Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Update: Merideth's Favorite Places in Atlanta

This is an update to a previous post from last year. I haven't changed my mind about my love for some old favorites, but I have discovered some new places I would love to share. I have starred the updated for 2011! There is no guarantee here that you will like my restaurants, or that I indeed have what you would call a sophisticated palate, but here you go.

Favorite All Time Restaurant: Still winning from last year! Sotto Sotto. I choose this little Italian restaurant every time I can for dates, birthdays and special occasions. I was there last week and tried a winter special pasta on the menu, it was an amazing. I typically have a hard time resisting the Tortelli di Michelangelo. This pasta was similar, it ravioli like shape stuffed with sausage and apples drenched in a brown butter sauce with crispy sage leaves. I highly recommend a visit here any time.

Favorite Italian: Sotto Sotto
Second Place: Almalfi (OTP) located off Atlanta Rd. near Roswell Square, this family style Italian place is a hidden out of the way gem.

Favorite Mexican: Nuevo Laredo Cantina- I don't think you can graduate from Georgia Tech and not learn to love this place. Their salsa is perfect, the brisket is amazing, and they have a delicious mole sauce.
***Honorable Mention: Eduardos Mexican Grill- This little place located in a Kroger shopping center of Lavista has some of the best Mexican chicken soup and tamales I have eaten in Atlanta. They serve fresh large portions of some traditional Mexican favorites. Although they are targeting a suburban American audience, I am consistently pleased with the food here.

Favorite ethnic: ***Desta Ethiopian Kitchen- is located off Briarcliff Rd. near Clairmont. This out of the way restaurant stands out among the 4 others in the same shopping center area. The food here is fresh and flavorful. My favorite is the Fish Tips with shiro.
***Second Place: Panahar Bangladeshi Cuisine- they are always friendly and the food has a rich combination of herbs and spices that stand out differently from Indian cuisine.
***Third Place: Mezza- This location offers a traditional restaurant or the lounge where you can eat on cushions and experience the entertainment of belly dancers. The food here is Lebanese/ Mediterranean. Each dish was distinct and flavorful.
*** Runners Up (and a little further off Buf. Hwy.) Pho 24- This staple for great Pho has been around. The newer location on Rockbridge Rd. in Norcross/ Tucker makes it more accessible to the masses.
Havana Cuban- This is a local legend. They have been around since the 1970's and are a great spot for a casual lunch or a hearty Cuban dinner. The empanadas and the Cuban sandwiches are amazing.

Favorite Breakfast/ Brunch: Babette's Cafe I can't pass up the tenderloin Benedict on fresh bread with amazing Hollandaise sauce, or the french toast which is to die for.
***Second Place: Murphy's in Virgina Highland. This place does everything well, but its breakfast has always won my heart. The chilaquiles here of all places are fabulous and I cant go wrong with the Eggs Virgina Highland.  The crowd gets large after 10 am so come early or spend your time browsing for great wine while you wait.
*** Third Place: The Flying Biscuit Cafe-Some may argue they are not as good since they went chain, but I still love some love cakes, and you cant beat the biscuits at the Candler Park location.

Favorite Southern Food: The Farmhouse at Serenbe Making a small trip south of Atlanta is well worth it for authentic and flavorful southern food in a picturesque setting.
Second Place: Horseradish Grill or Murphys These Atlanta staples still hold a place in my heart for my favorite southern food done well and with a gourmet twist. The BBQ appetizer and fried okra at HRG and the pork shank and meatloaf at Murphys take my vote, and you can't beat either for their amazing desserts.

***Favorite Sandwiches: Sawicki's Meat Seafood and More in Decatur- this is a great shop for meat, fresh cheese and other gourmet provisions. They have the most amazing sandwiches including fantastic chicken salad and a roast pork sandwich that I dream about. Also check out their information on monthly farm to table dinners.
Second Place: Cafe Lily (grilled cheese, lunch menu only) Bar none, the best grilled cheese in Atlanta. Perfect in Fall with the tomato basil soup!
***Third Place- Maison Robert in Chamblee offers up a very small selection of very well done sandwiches on fresh bread with great cheeses. My favorite is the ham and brie on baguette. Definitely have some macarons or chocolate after your meal, and pop in next door to Le Caveau wine shop to take some wine for later.

Favorite Romantic Date: Amuse- great French food, but this one swings south toward Provence. Amuse is a cute tiny house with a great menu and cozy charm. This special little place is tiny, cozy and has a fabulous French menu.
***Second Place: 4th and Swift continues to hold strong in Atlanta's restaurant battle. This restaurant does a great job of turning what could be another noisy warehouse style space into something a little more cozy and intimate. The dinner menu and wine list hold their own against the others in this category, but often without the hustle and bustle of some other spots.

Favorite Casual Date Night: Young Augustines This is my new favorite hang out on Memorial Drive. They have amazing gourmet pub style food with an inventive beer menu as well as bocce ball courts!
Second Place: Iberian Pig If you haven't tried this place on Decatur Square yet, you need to. This Spanish style restaurant is the only place in Atlanta to serve Iberico pork. Their menu is a mix of tapas, flatbreads, and main entrees. They also have a great wine and cocktail list.

