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Going to Atlanta - Need Recommendations (& Quick!)

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Hi all! I'm heading down to Atlanta on Thursday for a week-long conference and haven't had time to do my research yet. So, I'm hoping to get some help from fellow foodies.

We've got 10 people in our group, and we'll be staying at the Embassy Suites at Centennial Park. We would like to go to casual restos, but with great food. We're from Montreal, and a veried bunch, so the more variety the better.

I would love to get your ideas for:
- BBQ
- Southern home cooking
- Italian
- Asian (ie: Thai, Vietnamese, etc.)
- Middle Eastern
- Anything else that stands out!

Our budget is about $25-30 per person per night, and we'll be there for 7 nights. We'd like to stay in one area for the night, so if we eat in Downtown, we'd try to go out in the same area for drinks after dinner. We don't mind traveling to Buckhead or Midtown, but that would be as far as we can go.

Thanks one and all for your advice!
Cheers,
Nader

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  1. Don't forget the Georgia staples:

    Waffle House
    Chick Fil-A
    Crystal's for their sliders
    and of course, The Varsity!

    Wherever you go, ALWAYS order the sweet tea. There is a place called Obie's which we go to for BBQ but it's almost near Mcdonough and out of your parameters. Still, you can't go wrong in Atlanta for good eats. Check with the hotel staff -- I am pretty sure they can recommend some great spots.

    Have fun and happy noshing :)

    9 Replies
    1. re: sharkgirl88

      well those ARE ubiquitous except the varsity, but I'd miss them all. You might try the varsity to see the (or one of the) biggest hamburger places in the US. otherwise check the link mentioned below.

      - BBQ - not a Georgia specialty but could try fat matt's rib shack (midtown-ish on Piedmont Ave)
      - Southern home cooking - 'Home Cookin' can be had at Mary Mac's, Southern Stylized cooking can be had at South City Kitchen (both in Midtown Ponce de Leon, Crescent)
      - Italian - Veni Vedi Vici is pretty good, but La Grotta is the best but $$$$. (midtown 14th Ave and buckhead Peachtree, respectively)
      - Asian (ie: Thai, Vietnamese, etc.) - Try Nam for high end Viet (midtown Monroe Dr), Try Nan for high end Thai(midtown Spring St). Try Com Grille for reasonable Viet (near buckhead on Buford Highway near clairmont) and Surin for reasonable Thai (East of Midtown in Virginia Highland on Highland).
      - Middle Eastern - Mezza (Fairly east of Midtown on LaVista, just beyond Clairmont)
      - Anything else that stands out! Woodfire Grill for California style food, that is argubly the best in town (midtown off Piedmont on Chesire Bridge).

      You'll need a car/taxi. Geez can I join you ?

      1. re: ob2s

        I'd also miss Fatt Matt's. Definitely. There isn't going to be mind-blowing BBQ anywhere that's convenient for you (some would say you need to even leave the state to get it). The only sorta convenient places downtown will be Daddy D'z and Rolling Bones. You could take MARTA out to Chamblee and then find a cab to get you to the P'tree Industrial location of Pig n Chik, but that's probably a lot of effort.

        I honestly think you'd enjoy the Colonnade better for southern home cooking. It's like a timewarp to the 70's, but they still do good stuff. Mary Mac's is pretty tired at this point.

        For Italian, I'd go for Sotto Sotto in general, and Baraonda or Fritti for pizza. All are relatively casual (at least, IMHO, compared to VVV or La Grotta).

        Another Greek/Med/Middle Eastern spot that comes to mind is Olive Bistro on Ponce across from City Hall East. I enjoy their falafel a lot. Again, it's good stuff if you're interested but not a go-out-of-your-way-for-a-great-experience kind of place.

        And if you're stuck around Centennial and can't/won't motivate to get further out, the McCormick & Schmick's and Ted's Montana Grill (both chains) would be a pretty decent meal.

        One idea I had is to check out FlexCar (http://www.flexcar.com/default.aspx?t...), which is relatively new to town. Might be less hassle for dining than a full-on rental. I have no idea- I have a car.

        1. re: ted

          the colonnade is not tired ? re bbq, I don't eat it but many swear by FMRS. Fritti is much better than Baraonda, and I have had shoyt service at both Fritti and Sotto Sotto (same owners). Isn't there a well regarded pizza place downtown called Rosa's or something ? It may only be open for lunch.

