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100 Dishes to Eat in Atlanta

Restaurant Reviews

100 Dishes to Eat in Atlanta



As Atlanta’s bridges burn, highways buckle and history succumbs to the march of progress, it feels a bit like End Times are nigh (and don’t even get me started on politics). But through the fire and the brimstone, our city’s restaurant industry soldiers on. New concepts debut on a near-weekly basis, big-name local chefs expand and innovate, and promising newbies garner national praise. We’re simultaneously a burgeoning food city and a tight-knit community, and it shows.

Of course, we’ve lost some good ones along the way — shout out to craft cocktail bastion H. Harper Station, beloved Italian mainstay Alfredo’s and my personal tragedy the Yogurt Tap, to name just a few. At the same time, acclaimed intown chefs like Anthony Spina of O4W Pizza and Jay Swift of 4th and Swift and Noble Fin have followed the Braves northward to the ’burbs, becoming bigger fish in smaller ponds.

Some observers foretell of a nationwide restaurant bubble about to burst. Already razor-thin margins shrink further as operating costs rise and a surplus of restaurants — not to mention Trump’s immigration crackdown — creates a deficit in qualified servers and kitchen staff.

But for those of us who live to eat, it’s inarguably an exciting time to be in the A.

This year is my first overseeing Creative Loafing’s time-honored 100 Dishes issue, and I made a few executive decisions in my takeover. One was to abolish the “ethnic food” category. In this nation of immigrants, to classify food in such a way felt both dated and arbitrary. Who’s to say what qualifies as ethnic? What makes tteokbokki less American than spaghetti, and why? By eliminating these lines of division, we were able to better reflect our city’s notable uptick in outstanding international cuisine.

Another decision was to put a premium on geographical diversity. While many (most?) roundups of our city’s food never make it south of I-20, we journeyed to all corners of our fair perimeter and beyond, bringing back our most sweeping list yet of excellent eats. While there’s still a concentration in the northeast quadrant (from Old Fourth Ward to downtown Decatur to Buford Highway), you’ll also find gems in oft-overlooked neighborhoods like East Point, Avondale Estates and Panthersville. Check out our interactive map at the very bottom of this article for the full spread.

Is this list the end-all, be-all to great food in our city? Of course not. In an ever-changing culinary landscape, where palates vary across age, culture and personal preference, compiling such a list would be impossible. We expect and welcome your comments, complaints and additions. What I can say is this: Here are 100 seriously tasty dishes you can eat right here, right now.

— Hilary Cadigan, Food Editor

See dishes for the full list!

100 Dishes for 2017

A5 Wagyu Nigiri at Brush Sushi Izakaya

Available at Brush Sushi Izakaya
A slight change in knife angle can transform the texture and taste of sushi. In this bite-sized hedonistic experience, chef Jason Liang scores a sliver of well-marbled beef flown in from Miyajaki, Japan, torches it lightly, adds tiny bits of grated garlic and ancient Japanese sea salt and embellishes with briny UGA caviar. It melts away on the tongue as you close your eyes in ecstasy. Yes, ecstasy. $13. [click here for more]

Bacon Cheeseburger at Cast Iron

Available at Cast Iron
The menu changes with the seasons at this cozy O4W newbie, but chef Evan Cordes’ thick and juicy burger is a mainstay. A juicy seven-ounce patty of certified Angus beef comes smothered in melty Tillamook cheddar with thick strips of bacon, served on locally-made chili cornmeal bread with little bits of jalapeño mixed in. On the side is the “burger salad”: a delightfully greasy pile of seasonal veggies roasted in, mmm, leftover burger juice. $13. [click here for more]

Bar Steak at Kimball House

Available at Kimball House
It’s no wonder hanger steak was a cut butchers once saved only for themselves. In Decatur’s former train depot, pony up to the stunning bar, and look beyond the admittedly spectacular oyster selection for this steakhouse-worthy plate. Full of beefy flavor and richness, the meat is hickory-smoked, peppercorn-crusted and tender. The caramelized edges have those coveted charred bits; on the side sits a delicate circle of potato pave. $30. [click here for more]
steak    hangar steak   

Beignets at The Corner Grille

Available 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 squares of chewy, layered yeast flour pastry made from scratch and covered in a blizzard of powdered sugar. Eat them piping hot with a cup of coffee for the ultimate NOLA-inspired treat. Three for $4/six for $6. [click here for more]

Beltline Burrito at Sean’s Harvest Market

Available at Sean's Harvest Market
This is the kind of burrito that pleases your flesh-eater tagalong even though it’s vegan. A well crafted mix of black bean and corn salsa, quinoa, guacamole, black rice, shaved almonds, carrots, parmesan and arugula nestled in a tortilla is both a savory comfort and so fresh and so clean, clean. $8. [click here for more]
Vegetarian    Meatless    burrito   

