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Atlanta - 3 Days to Chow. Help?

Hey everyone, my girlfriend and I are heading up to Atlanta from Tallahassee this weekend to celebrate an anniversary and we're looking for some places to eat, socialize and enjoy the city life for a couple of days. She's got a room booked somewhere in Buckhead ( but won't let on as to which hotel ) so I've been doing most of my research centered around that general side of town. Of course we won't be afraid to make a cross-town drive when necessary though either. I'd like to assemble a small portfolio of options for food, drinks and other entertainment for us to choose from as our plans evolve. We'll be getting in around mid afternoon Friday and leaving sometime Monday. These are some of my considerations so far, what should I know about them and where else should I be looking into?

------General Entertainment-------

Georgia Aquarium -
This is a must for her. We'll probably go Friday night, I hear there's a Jazz artist playing and cocktails to boot!

?????

-----------------Food----------------------

Canoe -
Looks beautiful inside and out, menu looks nice.

Atlanta Fish Market -
More interested in their oysters and shellfish than anything else. Maybe go for lunch or appz?

MF Sushi Bar -
Having grown up in Hawaii, their sushi looks to be the real deal. The price doesn't concern me. Is there better sushi in town?

Element -
We were supposed to be in Chicaco and go to Alinea over the summer. We didn't make it. Anywhere else in ATL for molecular gastronomy?

Ecco -
Nice looking atmosphere, decent menu. Go?

Sweetwater Brewing Company -
Hear this place is a good time to just hang out, drink their great beers ( big fan of Sweetwater ) and take the tour when they offer it ( maybe Friday afternoon ).

Hae Woon Dae -
I'm interested in trying out some ethnic cuisine while we're in the city. She's not into African/Indian. and I've traveled extensively throughout Europe, so this Korean place looks like a nice change of pace. Any thoughts?

Co'm Vietnamese Fusion -
Same as above, but we love Vietnamese food. Thoughts?

Bacchanalia -
Worth the hype?

Aria -
Worth the hype?

Others -
Bluepointe, Chops, Restaurant Eugene...not too interested, but always open minded. Am I missing a diamond in the rough?

----------Late Nite / Dessert---------------

Pura Vida -
Are there any great tapas bars in ATL? How's this one?

Cafe Intermezzo -
I think I have to check this place out, if for nothing else than coffee and a dessert

Others -
Bars, late nite hangs?

????

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  1. Of what you have on the list I would definitely go with Bacchanalia #1 with Aria coming in second. Yes, they both are definitely worth the hype, The Dining Room at The Ritz Carlton Buckhead is probably my favorite restaurant in ATL but Bacchanalia is right up there to, both are truly memorable experiences, I think you'd be really happy either way. I would say with Aria those three are the best in atlanta in my opinion ( Now that Seegars is no longer with us :( )....To answer some of your other questions we got the tasting menu at element and it definetly was a pleasent experience, but not near to the level of Alinea, nothing really blew us away. As far as I know you won't find molecular gastronomy at that level in Atlanta. Pura vida is definetly my favorite Tapas bar, if thats what you're looking for the food and service is excellent and they also have excellent drinks. I would skip Bluepointe, chops, canoe and atlanta fish market I've found those to be mostly hype with nothing to back it up...not anywhere near to the level as Bacchanalia, Aria, and The Dining Room....Ive heard grat things about MF sushi bar, but have never been so if you end up there you'll have to let me know. I just end by saying I'd take a meal at the Ritz in Buckhead over anywhere in the country with Bacchanalia coming in a close second ,I would definitely try to go to one of those two if you want a truly fabulous evening.

    1. Bacchanalia is great. I totally agree with everything Mapep has said.
      MF Sushi is excellent but I also really enjoy Nam Kang on Buford Hwy, very near Hae Woon Dae.
      I do not care for Cafe Intermezzo. not very comfortable and not very good.
      Woodfire Grill is a great place to go also.
      Good Luck and have a great time.

      1. From your list, Bacchanalia, Restaurant Eugene, Pura Vida, and Element all places I'd go. I'd very specifically skip Chops, Bluepointe, and Atlanta Fish Market. And Cafe Intermezzo---bleah.

        1. Since so far everyone says skip the Fish Market, is there somewhere else to go for a regional selection of oysters from around the world? How about anywhere for some "exotic" fish or shellfish selections? We don't get much other than Grouper, Snapper, Redfish and Pompano in Tallahassee. Seems like there's got to be somewhere in Atlanta to go for Geoduck, Razor Clams, Monkfish Liver and the like...

