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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.

              1. Here's a far out idea but it might fit. Why not try the Seasons 52 in Perimeter Mall? I'm not an Atlantan but I think it's fairly easy to reach by Marta. The restaurant is a Darden operation with about 6-7 locations so far. I've tried one in Orlando and it's really interesting. Doing fresh things, low calorie, but with lots of flavor, and frequent menu changes to keep up with seasonal offerings. Not too expensive. Some serious food type friends have been very impressed. They are also opening one in Buckhead soon but I don't think in time for your trip.

                Of course it has no relationship at all to Atlanta or Southern cuisine.

                http://www.seasons52.com/default.asp

                1. Previous post'r wrote:
                  "
                  "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."

                  .................................

                  The Colonnade forty years strong is a certain flavor of Atlanta-- a city notable for the absence of local flavor in almost every respect and in which I've lived for almost thirty years.

                  A good meal can be had (or many a bad one), Southern style at the Colonnade, if you navigate the menu well. Does it hold a candle to the Madison Cafe at the United House Of Prayer in Savannah? No. The Colonnade is a crossroads for many communities--gay, straight, geriatric and in-town. Do I take my mother-in-law there? Yes. Do I go with my wife on a date? No. Over the last two years, however, its recovered nicely from a period of decline. Its a slice of Atlanta that I've taken well traveled people from all over the world to, and EVERY single one has asked to go back when next in town. Is it trendy, au courant or credit card accessible? No. Is it a down to earth refuge from corporate chain trend intensive lengthy menu description food? Yes.

                  Its part of the mission of this board to help others eat well. So if my price estimate is off (and I don't believe it is as fried chicken is 12 or 13 bucks, and the large prime rib well over 20), please help us all out especially the OP and correct me quantitatively, not with a talk radio like blast more appropriate to an anonymous (which 'ob2s' and 'rcburli' let me remind you that you are) rant in an internet chat room.

                  As for the opinions of the local fourth estate, you are welcome to esteem them, but others of us prefer to post about our personal experiences which let me remind you is at the core of the CH mission--to eat well, and write well about what we have eaten.

                  With regards to Italian food in ATL--especially in contrast to Italian food in Montreal, this is my opinion. Do I have to defend my 'chops' to you? No.

                  One thing is for sure. Having eaten many fine meals in Montreal at restos ranging from the very best four stars to the Parisian wannabes in the Plateau, the grunge and smoked meat and bistro fare of the Main and my Italian and Lebanese favorites around Jean Talon market and the tavernas up Park Ave extending back to 1972, and in addition having logged two million miles of business travel in the last ten years domestically and internationally, well yes, my suggestions hopefully will find resonance with and lend practical assistance to a group of ten Quebecois visiting ATL, staying downtown without a car and most likely somewhat travel profile budget and time constrained and slightly burnt from a long day on the convention floor.

                  1. my response to you is hardly a rant or a blast. I too have been to Montreal several times and know that ATL doesn't compare in the quantity of quality and variety. Montreal has been an international city of note long before (day 1?) the pseudomoniker was adopted by Atlantans because of 'WhatIsIt - Izzy' and Hartfield-Jackson-NextPayolaMayor. I used to live in Vancouver which like your 2 million miles may qualify this anonymous poster to disagree with you on the asian front. I know enough about ATL and kanucks to recognize they might find S City Kitchen interesting/satisfying. I have had enough cr*p meals at the Colonnade to want to personally steer clear of it, but your take on the social flavor is spot on, perhaps enough to recommmend it, however it might ring more apparent to a local who is faced daily by ATL's generic nature, than by someone from a place where social flavors abound.

                    I also apologize for disputing your price estimates at the 'nade, as I view it as a meat and 3 venue, but if fried chicken is really 12-13 bucks, then I think I'd spring a couple more for Watershed's version.

                    1. Steve,
                      In this format it is difficult to express opinions, kind of like e-mail can get you in trouble, without hearing the "tone of voice." Can't we disagree about things? I'm not sure why my response is an "anonymous rant" when it is simply my opinion that I wouldn't recommend the Colonnade. It's just not a place I would bring out of towners, even if everything you say might be true. It just seemed weird to see Colonnade and Woodfire Grill in the same sentence as an "unbeatable pair." I don't understand what you mean by that. That's all.
                      I like the fact that we can "talk" and disagree. Doesn't that make the Atlanta food scene that much more interesting?
                      You don't think much of the Italian food scene in Atlanta; I think that's a little strong. And what's the point of comparing it to Montreal? Just because the original poster is from there doesn't mean he or she can't enjoy some simple Italian food over the course of their week here in Atlanta, like at Baraonda or Sotto Sotto. Maybe Italian food is far superior in Montreal. So what?

