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Atlanta Suggestions Please

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Going to Atlanta for the Fourth of July weekend and wanted some ChowHound advice for the best breakfast/lunch/dinner/snack spots. Also any not-to-be-missed destinations or activities...

Thanks a bunch!
Lisa

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  1. I used to live in Atlanta for 7 years, and ate my way through the city. Here are some of my favorite places:

    The best restaurant in the city: Bachanalia. Inventive new-american (whatever that means) cusine in a nice townhouse. Ann Quatro and her partner run a tight ship, and the service is impeccable. They have a phenomenal tasting menu (look for the blue crab fritters and wonderful foie gras, as well as the cheese cart). Besides Bouley (the old Bouley), I have had my best meals of my life at Bachanalia.

    Dining Room at the Ritz-Carlton in Buckhead (not downtown) - Very fancy, elegant and expensive. Serious food with serious prices, but worth it. Used to be overseen by Gunther Seeger, who is the most highly regarded chef in Atlanta. He moved on to a new restaurant (I have not been there and don't know the name, but knowing Gunther, you should definitely try it). I have only been to the Dining Room when Gunther was the chef, so I can't vouch for the place now, but knowing the RC, it is likely still very good.

    Flying Biscuit - a fantastic, funky mostly breakfast place around Candler Park. You MUST go for breakfast. Get a real southern breakfast here, with some of the best biscuits (a great spicky apple jam) in the south. It is a very "earthy" place, reminds me of places in the Haight-Ashbury in SF, but the food is excellent. Very solid non-breakfast food as well, but I wouldn't waste a dinner there if you will only be visiting for a few days.

    Indigo Coastal Grill - a Key West type fish restaurant in what I consider the best and one of the few true neighborhoods in Atlanta - Virginia Highlands. It is a wonderful, tree-lined neighborhood to walk around with great bars and restaurants. Very fresh seafood and well executed. Laid back and very fun. They don't take reservations, but put your name on the list and sit outside with a kick ass margarita. Also a good brunch.

    Fat Matt's Rib Shack - Nothing fancy, just good ribs and live blues. You wait in line standing for you order and then try to find a seat. Simple menu - ribs, pulled pork sandwiches, chicken, brunswick stew and white bread to sop up the juices. Hot fresh peanuts to keep you satiated while you wait.

    Aleck's BBQ - Probably a bit better in terms of ribs and BBQ than Fat Matt's, but no live blues.

    Java Jive - Another great, very cheap breakfast place on Ponce de Leon. Great pancakes, coffee and omlettes. Simple but good.

    Vortex - Two locations, one downtown and one in Little Five Points, which is the crunchy, groovy area that one finds in every city. Best burgers in Atlanta and a great patio to watch the "Show" in the Five Points location.

    The Varsity - I'm sure you have heard of it - Atlanta's famous fast food place. Try it just so you can say you did.

    Fellini's - They have a few locations, but the one on Ponce de Leon has a great patio on the roof. This is considered Atlanta's best pizza, but I never really got it. It is good for the region, but I wouldn't be searching out pizza places in Atlanta. But if you must . . .

    Alon's - a great bakery in Virginia Highlands that has fantastic sandwiches. If you want to just grab a sandwich for a picnic, this is the place to go. Try the thinly sliced lamb sandwich with purple onion "relish" or the chicken pesto on country french. Truly excellent. Also great baked goodies.

    Highland Bread Company (I think that is the name) - another bakery in Va. Highlands. Sandwiches are not as good as Alons, but they make this fantastic grape foccacia(sp?). Sounds weird, but trust me. Also great baked goods.

    Surin - Good thai in Va. Highlands. Not the best Thai in the world, but a really nice, not super fancy restaurant in a great area.

    Canoe - Absolutely stunning location on the Chat. river. Very inventive and well executed food (usually). Sit outside if the weather permits. This is a must visit, if simply for the gorgeous scenery.

    Zocalo - funky, top-notch mexican place in Midtown. Best Mexican in the city.

    Highland Tap - very cool, dark subterannean place in Va. Highlands. Great place for steak (I consider their filet to be one of the best in the city) and Martini's (THE BEST in the city). Also, great carpaccio. Hopping bar scene.

    South City Kitchen - Innventive southern food in a beautiful open townhouse. Located in midtown, right next to Martini Club, which is also located in a wonderful townhouse, with interesting little sitting rooms and a great patio. Very loungy and cool.

    Krispy Kreme - many locations throughout the South before it became the instantly hip NY place to go.

    Bars:
    Dark Horse has great bands and lively bar scene. Va. Highlands.

