Strengthening Atlanta’s reputation as a worldly city is Mediterranean restaurant Café Agora. As their website states, they “strive to serve you the best selection of Turkish, Greek, and Mediterranean” food, and their classic ethnic dishes are just that. You can enjoy entrées like gyros and kebabs, but there’s also falafel, Greek salad, and appetizers like oven roasted eggplant salad with mixed peppers, garlic, fresh herbs, lemon juice, and olive oil, and the old-school favorite of grape leaves stuffed with rice, spices, parsley, mint, pine nuts, and raisins. If you want to taste a little of everything, we suggest ordering the Mixed Maza Platter, which includes humus, eggplant salad, babaganoush, ezme, kisir, piyaz, and daily appetizer specials, and then the Agora Mixed Grill, comprising chicken and lamb shish kabob, adana kabob, kofta kabob, and beef and lamb gyros.
This fast-casual Mexican restaurant opened in 2000 to serve its patrons some of the best Southern, Mexican, and Southwestern dishes around, with the goal of providing quality ingredients at fast-food prices. The salsa trio is a fan favorite, while dishes like Sloppy José (sloppy joe, fresh jalapeño, Cheddar cheese, and Fritos) and The Bob (fried shrimp, crayfish, mayonnaise, and pickled jalapeños) are often found on the weekly specials list.
Tomo is the brainchild of Tokyo-born Tomo Naito, who honed his eye for quality while working as a seafood buyer and his sushi skills at the omakase station at Las Vegas’ Nobu, and you’d be hard-pressed to find a better place for sushi in Atlanta. The décor is sleek, as befits its location in ritzy Buckhead, and the Naito’s skills are on full display not only in the quality of the fish, but in the creative ingenuity behind his dishes, like usuzukuri: thinly sliced fluke dotted with hot sauce and ponzu jelly.
Atlanta-born executive chef Joshua Hopkins has a simple philosophy behind his craft: “cook good, local food.” At Empire State House, he serves guests refined yet unstuffy Southern fare that is in line with this ethos. You can get a hearty breakfast and enjoy the fried chicken biscuit sandwich with pimento cheese, bacon, and scrambled egg; lunch boasts plates like pork loin with sweet potato, sunchoke, chard, pecans, urfa, and maitake, and dinner dishes such as stuffed rabbit saddle Swiss chard and hominy purloo, apple, and chili. Their brunch has generated quite the buzz, too, with offerings like monkey bread made with olive oil brioche, maple syrup, pecans, and served with whipped cream.
Chef Linton Hopkin’s Holeman & Finch Public House is a must-taste while in Atlanta. The double cheeseburger is reason enough: Every night at 10 p.m. on the dot, 24 burgers emerge from the kitchen, and that’s it; even though they’re not listed on the menu, these burgers are often spoken for well in advance (they can be reserved at any point during service). Each double-patty burger of fresh-ground grass-fed chuck and brisket comes topped with American cheese, pickles, onions, and homemade ketchup, and is served on a toasted house-baked bun alongside fresh-cut fries. They also serve a killer brunch, offering a small but delicious selection comprising a seasonal salad, deviled eggs, a fried oyster po’boy, chicken liver pâté, and a crock of plantain hash with Benton’s bacon and a sunny side up egg.
Is there good seafood in land-locked Atlanta? You bet. Chef and owner of The Optimist, Ford Fry, lets the food speak for itself, with dishes like scallop in an apple-ginger broth with avocado and jalapeño; whole Georgia shrimp a la plancha with “sopping” toast, arbol chile butter, and lime, and duck fat-poached swordfish with pork belly, butternut squash, and sherry jus. Don’t forget the oyster bar, located off the main dining room of the restaurant, which serves a rotating list of more than 15 breeds of bivalves
If you’re looking for authentic Italian cuisine in Atlanta, look no further. The menu at Sotto Sotto focuses on the traditional flavors and culinary techniques from the old country, which are well complemented by the entirely Italian wine list. Enjoy staples such as pepata di cozze (mussels, lemon, olive oil, and Calabrese peppers); risotto ai funghi (Carnaroli rice, wild mushrooms, and Parmigiano-Reggiano); pappardelle al sugo d’anatra (fresh pappardelle in a braised duck ragu), and grouper acqua pazza (grouper with tomatoes, wine, garlic, pantelleria capers, pepperoncino, and wild oregano).
Located in up-and-coming Inman Park in a former Clorox factory, Kevin Rathbun Steak is part of an empire that also includes Rathbun’s and Krog Bar, all located on the same street. At his spacious, whimsically appointed steakhouse, Rathbun serves steakhouse classics like escargots, seafood towers, dry-aged porterhouse for two and three, a 22-ounce cowboy ribeye, and 16-ounce New York strips, but there’s also a wide selection of items that you don’t see on most steakhouse menus, like Coca-Cola baby back pork ribs, eggplant fries, lobster fritters, ahi tuna poke, and Asian-style meatballs. If you go twice, order whatever you like. But if you go once, get the steak; we’d recommend that cowboy ribeye.
Chef and restaurateur Gerry Klaskala opened Aria in Buckhead in 2000 to instant acclaim. As the restaurant’s Facebook page states, Klaskala is “adamant that dining out be one of life's joys,” and so he takes certain steps to ensure his guests’ experience is top-notch, like making full-time employment mandatory for the staff so that they are fully focused on all aspects of the food and service. Klaskala is also an art-lover, and his avant-garde plates of American cuisine reflect that; there’s crisped tempura octopus with roasted butternut squash, roasted peanuts, Fuji apple, mizuna frisée, and candied ginger vinaigrette; their signature butter-braised Maine lobster with broccoli mousseline and black true potatoes; and Southeast Family Farms pork loin and belly with micro Swiss chard, heirloom grains, sunflower seeds, and Dillwood Farms sweet potatoes. Make sure to save room for dessert, as pastry chef Kathryn King wows with dishes like warm chèvre cheesecake with ruby plum compote and softly whipped cream, and chocolate pear bread pudding with orange ice cream.
Part of the Star Provisions complex, Bacchanalia has long been one of Atlanta's premier fine-dining destinations. Executive chef David Carson and chef de cuisine Matthew Adolfi propose an elegant five-course menu for $85 (a comparative bargain), with suggested wines in two serving sizes. Start, for instance, with Georgia red shrimp with local Berkshire pork belly and local house-cured trout roe; then go on to Gulf crab fritter with Thai pepper, avocado, and Asian pear; followed by breast of duck with black trumpet mushrooms and sour cherry; then a cheese course of Jasper Hill Bayley Hayzen Blue from Vermont with pineapple, pears and Georgia pecans; and finish with an apple napoleon with cat's tongue cookies and caramel popcorn.