          Is the Dining Room at the Ritz really that special? How about for a cost to experience ratio? I've never once been impressed with a Ritz Carlton restaurant, though I know this one is "Five Star" rated, along with Charlie Trotter's and French Laundry. Am I going to go there and spend $300-400, and get that much more value out of it?

          Since Cafe Intermezzo also seems a no-no, is there another great late-night coffee/dessert bar? Downtown or in Buckhead?

          Thanks for the replies so far!

          5 Replies
          1. re: wafflepunk

            Regarding the Ritz-Carlton dining room, I have heard that it's great and super-nice. However, I've heard that it's not as good as Norman's, which is what our Ritz-Carlton in Orlando has. Norman's is definitely worth the money (we have been for our past two anniversaries) and it's about the only place I would spend that kind of money (although I haven't been to French Laundry).

            This is just my opinion, but unless someone who has been to the R-C dining room says it's phenomenal and totally worth the money, I would skip it for some place with more character than an ordinary fancy restaurant (you say you are in Tallahassee - come to Orlando for your anniversary next year and go to Norman's).

            1. re: wafflepunk

              I'd do Taka or MFSushi for seafood personally. Haven't been to Oceanaire, but it's supposedly pretty good (and pricey). You'll find good seafood at Bacchanalia and their sister restaurant, Floataway Cafe (which I know offers a few kinds of oysters), though not a wide selection.

              Most of the other comments you've gotten are good (Element, Eugene, Pura Vida in particular), though I wouldn't do the Ritz personally (in favor of Bacchanalia or Quinones, more local, more Atlanta).

              I would not recommend the Tavern at Phipps at all. Bar food with a "scene" crowd and waitresses in incredibly skimpy outfits, which I find very inappropriate especially given the setting in Atlanta's nicest shopping center.

              I would also not recommend Imperial Fez unless you want the basic Americanized version of a Moroccan extravaganza.

              1. re: biskuit

                I never saw skimpy outfits at Tavern. But it does get hot in Atlanta, so maybe. It does get crowded on weekend nights, with live music outside, but for some people that's fun.

                1. re: starbucksbrew

                  Agreed, if you want fun, it may be a good place to go. I don't know how you missed the skimpy outfits (year round)! Their website boasts:

                  Best Happy Hour
                  Best Looking Staff
                  Best Singles Scene
                  Best People Watching
                  Best Outside Patio
                  - JEZEBEL Reader Survey, 2007

              2. re: wafflepunk

                I tend to agree that hotel dining is often not up to the prices they charge, but this Ritz Dining Room is different, yes it's expensive but worth it. I've been there under the last three chefs and loved every meal I've had there and the current chef, Arnaud Berthelier, is by far the best. It is going to be a little bit more costly then some other options, but at that point where you are spending that kind of money on a meal I believe it is well worth it to spend that little bit extra. The experience there has been flawless every time I've been, and while I do you love some of the other restaurants you have mentioned ( Aria and Bacchanalia) I would definitely choose the Ritz. And for what its worth I think they have the French Laundry beat hands down on service, food, and overall experience. So I would have to say, that yes it is worth the money.

              3. I'm jealous, I love Atlanta! Lived there for three years.

                Intermezzo is fine for late night dessert and coffee. It's definitely worth doing, especially if you don't have a late night dessert place where you live. I don't recall any other late night dessert places when I lived there, but maybe there is another now.

                I absolutely love Canoe, one of my favorites and perfect for an anniversary. South City Kitchen is another great dinner place, with upscale southern food. I agree with other posters, don't waste your time on Fish Market.

                Another favorite of mine is Buckhead Diner (if it's still there). Don't let the name fool you. It's a nice trendy place with excellent food.

                For something more ethnic, Nicola's has fantastic Lebanese food. Non-descript on the outside, but great food.

                My all-time favorite place to go every time I'm back in Atlanta is the Tavern at Phipps, next to Sax Fifth Avenue in Phipps Plaza (across the street from Lenox Square). They have six or eight types of "tavern chips," which are gourmet nachos. I recommend the southwest shrimp or the cajun. They are awesome. Tavern is great for lunch or dinner.

                For lunch, everybody goes to Everybody's. There is one by Emory and one in the Highlands. The one by Emory has a great patio. They do very good pizza and nice big entree salads. You can even create your own salad. Another good lunch spot, especially in nice weather, is Zocolo (mexican) in mid-town.

                For breakfast, the Flying Biscuit Cafe is a must.

                Have a great time!

