But it's the big city down South, and its culinary talent is no longer willing to sit second seat behind the bigger city scenes.
In the time since our last trip to Atlanta (we can't believe it was 2007 either), the city has come a long way. We started to see the culinary landscape begin to blossom during our first slew of Rising Stars tastings five years ago, and today culinary movers and shakers are opening up shop all over town—from trendy Inman Park and Old Fourth Ward, to the more hipster East Atlanta. And though the city is decidedly dedicated to Southern ingredients and casual-comfort concepts, inventive chefs and pastry chefs are offering the Atlantans more than fried chicken (although you can find finger licken' drumsticks here as well). And to go along with its rejuvenated cuisine, Atlanta has a serious community of tight-knit mixologists, dedicated to creating a local cocktail scene all its own.
The city's also a bona fide culinary melting pot. We stumbled across coffee shops, beer bars, sandwich shops, late-night spots, and restaurants both run and populated by former residents of Brooklyn, Pennsylvania, and Portland, Oregon's finest locals. These transplants have fully embraced the local produce, Southern charm, and traditional products of the area (hominy, mirliton, and Georgia olive oil to boot).
That means for both serious eaters and Southern comfort fans there is plenty to taste in this burgeoning culinary mini metropolis. So get ready to eat, drink, and dig into the Atlanta restaurants and bars we just can't get out of our heads.
4th & Swift takes its surroundingsthe restored Southern Dairies buildingand runs with it. The restaurant is a complete study in industrial chic, with all the necessary exposed brick, cityscape photographs, and bare pipes. To complement that modern motif, Chefs Jay Swift and son Jeb Aldrich create a menu of seasonal, globally inspired fare that keep Atlantans coming back again and again. It doesn't hurt that 2012 Atlanta Rising Star Sommelier Seth Roskind makes it a point to show his customers something unique, curating a list of well-priced, lesser-known wines to pair with Swift and Aldrich's dishes.Recommended:
At Anne Quatrano's meat-centric Abattoir (the name literally means slaughterhouse), you can find meat, meat, and well, more meat. Pig murals and butchery diagrams literally line the walls. But don't expect the typical charcuterie plates and pork belly from 2012 Atlanta Rising Star Chef Tyler Williams. Instead, the menu at this Westside restaurant is playful and creative. Williams injects just enough of his personality into each dish to make the food fun, without being trite. He nods to Asian inspiration with Eastern ingredients (steak tartare gets a welcome update with the addition of Asian pear, unagi sauce, and Korean chili flakes). But Williams also keeps things meaty with interesting cuts and skillful preparation (don't miss the corned Wagyu beef belly).Recommended:
Atlanta may be head honcho when it comes to all things pickled, porkified, and otherwise Southern. But if you are in the mood for some traditional Mexican food, Alma Cocina is the place to go. That's because Chef Chad Clevenger packs some serious knowledge when it comes to Southwestern cuisine—he spent several years learning the ins-and-outs of chilies, spices, and posole and tamale recipes. Choose your setting from the gorgeous turn-of-the-century chic atrium or the ranch-style interior of the restaurant (complete with stamped leather floor, cacti, and dark, rich detailing). Just be prepared to get comfortable; you're going to want to fill up on Clevenger's menu of tacos and traditional huaraches, along with Alma's impressive tequila collection.Recommended:
With a slew of fancified burgers, marketplace dining, trattorias, and cafés, Atlanta hits the mark with comfort-casual. But Chef Anne Quatrano makes sure there are still a few places to put on your party clothes, and Bacchanalia, with its elegant tables and understated service, pulls out all the stops. Before farm-to-table was matter of course for responsible chefs, 2012 Atlanta Rising Star Chef David Carson was working with Quatrano to bring whole animals to Bacchanalia, creating a menu that's as holistic as it is approachable. And he sweeps diners away with his refined plates, combinations of modern technique, and local ingredients. Pastry Chef Carla Tomasko's desserts are an ideal end to Carson's meal; deftly executed, they are just the simple, fulfilling bite needed at the end of a swanky dinner.Recommended:
Pastry Chef Eric Wolitikzy may be a newcomer to the South, but take one look at his dreamy desserts, and you’d think he was born-and-bred in Atlanta. As the newest addition to Decatur’s The Bakery at Cakes & Ale, Wolitikzy offers picturesque cakes covered in smooth-as-silk buttercream, alongside his childhood-inspired bakeshop sweets: whoopie pies, nutter butters, and pineapple upside down cake. Take a seat along the charming 1950s-style counter for a cup of coffee and a slice of his death by chocolate Mississippi Mud Pie, or pick up a few goodies to go. Or better yet, finish off a meal at next door’s Cakes & Ale with a grown-up version of Wolitikzy’s treats. The formerly New York-based baker is stretching his wings into plated desserts with a full sweets menu worthy of dipping into.Recommended:
Atlanta's outpost of BLT Steak is everything you'd expect from the esteemed national restaurant group. It's French food meets French wine meets Southern hospitality, and Chef Cyrille Holota executes the classic menu alongside Sommelier Dorinne Buche's wine pairings without waver. Although it's housed in the somewhat ritzy and modern W Hotel, the restaurant itself offers the cozy charm of a steakhouse. Warm wooden paneling, an inviting raw seafood bar, and a fireplace all set the mood for a meal that doesn't disappoint.Recommended:
On a sunny day, Bocado is the place to go to just sit. With its floor-to-ceiling windows, open spaces, and rustic wooden tables, it's a place that immediately invites you in. Chef Todd Ginsberg's comforting menu of Southern favorites (fluffy grits, sweet potato fries, and a burger that boats it's "the city's best") doesn't hurt either. Owned by 2012 Atlanta Rising Star Restaurateur Brian Lewis, Bocado is full of the charm Lewis instills in all his restaurants, a familial warmth that brings you in and keeps you coming back.Recommended:
Taking its moniker quite seriously, Canoe offers all the charm of cabin-chic—an actual (grounded) canoe greets you at the front door, the impressive vaulted ceiling is curved in the style of a boat. The entire space captures that old-world cabin feel, complete with a picturesque river-setting. But don't expect kitsch from this Atlanta institution, whose hallowed walls have raised some of Atlanta's brightest young culinary talent. Culling from her blossoming garden, Chef Carvel Gould has offered the surrounding Vinnings community her organic, contemporary fare for over a decade. And Sommelier Matt Bradford provides wine pairings on point with Gould's cuisine, pulling from a list of more than 500 labels.Recommended:
You can ask Chef Asha Gomez for a side of naan with your Pork Vindaloo, but she won’t serve it to you. That’s because Gomez and her Cardamom Hill restaurant are all about the cuisine of her native land, Kerala-a lush, a coastal state in South India. But don’t fret, you won’t miss the Indian bread for long, because Gomez’s dishes are rich in spices, coconut, and plenty of the beef, goat, and other proteins often missing from typical Americanized-Indian cuisines. (Thanks to the diets of the Spanish Catholic missionaries who settled the coastal areas, rather than the Muslim and Hindu populations more prevalent in larger Indian cities). So sit back—surrounded by dark detailing, lush fabrics, and exotic décor—and enjoy all Gomez has to teach about her native cuisine.Recommended:
No matter what you are looking for—an incredible cup of coffee, a mouthwatering pastry, or a rich Southern dinner paired with a serious wine and cocktail menu—2007 Atlanta Rising Star Hugh Acheson's Empire State South has it all. Head Barista Emily Letia reigns supreme during the morning hours, brewing small-farm coffees alongside Pastry Chef Cynthia Wong's collection of addictive sticky buns, whoopie pies, and scones. On the more filling side of the menu, 2012 Atlanta Rising Star Chef Ryan Smith shines, creating inventive, unforgettable dishes, based on traditional Southern ingredients and techniques but presented with a whiff of modern finesse. Sommelier Steven Grubbs and Mixologist Kellie Thorn follow suit, adding a strong beverage program to the mix. But ESS isn't just about the charm; underneath the gingham shirts and boyish smiles, the soft banquets, teal and chocolate palate, and antiquated décor (that's bonafide reclaimed antique wood) set the tone for a meal you won't forget.Recommended:
It goes without saying that a restaurant named Farm 255 is focused on farm-to-table cuisine. But for 2012 Atlanta Rising Star Sustainability Chef Whitney Otawka, farm-to-table is more than “best practice,” and her soulful cooking at one of Athen’s best restaurants expands the realm of simple farm fresh. Using goods from partner farm Moonshine Meats, along with her self-foraged and market finds, Otawka creates a seasonal, inspirational menu. And the restaurant’s warm, sunny dining room fits in perfectly with the farm cuisine. Fresh flowers greet each table, floor-to-ceiling windows let in the sunlight, and vintage wooden tables line the room. It’s the lovely setting needed to dig into Otawka’s feast.Recommended:
Farm Burger is the burger you have been waiting for. Forget about greasy patties and fries2012 Atlanta Rising Star Sustainability Chef Terry Koval looks toward the garden plot to create his produce-packed menu (with a little help from 100 percent grass-fed beef from farm partner Moonshine Meats). But this ain’t hippie town either. Koval’s burgers, bacon-studded grits, and dare we say addictive sides (pickled beef tongue anyone?) come along with a heavy hand of fresh produce, but first and foremost are blessed with Koval’s spot-on technique, seasoning, and creative outlook. And while Farm Burger lacks in ambiance (the Decatur location could sub-in for a truck stop, with plywood siding, billboard menus, and plastic serving baskets), Owner George Frangos puts care into the most important areas of his concept—the product.Recommended:
We trekked to 2007 Atlanta Rising Star Hugh Acheson at his breakout restaurant Five & Ten nearly six years ago, and we’ve been charmed with Athens and Acheson ever since. Although Acheson has since expanded his empire to include The National, Gosford Wine, and Empire State South, and garnered some national media attention along the way, he’s still our star. And it’s at his Athens home base where Acheson really shines, offering a menu based on local farmers’ produce, while creating a down-to-earth atmosphere that lets diners settle in for the true Acheson experience—clean, bold flavors.Recommended:
Our 2012 Atlanta Rising Star Concept Chef Richard Blais may have made his name as a television star on Top Chef, but he became Atlanta’s darling with his modern hamburger concept Flip Burger. What makes it so modern you ask? It’s partly Blais’ molecular toys—liquid nitrogen gussies up milkshakes and induction burners cook his cuisine. But the real star is his addictive “Flipped” burgers, in flavors like fluffy chickpea or juicy pork carnitas (Blais puts out more traditional beef burgers as well). The mod-setting does its part; graphic art splashes across the walls, futuristic framed televisions line the bar, and white leather nooks offer privacy for more intimate dates.Recommended:
Hidden away on a side street in Druid Hills, Anne Quatrano’s Floataway Café, with its floor-to-ceiling windows, pale green and blue décor, and framed cloud photographs, literally makes you feel like you are floating. Its location inside a renovated warehouse acts as a sort of hanger-like backdrop, furthering the mirage. And Chef Christopher Schmidt’s understated, refreshing cuisinea combination of French, Mediterranean, and Italian influencesfurthers the feeling of lightness. But don’t think light means unserious. Shmidt is among some of the top talent we found in Atlanta. His menu offers everything from perfectly executed seafood compositions to playful and heartier meat preparations, proving you can find whatever you desire at Floataway Café.Recommended:
What makes a hot dog more than just a hot dog? Take perfectly toasted sweet Guatemalan bread, stuff it with succulent ox tongue, and top with tripe hash, and you'll have a dog good enough for any ball game, but really worth a fun dinner date. At the most recent addition to 2012 Atlanta Rising Stars Concept Chef Richard Blais' Atlanta empire, HD1 Chef Jared Lee Pyles goes about dogs the way some chefs tackle the saucier station, with all the precision, innovation, and care necessary for unforgettable food. And it's one of Atlanta's only late hang-outs, offering a funky industrial vibe, along with late-night DJs, to both after-hours chefs and prime-time dates alike.Recommended:
Reigning high on an overpass in the Old Fourth Ward district, Highland Bakery has been packed every time we’ve stopped by. And that’s not just because of the trendy neighborhood. It’s also thanks to Chef Stacey Eames’ approach to good Southern food. A dedicated athlete, Eames takes a wholesome look at her menu, using fresh, local produce and an in-house stone mill to grind grains for her breads. So even though she offers traditional Southern flavors like cheesy grits and flaky biscuits, Eames’ cuisine is as heart healthy as possible, which keeps her doors packed, and her customers happy.Recommended:
If Restaurant Eugene is 2007 Atlanta Rising Star Chef Linton Hopkins house of fine dining, then Holeman & Finch is his answer to Atlanta’s demand for all things casual-comfort. Working with Executive Sous Chef Jason Paolini, Hopkins creates inventive riffs on bar favorites (pork skin ramen noodles), superb in-house charcuterie, and Southern classics. And Mixologist Andy Minchow, along with Greg Best and Regan Smith, have built a bar program that lives up to Hopkins reputation as one of the South’s best chefs. Their cocktails combine classic combinations with creative ingenuity and plenty of don’t-miss-them flavors.Recommended:
2012 Atlanta Rising Star Chef Robert Phalen started his empire in East Atlanta, with his Holy Taco taqueria. And while he's equally focused on local ingredients, house-cured meats, and preserved produce at his higher brow One Eared Stag, Holy Taco is his outlet for an evolving menu of addictive tacos, finger-licking offal, and all things Mexican fusion. Inside the (former garage) dining room, Day of the Dead artwork and graffiti set the tone for his funky menu, attracting even funkier customers from the surrounding neighborhood and plenty of hungry fans who come from across town in search of Phalen's grub.Recommended:
With its lush white banquets, warm cream-brown-blue décor, and pretty wild flowers, 2007 Atlanta Rising Star Chef Ford Fry’s JCT. Kitchen & Bar is the manifestation of Southern hospitality, a refined room with lush touches and quiet elegance. 2012 Atlanta Rising Star Chef Adam Evans eases into that backdrop with a menu defined by perfectly executed seafood and unexpected ingredient combinations. (As Evans moves on to open Fry’s newest locale, The Optimist, he’ll continue to show off his wood-grilling fish skills.) And Mixologist Lara Creasy’s cocktails are wonderful and complex, yet oh-so-easy easy to drink. The combination makes you want to stay at JCT. all night, eating and sipping into the late hours.Recommended:
Drive by La Fourchette, and you might just miss it. Tucked on a side street in Buckhead (some say it’s the newest up-and-coming culinary destination, but the verdict’s still out), La Fourchette's strip mall surroundings make it seem hardly a must-stop restaurant. But you’d be remiss to miss out on the talents of Chef Jeffrey Wall, and talents he has aplenty. Not only does Wall command an inviting savory menu at this Italian-American restaurant, he does a pretty decent job with the desserts, hand-churning his ice creams the old fashioned way (yep, with a bucket of ice) to make some of the creamiest we’ve had. Although the restaurant could use a face lift (the interior resembles a corporate mall joint), Wall’s cuisine is worth fighting the traffic-heavy Buckhead highways.Recommended:
While most of Atlanta’s chefs focus on traditional Southern ingredients or fast-casual concepts, Chef Micah Willix is looking outside the boundaries of the state lines and United States for his inspiration. At Latitude, his new Buckhead restaurant, Willix offers a thoughtfully crafted, global menu. The room sets the vibe, mixing industrial elements like Edison light bulbs with a Florida Keys feel (mosaic tiling and a teal color palette). And as partner of the operation, Willix’s blood, sweat, and tears (even more than the usual chef’s duties require) have gone into the project, giving him even more reason to push for its (inevitable) success.Recommended:
2012 Atlanta Rising Star Chef Shane Devereux grew up in Philadelphia, but it’s in Atlanta that he’s made his mark as a chef. Although his earlier projects (Sound Table, Top Flr) have been more music-based (his partners tour internationally as DJs), his new restaurant The Lawrence gives Devereux the opportunity to really focus on his cuisine, expanding his reach as part-owner. Inspired by his part Vietnamese-heritage, along with his classic French training, Devereux’s menu offers Asian riffs on bar snack favorites, along with higher brow compositions that nod to the French kitchens he grew up in. The bistro-style dining room—tiled floors, open kitchen, and floor-to-ceiling windows—provide a casual, cheerful atmosphere for 2007 Atlanta Rising Star Mixologist Eric Simpkins' stunning and delightful cocktails.Recommended:
Couple Sarah O’Brien and Deon Kay are just as cute as the French bakers they take inspiration from. Their bakeshop, The Little Tart, inside the Grant Park location of Octane Coffee, was conceived during O’Brien’s experiences working in a Parisian bakery. And every touch, from the curly scripted menu and white-washed brick walls to the brimming pastry case, fits the bill. It’s not just ambiance they imported from Paris. The flaky pastry, sweet tarts, and creamy custards don’t disappoint. Alongside a cup of expertly brewed coffee from Octane Barista Dustin Matson, it’s the perfect coffee and pastry stop, any day of the week.Recommended:
Local Three Kitchen is just what it says it is: a locals’ hang out. On any given night, the dining room is guaranteed to be packed with chefs noshing on a charcuterie plate, tourists in for some Southern fare, and a few sports fans arguing over the latest Georgia Tech game with Chef Chris Hall. Hall doesn’t apologize for his simple approach to cuisine, but that’s because there’s no need; his bold flavors offer plenty of reason to pack the house. And it doesn’t hurt that it’s such a fun place to be—pig murals and funky artwork line the walls, and if you look closely, you may see an homage or two to “the Dude.”Recommended:
At Steven Satterfield’s Miller Union, farm-to-table cuisine doesn’t just mean using fresh, local produce. It means finding the best quality product, and creating an inventive menu that invites diners into a whole new experience. Chef de Cuisine Justin Burdett does just that, turning out a menu of fresh seafood, house-made sausages, and rich porky entrees that keeps Miller Union among the best in Atlanta. Pastry Chef Pamela Moxley plays toward the comfort side of things, keeping things creative with savory combinations and a mixture of textures. And Mixologist Stuart White mixes refreshing, balanced cocktails, offering up playful and light drinks. Take a seat in the inviting dining room—sweeping windows, vaulted ceilings (complete with a library ladder to peek into nooks and crannies), and vintage-culinary décor like a wall of heirloom cast-iron pans—and lets this team sweep you away.Recommended:
Whether you want traditional Japanese mother's home cooking or the late-night grub every chef has been talking about in Atlanta, head to Miso Izakaya. 2012 Atlanta Rising Star Chef Guy Wong, who trained at an izakaya in Japan before launching his own version, puts his heart and soul into the food. And while Wong could have gone for Asian lanterns when it came to the décor, Miso Izakaya is understated and elegant with modern lamps and dark wood. Atmosphere aside, the food is the real reason to head to this Old Fourth Ward restaurant. It's not the motif, it's Wong's congee and kimchi rice that are unforgettable.Recommended:
Athens may not be brimming with culinary destinations, but the few it has knock the ball out of the park. If you are headed that way (nearly two hours outside of Atlanta city proper) The National should be on your must-go list. After working together at Five and Ten, 2007 Atlanta Rising Star Chef Hugh Acheson and 2012 Atlanta Rising Star Chef Peter Dale teamed up to open this Mediterranean-inspired restaurant. Finding similarities in Southern and Mediterranean regional product, Dale features his approach to local produce, mixing the bold spices of Spain and the Middle East and his creative touch. An added bonus: the rich blue room is a soothing relief on a hot Georgia summer day, with polished Mediterranean-inspired motif.Recommended:
Pop-ups, underground supper clubs, dinner parties. As Atlanta’s culinary scene continues to grow, you can find them all. But Octopus Bar isn’t a pop-up, and it isn’t a supper club. So what is it? It’s a restaurant that just happens to live squarely inside of another restaurant. When the evening hours grow close, Chef Angus Brown takes over the patio portion of East Atlanta’s So Ba, and Octopus Bar (a nod to the patio’s octopus artwork perhaps?) comes alive and stays running into the wee hours of the night. It’s a creative way to capitalize on time and space. And while Brown’s rich Japanese-inspired tasting menus aren’t exactly typical late-night food, they are worth exploring the later side of things at this double-sided spot.Recommended:
While 2012 Atlanta Rising Star Chef Robert Phalen's first outlet, Holy Taco, is spot in the middle of East Atlanta, his second, One Eared Stag, is almost hidden away on a side street in Inman Park. But the homey-space is worth searching for; it's the type of place you'll want to hang out in all day (and drink in all night). An Old World-style communal table fills the dining room, and fresh produce and artful vegetable diagrams give the space an almost vintage feel. Phalen's composed presentations (think Michael Bras meets Alice Waters), combine the sensibility of Southern cuisine, distinct flavor combinations, and a touch of fancy living. Whether he's transforming Japanese favorite tuna collar into an approachable (and luxurious) meal, or updating the classic French radish salad with whipped lardo, this chef is dreaming up big things for Atlanta.Recommended:
Surrounded by all the rustic Old World appeal of a historical 1890s pipe factory, Parish Food & Goods dazzles you with a sweeping Southern brick dining room, Venetian-style colored glass chandeliers, oversized chalkboard menus, and a stamped tin roof. But this Old Fourth Ward restaurant doesn’t rest on its beautifully designed laurels. The New Orleans menu is equally impressive, and when we tasted with Chef Joe Schafer (who has since moved on to helm JCT. Kitchen & Bar), we were blown away by the in-house charcuterie and dedication to Southern product. New Chef Edward Russell (an alum of Five and Ten and Farm 255) shows equal promise. And Sommelier Justin Amick aptly pairs with the Southern menu, pulling from a collection of New and Old World wines to balance the sweet, rich, and pickled flavors.Recommended:
PushStart Kitchen may be seriously off the beaten path (the supper-club style dinners are held inside an artist’s loft at the eclectic, antebellum-esque Goat Farm Arts Center), but Chef Zach Meloy’s food is worth trekking to the “farm.” Meloy takes his Georgia heritage, mixes in his love of his wife Christina’s native Costa Rica, and comes out with a wholly Southern experience (that’s Deep South and Southern American mind you). His themed dinners run the gamut of meat-centric affairs to all out homages to Meloy’s own backyard garden produce. The basic tableware is jazzed up by the Meloy’s personal South American keepsakes and art (fitting for the artist studio backdrop). And PushStart is hopefully just the beginning for this entrepreneurial couple; ideally the success of the supper-club will push the couple into a future brick-and-mortar location.Recommended:
When you want a classic cuisine done right in Hotlanta, there’s one place to head, and that’s Rathbun’s (one of the reasons we named Kevin Rathbun our 2007 Atlanta Rising Star Restaurateur). Although the décor is a bit dated (the mod-style dining room features red Chinese lanterns), after nearly a decade, Rathbun is still putting up spot-on preparationsand is still in the kitchen himself, a rarity in these celebrity-chef driven times. And Sommelier Joon Lim pairs the cuisine with a novel wine list, looking to educate and excite his guests with outside-the-box offerings.Recommended:
As the big city in the South, Atlanta has embraced comfort cuisine like no other, naming fried chicken, pickled vegetables, and fancified burgers as its signatures. But while other chefs have leaned hard on the comfort side, 2007 Atlanta Rising Star Chef Linton Hopkins insists Southern cuisine doesn’t have to be overcooked or overtly rich. With his soulful cuisine, artistic plating, and dedication to traditional, seasonal Southern ingredients and techniques, Hopkins motivates his kitchen and staff to reach beyond their limits. Restaurant Eugene offers Atlanta’s diners one of the few fine-dining locales in the city, a chance to be truly swept away in an intimate enchanted setting. And 2012 Atlanta Rising Stars Pastry Chef Aaron Russell provides the sweet finish to a Hopkins meal, offering a bold take—sweet-savory combinations, modern technique, contrasting textures—in Atlanta’s pastry market.Recommended:
The crowd-pleasing former TWO Urban Licks front man Chef Scott Serpas has added a thoughtful touch to every inch of his first solo outpost, Serpas True Food. You'll find New Orleans oyster shells laid into the bar top, vintage hand-shaped sculptures reaching out to grab you from the bathroom wall, and an artful city loft meets mod-Asian interior. The brick exterior, up-and-coming neighborhood, and adjacent water tower give the whole place an industrial vibe, but its Serpas' food that really seals the deal. Serpas' New Orleans preparations (think fried oysters or Crowder pea chowder) get an update with pickled mirliton salad and spice-packed shrimp, and Serpas nods East with perfect-for-a-cool day spaghetti squash Panang curry.Recommended:
Chef Art Smith may not spend his time in Georgia, but 2012 Atlanta Rising Star Hotel Chef Anthony Gray certainly does. And this Macon born-and-bred chef whips up some serious Southern cookin’ in Smith’s newest kitchen, Southern Art and Bourbon Bar at the InterContinental Hotel Buckhead. From his charcuterie-packed ham bar and other porky delights (we can’t get the country ham-lined sage waffles out of our heads), to more delicate options like a smoked trout salad with Georgia feta, Gray is a chef dedicated to local Southern produce and defined by his technical deft. The dreamy, storybook dining room of Southern Art is the perfect backdrop for his rich cuisine. Smith’s bright artwork lines the ceiling, and bright, domed Wonderland-esque chairs fill the rooms. On par, Mixologist Arianne Fielder creates playful, unexpected cocktails, reaching to the Bourbon Bar’s impressive collection of more than 70 bourbons.Recommended:
Everyone in Atlanta is anxiously waiting for The Spence to open. While 2012 Atlanta Rising Star Concept Chef Richard Blais has made a name for himself in the city with modern burgers and dogs at Flip Burgers and HD1 respectively, The Spence harkens Blais’ return to fine dining. At press time, it was only days away from opening, but Blais gave us a sneak peek preview of his menu the last time we were in town. And there’s reason to be excited. Blais is focusing on wood-fired cuisine, combining elements of his childhood (a play on fish and chips) with the kind of upscale modern interpretations he made his name on (meat-glue magically combines Salisbury steak with a lamb rack bone for an elegant presentation). And Pastry Chef Andrea Litvin combines nostalgia, modern technique, and artful style into a dessert menu that seamlessly flows with Blais’ cuisine.Recommended:
When you want the best salumi, cured meats, and pâtés in town, head to Anne Quatrano’s Star Provisions, where 2012 Atlanta Rising Star Artisan Chef Todd Immel has three temperature and air-flow controlled rooms at his disposal for anything and everything meat related. Provisions is also a one-stop-shop for all things culinary, with a vast assortment of artisanal cheeses, baked goods, wine, beer, and other pantry staples. And you can’t help but be temped by the luxe home goods artfully scattered on the picnic-style table and throughout the rest of the petite store. From hand cast pottery to leather-trimmed market bags, it’s any food-lover’s shopping dream come true (with access to next door Bacchanalia, Abattoir, and Quinones at Bacchanalia to boot!).Recommended:
Named for 2012 Atlanta Rising Star Restaurateur Brian Lewis’ three sons, STG Trattoria is all about family. In the wide-open dining room, Lewis creates that sense of familial warmth through relaxed service and a bright, inviting space. Chef Josh Hopkins (an alum of Abattoir and the Anne Quatrano family) takes on rustic Italian cuisine, heading the pizza oven to churn out wood-fired pizzas. The thin crust pizzas are mouth watering, but save room for the rest of the menu, a collection of rustic toasts, small plates, and lighter-than-air pastas. And we can’t wait to head back to sample Mixologist David Durnell’s delights at their amaro bar.Recommended:
Sugar-Coated Radical may be a tiny, bare bones shop on a side street in the Old Fourth Ward, but it offers big flavors and big talent. 2012 Atlanta Rising Star Community Chef Taria Camerino seduces her customers with a variety of hand-dipped chocolates, cadies, and treats, featuring fair trade chocolate, local produce, and sustainable packaging. And while she may be a classically French-trained pastry chef, there is nothing classic about Camerino. From her wild art installations and edible stickers, to her “emotions in a bottle,” Camerino is always working on something sweetly radical. And don't miss the Sunday morning pop-ups, featuring ethnic riffs on treats from Camerino's past—flaky creamed kale tarts, light and fluffy coconut cake, and chorizo-potato hand pies.Recommended:
Atlanta is known for its dedication to local Southern produce, but Woodfire Grill is a sustainable house unlike any other. Calling Chef Kevin Gillespie dedicated is putting it lightly; this, obsessed chef brings in whole animals, only serves seasonal produce and fish, and demands the highest standards when it comes to sustainability. He also presents a delicious menu inside the copper-walled dining room, drawing inspiration from that prime product, as well as global influences (Moroccan flavors in one instance). And 2012 Atlanta Rising Star Pastry Chef Chrysta Poulos approaches the pastry plate with an artist’s hand, plating her modern, whimsical courses across a plate’s surface as if it were canvas.Recommended:
Don't roll your eyes, but this burger joint has been known to make a customer or two cry. Tears, really? The gluten-free burger buns, onion rings, and more offer people with celiac options rarely given elsewhere. And Chef-Owner Shaun Doty isn't afraid to say he's proud that the two-locations of Yeah! Burger can be both highly profitable and offer the Atlanta community such a dining delight. But the spot isn't just for those avoiding gluten: Doty's burgers are packed with top-notch ingredients (grass-fed beef, organic turkey, and heirloom Sea Island red beans) and topped with a variety of his house-made Southern-style dressings (think Alabama hot sauce and white Mississippi barbecue). Along with his cheeky pop-art motif and milkshakes-for-the-kids, beer-for-the-dads mentality, this fast-casual restaurant is on the road to joining the ranks of Atlanta’s haute cuisine couture.Recommended:
Brewmaster Crawford Moran’s brewing operation in Atlanta’s Westside neighborhood is one of the biggest in the state, and affords him the tools necessary to carry out his brewing mission to do anything to make great beer. Inspired by a European backpacking trip, Moran took on garage brewing as a young adult and now brews those European-style session ales, stouts, and saisons, at 5Season’s three locations. And the gastropub at the brewery—helmed by 2007 Atlanta Rising Star Chef Dave Larkworthy—is churning out such high-brow pub grub as Grilled Cocoa-crusted Lamb Chops and Spring Vidalia Onion-Lemon Soup with Ghost Chili Foam.Recommended:
Under the leadership of Roast Master Charlie Mustard, Jittery Joe’s Coffee Roasting Co. exemplifies the type of dedication to coffee that is necessary for true market domination. There are over a dozen varietals available hailing from 18 different countries, all micro-roasted to ensure that the best flavor and richness is retained in the product. House-made blends are also available, using a Direct Trade Nicaraguan bean as a smooth, round base. While quality is at the forefront of Jittery Joe’s mission, successfully meeting the needs of customers is a close second in terms of priorities. And Mustard’s serious knowledge of the bean, and animated personality, have customers addicted to Jittery Joe’s interesting and tasty sips.Recommended:
The campy Leon’s Full Service (the restaurant-bar occupies a former service station and is filled with 1950s memorabilia) might not seem like a craft cocktail destination. But décor aside, it’s where every chef, mixologist, and drinker-in-the-know heads when they want a good cocktail. That’s because 2012 Atlanta Rising Stars Mixologist Miles Macquarrie is as technique-driven as they come, mixing up superb drinks based in aromatics and house-made tinctures. Taking inspiration from anything and everything (song titles, movies, books), Macquarrie layers flavor upon flavor into creative tipples that will have you driving back to Decatur for another try. Leon’s also offers an impressive collection of beers, as well as a full menu of classic American fare.Recommended:
Brewers Jonathan Baker, Joel Iverson, and Jeff Heck may own one of the only breweries in America to start out of a Bible study group, but they are hardly austere choir boys. Coming together six years ago, the trio loved the process of beer making but also the community it engendered; every Monday night they congregate in one of their garages and “crowd source” their brews to about 100 people each week, who give feedback on the flavor, the beer names, even the logos on the bottles. Producing mid-range, easy-drinking beers for the “nine-to-fiver,” this trio has set out to prove, as stated in their logo, that “weekends are overrated.”Recommended:
At its Grant Park location, Octane Coffee serves premium caffeinated fuel for the weary in a high-ceiling/exposed brick/industrial kind of vibe. The open space and wide tables encourage visitors to sit down, open their laptops, and enjoy a cup of Joe. Roasting their beans in-house (by means of an Alabama-based roastery), Octane serves Chemex and French press-style brews. Barista Dustin Mattson’s menu is stocked with standards like the macchiato, cappuccino, mochas, and carmelatto. Mattson’s mocha is especially memorable; a house-made chocolate sauce of semisweet morsels, cocoa, and brown sugar plays off the complexity of the café’s signature three-bean espresso blend for a balanced, smooth, rich treat.Recommended:
Looking at 2007 Atlanta Rising Star Chef Hector Santiago’s menu of fresh Latin American and Spanish cuisine, Mixologist Paul Calvert works with a variety of South American spirits, flavors, and spices to create a robust bar menu at Pura Vida. Rather than turn to the typical (and overdone) drinks of the culture, Calvert expertly mixes these flavors into beverages that pair wonderfully with Santiago’s cuisine. And inside the dark wooden dining room, Latin music and the sweet tang of Calvert’s drinks often tempt diners off their seats and into a salsa dance.Recommended:
The oldest craft brewery in the Atlanta area (opened in 1993), Red Brick offers everything from golden ales to complex barrel-aged dark beers. Its four core beers—Blonde, Brown, Hoplanta, and Porter—and four seasonals are now produced to the tune of more than 100,000 cases a year. And for good reason: Atlanta can’t seem to get enough of both the easier drinking Hoplanta and the richer, aged seasonals. When Brewmaster Dave McClure first started, he was the only employee for the first two years, but they’ve been growing (with high demand) ever since.Recommended:
Owners Bobby Thomas and Roger Davis are newcomers to the craft brew scene in Atlanta, but they’re by no means novices. They started home brewing using a 15-gallon brew pot, water coolers, and hoses. In August 2011, they advanced to a 20-barrel warehouse that brews 620 gallons of beer at one time and are quickly becoming a force to be reckoned with in the no-longer-nascent Atlanta craft brew scene. Their bare bones bar (with cheeky pink rabbit beer taps) is often filled with customers or tour groups, and their brews can be found on roughly 100 taps around metro Atlanta. Although they have started the brewery with a limited selection (three beers were available during our tasting), Thomas hopes to grow to 20,000 barrels a year and canned beers soon.Recommended:
While Atlanta might be the hub of coffee culture in Georgia, 16 miles outside of the city is Smyrna, where Rev Coffee is roasting its own beans, developing inspired drinks, and creating a unique community space all at once. Located in an old Mercedes Benz shop, the café is filled with eclectic assortment of chairs and couches, offering up space to local writers, musicians, and artists. Roasting their beans in house, the Rev boys buy quality beans from reputable importers, changing the lineup of eight offerings with the best seasonal varietals. While Barista Aajay Murphy may have had his start in the coffee industry at Starbucks, his drinks at are far from commercial recipes. Rev offers Chemex-style brews, traditionally brewed espresso and cappuccino, and its own signature creations like the Soy Con with Brazil Cerrado (a vanilla soy iced coffee).Recommended:
After working together at several cafés in Atlanta and consulting a roaster in Australia, Baristas-Owners Dale Donchey and Jordan Chambers finally branched out on their own java-venture. First came Rattletrap, where Donchey and Chambers equipped a 1982 Volkswagen with a two groove espresso machines and took brews to the street. A few months later, Donchey and Chambers opened Steady Hand Pour House, their technique-forward coffee shop wherebrewing methods look like they belong in science labs more than a kitchen. Not only do patrons have the option to enjoy Chemex-brews, they also have the rare chance (at least in the Southeast) to try a Siphon-brewed coffee, which is as visually exciting as it is distinct on the tongue. Although technique reigns mighty here, there’s no holding back on creativity either (their Cola Cocktail is an icy and delightful nod to the Atlanta-based soda).
