The Atlanta Foodie Guide to Delicious & Decadent Bites

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If you’re a foodie lover, you’re probably noticing that we’re doing more and more Foodie Guides in addition to our coverage of food/wine events and of course restaurant reviews. We try to curate an eclectic list of eateries, markets, cafes and upscale restaurants where you can find a blend of authentic and local, sustainable, organic and farm-to-table, and dive joints that serve dishes you’ll remember for weeks after your experience. We did an Atlanta Foodie Guide last year which largely focused on the lesser known Atlanta neighborhoods, at least if you’re a tourist who is new to exploring this southern American city. We covered Castleberry Hill, Five Points, Fairlie Poplar and Sweet Auburn, including Sweet Auburn Curb Market. Our focus last year was on Tasting the South, from Appalachia, Barbecue, Creole and Cajun to Gullah and Low Country Cuisine and one of our picks from last year is on this list.

I spent more time in Buckhead (also stayed there), this past Fall, so more of my discoveries are in this trendy chic more popular area of Altanta although I cover some other foodie gems as well, including the Buford  Highway Farmer’s market which is a bit of a drive out of town.

The Canoe

Located on Paces Ferry Road in Vinings along the banks of the Chattahoochee, The Canoe is supposedly one of the most acclaimed restaurants in the country. While I didn’t have an opportunity to visit it this time around, it’s on my “must-dine” list as I’m dying to taste any of Chef Matthew Brasford’s creations which has earned them a spot on the OpenTable’s Top 100 Best Restaurants in America list. Bravo!

They’re all about farm-to-table New American cuisine in an elegant garden setting that overlooks the river to boot. Imagine unusually creative but southern-influenced dishes, from fresh marinated Golden and Red Beet Salads with Whipped Goat’s Cheese and Candied Walnuts to Smoked Duck Pastrami and Endive Salad and a Quail Egg on the appetizer list to Peppercorn Crusted Kangaroo Loin for something a little different, which they serve with Onion & Olive Jam, Puff Pastry and Black Pepper Agrodolce.

Photo credit: twoforachew.com.

For more decadence, go for Beer Braised Pork Shank, Anon Mills Hominy and Root veggies,Sage Roasted Pheasant with Braised Leg Ragout and Truffle Whipped Parsnip,Grilled Atlantic Salmon, Butter Braised Potato, Asparagus in a Basil Pesto Butter, Pepper Corn Crusted ‘Block Island’ Swordfish,Gulf American Red Snapper, Grilled Duck Breast with Bourbon-Cherry Jus, Rainbow Trout with Spicy Crab Ravioli, Slow Roasted Rabbit with Sunchoke Bacon and Swiss Chard Ravioli or theirDuck N’ Beef Burger with an egg, spinach, pickled onions and Truffle Pommes Frites – wow, right?

The Mercury

We did a tour of the Ponce City Market, which has no shortage of great foodie delights, including a Biltong Bar (South Africans take note). There are countless restaurants worth trying at Ponce City Market that span across a few floors, however we liked the ambiance at The Mercury, so decided to have lunch there on our second day. This 60s-inspired American steaks and seafood-focused restaurant is also known for their cocktails sits in chic, mid-century-style digs. Delicious bites for lunch included smaller portion options like seafood chowder, French onion soup with Gruyere / Emmethaler, mixed salads, a Crab Louie, Crispy Brussels Sprouts, Tempura Avocado Fries (yum!), and a decadent Wagyu Beef Carpaccio. They also do cheeseburgers, an old fashioned BLT as well as more classics like Reuben, Club House and Fried fish sandwiches.

While we didn’t try their dinner entrees due to the time of day, their mains are decadent and as you can see, they don’t serve skimpy portions.

Their Moscow Mule with Vodka, Ginger Beer and Lime that my SITSUM colleague Chris from Pursuitist.com tried during lunch – delish! The ambiance is far from old world with its clean lines, concrete, trendy cocktail bar and high ceilings but makes a great venue for both millennials and business travelers alike.