    Neighboors - huge patio. Great place for pitchers of beer and cheese fries. Va. Highlands.

    Moe's and Joe's - been there forever. A lot of character and you must meet the waiter Horace.

    Manuel's - the big politico hang-out. Great wings and burgers.

    Taco-Mac - Some of the best wings in the city and great beer selection. Va. Higlands.

    Righteous Room - Some of the best bar food in the city. Great, but odd bar scene, and a weird location on Ponce (basically in a parking lot).

    Claremont Lounge - An absolute MUST. One of my favorite places in the city, but be warned the place is very, very odd. They have strippers, but the place is not a strip joint. They have dancing, but it is not a club. A mix of college students, vietnam vets, businessmen, Micheal Stipe and others. Go late night on Saturday. Girls dance naked there, but nobody pays attention, there is too much else going on in. You have to go to understand.

    Goldfinger - very loungy, ultra hip buckhead bar.

    If you want to go out dancing and drinking (not necessarily in that order) and don't mind a lot of drunk lound young men and women, then check out Buckhead. It is like Mardi Gras (except not quite as much fun).

    My fingers are tired and I cannot continue typing, but if I think of anywhere else, I will send a follow up. Have a great time.

    5 Replies
    1. re: Alex

      Hi Lisa,

      Sorry for the delay in posting. Hope the trip's still
      on for Atlanta. Lots of good eating down here. Here's
      some 2nd opinions on Alex & Bruce picks, and then my
      favorite. I got my first 'lanta leads right here on
      chowhound, so I'm happy to reciprocate.

      Let's see, Murphy's: I must admit I've never heard of
      it. But I just asked a food friend who confirmed it is
      wonderful. Guess we'll have to trust 'em.

      Flying Biscuit Cafe: I've had one breafast there. It
      really is good. From what we sampled, the best is the
      oatmeal pancakes, next the eggs with asparagus and
      biscuits. Don't bother with the French Toast.

      Bachanalia: I've eaten here twice (4 yrs ago when they
      first opened) and just a month ago. neither meal left
      me raving. I honestly can't understand why all the fuss
      over this place. It's a prix fix only menu (though they
      will let you order a la carte if you wish). Some dishes
      live up to the hype, others are so-so. and in our
      recent visit, one of our dishes was actually horrible!
      A filet mignon not cooked to order served with the most
      tasteless Yukon Gold cubes that had zero presentation.
      We sent it back and received another entree and double
      dessert. But still, I just can't recommend the place.
      The service was ultra slow for a Thurs night too. I
      think this might be one of those kitchens where if you
      don't get the first string chefs, forget it.

      Dining Room at the Ritz-Carlton in Buckhead: I haven't
      eaten here since the Seeger chef was cooking. Heard
      there's a new male Frenchie but I happened to be in the
      hotel 2 weekends ago and the dining room on a Friday
      night looked empty. Seeger has his own place now called
      Seeger's. Reviews say it is very good. but the
      outrageous prices ($80 a person maybe? just for the
      food) have kept me away.

      I haven't been to Fat Matt's, but Aleck's...oh my, what
      a dive. It's wonderful! (Thanks Jonathan!) I went on a
      monday night at 10PM. the place was practically closed.
      I saw a $20 bubble grill out front on the sidewalk by
      the screen door. I have no idea if they cook on that
      grill but the cue is delicious. What sauce! I had the
      pulled pork sandwich with collards. Great combo. All
      those green vitamins make up for the gristle! This
      place is in an out of the way part of town. Martin
      Luther King Blvd by the black colleges area. If you're
      into it, I highly recommend it.

      Vortex - haven't been there yet. But I agree with Alex,
      the Righteous Room on Ponce de Lean has great bar food
      if you don't mind the bar smoke. I like the veggie
      burger. Nice neighborhood place.

      I still like the Heaping Bowl that I mentioned in my
      earlier post. Another good place in that part of town,
      East Altanta, is Burrito Art. The gourmet burritos that
      you order at the counter are pricey ($6-7) but make a
      good quick bite. Edible Art next door to Heaping Bowl
      is also good, I hear their veal pot roast is the dish
      to order. All the food/atmosphere in this part of town
      is very casual/funky.