Unlike some of the smaller beer getups in town, SweetWater is a massive presence. Their new location will push brewing from 100,000 barrels a day to 400,000, and shows the real growth in the Atlanta beer market. That’s because it’s one of the oldest breweries in town at a ripe 15 years old. SweetWater doesn’t have its roots in Atlanta—it began in Colorado when Owners Freddy Bensch and Kevin McNerney were roommates in college—but the brewery was founded here in 1996 as one of the city’s first craft breweries. James “Nick” Nock was there at the start, working his way from brewer’s apprentice to head brewer. And with their variety of easy-to-drink, playful beers (420 anyone?), it’s no wonder they’ve been so successful.Recommended:
Terrapin Owners John Cochran and Brian Buckowski took years to realize their dream, but once they got going there was no stopping them. The two put their heads together and created Terrapin, and a few years later won the Best Pale Ale competition at the American Beer Festival in 2002—only six months after creating their Rye Pale Ale. Today, the two are respected members of the Georgian craft brewing environment, having created a well known brand (built around the designs of artist Richard Biffle, who worked with the Grateful Dead, inspiration for Terrapin’s name). And while they’ve continued to grow in markets surrounding their Athens home, the team has little interest in global domination. Instead they want to stay true to their craft-brew roots, keeping production quality and on the lower end (albeit large for the growing Atlanta scene at 19,000 bottles a year).Recommended:
Downtown Atlanta may not be the booming heart of city charm (at the wrong time of night, the neighborhood can seem a bit dicey), but the locale offers plenty in the way of museums, sports events, and conferences. A stay at The Glenn Hotel, tagged Atlanta’s first boutique hotel, offers not only proximity to culture, but also a mod style of its own, with back-lit walls, bright red accents, H2O organic lotions and bath products, and breathtaking views from the SkyLounge rooftop bar. And if you are looking for a bite to eat before an early morning museum visit or flight, Chef Jason Lovell at Glenn's Kitchen will get your belly happily filled with his classic comfort favorites.
You could just as easily imagine Scarlett O'Hara (complete with hoop skirt) descending the steps of The Georgian Terrace Hotel as her modern day Southern Belle counterpart. This luxurious hotel pulls out all the stops when its comes to the sort of lavish furnishings the Old South was known for; the lobby greets you with plush silver couches, white marble columns, decadent distressed mirrors, and a sweeping atrium. The airy rooms lack some of that refined décor, but are polished and come complete with pillow-top mattresses and Gilchrist & Soames eco-friendly toiletries. Whether you’re a guest of the hotel or just stopping by to enjoy the lovely atrium, make sure you try Chef Zeb Stevenson’s contemporary American menu at Livingston Restaurant + Bar. And just across the street is the iconic Fox Theater, so The Georgian also has you prepped to enjoy some of the best theater and shows to grace Atlanta.
Spending the night at the InterContinental Buckhead is like staying the night at your friend’s vacation home—your well-to-do friend, who happens to summer off the coast of South Africa. The plush rooms are built up around the hunting décor of the hotel—deep, plush leather chairs, a spacious bamboo and marble lobby, and dark wood accents. But you won’t feel like you’re on a safari inside the airy rooms; the lighter-than-air beds, ultra deep tubs, and plush linens provide the picture of comfort. And don’t miss out on the edibles at Southern Art and Bourbon Bar. 2012 Atlanta Rising Star Chef Anthony Gray is a force to be reckoned with when it comes charcuterie and Southern delights, and the Bourbon Bar offers more than 70 varieties of stiff stuff to choose from.
The luxurious Loews Atlanta Hotel offers anything a traveler could need—whether it’s for a rushed business trip or a relaxing Southern vacation. Let go in one of the sprawling 414 guestrooms—complete with floor-to-ceiling windows, high-tech touches, and Bliss Spa toiletries. Work out in the airy gym; then break for a deep-tissue massage at the Exhale Spa. Chef de Cuisine Shayne Vaughn provides the hotel’s nurturing elements at eleven, with a farm-to-table menu of updated classic American fare. And if a short errand calls during your stay, the Loews staff is happy to whisk you anywhere (within a three-mile radius) compliments of their Infiniti transportation services.
The massive two-building Omni Hotel at the CNN Center harkens to Atlanta’s days as a convention center town—with 1,070 rooms, this downtown hotel is ready to hold the masses. But it’s as equally satisfying as it is large, with elegant, spacious rooms, skyline views, and ultra-luxe Molton Brown bath products. (Join the Select Guest program and receive complimentary WiFi and pressing, as well as morning beverage service at any Omni location) And while Chef Leslie Peat hails from England, his menu at the hotel’s Prime Meridian restaurant is full of Southern favorites, including cheesy grits and peach-topped French toast.
When Chef Ivan Candido took the reins of The Admiral from legend of the Asheville restaurant scene, Chef Elliot Moss, he was doing more than just taking over a kitchen—he ascended to the helm of a beloved institution. Candido, who is originally from Mexico City, is carrying on The Admiral’s tradition of creativity and also blurring the lines between casual and fine-dining food. Look for delicious treatments of duck, sweetbreads, and bone marrow.Recommended by: Justin Burdett
Brian Canipelli’s food is decadent and deliciously dirty, like the rock n’ roll music that inspires him. (His beef carpaccio, bone marrow béarnaise and puffed beef shin tendon was instigated by Led Zeppelin’s, “Achilles Last Stand.”) Canipelli’s gastronomic groove is drop-dead center between luxury and humility and his equilibrium of elegance and innovative edge characterizes the cuisine at Cucina24 in Asheville, North Carolina. It’s the only place in the world where you can get potato skin brodo, a technique that Canipelli invented that transforms the normally trashed peel into a singular treasure—especially when poured over a bowl of Vietnamese pho or springy gnocchi. Canipelli’s preternatural ability to marry the sublime with the scrappy, escorts your taste buds up the savory stairway to heaven.Recommended by: Justin Burdett