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Food: Volume 2

The Food Guide: Volume 2

August marked the start of my 10th year in Atlanta, Georgia. My first 3-4 years were arguably a waste in the context of visiting places (still remember being blown away when I first ventured into Decatur), but I wanted to revisit my Food Guide now that I have frequented many locations around Atlanta and found the pockets that I really love. Before I had structured the guide from cheap to expensive, but this time I will break it down by neighborhoods, since I think that better represents Atlanta. Disclaimer, I also love beer so some of these may be bias to the beer world. I explicitly won't be mentioning breweries or bars because this would just get insanely long, but hit up Hop City, and check out every brewery in town. I particularly have been loving the atmosphere at Atlanta Brewing Co. so go check them out!

Knight Park, Blandtown, Home Park, Howell Mill from 17th to Northside:

Coffee:

  1. Firelight Coffee Roasters: Tucked away from the madness and buried in the back of the Strongbox West complex lies this coffee roaster. With hours that are impossible to hit for most, Firelight is serving some of the best coffee in Atlanta. Freshly roasted and straight to your tastebuds. Amazing location to work at if you're a freelancer, or have a day off and want to relax. Sadly, their hours are 9AM - 1:30PM from Monday to Friday.
  2. Brash: Last I heard, Brash gets their coffee from Firelight, so there's no going wrong here. Serving out of a repurposed metal container, they are serving some spectacular fresh coffee that is hard to beat. The space is quite small but I've never had trouble finding a place to sit and crank out some quick work, love it.
  3. Of course there are a few other places to hit, including Urban Grind, Octane and Revelator, but these were my recent favorites.
Food:
It's tough to categorize food in this area since it is filled to the brim with restaurants, but i'll do an overview of the different locations with some price points and highlights of what I like.
  1. Souper Jenny ($): A hidden gem that feels like home. I love this place. The perfect soups and dishes in a no-frills location with colorful decor. These is a locally owned spot (they have 4!) that sits atop this (somewhat unordered haha) list simply because of its authenticity.
  2. Better Half ($$$): Hands-down my favorite place in Atlanta. Make a reservation and request to sit at the bar. Get the tasting menu and have the chef's prepare each dish right before your eyes. If you love cooking, this is heaven. Ask away, the chefs are all incredibly friendly and happy to answer questions and make small-talk with you. What Zach and Cristina started here is to me the best combination of fine-dining and an authentic personable experience. The menu is always changing (rumor has it they keep changing a dish until its perfect and then its retired), and always a welcoming surprise.
  3. Antico ($$): I mean, you can't go wrong with Antico's. This is delicious, unbeatable Napoli-style (thin-crust) brick oven pizza. Personally pair any of them with a Peroni, and throw some extra peppers (they have a jar in the back hall where you can grab more) on each slice to really bring up the heat. Always love it.
  4. Pijiu Belly ($$): A great Korean spot on the Westside that seems to miss some of the hectic peak-hour crowds. They have a nice small outdoors and a great bar inside. Get some bulgogi or pork belly, you won't be disappointed.
  5. Marcel ($$$$): Very high end steak house. Will not disappoint on a special evening, but it will hit your wallet pretty good. One of the many great selections of Chef Ford Fry.
  6. The Optimist ($$$$): High end seafood, probably some of the best seafood in town but at a steep cost. If you're a huge fan of seafood i'd definitely hit it up but if you can live without it and prefer seafood near the coast, I wouldn't make this a must-do, this is another Ford Fry restaurant.
  7. Wagaya ($$): Wagaya surprised me with its extensive Japanese beer list, but I came for the sashimi. I can throw back sashimi like crazy so its easy to rack up a hefty bill here but the quality of their fish is expectedly on point. 
  8. Le Fat ($$): Admittedly I haven't been to Le Fat yet but I have only heard amazing things. It's high up on the list, and I felt the need to include it given that you don't see a lot of Vietnamese cuisine in the neighborhood.
  9. Eight Sushi Lounge ($$$): Last but not least I have to throw in Eight Sushi Lounge because of the reviews I've heard for some of the best sushi in town.
  10. Agavero ($): If you want to eat good Mexican on the cheap, this is the place to go. They have insanely cheap tacos, a great atmosphere (both outdoors and in) and delicious food. It's a good place for a quick cheap meal.
  11. Bacchanalia ($$$$$): One of those things you do once. It may not be worth the cost for some, it may be the best restaurant for others. Check it out, if its a truly special occasion, its definitely worth considering. It's new American fare.