Portofino

One of the things that makes Portofino so special is its location. Imagine authentic Italian dining in a rustic intimate former home but right in the center of chic and upscale Buckhead. Offering an extensive wine list as well, it’s a romantic, great for a couple’s night out spot, and its dishes are delicious to boot. Starters include more comfort style dishes like Butternut Squash Soup in a Mulled Wine Reduction, Veal and Ricotta Meatballs, Eggplant Lasagnette with goat cheese, Steamed Mussels in white wine and garlic or their Warm Goat Cheese with roasted mushrooms, white truffle oil and grilled Focaccia. There’s also lighter options such as Lily Crusted Tuna, Seared Octopus and plenty of salad options.

For mains, you’ll get excited by their Mushroom Ragu with Hen of the Woods and Oyster mushrooms, Roasted Red Pepper Radiatore,Black Spaghetti Vongole, Lamb Bolognese  with Rigatoni and their Seafood Brodetto with Tagliatelle, Clams, Mussels, Shrimp, Octopus and Lobster Brodo – can you say Divine?

Located at Paces Ferry Place (NW), this gem won’t disappoint Italian food lovers, especially those who want a romantic, old world ambiance.

The Cook House at the W Buckhead

I dined at the Cook House on my first night in Buckhead which worked out well given how late I got in. Still on west coast time, I decided to taste and offer to share with my neighbors next to me at the bar. Located at the W in Buckhead, it’s a nice late night spot as there’s also their top floor trendy bar which stays open till 2 am.  With a Butternut Squash and Ginger Soup on the menu, how could I say no? They serve it with curry roasted pumpkin seeds – it had a whole lotta wow!

They also offer fabulous salads as well, including a Kale Caesar Salad with crispy egg and parmesan, and Roasted Baby Beets with candied hazelnuts and lemon yoghurt. Below is my main choice: the roasted red snapper with Miso braised baby bok choy and Kimchee Vinaigrette. Also worth trying is Roasted Scallops with sweet pea puree and charred Honshimeji mushrooms, their Risotto with poached farm eggs and their crispy organic chicken with glazed baby carrots and lemongrass honey.
Their wine selection is quite extensive as well and their sweet menu is larger than I anticipated. Think butterscotch pudding with salted caramel, cinnamon doughnuts (I bet you didn’t expect that), Vanilla and Dark Chocolate creme brulee with crushed berries, Warm Blueberry cake with cappuccino ice cream and a Banana and Nutella Mousse cake with peanut butter ice cream. Wow, right?

Buford Highway Farmer’s Market

This incredible international farmer’s market is so worth making the trip. Located 40 or so minutes outside of Atlanta, you’ll need a car to get out there. There are 33+ aisles of cuisines from all over the world, from produce and meats to canned and boxed goods. Buford’s market offers unique and exotic produce, organic fruits and vegetables, and a diverse meat and seafood department. They offer a tour where you can learn about diverse types of authentic ingredients, traditional ethnic cuisine, and hard-to-find items.

It’s been around for over thirty years and has provided more ethnic food varieties under one roof than any other single-location grocery store in Atlanta, ranging from Korea, Mexico, Central and South America, the Caribbean, West Africa, Japan, China, Thailand, Vietnam, the Philippines, Eastern Europe and more.

You can really get creative about what you can buy here, from Pipicha and Epazote for Mexican dishes, Purslane (verdolaga) for Middle Eastern, Galangal and Lime Leaf for Thai and Curry Leaf for Indian are all available at the store. Browsing through the aisles or the produce section is a boat loada fun!

Del Frisco’s Grille

This sophisticated chophouse chain serves steak, seafood, sandwiches and cocktails in a trendy space in Atlanta’s bustling Buckhead neighborhood along Peachtree Road. Within walking distance to luxury shopping at Lenox Square Mall and Phipps Plaza, the Grille is a great stop after taking in the best of Buckhead. They have a double-decker patio, which has apparently become a huge plus with locals.