          1. re: ob2s

            The Colonnade is only tired in the sense that it's been there forever. The food is very old school, but it's also well prepared. One of the few places I've had cornbread/muffins unsullied by the Yankee curse of sugar. And the other sides were very good- not straight from a #10 can. I never thought I'd find myself defending The Colonnade, but I really have been impressed when I've eaten there.

            On Fatt Matt's, I think you're falling victim to the temptation of hearsay. I find myself hesitating more and more to write about places because I've been a prisoner of home improvement for most of this year and haven't been out that much. But it's easy to offer an opinion on somewhere based on old info or a friend's experience.

            That said, I don't think Fatt Matt's formula has changed in the 10 years I've lived here. And for those of us who seek out barbecue on our travels or spend time sweating over a hot pit ourselves, what they do just isn't BBQ. Boiled and grilled ribs may come out with a perfectly serviceable flavor, but the smoke and time is what makes it Q. And any pork sandwich that has to be so doused in sauce to cover up the fact that there's no smoke there either isn't Q.

            I'm not denying that cramming into a tiny place, having a few brews, and listening to live music while consuming this food isn't alluring. But the other factors are overwhelming the reality that the food isn't really BBQ. And there are a lot of real Q places that have less atmosphere.

            That's my $0.02 on that.

            1. re: ted

              on a message board is there a difference between recent personal experience and hearsay ? maybe the blue hair experience at colonnade and the live music at Matt's are reasons enough. I still contend that BBQ is best had elsewhere (not Atlanta) and that Mary Mac's and the Colonnade are not appreciably different, at least not enough to go further afield than downtown to midtown.

              1. re: ob2s

                Part of what I'm saying is that if you "don't eat it," then why post an opinion on where to go or that "BBQ is best had elsewhere"? What good does that do the general reader?

                Yes, there's a difference between personal experience and hearsay. My point also was that I've realized that a lot of my opinions are based on old information that may or may not still be accurate. So, I attempt to self-censor what I post to more-recent experience when I can.

                And I also need to get out more, but that's tempered by the reality of "do I really want to try Fatt Matt's again (or Mary Mac's) just to make sure?" When there are only so many meals you get out (and/or away from the munchkin), it's tough to convince yourself to try something again just to prove a point.

                The couple of exceptions to my hearsay rule that I've made are when my wife gets to go without me, since I'm pretty dialed in to her tastes/opinions.

                Anyway, one of those place I've been in the past 6 mo.s is Sotto Sotto, and I still think it is very good. And we had good service also.

                1. re: ted

                  Sure there is a difference between personal experience and hearsay, but unless the reader knows you or your reputation, like a published food writer, then there is no real difference. You could like cr*p food, and so could I. The fact that several people have posted recently that they liked Fatt Matt's, might be more compelling than your last visit, when ?

                  On this board it is quite common for 'folks from the north or great white north' to assume that since Atlanta is in the south, good bbq can be had. I don't have to visit each bbq place in town to know that Atlanta is not a bbq town. If anything Atlanta specializes in variety, for the south, that is. So I disagree that recommending that BBQ be skipped on a visit to ATL doesn't serve the reader.

                  I agree Sotto Sotto does a nice job, but I am 3/3 with bad service at Sotto-Fritti. Actually when I went to Fritti to watch the world cup and drank only $3 Peronis, I had excellent service......

                  1. re: ob2s

                    I don't know, to me there aren't that many "BBQ towns." Maybe Austin (and out toward the Lockhart area broadly), KC, and Memphis (plus others I'm probably forgetting). Birmingham probably has the same number of really good places as Atlanta does. Can you find good Q in Atlanta- definitely. Is it good everywhere- definitely not. If my only exposure to southern Q was going to be in ATL, I'd seek out the best place and try it. Even if there isn't a specific regional style associated with here. But I like BBQ a lot.

                    In fact, I'm finishing up lunch from Slope's in Sandy Springs- decent potato salad and collards (though the potato salad is probably from a tub). But the pork sandwich is kinda dry and isn't smoky. Sauce is alright, though.

                    Anyway, the discussion with Steve below is interesting. Just by way of observation, much as I'd love to recommend Woodfire, my last meal there was about the worst restaurant meal I've had in the past 5 years. It was a Sunday night, and the 1/2 price bottle of Wit's End shiraz helped. But the rest was a mess. And we sat a couple of tables down from Bob Townsend, who wrote a bad review that was soft-pedaled by the AJC.

                    Anyway, my point about Colonnade was that it at least feels like they're trying, which is more than I've read about Mary Mac's lately. And I agree w/ the need to navigate the menu carefully.

              2. re: ted

                Ok Ted, here you go.