Biltong and Cheese Board at Biltong Bar

Available at Biltong Bar
Move over, sad bowl of stale peanuts. South African-style, air-dried beef jerky (aka biltong) is a seriously superior drinking companion — salty, chewy, meaty and oh-so-satisfying. Resident mixologist Sean Gleason’s fanciful cocktails pair well with the bustling bar’s traditional sliced jerky and fleshy bits of droëwors (dried beef sausage). Upgrade it with a beautifully balanced selection of Sweet Grass Dairy’s triple cream brie, aged manchego, Mrs. Ball’s South African-style peach and apricot chutney, salty caperberries and sweet peppadews. $16. [click here for more]
appetizer    small plate    beef jerky    Sean Gleason    cocktails    droewors    brie    manchego    chutney    biltong   

Black Tonkotsu at Jinya Ramen Bar

Available at Jinya Ramen Bar
Slick and modern national chain it may be, but a bowl of Jinya’s tonkotsu holds a time-honored tradition. House-made noodles are springy. Toppings of earthy wood ear mushrooms, green onion, garlic chips, fried onion, oozy soy-marinated soft-boiled egg and brined and braised tender pork slices add ripples of flavor. But what it’s really about is the broth. The porky potage has an irresistible plushness, while drizzles of black garlic add charred nuttiness. $12.95. [click here for more]
soup    tonikotsu    Japanese Food   

Blondie and Milk at Eat Me Speak Me

Available at Eat Me Speak Me
Chef Jarrett Stieber has become known for his quirky menu descriptions (“naive fennel,” “Gnudi and the Blowfish,” etc.). But despite the many nicknames he’s given to his now-beloved blondie and milk over the years, from Milky Blaylock to Four Non Blondies, the words he uses to describe the dessert get right to the point: ecstasy, happiness, bliss. These tawny bars are seductively chewy and get a liberal sprinkling of flaky Maldon sea salt before baking. The combo gives each bite a hint of depth and refinement. But not too much: Stieber serves his blondies with straws and a ramekin of whiskey-spiked milk and blondie puree for some dippin’ and a-sippin.’ $5. [click here for more]

Blue Nile soup from KarbonStar Vitality

Available at Karbonstar Vitality Vegan Cafe
This latest addition to the West End’s thriving plant-based dining scene brings it strong with a rotating array of daily soups, salads, wraps, vegan pizzas and juices. Its Blue Nile is the truth: a hearty, creamy, peppery blend of coconut milk, veggies, beans and spices that packs a nutritional punch. In keeping with the traditional Rastafarian diet known as Ital, the soup (and everything else on the menu) is completely free from animal products, yeast, dairy and chemicals. $5 for 8 ounce/$8 for 16 ounce/$15 for 32 ounce. [click here for more]

Bocadillo Vegetariano at La Fonda Latina

Available at La Fonda Latina - Candler Park
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 it pushes the bocadillo experience to a wholly new level of excellence. $8.95. [click here for more]
sandwich    Vegetarian    Bocadillo   

Bocadillo Vegetariano at La Fonda Latina

Available at La Fonda Latina - Westside
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 it pushes the bocadillo experience to a wholly new level of excellence. $8.95. [click here for more]
sandwich    Vegetarian    Bocadillo   

Bocadillo Vegetariano at La Fonda Latina

Available 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 it pushes the bocadillo experience to a wholly new level of excellence. $8.95. [click here for more]
sandwich    Vegetarian    Bocadillo   

Bocadillo Vegetariano at La Fonda Latina

Available at La Fonda - North
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 it pushes the bocadillo experience to a wholly new level of excellence. $8.95. [click here for more]
sandwich    Vegetarian    Bocadillo   

Braised beef hand-pulled noodle soup at New Lan Zhou

Available at New Lan Zhou
Watching the chefs at New Lan Zhou in the Atlanta Chinatown Mall food court hand-pull dough into impossibly long stretches of noodle is a joy. Digging into the noodles moments later offers joy times two. There are plenty of variations on the house special, but the braised beef version is our current favorite — offering chunky cubes of meat and a rich stock to counter those chewy noodles. Slurp away. $8.50. [click here for more]

Braised Pork Belly at Dish Dive

Available at Dish Dive
This seriously decadent dish (you might want to share with a friend to avoid a heart attack) places a pillow of melt-in-your-mouth pork belly atop thick challah French toast dusted with cinnamon and powdered sugar, drizzled with sweet sorghum syrup and covered with seasonal fruit (right now it’s strawberries). A creamy pool of wild mushroom and leek grits comes on the side, for good measure. Is it breakfast? Dinner? An entrée? A dessert? Who cares — it’s delightful. $13. [click here for more]
pork belly    bacon   