Some of the bites include cheese steak eggrolls with sweet and spicy chili sauce and honey mustard, Tuna Tartare with avocado and spicy citrus mayo (above), deviled eggs, fire roasted artichokes with meyer lemon vinaigrette and a parmesan-black pepper aioli, lollipop chicken wings with avocado ranch dressing, crabcakes with a Lobster cajun sauce, roasted corn bisque, and Asian Street Bao sliders with pickled daikon and carrot with cucumber, cilantro and chilies. Other choices include shrimp and grits with lobster sauce, chicken pot pie, Tso’s chicken, Baby Back ribs, fish and chips and a slow-roasted prime rib.

They also make a mean flatbread, with choices ranging from roasted tomato with mozzarella and basil, wild mushrooms and fresh fontina cheese with arugula and caramelized onions.

South City Kitchen

Located in the heart of Midtown Atlanta is South City Kitchen, a fun 1920’s bungalow restaurant nestled among the city’s modern skyscrapers. They’re all about Southern classics with a sophisticated spin — think fried chicken with garlic-sautéed collards, more contemporary dishes such as the Pan-seared Georgia Trout with Benton’s country ham butter, Collard Green Kimchi, and the Pork BBQ scallion hoecake topped with tangy BBQ sauce and horseradish slaw.The venue is on Crescent Avenue (NE) and it also boasts a cozy fireplace.  We were there for appetizers only but it’s also a fun place for dinner or just drinks.

Some of the options include She-Crab Soup, Local smoked trout crostini, Pimento cheese with B&B pickles, celery and benne seed crackers, Jumbo lump crab cake with pickled carrots and sunflower sprouts, roasted oysters with fennel cream, charred lemon and andouille crumble, Duck Confit with squash salad, charred cipolini and chili gastrique, Pickled Shrimp with shaved vegetables, pickled jalapenos, and watercress and a delicious Rabbit Liver Terrine with pickled vegetables, apple mostarda and grilled semolina. Also, they have fried green tomatoes with goat cheese, pan fried chicken livers with country ham and caramelized onions, pulled pork BBQ, shrimp and red mule grits, braised lamb with creamed spaghetti squash, Carolina trout with heirloom bean salad and hazelnut romesco and grilled pork chops.  

 

Kevin Rathbun Steak

This trendy, fun place is located along the Beltline in Inman Park, so you can stop by for drinks and appetizers after a lovely walk past murals, nature and take in all that it has to offer, from kids playing to cyclists. The inside is chic with brick walls and cool art and when the weather is warm, you can sit outside on their lovely patio which we did when I was there last month.  It has apparently been recognized as one of the top steakhouses in the states — I loved the ambiance inside….and out!!

Tasty bites and great wine is an added bonus, such as their Yaya Eggplant fries, Backed Escargot with parsley garlic butter and crispy shallots, Grilled Thick Cut Bacon with Sriracha-Molasses and their Coca-Cola Baby Back Pork Ribs (yes really). They serve those ribs with big green egg smoked and cabbage-scallion slaw, oh so southern style!
There’s also Asian style meatballs with mushroom soy glaze and scallions, Peace Mojo Rock Shrimp with guacamole, Sonoma Jack cheese-pecan fritters with red pepper jelly, Japanese BBQ Wagyu Short Ribs with pineapple Yakiniku Glaze and Miso Aioli, Roasted Bone Marrow with cranberry Grand Marnier Jam (YUM!!), Hudson Valley Foie Gras and Lobster fritters with a lemon zest honey mustard sauce. Unusually creative menu, right? We think so and the service was top notch as well, as we sipped dry Rose on the patio while sampling some of their bites, most of which will add a bit around your middle.
For lighter choices, go for the Ahi Tuna Poke, the Venison or Wagyu Carpaccio with Black Truffle and Sage Aioli, their Beef Tartar with onion crostini, any of their chilled seafood (crab, shrimp cocktail, oysters, lobster tail, salmon or Day Boat scallops with Panang Curry Butter and candied cashews. They also prepare a fabulous Heirloom tomato Gazpacho and have plenty of scrumptious salad offerings to choose from as well, including one of my favorites: beet and tossed greens.

