The Atlanta Dining Guide 2014!

As 2014 kicks off, I figured I would denote a few of my top picks in Atlanta.     This is perhaps loose, perhaps a little less structured, but should at least have a place or two to put on your short list.     Many of my clients are relocating to Atlanta, or are staying in one of my Corporate style, fully-furnished units that I either own or manage.   Thus, I figured this would be a great resource for them going forward.   Probably the best list that is continuously updated would likely be the Atlanta Magazine list.

That said, I like to have my own opinions on everything (Real Estate, dining and otherwise), thus why not compile it on here?     So here are my thoughts including my top picks, honorable mention, my “Overrated”, and my “Have yet to try” (but places that are on my short list)-


Bistro Niko: (Scene, Value) BUCKHEAD – More of a scene than anything, Bistro Niko is more of a Brasserie than a Bistro.    The fare is consistent.      The service is always quite good, even if there is only one truly French waiter in the place.   Champagne list and pricing are great here.    I often start with a cocktail or aperitif and progress to a bottle of bubbles for the meal.     The crowd is usually pretty good, and the Holiday feeling with the Poinsettias abound is always enjoyable.     The menu is very approachable, as are the staff.    As this space is about 4 years old now, it is not the scene that is used to be, but it still remains a central Buckhead location for either Dinner or Brunch.     For a destination of its size, and being something of a Brasserie in prime office space proximity, I am somewhat surprised that the bar space and scene is not larger.

Bebette’s Cafe: (Food) INMAN PARK – The food here is truly outstanding.  The wine list is extensive.   On the very Northern tip of Inman Park on Highland this space is small and intimate (they won’t seat you until you whole party is there) and the food is outstanding.   It is a bit of an older, sophisticated, downtown crowd.     When I first moved to Atlanta there was Joel Brasserie, which was truly upscale French and was very good.  That has since closed.  The only truly up-market French eatery in Atlanta that I am aware of is Nikolai’s Roof which I have yet to try.  Its downtown address is simply not practical (as a dining destination) as far as I am concerned.


Kevin Rathbun Steak: (Food, Scene,Value, Southern,Romance) INMAN PARK – Rathbun Steak is a cool contemporary Steakhouse with a thriving Bar Scene and a very industrial feel.    There have been many times, in many cities where I have seen the “Cool Contemporary Steakhouse” fail miserably.   Thankfully such is not the case here.    Much like a Peter Lueger or a Wolfgang’s style Steakhouse the cut of choice is the Porterhouse (Steak for 2 or 3).      With both the appetizers and sides Rathbun exersizes his Southern cooking swag that has put him on the map.    While I cannot put the steak itself right up there with my favs, it is good, and this coupled with a great service, a cool scene and great appetizers, sides and drinks brings this Inman Park institution to the forefront in Atlanta.     It is not as stuffy, as many of the Steakhouses in Buckhead that cater more towards business dinners are.

Chops Lobster Bar: (Food, Scene,Romance) BUCKHEAD – Just outside of venerable Buckhead landmarks like the St Regis Hotel, and the One Buckhead Plaza office building, Chops is a dining destination for both the moneyed Buckhead residents, as well as lavish, free-spending business diners.   The flash friend lobster tail and lump crab cakes hit the spot.      Their steaks are aged 48 days and they do a nice NY Strip.     It (like Bone’s) is an Atlanta Institution for Steak.

King+Duke: (Food, Scene, Value, Southern) BUCKHEAD – Chef Ford Fry who is behind a number of newest and most popular dining destinations around town opened King+Duke in the former Nava space late last summer.      The venerable beef-eating temple known as the Steakhouse has come a long way through the years.      From the dark,  white table cloth Men’s clubs which have come to embody American opulence to the many variations, the Steakhouse has always ruled king.       As tastes have changed, haute cuisine French steakhouses had their moment in the sun, along with ye-olde Italian Steakhouses, Asian-themed Steakhouses, and of course the more modern Steakhouse trend.    As of late, what is the latest and greatest?   The Chophouse!      The latest and greatest include: M Wells. Steakhouse in New York, Laurelhurst Market in Portland, and of course you guessed it King+Duke in Atlanta.

I am actually embarrassed to note that I have only been here once.   With its opening, I figured this to be just another to-cool-for-school Southern Style Restaurant.    While it is uniquely Southern, it is both upmarket, and very good.      This new breed of Steakhouse, as noted in the Wall Street Journal Article below focuses on themes like nose to tail cooking, varied game (not just beef), eclectic sides and more advanced drink options.  it is also much more female friendly.    Below is the link to the WSJ review.

Having only been here once, my experience with the menu is minimal.  That said, next time I go I intend to order the “Kilo Steak for 2″.  It is a prime New York Strip.    In addition to such large slabs of meat, there are other roasts, and mixed grills meant for 2-4 people in addition to more standard A La Cart options.      There is a lively bar scene, tremendous drink menu, and the prices are not outrageous by any means.     This is a must try if you have not been!