      South City Kitchen - very friendly staff, upbeat
      atmosphere and gourmet southern food. Don't order the
      fried green tomatoes but you MUST order the crab cakes
      on the dinner menu (not the lunch menu) that come with
      a addicting grainy dijon mustard sauce. The have a nice
      bar so you can go late at night just for the crab
      cakes.

      ok now for my favorite Atlanta restaurant...do you like
      sushi? If so, you must go to Soto's on Piedmont Road in
      a shopping plaza next to Kroger's grocery store. They
      are open till 12:30AM on the weekends. Their sushi is
      ultra fresh. And they serve lots of unique non sushi
      dishes. I'm no expert in Japanese food. but here's the
      samplings I've had and loved:
      - smoked scallops still raw, sliced very thin with a
      red marinade sauce-- Sorry, no idea what this sauce was
      made from. Don't miss it.
      - Round crab balls, they might call them dumplings.
      Made with what looked like anglehair pasta rolled into
      golf ball shapes. Served cold. delicious!
      - Soba noodles served cold with a bowl of cold tea; and
      chopped scallions and raw quail eggs as condiments.
      Weird but wonderful.
      Be sure to try the inside-out roll with salmon, tuna,
      fried crab and avocado. And sit at the sushi bar if
      possible.

      If you like Thai, Thai Chili on Briarcliff Rd and
      LaVista (near Emory) is very good. I'm a fan of their
      red curry with chicken. and they do a good Pad Thai and
      something similar called Pad See U.

      Sorry I haven't any others to recommend. Soleil (in
      Buckhead) is very good for casual french food, but they
      don't do desserts. I tried these places recently but
      they weren't up to snuff: Nava, Veni Vidi Vici
      (something like that).

      Oh and I don't think you'll like Brasserie de Coze in
      the shopping mall. Too suburban, just doesn't work.

      And Canoe that Alex mentioned does have a wonderful
      atmosphere. And the food is well above average. My only
      complaint is the prententious staff. Nothing like Danny
      Meyer's crew.

      To help work up an appetite between meals, walk around
      Piedmont Park (warning: huge race on going on Saturday
      around 10-noonish). Also the Atlanta History Center has
      a beautiful garden and exhibits. Let me know if you
      need any other tips, museums, etc.

      Janet

      1. re: Janet Traub
        j
        jonathan gold

        Good list! But you can't leave Atlanta without
        trying Mary Mac's pot likker, the musky,
        moss-colored leavings at the bottom of the greens
        pot, well-lubricated with fatback, which goes
        so well with cornbread that you may suspect the
        devil had something to do with it.

        The fried chicken and country ham are fine, but
        that pot likker...! (228 Ponce de Leon Dr., NE)

        1. re: jonathan gold

          Ok Jonathon, *I* am going to Mary Mac's soon! Never had
          a pot likker; but your insistance tells me it's time to
          try it.

          I have one more addition to my recent list. I solved
          the mystery of why Bacchanalia wasn't up to snuff a
          month ago. The female chef, Anne Q, has opened a new
          place called Floataway Cafe. It's located off of
          Briarcliff Rd (few blocks from Thai Chili). It opened
          6 weeks ago and the bartender last night told me Anne's
          been cooking here at the new place.

          I had a full meal at the bar since I had no reserv and
          it was a full house. Excellent 2 beet salad with Coach
          Farm cheeses ($6). Tasty beet juice marinade with a
          hint of horseradish. Fabulous pork chop ($18). Cut from
          a standing rib pork roast. ultra moist, tender chop
          served over kale and a few roasted tomatoes in a pool
          of the roast's juices. all was great except for those
          tomatoes which were ok--nothing really wrong with them,
          but their flavor didn't harmonize too well with the
          meat and greens.

          for dessert I had a very good raspberry tart that had
          the raspberries cooked in the tart shell in a brown
          butter filling. excellent crust and fruit/filling. it
          could have had a bit more berries than filling, but it
          was still very tasty. only bad thing was the vanilla
          ice milk served with it. however, it was what it said--
          ice milk, ewe! I forgot how bad that is. else I would
          have asked for real whip cream when I ordered it. but
          luckily they still brought me out some when I found I
          couldn't eat the ice milk.

          The decor in this restaurant is more like a NY dining
          interior than most places down here (too many shopping
          malls). reminded me of City Bakery. see a full review
          of Floataway on this web site:
          http://winedine.cln.com/city.asp
          select Atlanta, and then type Floataway Cafe in the
          search box. I didn't read this review b4 I went, and
          most of the dishes the reviewer liked looked very good
          n (squid, steak).

          Also, the reviewer mentions the atmosphere is very
          loud. It seems on par with NY noise levels. I didn't
          think it was too bad. but if you go early I'm sure it
          won't be.