ATLAS Buckhead

This elegant and upscale hotel restaurant on West Paces Ferry Road serves artfully plated American food made from seasonal ingredients. Menu tastes and plates includes a wild mushroom soup with leeks and chanterelle mushrooms, a young sprouts salad with Pea Shoots, Radish Sprouts, Parmesan, Housemade Buttermilk Ricotta, Dill and Toasted Sunflower Seeds, Truffle Potato Pierogi Dumplings with Slow-Braised Wagyu, Roasted Carrot, Crisped Parmesan and Herb-Roasted Mushrooms.

A little heavier but equally delicious is their Fettucine Alfredo withUGA Caviar, Créme Fraîche and Lemon Chive, Crispy Gulf Oysters with Panko, Pickled Peppers, Pepper Jelly, Avocado Mousse and Shishito, Lobster Boudin Blanc with a Warm Potato Salad, Green Apple, Dill, Celery Root and Potato Mousseline and a fresh Heirloom Tomato Salad with Honey Wheat Croutons, Mizuna, Coriander Salt, Field Peas, Woodsman and Wife Feta and Moore Farm’s Sweet Peppers. Oh so divine!

Photo credits: Zomato

Sweet Auburn Seafood

I went here last year and loved it so much it’s back on this year’s list. Located in a neighborhood I didn’t spend any time in on this trip — Sweet Auburn, they serve fabulous seafood, including more casual fare like Seafood Burgers, Lobster Macaroni and Cheese, and an Award Winning Shrimp and Grits. Owner Paul Williams is behind the restaurant and his values are rooted in the south, straight from the soil and lakes of Pine Bluff, Arkansas.

Classic appetizers include fried calamari, lamb racks, and kale salad with toasted quinoa, strawberries, gorgonzola cheese, raisins and candied walnuts (YUM!). They do have a classic gumbo on the menu although I didn’t have a chance to try it, crab soup with corn and spicy cream, clam chowder with clams and bacon, grilled steak and asparagus rolles and smoked turkey ribs with a mango BBQ glaze.

Fat Matt’s Rib Shack

Want a traditional Half Bird slathered in a tangy sauce? This very casual but authentic joint is all about ribs and of course great sides to accompany, like collard greens, pork and beans and corn bread. They also serve a mean pecan pie for the old fashioned pie lovers among you.
The reason to go here however is for their ribs, cooked southern style. They prepare slow cooked ribs every single day and they are oh so delish!
Located on Piedmont Road (NE), it’s worth a trip if you love southern style ribs. Serious rib lovers will truly appreciate the no-frills counter-service beer with nightly live blues music.

Busy Bee Cafe

While we’re talking about southern fare, you can’t miss this Atlanta favorite for soul food, which has been around since 1947 and is still in its location on MLK Drive. This is an area of Atlanta that at the time, was one of the few neighborhoods where blacks could open businesses. Bravo for it still being around and serving tasty soul food, from Chitlins and ham hocks to fried whiting, cornbread, fried chicken, meatloaf and more.
You can also get a variety of sides in traditional southern style to go along with a main like cubed steak, neck bones, chicken giblets and rice, turkey wings, liver and onions (my grandmother used to make that at least once a month and we didn’t grow up in the south). Think ground coleslaw, sliced tomatoes and onions, sweet taters, corn muffins, yeast rolls and seasonal veggies. Oh yeah, and desserts are equally delicious.

Baccanalia

This elegant romantic setting is a great place for a special evening out though old world it is not — think industrial elements throughout but decadent and chic upscale woven in. They offered a prix fixe menu for many years but now do a la carte. Organic and farm-to-table is their thing as Atlanta’s original farm-to-table, so think seasonal ingredients from nearby farms including the farm of the owners and chefs Anne Quatrano and Clifford Harrison — applause!
Located in Howell Mill Road in Atlanta, this upscale eatery will be a win among the healthy and conscious diners among you. From crab fritters, red shrimp, farm salads, foie gras and beef tartare as appetizers to red snapper, Maine lobster, Maple Leaf Duck with winter squash and apples, Farm Lamb with sweet potatoes and turnips and a Prime NY Strip with escarole, potato and garlic, it’s hard to go wrong with any choice. They also have a decadent caviar service (osetra, UGA siberian, whiteh sturgeon, hackleback and paddlefish) as well as oysters by the half shell from Prince Edward Island, Washington State, Maryland and New York (Great Whites). If you want to try something a little out of the ordinary, how about their Caviar and Popcorn and pair it with a lovely Henriot Champagne!
Desserts include a Caramel Apple souffle, chocolate cake with get this — olive oil ice cream (pair this delish choice with a Kopke 10 year old Tawny), cheesecake with pear, Red Walnut candied walnut with chocolate sorbet, a Coffee Semi-Freddo, a sweet potato churro with cardamom and maple and something they refer to as Muscadine, which is candied hazelnut and scuppernong!