Honorable mention – Bone’s, Morton’s Steakhouse (both Buckhead and Downtown), Fogo De Chao, Capital Grill (usually not a fan, but Buckhead location is good)

Overrated  – The Palm (nothing like the NY experience, Fleming’s

Have yet to try (but need to)- Hal’s


Pricci: (Food, Scene,Romance) BUCKHEAD – This somewhat flashy establishment on Pharr Road down the way from the Eclipse condo has withstood the test of time, and remains one of the core Italian institutions around town.      That said, even with all the glam, the food lives up to the hype.  They often have many seasonal specialties on the menu and always maintain a monthly rotating regional three course menu highlighting the various styles of various regions.     I also like that Pricci will often integrate Southern components into the courses without over powering them and making them too Southern.   Indeed, it you are seeking a great mix of scene and food this is it.

La Grotta Ristorante: (Food, Value,Romance) BUCKHEAD – On the Northern end of Peachtree in Buckhead, as you head up the hill North of The Aramore, and South of say The Gallery building there are a vast assortment of older prestigious highrises condominiums.       The crowd in these buildings tends to, well lets just say, eat dinner a little earlier.     The go-to place for Italian within this Buckhead set is most certainly La Grotta.      La Grotta is almost hidden in the basement of a midrise Condo building at 2637 Peachtree Road NE.     As you step down to the Basement, you will notice a very comfortable and classy dining room and back bar.   The scene often has most gentlemen in jackets, and I have experienced a number of occasions where the waiters are Italian.    On the La Grotta website they note that they have been Atlanta Magazine’s top Italian 18 years running, and a AAA Diamond Award recipient for 20 years.     This surely should not just be kept for the locals in the neighborhood.   Be sure to try it.

Cucina Asellina: (Food, Value) MIDTOWN – Cucina, remains a great option in Midtown.   I have been here three times and have always been impressed with the quality of service and fare.      The pastas are handmade in house.   A number of times the executive chef, an Italian himself, has come out and talked Italian pasta and pizza.    Back in New York there was one of these in the Flatiron District, I think there is even on in London now.   I never had an opportunity to try it as there were always many great upmarket and more moderate (but outstanding) options to dine at.   Here in Midtown, Cucina offers an attractive, upscale atmosphere, and a relatively moderate price point for Midtown.     This is a great place to start for drinks and light bights with a group before making a night of it.

Honorable mention – Baronda

Overrated  – Sotto Sotto, Pasta Da Pulcinella

Have yet to try (but need to) - Boccalupo, Veni Vedi Veci


Iberian Pig: (Food, Scene) DECATUR – Iberian is the hands down best, if not ONLY option for authentic Tapas in Atlanta.    Although I have only been here once, I was impressed with everything we had.  On top of that, I also had the best “Old Fashion” I have had in the South.   The food is very authentic, and has a flair that other Tapas places (Eclipse Di Luna, Barcelona) in Atlanta simply lack.      The tables are a bit tight, but the crowd is very diverse and fun.    Quality, as is often the case, does not come cheap in terms of the small plates and drinks, but overall it is well worth the price.

Barcelona: (Scene, Romance) INMAN PARK – I enjoy Barcelona, as well as its crowd.  it is a solid go to spot to start a night, or chill out and have a few drinks and small bites.  The food is not ground breaking, but is always consistent.   I have enjoyed the potatoes bravas, wild salmon, grilled steak, empanadas, chorizo and figs, mixed meat plate, eggplant, ect.    Barcelona is a better chain out of Connecticut, think coolest place in town in New Haven, or Stamford.      It it in my opinion less about authentic Spanish fare, as it is cool scene.     Scene wise, dining in the bar area, or outside on the terrace is the way to go.    I have found the table service to always be quite good.   As for the drinks and bartenders, I don’t know it just seems like such a shit-show to get a drink or chair at the bar.   Then once i order a scotch on the rocks or a wine, the pour is rather weak.    I guess when you are a chain accustom to being the only game in town, that is just how it goes.    That said, I do appreciate that they have a very diverse wine list.    Their beer list, although limited, has nice options as well.      My top picks are the Choirzo and figs,eggplant, and Empanadas.    Although everything seems fairly reasonable in price, tabs do move up fast here.   You have been warned!


Tomo Japanese Restaurant (Food, Scene) BUCKHEAD – I had heard that this joint is the reigning Japanese establishment inside the perimeter now that MF has decomposed.     The restaurant is on the bottom floor of the Ritz Carleton Residences (one bedrooms start in the $430k range there) so I knew it should be pretty swanky.   I had read the reviews and had heard about how the chef had worked at Nobu.   I’ve been to a number of the mega style joints such as Megu, the original Nobu, Ono, and Morimoto.    Those in the know know that at a place like Nobu it is more known for their culinary creations as opposed to their sushi.      Looking at the menu of Tomo I suspect the same kind of experience here.