Atlanta University Center, Penelope Neighbors

Food:
I don't spend a lot of time west of Downtown, outside of biking through Joseph E Lowery, but this one spot has arguably the best fried chicken in Atlanta, so it deserves a category. This is for you Busy Bee. You can check out Monday Night Garage south of here, the area is quickly developing to be what Edgewood became.

  1. Busy Bee Cafe ($): Fried Green Tomatoes, Mac & Cheese, and fried chicken. You get your sides, you get your chicken, no frills, no bs, just fantastic food. The atmosphere is fantastic, you feel at home and leave wanting more. The epitome of Atlanta Soul Food.
  2. Unity Restaurant ($): Someone recommended me this spot at some point, and I have yet to go, its a bit down I-20 West from Busy Bee, and seems to be the place to go for waffle and biscuits. Need to check it out.

Oakland, Cabbagetown, Reynoldstown and Glenwood Park (for Gunshow):

Food:
This area has changed dramatically in the 10 years I have been in Atlanta. If you want to have a chill afternoon, eat at any of these places and check out the Oakland Cemetery. Make your way down to Grant Park too. Some of these neighborhoods are still a unsafe, especially at night, but worth checking out.

  1. Noni's ($$): This is an Italian spot like no other. It transitions from a restaurant to a great bar seamlessly, but either way you come here for pasta. If you're not in the mood, get one of their sandwiches, I wish I could recall specific dishes but in the 2-3 times I've been, it was always delicious. Also, check out their Comedy Open Mic Night on Tuesdays, pretty hit or miss, but worth the try.
  2. Daddy D'z BBQ Joynt ($): Atlanta has plenty of BBQ, and this one ranks up there. Get any barbecue classic with your mac & cheese, once again one of those no-frills spots serving up quality food.
  3. Nick's Food To Go ($): Another place I have yet to visit but it makes the list because of raving reviews from friends who say this is the go-to place for Greek food. Will have to hit it up sometime soon because it is walking distance from one of my favorite bars in town.
  4. Augustines ($): Augustine's makes it on here because in addition to their extensive tap list, they have some surprisingly good bar food. Get the blue pig burger. It's personally a favorite. 
  5. Mi Barrio Mexican Restaurant ($): Another highly raved about spot that I haven't checked out because Atlanta has so much to do. I've heard from countless friends that this is truly authentic Mexican cuisine so definitely go check this out.
  6. Home grown GA Restaurant ($): COMFY CHICKEN? Only the best thing you could eat for breakfast. This diner has some fascinating art on display to go with their delicious diner food. Could not recommend this enough, one of my favorite spots for breakfast in Atlanta.
  7. Gunshow ($$$): This is a unique take on a fancy establishment. I love Gunshow because it doesn't just offer new American fare and upcharge for molecular gastronomy or some nonsense. Gunshow chefs bring the dish they cooked to your table and offer it if you'd like it -- on the spot. The drink cart rolls around table by table (they label the whole ordeal Dim-Sum style but don't expect Cantonese cuisine) and make drinks for you. If you're going to splurge, this is worth a bit more than others for their novelty factor. Haven't been in a few years but I recall loving the experience. 

Old Fourth Ward (south of Freedom Parkway), Inman Park:

Lived in this neighborhood for some time and it is easily my favorite area to be in. So many places in a small spot, its quickly becoming unnecessarily expensive as many great places become, but it still retains its charm. There's a lot here. I'm going to miss a lot of cool spots too.

Food:

  1. Lottafrutta ($): There isn't a better Cuban sandwich in town. Although Papi's serves some authentic Cuban food, this spot specializes in only their sandwiches and smoothies. That's all they serve. It's nestled in a neighborhood, and I assume they live upstairs or in the house adjacent to their cafe, but its the perfect spot to stop by when biking or walking around this area. Hours are a bit short (12-5pm Tue-Sun) so plan ahead. 
  2. Krog Street Market ($$-$$$): I won't go through the restaurants and spots here since they seem to change every now and then but hit this place up. Get some beers from Hop City Bar and walk around and see what you like. There's ice cream, chocolate, and more! If you stop by Fred's, get the Cheesesteak and some garlic fries. It's phenomenal.
  3. The Rathbuns ($$$$): Kevin Rathbun is another famous chef in town, whose restaurants usually brand his name in some way. They've got Rathbun's, Kevin Rathbun Steak, and Krog Bar all within these neighborhoods (and then KR Steakbar up in Peachtree Hills)
  4. Staplehouse ($$$): The story behind Staplehouse has its roots deep in the changes that life can bring upon a family, and how friends come together in times of need. Read more here, and check them out. *Reservations only.
  5. Julianna's Coffee & Crepes ($): Hungarian Crepes. Like, tell me Atlanta doesn't have any type of cuisine. Heck, we've probably got it all within a mile stretch in Buford. However, this spot is a lovely family-run crepe bar, with a savory and sweet selection, I highly recommend checking them out. Arguably a better alternative than eating at Krog Street, save some cash and splurge here (or Lottafrutta). Way better.
  6. BeetleCat ($$$): This is another spot from Chef Ford Fry. I haven't hit up BeetleCat for some oysters but I've heard great things and heard their cocktails are on point. I'm not a huge fan of how many restaurants he has in town -- generally prefer the smaller family-run joints, but most of his restaurants tend to deliver in quality (St. Cecilia being the only one where I didn't quite get what they were doing).
  7. Victory Sandwich Bar ($): I've always loved the sandwiches at Victory. They're the perfect sandwich to enjoy after a bike ride, with a refreshing beer. Call me bias, but you gotta get the Castro. I recommend getting 2 sandwiches (they're like 4 bucks a pop). Love how cheap the spot is, incredible value. 
Coffee:
Since I lived in this neighborhood, I had to have a go-to coffee spot.
  1. Condesa Coffee: I mean, if you serve beer too, how can it not be my #1 spot? Haha, Condesa has some great espresso's and has both indoor and outdoor seating to enjoy. I think its the only spot in this plaza that survives, the restaurant spot in the corner seems to fluctuate somewhat often.

Little Five Points:

Food:
Given that L5P is home to the best beer establishments in town, it's hard to do the rest of the place justice. After all, if i'm biking by here, how can I not stop by The Porter? How can I not stay there for 12 hours? Yeah, beats me.

  1. The Porter Beer Bar ($$): The Porter recently celebrated 10 years in Atlanta. It's like we grew up in town together ;). Haha, but all jokes aside they have the most extensive beer list in the city. They cellar bottles for *years* at the proper temperatures to see how they age. Their bartenders are experts at what they do, and their bar food rivals any great restaurant in town. Get their pretzel, or be a plain jane -- it doesn't matter, this place is in my top 1. Disclaimer I love beer.
  2. Hattie B's Hot Chicken ($$): I tried going here last weekend but the lines led me across the street to Wrecking Bar. Although I haven't checked it out this place has sustained lines out their door for weeks now, because hot chicken is all the rage. Atlanta is all about some great chicken, we're all self proclaimed connoisseurs of the best spots, so if it has a line, I believe the hype. 
  3. Wrecking Bar Brewpub ($$): The story behind Wrecking Bar is just fascinating. What used to be an abandoned Victorian mansion became the best brewpub in the city. The reason you cannot compete with Wrecking Bar is likely their history. Read Austin Ray's piece on them (he writes every major piece about Atlanta beer). I recommend every beer they have. The octopus is one of my favorites, and the sauces that come with their wreck fries are out of this world. 
  4. Fox Bros. Bar-B-Q ($$): Another great BBQ spot a bit outside of L5P is Fox Bros. Their menu is well designed for you to try what you want, but I have to recommend the brisket. They have some outdoor seating that is dog friendly, but its just a handful of tables.
  5. Brewhouse Cafe ($): This gets a shoutout purely for soccer. This is one of the best spots to watch the matches, highly recommended for its atmosphere.
  6. The Vortex ($$): The Vortex is a local classic for its burgers. Highly recommended to go to the L5P spot. Great vibe, 21+.

East Atlanta Village:

Food:
I've only recently been hitting up EAV but Carley-Beth frequents this area much more than I do so these were some of her top spots:

  1. Gaja Korean Bar ($-$$): You have to love ATL diversity. This modern Korean spot in the EAV serves some great dumplings, kimchi, and most importantly some of the best bulgogi in town. Prices are fairly reasonable, and the cocktail list always has some neat stuff (they serve Motor Oil out of a keg, which I thought was always pretty neat).
  2. Octopus Bar ($$): I don't think I've ever had octopus here, because the ramen is so good. Walking distance from Gaja, this spot has equally great bulgogi. If oysters are your thing, throw them in. It's a bar in a bar, but don't hear it from me, here it from Bourdain himself.
  3. Argosy ($$): Argosy is a great late night spot for wood-fire pizza. The location itself has a bar out back that is also great to hang out in for a more quiet atmosphere since the main bar can get pretty rowdy. 
  4. Emerald City Bagel ($): Bagels are a bit more rare to find in Atlanta, especially if you roll in from NYC, but this spot is likely one of the best in town. I have yet to go, but it was recommended enough to make the list.

