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Jun 29, 2006 02:41 AM

Atlanta food that doesn't suck (unlike South City and Fat Matt's)

I'm sorry to complain, but I'm just back from two disappointing dinners in ATL -- one at Fat Matt's, where the ribs would be laughed at in any real BBQ city, and one at South City, where the overpriced but perfectly decent food has somehow conned reviewers into treating it as the city's culinary gem. (Will they never tire of the gimmick "Updating Regional Cuisine for the Younger Trendy Crowd!")

This is a great city, but I'm really starting to doubt its food bona fides. I used to eat reasonably well at The Beautiful across from the MLK Center until it closed. But I'm out of good ideas now.

I have one meal left here. It's either lunch or dinner tomorrow. No limits on location. Can you true hounds out there tell me the one, single, truly outstanding restaurant to hit? Or does it just not exist in this city?

(For what it's worth, if you're in Seattle, where I'm from, you should eat your one meal at either Dahlia Lounge (traditional Seattle cuisine) or Harvest Vine (incredible Basque).)

Thanks amigos.


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  1. I'd disagree with both of your observations. Perhaps you hit either on a bad night. While Fat Matts may not be St Louis, Memphis or lowlands BBQ, it's pretty damn good.
    South City is also a very good, but as you said, a bit expensive place.

    None the less, my fave on repeated visits to ATL, is still Pura Vida on Highland. If you like the style of food, tapa, then this is one of the best I've been to since Spain. Up there with Emilios in Chicago and Azafran in NYC.

    1. Well, for what's it worth, I could have told you that South City Kitchen sucked (in my opinion, of course). I've not been to Fatt Matt's, so have no comment.

      Based on your choices so far it sounds like you're interesting in something with "local flavor," in which case I'm going to suggest Watershed in Decatur. I'd order either the vegetable plate or the salmon croquettes. Lunch and dinner available.

      The salmon croquettes might sound strange to somebody from Seattle, as salmon is obviously not local. But canned salmon is, and it (along with canned mackeral) have been staples of the "poor people" diet here in the south for many decades.

      Restaurant Eugene takes a southern approach with its otherwise elegant food, including things various pickled items, etc. (again, home-made pickles and preserves very characteristic of southern food). Pricey, with a quiet, elegant atmostphere.

      Finally, if what you're looking for is actually based on price point, go to Mary Mac's Tea Room on Ponce de Leon in Midtown.

      Lots of other suggestions if you're not actually interested in southern food.

      1. Your observation on Fat Matt's makes me chuckle. Sloppy joe's and boiled/grilled ribs are not BBQ. Whether it's a nostalgia thing, I don't know, but a lot of people don't get that. I admit liking their baked beans, though.

        By comparison, a lot of natives and Tech grads insist you visit The Varsity. I think it's OK for the occasional greasy food fix but nothing to write home about. At the same time, though I get all excited over the possibility of making a trip to Birmingham and having Milo's, which is a nostalgia thing for me (plus thinking about their sauce makes me slobber).

        You didn't really give any parameters for your final meal in ATL. Casual or upscale? Ethnic? Dive? Good value?

        Here are some solid choices:

        Madras Saravan Bhavan (Decatur)- top vegetarian Indian place, best enjoyed w/ a group so you can try a lot of dishes.

        Greenwood's on Green Street (Roswell)- very good homemade Southern food in massive portions; the fried chicken is worth the wait and the desserts rule; no reservations, but the food is worth waiting in line

        Joel- this is it for the high end; if they're running their 3-course prix fixe menu, it's an amazing value in fine dining

        Pozole- I've been twice now and have really enjoyed this; not sure how to classify it- southwestern or non-Tex Mex; good tacos to rival Taqueria/Sundown, and a surprisingly good side salad of tomatoes, cukes, and avocado; fyi, it's a bit of a scene, though

        If you make a trip to Decatur, whether for Watershed (which, honestly, might also offend your sense of value, if South City did), Taqueria del Sol, or somewhere else, *and* you're a beer drinker, be sure to walk up to the square and hit the upstairs Belgian bar at the Brick Store. Seattle is a tough beer scene to beat, but this is just a fabulously authentic spot.

        There are lots of other possibilities. It'd be hard to beat Seattle for Asian, but we definitely have some good places.

        Anyway, best of luck in the rest of your ATL experience.

        1. You guys are the greatest. I left the parameters blank (value, type of food, price, etc.) because I wanted exactly these no-limits recommendations. Thanks for taking the time to write.

          And hey, I hope I didn't suggest that Seattle has truly first-rate food. It has pretty good food, and in some restaurants on some nights excellent food, but it's no Chicago, San Francisco, or (for that matter) Houston.

          I lucked out and I think I may be able to squeeze two meals in today before leaving. I'll report back (and try to sound less snotty)!

          Oh, and Ted? I agree . . . the baked beans at Fat Matt's were pretty good.


          1. Coming all the way from Seattle, I'm surprised you chose Fatt Mac's and South City. Never been to Fatt Mac's and I don't think I ever read or heard that South City is the "city's culinary gem." Far from it. Decent at times depending on what you order.
            Last meal in Atlanta: Bacchanalia, Joel, or Aria.

            I was in Seattle in January and enjoyed my visits to Salumi, Matt's in the Market, Dahlia Lounge (where I had a wine dinner with Mike Januik), Lola, and Restaurant Zoe. Love your city.