Cadillac at Candler Park Market Deli

Available at Candler Park Market
Candler Park Market’s Deli Babes have been slinging some of Atlanta’s best sandwiches from their small counter in the back of this neighborhood one-stop shop for years, and when it comes to chicken salad sandwiches, the Cadillac is top-of-the-line. Just like its namesake, the Cadillac beats out similar models with its detailing: house-made dill pickles, sharp cheddar cheese and thick-cut bacon. Get it on sourdough bread, and thank us later. $8. [click here for more]

Capra Gia at Bacchanalia

Available at Bacchanalia
Newly relocated further west to a sprawling, glass and wood structure on Ellsworth Industrial, Atlanta’s grand dame of modern fine dining has returned to its prix fixe menu (a cool $95 a head for four courses) with an array of seasonally inspired, artfully arranged dishes. The third course is all cheese-based, and the Capra Gia is a true standout: puffs of local, artisanal goat cheese from a family farm in Carrollton, Georgia, served atop a downy little goat cheese pancake with dill, spring onion and three types of beets harvested from Star Provisions’ own Summerland Farm. Not priced individually. [click here for more]

Chengdu-style Dumplings in Red Oil at Good Luck Gourmet

Available at Good Luck Gourmet
Good luck finding better dumplings in town — Good Luck Gourmet has taken over the mantle from prior Buford Highway tenant Gu’s Dumplings, now at Krog Street Market. The red oil version of Good Luck’s Chengdu-style dumplings brings a generous pile of bright white pouches swimming in a rust-red chili oil base, sprinkled with green cilantro leaves and stems. The wrappers are hefty though still tender, and the pork hidden inside provides a funky punch that pulls together the mild dumpling dough and intense broth. Thanks to the Sichuan spice, your tongue will tingle after every bite. $8. [click here for more]

Chicharron Taco at Las Quekas de la Abuela

Available at Las Quekas De La Abuela
A new spot tucked away in the back corner of the Plaza Fiesta food court on Buford Highway, Las Quekas’ name is Spanish slang for “grandma’s quesadillas” (and that’s accurate; they serve bomb quesadillas, and there’s a real grandma in charge). But the tacos are where it’s at. Our favorite? The chicarrones — crispy fried pork rinds stewed in salsa on a freshly made masa corn tortilla with chopped onions and cilantro. Mix and match to make a meal. $2.50. [click here for more]

Chicken and Dumplings at Watershed

Available at Watershed
What appears as a simple, familiar dish quickly becomes soulful with one bite. Veteran chef Zeb Stevenson braises whole pastured birds and slow simmers his stock for richness. The thick broth — with strips of tender chicken, carrots, celery, parsley and thyme — is comfort illustrated, with a modern twist. Dumplings are steamed to order so they remain fluffy when the dish hits the table. $16.75. [click here for more]

Chicken Liver Ravioli at BoccaLupo

Available at BoccaLupo
Freshly made pasta is rolled thin into small parcels with creamy chicken liver tucked inside. The result is surprisingly light, covered in a mirepoix of seasonal vegetables and legumes. Sometimes it’s pink-eyed peas and green tomatoes, their sour notes rounding out the gentle richness of the liver. Often, the almost sweet bundles are accentuated with seasonal flowers and herbs. Accompany with a tangy dry white like a sauvignon blanc to further the perfection. $18. [click here for more]
pasta    ravioli    chicken liver   

Chicken Liver Tart at Staplehouse

Available at Staplehouse
It is a striking work of art against a white plate. A crisp tart shell 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. $12. [click here for more]
appetizer    small plate    liver    mousse    pretty food   

Chicken Salad Sandwich at Las Brasas

Available 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. $10. [click here for more]

Chili Slaw Dog at Brandi’s World Famous Hot Dogs

Available at Brandi's World Famous Hot Dogs
Line up alongside throngs of regulars at Brandi’s to wait your turn, then order up some chili slaw dogs — three if you’re merely hungry, four or five if you’re making the most of that trip to upper Marietta. These dogs are unadulterated old-time Southern goodness, with the spicy chili kicking in a wicked burn balanced out by crisp, sweet slaw. The neon red of the dog itself may startle you — all the more reason to have several and let the shock sink in. $2.15 each. [click here for more]
hot dog    slaw dog   

Chocolate-Coffee Mousse at Poor Hendrix

Available at Poor Hendrix
The owner and executive chef at this new East Lake gem is five-time James Beard-nominated pastry chef Aaron Russell. And while Russell whips up a mean selection of small plates and entrees, his desserts still shine the brightest. The creamy chocolate-coffee mousse — served in a cute glass jar under a thick layer of piquant bourbon caramel sauce and topped with crunchy puffed rice for texture — is pure bliss. $5. [click here for more]