                "- Fatt Matt's: In one word: Awesome! This was definitely the highlight of our trip. Fantastic BBQ ribs and chicken, great BBQ pork sandwiches, great sides (we had one-two of each!) and great music too! I definitely recommend this place to one and all. Not for the uppity crowd, but great for BBQ lovers. Definitely a 5/5!"

      2. Nader, I assume the convention you'll be at is SfN. I'm going too, and I asked a similar question a while back and got lots of great recs and made reservations via opentable. Here's the link:
        http://www.chowhound.com/topics/show/...

        1. "I would love to get your ideas for:
          - BBQ
          - Southern home cooking
          - Italian
          - Asian (ie: Thai, Vietnamese, etc.)
          - Middle Eastern
          - Anything else that stands out!"

          From Montreal, ay?

          1. Forget BBQ. Nothing within taxi or public transporation range that is as good, let alone better, than you can get at home. Certainly no smoked meat or St. Viateur bagels.
          2. Southern Home Cooking. The Colonnade. Definitely. But its good news/bad news. No reservations, but a bar that pours a solid 1.75 oz drink at a moderate price, so waiting is painless. Moderate prices, but cash only. VG yeast rolls and cornbread. VG prime rib (but get the au jus on the side), good fried chicken/collard greens/turnip greens/wedge of iceberg lettuce bleu cheese dressing/house baked pies like key lime, blueberry etc. Skip the crabcakes, turkey & dressing, but the fresh fish is actually ok--often as good as much pricier joints. Stick to these guidelines and you will have nice meal at a large n'hood place far from conventioneers . Taxi from downtown about $12 I would guess.
          3. Italian. Almost as barren as bbq. Nothing to compare with Montreal. Nothing.
          4. Asian. No Thai. Don't even think of it. OK Pho joints but not within tax/public transportation range. So Kong Dong out in Chamblee for Korean, but also not within practical transportation range. Penang for Malaysian, but same problem with transportation. Exception for the intrepid: You could take the Marta train north to Chamblee 20 min, then an $8 cab ride to either Penang or So Kong Dong...but its not something I would recommend.
          5. Anything else? Ted's Montana Grill is ok for a buffalo burger and onion rings, but I suspect convention crowds will be horrendous.

          Sorry to be so grim, but Atlanta is not a chow friendly convention city.

          Despite my downbeat opinion about Italian food in ATL, Ted's suggestion of "...Sotto Sotto in general, and Baraonda or Fritti for pizza"...probably fills the bill. Good taxi access from downtown, Sotto Sotto takes reservations too. Both take credit cards.

          To recap:
          --no bagels, no bbq, no Thai, no Vietnamese.
          --Colonnade, yes (entrees $12-$23). Sotto Sotto, yes (entrees $15-$28, pastas and apps are better than entrees).
          --Woodfire--absolutely!!! Takes reservations, same cab fare as the Colonnade. Entrees $16-$30. Focus on artisan and organic ingredients, vg wine list, exc cheese selection.

          The Colonnade and Woodfire are an unbeatable pair. If I had to pick one, and had the budget, I would go for Woodfire.

          On the hearsay front: Restaurant Eugene. High end and high priced, new South, artisanal ingredients, very easy P'tree Road bus transit from downtown to lower Buckhead (spend it in the dining room, not on Atlanta's shamelessly dingy cabs!). All things considered, and that it takes reservations, you would do well to throw this one into the mix.

          Please report back.

          1 Reply
          1. re: Steve Drucker

            Ok, so you're wrong on the Thai/Vietnamese front and Penang is not worth the drive.
            The Colonnade is not as expensive as you say, and the issue about conventions and food in Atlanta is due to its car centric nature, not the limitation of food options.

            There are many places I'd rather live than here, but you can get decent food here no matter where you are from.

          2. "The Colonnade and Woodfire are an unbeatable pair. If I had to pick one, and had the budget, I would go for Woodfire."

            Steve, are you really saying this? Colonnade and Woodfire do not remotely compare and are not an unbeatable pair. I would never recommend Colonnade to anyone from out of town and yes of course pick Woodfire. I just can't imagine coming from out of town and going to Colonnade even if you are looking for that type of food.
            And there is decent to very good Italian in Atlanta. You saved your comments with Baraonda and Sotto Sotto (named Restaurant of the Year by the AJC..one paper's opinion), but I've also had good experiences at Antica Posta, La Grotta and La Tavola.

            1. MF Sushi in Midtown. The best sushi I have ever had. Get the Lobster Tempura.