          So I add Floataway to my recommendation list. But Soto
          is still at the top! There just aren't alot of great
          restaurants here that I have found, so I gotta give
          Floataway high marks right now. Make a reserv if you
          go.

          oh another place, I just heard about that sounds great
          for atmosphere and decent for food is called:
          Virginia's (Koffie House
          )it is in Little Five Points another bohemie area you
          shouldn't miss if you like neighborhoods. Read the
          short review of it on the above web site. sounds like a
          definite must do at least for coffee and few bites. One
          of the owners is Dutch and the cafe is supposed to be
          like something you might find in Amsterdam. A stretch?
          maybe!

          Oh before I forget. I must comment on Zocala mentioned
          by one of the guys. I have only been there once for a
          real quick meal when their new paint job was still damp
          that the place smelled like chemicals. but even still,
          the food was very good, and open air design is fun
          (just ignore that oversized wagon out front. some one
          got a bit carried away with the kitsch!)

          While I'm at it...Next dining spot down here i want to
          try is a place called The Supper Club. In Decatur. Not
          a supper club with shows, etc. Just good food, and has
          gotten good reviews.

          Janet

          1. re: Janet Traub

            I have been to Virginias Koffie House (the place Janet mentioned) and it is a great, easygoing, funky place. It is tucked into Virginia Highlands (not Little 5) and is absolutely adorable. I stongly suggest that you go there for lunch and sit at one of the tables in the flower filled garden. Very bohemian, artsy clientele, mixed in with a few Emory college student and young professionals. And you are right, it is just like the coffee shops in Amsterdam.

            They have great salads, and some really original dutch influenced food (whatever that is).

            1. re: Alex

              In response to Alex’s take on Atlanta restaurants:

              1) Java Jive has an amazing gingerbread waffle served
              with lemon curd. The décor is 50’s formica and
              appliances. Great place, though I’ve had them be a bit
              odd about giving you coffee or a biscuit while you
              wait for a table.

              2) I wouldn’t call Fellini’s the ‘best’ pizza in town.
              Savage in Little 5 Points takes that honor in my book
              with their chicken florentine and cordon bleu pies.

              3) The ‘Highland Bread Company’ he refers to is
              actually the Breadgarden, and it has relocated to the
              Midtown Outlets down Amsterdam off Monroe.

              4) I second the recommendation for Thai Chilli on
              Briarcliff. I especially love the catfish with
              peppercorn sauce and the green tea and ginger ice
              creams.

              5) Bars- Alex's VA-High centric list is humorous.
              Unfortunately, the area is being flooded by the ‘loud,
              young and drunk’ types described elsewhere regarding
              Buckhead. So you know, I fit in the middle part of
              that category- I’m not just an older person
              complaining. And we also experience a flood of OTP
              folks (Outside the Perimeter), which is equivalent to
              the BT set in Manhattan. If you crave selection above
              all else, the Taco Mac in Sandy Springs on Roswell
              Road has 100+ taps and a huge selection of single
              malts, bourbons, etc. They also have a similarly-sized
              location in Stone Mtn. Check out the Flatiron in East
              Atlanta (near Burrito Art, Edible Art, and Heaping
              Bowl)- owned by some of the same folks as the
              Righteous Room (which has my favorite fries in town).
              Twain’s in Decatur is a pool hall that has a great
              beer selection- and even a nonsmoking pool room.

              6) I’ve ranted elsewhere online about Virginia’s. My
              friends and I have had bad experiences with the staff
              there over the past 5 years or so. Otherwise, it’s a
              beautiful place with an enticing menu. Also, Highland
              Wraps, across the street, has the best salsas I’ve
              ever had and some great burritos. The downside is
              that it’s only takeout, with prices to rival Burrito
              Art.

              7) I like the Food Studio in Midtown a lot ('bold,
              American cuisine'). It's in the converted King Plow
              warehouse. And I'm looking forward to trying out the
              Supper Club in Decatur.

              8) Buford Highway is Atlanta’s unsung ethnic culinary
              resource. Lately, I’ve been to Taqueria Los Compadres
              for great, cheap tacos (Zocalo is great, but on
              another level pricewise) and to Pho Ca Dao for
              Vietnamese pho and noodles for $5. Pung Mie is huge
              among the Asian community for Chinese; Oriental Pearl
              (dim sum) and Little Szechuan are good too. Looking
              forward to more exploring.

              There are some great suggestions in this thread. Have
              fun checking them out.

    2. Breakfast -
      Don't miss Murphy's for Breakfast or brunch. Probably
      the best we've ever had. The crabcakes topped with
      poached eggs and Jalapeno Hollandaise was so incredible
      I almost lost consciousness. Their grits are great
      but the home fries were even better. I would go to
      Atlanta just to go there.