Virginia Highland, Midtown, Poncey-Highlands:

Food:
I feel like I've stepped away from most Midtown places in the past few years because they've upped their prices but there are plenty of gems here.

  1. Papi's Cuban & Carribean Grill ($): The best spot for traditional Cuban food. I feel right at home when I get my dish of rice & beans with a side of meat. They run specials so I generally pick whatever is running but the shredded beef is my favorite.
  2. Takorea ($): Korean tacos, need I say more? I personally like their original location in Underwood Hills (Hankook) but serving a highly overlapped menu, Takorea is a spectacular spot for unique tacos. The KFC is to die for, and the Portobello taco was also delightful.
  3. Cypress Street Pint & Plate ($): Cypress is an amazing bar in Midtown. It has a great outdoor patio, some delicious burgers and fries (they have a donut-bun burger that will likely induce a heart attack), and a great beer selection.
  4. Rreal Tacos ($): The focus here is on authenticity and they tend to nail it. They make their tacos in-house, which truly distinguishes them from other spots, highly recommend getting some tacos here.
  5. Sweet Auburn BBQ ($$): More BBQ! I personally don't have BBQ enough to recommend one spot over another, but Sweet Auburn likely wins it for me. 
  6. Fellini's Pizza ($): I love Fellini's Pizza. Get it by the slice or a whole pie, Fellini's has a few locations around town, some of which offer outdoor seating, and they're all stellar.
  7. Majestic Diner ($): The best place to hit up when you're hungover or looking for an authentic diner breakfast. Coffee flows freely, as in any proper diner.
  8. The Bookhouse Pub ($$): Love this place. It's pretty small and tucked away, but this bar boasts some great fried chicken (hmm..), and a great selection of beer. 
  9. Hotel Clermont ($$-$$$): The Clermont recently remodeled their entire hotel and now they feature a fantastic rooftop bar with a French-American restaurant that is still finding its place. Went by as they were opening and it was decent, but I can't say I'm dying to go back. I think the rooftop bar has a great view and is a great place to grab a drink before or after dinner.
  10. Ponce City Market ($$$): Basically Krog Street Market with multiple floors. The rooftop is fantastic but this is all highly overpriced and in my opinion rarely worth it in value. Cool to walk around, but not a huge fan.

Morningside - Lenox Park, Ardmore, Piedmont Heights, Lindridge - Martin Manor, Peachtree Hills, Emory University:

Food:
I lived in Lindbergh at one point and it was a very different scene, a lot less walkable (car heavy) but with some unique spots.

  1. Grindhouse Killer Burgers ($): These burgers are spectacular. Atlanta has too many burger spots but Grindhouse is near the top of the list. Get some shakes to go with it and come watch some absurd movie classics or play some trivia (Dirty South trivia). They've been opening other spots as well but I loved hitting this one up.
  2. Fat Matt's Rib Shack ($$): Should this be #1 for BBQ? Oh man, this spot features a slightly different vibe, still the classic no-frills BBQ but often with live music. Every time I biked by here you could smell the ribs from far away, definitely get some and whatever sides you fancy. It's quality.
  3. Varuni Napoli ($$): Another Napoli-style pizza shop in town (like Anticos) with a more relaxed outdoor vibe out back. I really like this place for a more quiet night and pizza that is just as good.
  4. KR Steakbar ($$$): See above for the Rathbuns. Went once and it was great but also its too steep of a price tag.
  5. Georgia Grille ($$$): Across from Holeman and Finch and Restaurant Eugene (both stellar restaurants in their own right), Georgia Grille (inspired by Georgia O'Keefe) wins out because of its enchanting atmosphere. Let the margaritas flow. I haven't been back in a few years but their lobster enchilada was spectacular (or that's what I said when I reviewed it in 2014 haha, my memory would never remember).
  6. The General Muir ($$): The best NY Jewish deli in town. Another place to get your NY bagel fix, or at least something that tries to come close to it. The name is after the boat which the owners ancestors who survived the Holocaust to New York. I love a good story, and even better if it comes with stellar food. This is one of those. See more here.
  7. R Thomas' Deluxe Grill ($): Only go like between 2am and 7am. This 24-hour spot is like stepping into an alternate universe. Walk in in the middle of the night for some surprisingly healthy, organic, cuisine. Trends aside they serve some delicious breakfast, and they never close. They've been open for decades.
Coffee:
Always gotta have it.
  1. East Pole Coffee Co: I actually haven't been here yet but they're a roaster tucked away in this neighborhood that I've always wanted to check out. 