Polaris

If you want a view, then old-time and well established Polaris is a great choice — it was Atlanta’s first rooftop restaurant and closed down for a remodel, opening back up in 2014. The views are breathtaking and the food doesn’t disappoint as well. They feature seasonable fare, including staples that locals love like coconut red curry vegetables and ricotta with red peppers and mushrooms in a garlic cream sauce – oh so yum!  They’re also known for their specialty cocktails as well, such as their Retro Peach Daiquiri.
Located along Peachtree Street (NE), they are one of the only restaurants in Atlanta with their very own Bee Garden, featuring more than 60,000 honey bees. Their rooftop garden also grows tomatoes, beans, peppers, herbs, flowers and other produce, all of which is served in the restaurant.
Appetizers include Bacon popcorn (how’s that for something truly different?), seared Colossal shrimp with garlic basil and bacon butter, a beet salad with goat cheese and candied walnuts, Parmesan and Chile Lime Dusted Baby Corn with Cilantro Chimichurri, and cheese and meat plates.
Entrees include a Fried Duck Confit with Hazelnut Crust served with butternut squash and bacon braised greens (oh so southern), a Black Berry Balsamic Lamb Chop with Garlic Truffle Fried potatoes and squash, Red Pepper and Spinach Linguini with sweet hot sausage, bacon and cracked black pepper, and Fresh pan seared Florida Pompano with fried red pepper polenta, fennel, radish and cucumber slaw. There’s also a steak oscar for the red meat lovers among you, which they serve with sauteed crab and asparagus with shitake sea salt and Bearnaise sauce. Their presentation is also beautiful again and again!
Be sure to read our last year’s Atlanta Foodie Guide for more suggestions on other restaurants and eateries in other neighborhoods.
Photos: professional food shots from the restaurants websites, other foodie shots taken on my iPhone and Canon 7D except where noted and Canoe Restaurant shot.
Renee Blodgett
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Renee Blodgett is the founder of We Blog the World. The site combines the magic of an online culture and travel magazine with a global blog network and has contributors from every continent in the world. Having lived in 10 countries and explored nearly 80, she is an avid traveler, and a lover, observer and participant in cultural diversity.

She is also the CEO and founder of Magic Sauce Media, a new media services consultancy focused on viral marketing, social media, branding, events and PR. For over 20 years, she has helped companies from 12 countries get traction in the market. Known for her global and organic approach to product and corporate launches, Renee practices what she pitches and as an active user of social media, she helps clients navigate digital waters from around the world. Renee has been blogging for over 16 years and regularly writes on her personal blog Down the Avenue, Huffington Post, BlogHer, We Blog the World and other sites. She was ranked #12 Social Media Influencer by Forbes Magazine and is listed as a new media influencer and game changer on various sites and books on the new media revolution. In 2013, she was listed as the 6th most influential woman in social media by Forbes Magazine on a Top 20 List.

Her passion for art, storytelling and photography led to the launch of Magic Sauce Photography, which is a visual extension of her writing, the result of which has led to producing six photo books: Galapagos Islands, London, South Africa, Rome, Urbanization and Ecuador.

Renee is also the co-founder of Traveling Geeks, an initiative that brings entrepreneurs, thought leaders, bloggers, creators, curators and influencers to other countries to share and learn from peers, governments, corporations, and the general public in order to educate, share, evaluate, and promote innovative technologies.
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