Food Issue - Besha's top 5 special occasion restaurants

5) Livingston

Listen, this restaurant is just fun. Located in the newly remodeled Georgian Terrace hotel across the street from the Fox Theatre, it embodies a kind of retro glamour that's exactly what you want on a special occasion. You'll feel glamorous just for being there. The grand dining room and the lovely patio both beg for Champagne, and Gary Mennie's New American menu is just like the space – classic and timeless. 659 Peachtree St. 404-897-5000. www.livingstonatlanta.com.

4) Floataway Café

It's rare for a food critic to decide where they want to eat – usually you're eating for work. When the question arose last year of where I'd want to go for my birthday, I was stumped. But then it dawned on me: Floataway. Less formal and slightly more personal-feeling, this is the relaxed counterpoint to Bacchanalia's opulence. Simple, beautiful food, usually centered around one or two pristine ingredients, seals the deal. Floataway Café's perfect for a third date – the one where things get serious. 1123 Zonolite Road. 404-892-1414. www.starprovisions.com.

3) Aria

Walking into the bright, white room at Aria is a little like entering heaven – there's something about the place that just feels celestial. The service and wine, directed by Andres Loaiza (our pick for Best General Manager in this year's Best of Atlanta issue), are some of the city's best. And the clean, bold flavors from chef Gerry Klaskala provide pleasure in spades. It's ideal for an evening dedicated to romance. 490 E. Paces Ferry Road. 404-233-7673. www.aria-atl.com.

2) Bacchanalia

No other restaurant in town will get you more "special" points than Bacchanalia. I recommend it for a place to propose, a place to impress the in-laws, or any birthday or anniversary. Why? The room is gorgeous, the service is formal but friendly, and the food is thoughtfully composed and flawlessly executed. Sink back into the fat, plush banquettes and let yourself be pampered. 1198 Howell Mill Road. 404-365-0410. www.starprovisions.com.

1) Restaurant Eugene

There may be fancier restaurants, but I'd rather eat at Restaurant Eugene than anywhere else in Atlanta. The stunning small plates menu, which changes daily, is far more fun than any stodgy traditional menu in town. Everything about the place is special, from the inspired, modern Southern cooking to the knowledgeable service staff to the broad, eclectic wine list. And cheese! And fantastic cocktails! Eugene's also a smart pick if you can't spend a fortune but want to impress. It's possible to spend a load here, but if you share plates and drink wisely, it's relatively affordable. Which is amazing for the level of quality and the truly memorable dining experience Eugene delivers. 2277 Peachtree Road. 404-355-0321. www.restauranteugene.com.


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