Cross Creek, Underwood Hills, Riverside (for B's):

I fit in a few neighborhoods here that pretty much fill in everything north of the Westside and west of Buckhead

Food:
Although breweries are the go-to in this part of town, there are some great food spots if you ever need to eat instead of drinking beer. Atlanta Brewing Company has been revamping themselves as of recent, with Second Self and Scofflaw right around the corner. 

  1. Hankook Taqueria ($): The original Takorea. Always a new must-get special taco, but to me the best thing here is their Kimchi Fries. This is next-level fries. It's a dish of its own. If you get tacos with this, prepare to roll out of the establishment. The record number of tacos has long been 20, but I believe in you. You got this.
  2. Nuevo Laredo Cantina ($): Great Mexican spot down the street from Hankook. Worth the trip, some of the best Mexican in this part of town.
  3. B's Cracklin' Barbecue ($$): Alright maybe we love our barbecue as we love our chicken. I have yet to go to B's, but many people have recommended it to me so it's on the ever-growing list of go-to places.
  4. Westside Pizza ($): We found this spot kind of at random, it's across the street from a new Publix / plaza that's growing in this up and coming neighborhood, and its fantastic. This is the type of place you become a regular at. Only downside is you have to cross Marietta to get there, so if you live nearby, you basically have to run across a highway to make it.

Decatur, Oakhurst:

I don't spend enough time in Decatur to properly have this updated but these are a few places I've visited.

Food:

  1. Brickstore Pub ($$): Great place for bar food and beers. Huge fan of this spot, but I live too far away to frequent it enough.
  2. Mac McGee's Irish Pub ($$): Yesss! Best spot for Irish whisky. I'm talking single malt scotch flights, rye offerings, easily the best selection for any and everything Irish. Get some fish & chips too.
  3. Chai Pani Decatur ($$): Chai Pani focuses on Indian street food in a modern setting. This is a must-go in Decatur, particularly if you're tired of the usual Atlanta offerings.
  4. Kimball House ($$$): Love the cocktails here. Try to make a reservation, they're generally fairly packed so its worth calling in if its a special occasion. 
  5. Iberian Pig ($$$): This is a great place for an American take on tapas. It doesn't come close to cuisine in Spain, but they have some authentic dishes on their menu. I'm torn about including them because I'm not 100% on it being worth the price. Definitely delectable however.
  6. Steinbecks Restaurant ($): Love this little neighborhood in Oakhurst, and this bar has an amazing vibe. Only recently visited for the first time, need to go back.
Coffee:
  1. Java Monkey ($): Great place for coffee, they often have awesome events, hit them up for some spoken word.
  2. Kavarna ($): Had a great espresso here, great place to come work in a quiet environment.

Chamblee, Doraville:

You could spend days talking about the food in Buford Highway, it's extensive. I'm just going to mention a handful that may get overlooked, but i'm missing a list as long as this one.

Food:
  1. Canton House Chinese Restaurant ($): This spot is my go-to for dim sum. It's hard to come by authentic dim sum in Atlanta, but many places down Buford try. Out of what I've tried this stands out, one of the few places that brings the food in carts and you get to pick as you desire. Love it.
  2. Chong Qing Hot Pot + Chinatown ($): This is SO good. It's a little hard to order at times since most things are in Mandarin, but get some hot pot out in this Chinatown food court. Enjoy the folks playing Go in the plaza and roam around the Chinese supermarket. Love this entire area.
  3. Au Rendez-Vous Bistro ($$): This is a hidden gem. Au Rendez- Vous is legitimately a no-frills French establishment! Out of a house, this place serves authentic french classics, you simply cannot compete. Last I went it was BYOB, so, do as you're told.
  4. Buford Highway Farmers Market ($): Also, while you're out here, buy some groceries, nothing beats the BH Farmer's Market.
I think that covers most areas decently :).

Oh right, Buckhead is not worth it. Cheers.

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