313 N Highland Ave., Inman Park
An Inman Park staple since 1999, this is the kind of classic Italian restaurant every neighborhood should have. The wine menu is Italian through-and-through, and their most famous dish is actually a dessert: a Belgian-chocolate soup. For the main course, opt for the pastas and risottos, each of which can be ordered in a half-size so you don’t have to pick between favorites.
3850 Roswell Rd., Buckhead
This is one of those places that immediately transports you somewhere else: in the case, Austin, Texas. In addition to the endless patio outside, there's a stage for live music inside, and the décor is wonderfully Texan, with a big star behind the bar and a classic longhorn mount. If you're there for drinks, get the guacamole, queso, and a Vampire Weekend, their house horchata cocktail. They also have a location in Cabbagetown.
3455 Peachtree Rd., Buckhead
The first thing you’ll love about St. Cecilia is the décor: The restaurant is set in a lofty three-story space with tall ceilings and wide windows, with a lengthy (and stunning) marble bar that spans the length of the room. Behind the bar, liquor bottles, wine, books, and artfully placed knick-knacks are stacked library-style on tall, mirror-backed shelves, which have the effect of making the entire space seem even larger than it is. The menu skews coastal European with French and Mediterranean influences; star dishes include wood-grilled octopus, cacio e pepe, and a whole-roasted branzino.
541 Edgewood Ave., Old Fourth Ward
One of the hottest restaurants to open in Atlanta in recent years, the idea for Staplehouse began in 2009 as a supper club run by the late chef Ryan Hidinger and his wife Jen. The couple initially played hosts to ten guests at their home every Sunday, and later, as many as two hundred came for a Labor Day backyard feast. Ryan, who was diagnosed with gallbladder cancer in 2012, passed away in 2014. A little less than two years later, Jen opened Staplehouse with her sister Kara and an incredibly talented chef, also named Ryan—last name Smith—and an outpouring of support (monetary and otherwise) from their community. The profits from the restaurant go to the nonprofit that the family established, called The Giving Kitchen, which helps Atlanta restaurant workers in the midst of unexpected crises. Make no mistake: This restaurant has an incredible story (which merits more space than it is getting here), and a wonderful family vibe. But served from any kitchen, the food here would deserve to be on any best-of-Atlanta list. Everything is meant to be shared, it’s all seasonal, and the dozen dinner dishes…
Sun In My Belly
2161 College Ave., Kirkwood
Sun in My Belly, a catering company that also operates a brunch/dinner café out of the Kirkwood neighborhood, specializes in exactly the kind of dishes you’d hope from the name: “The Hangover” features a housemade biscuit with cheddar cheese, sausage, fried egg, avocado, potatoes, plus sriracha. The MLT sandwich is mozzarella with basil pesto on country bread. There’s tuna nicoise salad and fried chicken with mac ‘n’ cheese and collard greens—and so on.
The General Muir
1540 Avenue Pl., Druid Hills
Don’t let the hip, glossy subway tiled interior fool you: as far as delis are concerned, The General Muir is the real deal. You can expect some seriously good matzoh ball soup, sandwiches featuring the pastrami they cure and smoke in-house, and fresh, hand-rolled and kettle boiled bagels with proper schmear options like scallion horseradish and dill caper. While it's open for breakfast, dinner, and weekend brunch (all from a full-service dining room), we recommend it for lunch—there’s a separate counter service area where you can grab a great sandwich, plus bagels, salads, and pastries. Bonus: there's an espresso bar with locally roasted coffee and a full bar.
3050 Peachtree Rd., Buckhead
Chef Fuyuhiko Ito’s Umi in Buckhead books weeks in advance—so plan a bit ahead for a dinner table here. The sushi is outstanding, as are the other carefully crafted Japanese dishes. The interior, done by ATL artist Todd Murphy, has cozy wood flooring matched by darker wood walls and sleek, minimalist tables and half-booths.
Watershed on Peachtree
1820 Peachtree Rd., Brookwood Hills
First opened in 1998 inside a converted gas station in downtown Decatur as a food and goods shop, Watershed is now an award-winning (and decidedly tonier) full-service restaurant in Atlanta’s historic Brookwood Hills neighborhood. What hasn’t changed, though, is the eatery’s farm-to-table ethos and commitment to fresh, progressive Southern food. Dinner options range from smoked pork loin with grits and bacon to poached jumbo scallops; Comfort food classics like mac ‘n’ cheese and cornbread don’t disappoint. They also have a pretty great bar, where you can order small bites like baby kale salad or cornmeal fried catfish. Note: their infamous fried chicken is on the lunch and dinner menus Wednesdays only.
935 Marietta St., West Midtown
The appeal of Le Fat, announced by a hanging neon sign on its exterior, has a lot to do with atmosphere. Taking cues from French colonial design, Le Fat is divided into two elegantly cool rooms: one a soft green hue, the walls illustrated with delicate magnolia trees. The bar in here feels like it could have been transported from a more tropical destination, a notion that goes hand in hand with Le Fat’s signature, summery cocktail list. Run by chef and Atlanta restaurateur Guy Wong, the Vietnamese-billed menu leans on Cantonese flavors, too. Come for date night (bonus: at a reasonable price).
3027 Bolling Way, Atlanta
An outpost of the longstanding uptown NYC French bistro (there’s also a Dallas location), Le Bilboquet is inside the retail center sometimes referred to here as The Shops Buckhead Atlanta. Come for the classics—moules-frites, beef tartare—served inside a bright dining room, and outside, on Le Bilboquet’s sidewalk patio, designed after a Parisian café.
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