We opted for the sampler menu which offered a nice variety of starters, dishes, sushi and entrees.    The Black Cod Boston, much like as Nobu’s Black Miso Cod, was my favorite here.     Where as Nobu does more of a distinct Miso flavor, Tomo has a more subtle flavor but does a nice mix of textures layering it with roasted garlic and bib lettuce.   In every stage of the sampling menu presentation was paramount.    The Lamb Chop with Sansho was very good but the seasoning was more subdued than perhaps I would have liked.
The sushi sampler was a nice mix of basic rolls and simple parts of sushi.   To indulge ourselves we ordered the fresh wasabi root and I cried a few times!    In any case, yes it is spendy given the small portions here.   But that said, it actually is not that bad when compared to other upscale Japanese or Asian fare.    It is a nice place, and the sampler menu is a good way to try a number of things and enjoy an extended meal.   I am sure i will be back again sometime soon.

Have yet to try (but need to) - Umi, Miso Izakaya, Sushi House Hayakawa


The Optimist Fish Camp and Oyster Bar (Food, Scene) WEST MIDTOWN – This was Esquire Magazine Restaurant of the year for 2012.

It is a uniquely Southern Seafood Dining hall with a vast assortment of fresh seafood.   Everything from the Fresh fish, to the sides to the deserts focuses on Seafood from the all around the South.    It is both lowbrow and highbrow mixed together to form a unique menu of distinct flavors.    This remains one of the hottest and hippest places around town.

Oceanaire (Food, Service,Romance) MIDTOWN -The Oceanaire is a National Chain which has made its mark with fresh seafood, and top-notch, Steakhouse style service.     This Midtown location makes no exception.     Fresh daily flown in Seafood makes it way to diner’s plates in any variety of cooking methods.     There is a long, often underutilized bar, where I believe they still do various Happy Hour specials as well.      In Midtown, this is one of the best options for an upscale or romantic dinner in the red cozy booths.

Have yet to try (but need to) - Lure


Fox Bros. Bar-B-Q: (Food, Scene, Value) INMAN PARK – Fox Bros. is known to have the best Brisket around town.   You know why?   Because it is Texas style, not just a rendition, but rather, truly authentic Texas style Brisket.     After doing a few years in Dallas prior to coming to Atlanta, I was rather disappointed, no, I should say rather annoyed by the often fatty and steamed brisket which would often be passed on a plate in Atlanta.   People kept telling me to make it to Fox Bros. and so I finally did last year.   Amazing stuff.   I have had the Ribs, Brisket and the chili.   They keep it Lone-Star style with Shiner Bock on draft.     What’s not too like.   In the summer it is a nice patio, and almost a cool scene, or at least as cool as it can get get at a Bar-B-Q  joint!

D.B.A. Barbeque: (Food, Scene, Value) VIRGINIA HIGHLANDS – Matt the Owner and operator of D.B.A. runs a real fun joint.  Not only do they do some of the best Smoked Barbeque Products (think wings, chicken, turkey, and tenderloins), but they also have a feisty bar scene and GREAT beers on draft.     D.B.A. will often run various BBQ and drink promos for big games, and this is the kind of place that many of my fellow Midtowners wish we had.

Community Q BBQ: (Food, Value) DECATUR – This is great BBQ, I have tried the ribs, brisket and house made sausage along with collard greens.   My likes included, well priced fare, tax included in the price, quick service, and quick follow up by the food runners.      Both of which are levels of service above the call of duty for this level of establishment.     The ribs were awesome, with a nice rub on them.  They were perfect, and not too dry.   The brisket was moist.  I still prefer Texas style Brisket which is more smokey with more rings of flavor on the outside to show for it, but this was still very flavorful and they were cut in fairly thick slices.   The homemade sausage was awesome as well.     The sauce was what BBQ sauce is supposed to be.  Sweet and tangy.  they also had the vinegar variety on hard, and I tried that, but it is just not my bag.     Even the white bread accompanying the meats seemed more hearty then most BBQ joints and it was toasted with a nice amount of butter on it.  Loved it.

Heirloom Market BBQ: (Food) POWERS FERRY – Again this is great Texas stlye BBQ with a twist.   The Married team consists of a an American and a Korean born National.     Back in Korea she was like a Tiffany, or Debbie Gibson, with a couple of top pop songs in the 1980s.   If you speak to a Korean from Seoul who is around the age of 30-40 years old they will most surely know Lee Ji-yeon.   All that aside, and their BBQ speaks for itself.  I have tried their Brisket and Texas style Sausage and both were great.   Cobb County recently cracked down on them, so last I was there take-away was the only option.     My Law Attorney is right up the street so, this always makes for a convenient stop.

Have yet to try (but need to) -Fat Matt’s Rib Shack


Murphy’s Atlanta Restaurant (Food, Scene, Value) - Murphy’s seems as though it could fit it well with with the best of of Brunch establishments up North.    The food is very, very good, and very Hardy.    The bar is always humming with early (and late) brunch diners.  If I lived in the area I would for sure be here once a week for Brunch.  I took a banker buddy from New York here last year, and he said the same thing.   The brunch starts with a great bread basket equipped with usually some kind of set of muffins and some kind of biscuits or scones.     The service is good even is sometimes rushed since they are so busy.    get here before 11AM if you don’t want to wait any longer then 15 minutes.    As for what to eat, when they have it I love the Paprika Pork Chop.   The Crab Cakes and Corned Beef Hash are two of my other favorites.

















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