                      Last question. What would make Atlanta a chow friendly convention city (besides obvious locations of convention centers and lousy public transportation options)?

                      rcburli (ROB)

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: rcburli

                        well I get the colonnade/woodfire pairing, not far from town, both very experiencial. contrasting experiences.

                        re the convention crowd. Conventions are not unlike any cross section of America, which consist mainly of non-chowhounds and Atlanta serves them fine. If you are a chowhound then you have to be industrious or at least you should be. You need only a tinge of industriousness to get chowhound worthy food in Atlanta, by Marta, cab or sharing a ride with someone who has a rental car.

                      2. anything that stands out...hmmm...
                        how 'bout the Vortex?

                        http://www.thevortexbarandgrill.com/T...

                        1. Previoua post'r wrote:
                          "What would make Atlanta a chow friendly convention city (besides obvious locations of convention centers and lousy public transportation options)?"

                          Perhaps we can take this up on the Not about food or General board, and stick to the OP's query.

                          2 Replies
                          1. re: Steve Drucker

                            Hey all,

                            Just got back from my trip to Atlanta and wanted to update on the restos we visited with some quick reviews:

                            1. Mary Mac's: Went here on the first night, and we all got the Southern Special - all you can eat at your table of 3 mains, 3 sides and dessert, with iced tea. We got the fried chicken, roast pork and meatloaf with sides of mac n'cheese, fried green tomatoes and fried okra. For dessert, we had the peach cobbler. The fried chicken and roast pork were very nice, though not amazing, and the meatloaf was "ho-hum". The sides were all quite greasy, with the mac n'cheese being the worst I've possibly had - how much eggs did they put in there??? And where was the cheese??? The dessert, though, was very nice. The service was prompt and very friendly and the resto had a very nice atmosphere to it. 3.5/5 overall.

                            2. Veni Vidi Vici: This was a nice resto, with a very upscale feel to it. I had the osso bucco with saffron risotto. The osso bucco was great, but the risotto was extremely salty. The service was very good throughout the evening, with very attentive staff. The food was a mere 2/5 while the service was 4/5.

                            3. Thai Palate: I didn't really care for this place very much, which I found on my own online. While the appetizers were excellent, the main courses were overly saucy and far too sweet for any of our likings. There was absolutely no spice in our food, and we kept asking them to make sure it was spicy!! If we had only gotten appetizers, I'd give this place a 4.5/5, but because of the main course, it drops to a 2.5/5. For dessert, we went to the Krispy Kreme next door and feasted on fresh doughnuts, which we really don't have in Montreal. We gave KK a solid 4.5/5!

                            - 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!

                            - Hsu's Gourmet Chinese: Not very gourmet at all, this was quite boring for a chinese resto. Would have liked a lot more attention to the food than to the decor. If this is the best Chinese resto in town, we've got trouble! I got the shared appetizer to start (very nice, but not great) with the beef and taro curry for the main. This was nice, but far more malay than Chinese. My friend got the stir-fried shrimp, but it had far too much sauce and not enough flavor. Overall, we all gave this place a timid 3/5.

                            - Nava: Loved this place! Nice decor, but with a casual atmosphere. Great food all around, too! We had the caesar salad and grilled calamari to start - very nice! - and the special of the day half-chicken and the porterhouse steak for mains. Both were out of this world. And the service was great too, with great beers on tap and in bottle at very reasonable prices. I would definitely recommend this place for a quite (or rowdy in our case) night out! 4.5/5

                            Again, I'd like to thank everyone on the board for their suggestions and advice.

                            Cheers,
                            Nader

                            1. re: nader

                              Thanks for the reviews on your experiences. Sorry some were not so great. I've lived here almost 18 years and only been to one off of your list - Fat Matt's. Glad you liked it. It is probably not authentic bbq, but if it made you happy, that is what's important.

                              Rest assured that Hsu's in not normally considered one of the top Chinese places by a long shot.