                2 Replies
                1. re: starbucksbrew

                  We live in Birmingham but have been to Atlanta several times, and I love Everybody's! My husband is not wild about salads but he loves theirs. And a fantastic selection of beers on tap, especially Belgians.

                  Baccanalia is excellent.

                  We had a blast at a Moroccan place near Buckhead called the Imperial Fez. I've never had Moroccan food before, so don't know how it compares, but it was delicious, and so much fun sitting on cushions on the floor, eating with your fingers, and watching (and even participating in) belly-dancing!

                  1. re: starbucksbrew

                    Here are two really overrated and not-great places:

                    Everybody's is so popular, they have a nice open atmosphere and service, but the pizza is doughy and has way too much tomato sauce.

                    Flying Biscuit is SO not worth any type of wait, the food is average, and the biscuits are not even that good.

                  2. han il gwan on buford hwy is a really good korean restaurant. authentic and good prices however don't go if you want ambiance. i am a sushi lover and i think Tomo is the best sushi in atlanta.

                    1. We were just in Atlanta last week and ate at both Restaurant Eugene and Element. Tasting menus at both and the overall experiences couldn't have been more different.

                      Rest. Eugene. Food = outstanding. Service = lacking.

                      Overall, we wouldn't go back. They offered a 5 course tasting menu for $65. The waiter asked if we wanted Fois Gras and we said sure...never knowing it was an additional $15 per person until we got the check and had 'supplement' added. Sigh. I don't mind paying for food, but HATE feeling like we were taken advantage of.

                      The courses were tiny. Really tiny. Service took maybe 20 minutes between clearing of one course and serving of another. So - in 1.5 hours, we had 2 mini oysters, two bites of tuna tartare and the previously mentioned two bite portion of fois on a teeny brioche. The next course was a bit of halibut wrapped in prosciutto. Now past two hours and we've seriously had only 6 bites. We also couldn't get more bread, so I was ready to gnaw my arm off. We asked more than one food deliverer to please have the kitchen speed up the service to no avail. After the cheese course (that was ordered separately for I think $16) , the mgr brought us a complimentary seared tuna course with mashed potatoes - guess he got the hungry message.

                      All in all, very disjointed. I have only the best things to say about the actual food, but I was disappointed that there were no veggies or starches served with the courses. We actually considered McDonalds when we left.

                      Element. Food = amazing Service = outstanding

                      Highly recommend. Ordered the tasting menu here too - same $65 for what was advertised as 6-7 courses, but was actually more like 14. From the watermelon 'caviar' to the oyster with canteloupe dippin dots, everything was just a joy to see and eat. Also a must try here is the liquid nitrogen margarita. Just no describing the smooth and wonderful texture.

                      We'll make Element a must-do every time we visit Atlanta.

                      Hopefully that helps!

                      Lynn

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: PickyChicky

                        I can definately agree that Bacchanalia (or its smaller cousin, Quinones) is an excellent bet.

                        For sushi, if you don't mind adventuring into the suburbs, Haru Ichiban is one of the best.

                      2. it seems like you're shying away from southern food (maybe since you already live in the south) but i would also add:

                        wysteria - good high class southern food over near the carter center
                        harold's for fantastic bbq and the best brunswick stew - over near the prison
                        dusty's bbq - up near emory for tasty bbq sauce
                        For good southern breakfast - crescent moon (all around solid but i really like the skillet things) and patries a-go-go (fantastic biscuits) in decatur, and buckhead diner (don't let the name fool you, its actually really fancy) for fantastic shrimp and grits

                        i like the vietnamese place on ponce in decatur better than the one listed above but i don't think that vietnamese food is something that atl generally does all that well. i would much rather go to a korean place along buford highway.

                        i also really live 6 feet under for good seafood and zia's bluebird cafe for some alterna-southern brunch. located right next to each other across from the cemetery.

                        for night life - i like the brickstore (i think thats the name - definitely brick something) in decatur sq - good beer and chill vibe, the righteous room off of ponce good beer hip young 30's crowd, the highlander near va-highlands is a laid back bar with good people watching (and va-hi neighborhood is cute in general to walk around) also, in east atlanta i like the earl for hipsters and mary's for an anything goes crowd

                        for sights - i recommend stone moutain which is a short drive outside of town and is kinda like a creepy mount rushmore for confederate soldiers, and the cyclorama right near the zoo and grant park is campy good fun. also check out margaret mitchell's house on peachtree just south of buckhead and the MLK museum (which is in sad disrepair)

                        i miss atlanta!!