Favorite First Date: Rathbuns I know John Kessler thinks they may be stretching themselves thin, but this place is consistently one of my favorite places to eat in Atlanta. Kevin Rathbun and friends know how to cook! The atmosphere is nice, and the food delicious. Be sure to try to ask for one of the booths along the wall. They are great fro cuddling and for people watching, plus the main floor tends to be noisy.
Second Place: Float Away Cafe near Virgina Highlands is an out of the way romantic location. While it is not as intimidating or as expensive as its sister Baccanaillia, it delivers a great menu full of well made dishes. On a recent visit last month I enjoyed the sweet potato gnocchi with walnuts and kale and for dessert an apple cobbler.

Favorite Steak: Kevin Rathbun Steak This place knows how to do steak, and you pay for it! Its pricey, but mouthwatering good. The atmosphere is a modern masculine with dark woods and mood lighting. The food is out of this world. For a girl who loves steak and has eaten at some of the best places in Manhattan, this is still my favorite place to indulge in red meat!
Second Place: Bones The Atlanta boys club standard. I first went here in high school and was impressed with the professional waiters with crumbers! This place is an institution. They know how to cook steaks and cater to the business crowd.

Favorite Cocktail:  H. Harper Station. I have written previous posts about why I love the great cocktails here!
***Second Place:Holman and Finch I followed Greg Best from his days as bartender (mixologist) at Restaurant Eugene to H&F. This more laid back restaurant lets his interest in experimental food and meats shine. They are famous for the cocktail list and the late night burgers.
***Third Place: Ecco (elderflower gin martini) and Leon's Ecco is known for its wine list and its great food, but I swoon for the Elderflower Martini. It actually won an award from Bombay Gin for best cocktail. Ask the bartender to see the bedazzled gin bottle trophy!

Favorite Burger [not from a burger dedicated joint]: Although Atlanta is currently full of places dedicated to burgers, I have to go with the one at Abittoir. I have written this one up in the past and I keep going back and bypassing the whole wonderful menu for this burger! Made of pork, it is the perfect blend of flavor and juiciness.
Second Place: Highland Tap In the dark basement bar of Highland Tap lives one of Atlanta's best burgers. Sirloin burger made old school with your choice of toppings and some killer onion rings to boot.
***Runner Up: George's in VAHiglands is an old school dive, but the burgers are great and the onion rings are the perfect complement!

Favorite Tacos: El Taco Veloz- Although this is a chain located here in Atlanta, these places put out amazing fresh tacos with authentic Mexican flavors. Top is off with a cool and sweet horchata to beat the heat of the special peppers and sauce.
***Second Place: Hankook Taqueria- While there tacos are more Korean than Mexican, they pack a punch of flavor. I recommend the fried green tomato that comes with pimento cheese or the more traditional pork served with Korean BBQ sauce. Try the sesame fries as well.
Runner up: Taquiera del Sol If you are willing to wait in line, then you can experience some of the most creative taco flavors in Atlanta. They may not be traditional but they are good. A margarita or two helps to pass the time in line.

Favorite Pizza: Antico Pizza Nepolitano With their ingredients, chef, and even the ovens imported from Naples Italy you can't beet Antico for authentic Italian style pizza. Take your own wine and eat in the kitchen where you can watch the chefs in action. Save room for the cannoli.
Second Place: Fritti- A sister to Sotto Sotto Fritti offers an authentic thin crust selection of pizzas with one of the best Italian wine lists in Atlanta.

Favorite BBQ: Fox Brothers Located on Dekalb Ave. this BBQ establishment was a newcomer to Atlanta and is holding their own against some stiff competition. I recommend the pork, and the Tomminator tater tots covered in Brunswick stew covered in cheese. The fried pickles are also addictive.
Second Place: Harolds BBQ - So old school they don't have a website. They are located at 171 McDonough Blvd SE Atlanta. Best Brunswick Stew in Atlanta. If you want to eat lunch with the guys from the Capitol pull up a seat here. They are in a bad location, with an old interior and little parking, yet always full. I think this speaks volumes about their food!

Favorite Thai: Surin of Thailand- A long time favorite of mine, seems to be less crowded these days which is fine with me. My favorite here is the Pad Prik King.
Second Place Northlake Thai- A sister to Eurasia Bistro in Decatur, this one is out of the way and located in a Kroger shopping center, but its worth the drive and a try. They have Panang Curry nailed!
***Honorable Mention: Little Bangkok Amidst the random mix that is Cheshire Bridge comes this unassuming restaurant. The food her is delicious and incredibly fresh. The interior is a little less nice and very crowded but the food never disappoints.

By Neighborhood
  • Midtown: Ecco, Top Flr, Tierra
  • Decatur: Iberian Pig, Cafe Lily, 246, Sawicki's
  • Inman Park: Sotto Sotto, Rathbuns, Victory Sandwich, Barcelona Bar
  • East Atlanta/ Grant Park/ Cabbagetown: Holy Taco, Young Augustines, The Earl, H. Harper Station
  • Buckhead: Horseradish Grill, Grand China (sorry don't head that way much)
  • Westside: Bocado, Abbitoir, JCT, Nuevo Laredo, Miller Union
  • Virgina Highlands: Alon's Bakery, Murphys, Float Away Cafe

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