Best restaurants in Atlanta
What is it: One of America’s best restaurants in more ways than one. In addition to serving outstanding food, the eatery raises money to provide emergency assistance to restaurant workers. Chef Ryan Smith, a 2017 James Beard award nominee, creates food so beautiful and delicious that diners literally swoon over it. Expect a bright atmosphere and friendly service as well.
Why go: It’s dinner theater in the best sense of the word—each course delighting the senses in exciting new ways.
What is it: Great Southern cooking, elevated. The menu runs the gamut, including appetizers that star farm eggs baked celery cream, one of the best grass-fed burgers in town, a duck breast to die for and must-try house-made ice cream sandwiches.
Why go: The restaurants is helmed by chef Steven Satterfield, who won the 2017 James Beard Award for Best Chef Southeast, a region crammed full of exceptional talent. Do you really need another reason to make a reservation?
What is it: Named after chef Kevin Gillespie’s dad, Gunshow is a one-of-a-kind culinary experience. Watch the kitchen crew craft unique and often adventurous dishes in an open kitchen. A staff member will bring the plate to your table and, if it entices you, you’ll get to order it dim sum style. Not striking your fancy? Worry not, you can pass and wait for the next dish to come around.
Why go: Dim sum meets Southern haute cuisine under the diligent eyes of Top Chef favorite Gillespie. Warning, though: fans of quiet dinners will have to get used to the loudness of the dining room.
What is it: Dress up. Wear a tie. Learn which fork is the salad fork. This is a seriously luxe dining experience. Even though the restaurant has relocated from its original location to a newer spot not too far away, the sumptuous surroundings and signature dishes remain the same. The four-course tasting menu will surprise you in the best possible way.
Why go: Fine dining. This is the place to go to celebrate a happy occasion or enjoy a great meal with family, close friends or that special someone.
Price: Blow out
What is it: Situated in the back of the very ace Krog Street Market, is this mountain cabin-vibed eatery. Ticonderoga Club offers a laidback environment, with lots of warm woods around and trays of fried chicken, clam rolls and crab pancakes being doled out. The menu moves with the seasons, but you can be sure to grab a comfort bite to eat here any time of the year.
Why go: Touting themselves as “a place of boisterous drinking and grateful dining”, you’d do well to meet a bunch of mates here for brunch or cocktails.
What is it: There is so much to love here. Nova lox and house-made bagels, matzo ball soup, pastrami poutine and chopped liver like Bubbie used to make but with just enough of a twist to keep things interesting.
Why go: The best and possibly the only place for homesick New Yorkers and others to get their fix of deli-inspired favorites that taste just like home, only better. Also: order the burger. Trust us on this one.
What is it: If you’re looking for a bit of bocce ball and contemporary Southern dining under one roof, Empire State South is the place for you. If you’re budget won’t stretch to the steep evening prices, visit for breakfast or lunch – they offer meals to go.
Why go: As well as a fine meal utilising local ingredients, ESS offers a comprehensive cocktail list.
What is it: Thanks to two grill-happy Texans, Atlanta is now home to one of the best BBQ joints around. Tuck into sticky wings, rib sandwiches, brisket and bacon burgers and more meaty options than your carni heart could desire.
Why go: Biscuits and barbecue, naturally!
What is it: If you’ve ever had Iberico pork, you’ll know what the Iberian Pig is offering. This stylish Sycamore Street eatery serves up small plates of contemporary Spanish cuisine, including the delicious Iberian ham. Everything is exceptionally well presented and comes in satisfying quantities.
Why go: For a slice of Spain in the heart of Georgia.
What is it: Chinese master chef Rui Liu serves delicious Chinese food in an unassuming strip mall. Both adventurous and timid diners will find something to love here.
Why go: The shrimp and vegetable entrées, like the exceptionally good eggplant and string beans dish, dry pot shrimp and spicy mapo tofu.
What is it: The lines are long, the parking situation is ridiculous and there’s almost no real seating but this Korean BBQ fusion joint is so good, nobody seems to care about the all the trouble.
Why go: Serious BBQ scholars rank Heirloom Market among the best BBQ spots in Atlanta. The spicy Korean pulled pork sandwich with kimchi (Korean pickled cabbage) is a firm favorite topped with any one of five different sauces. The sides are equally memorable.
What is it: This tiny gem with practically no legitimate parking still has diners traveling from all over the metro area for the tom ka (coconut soup with mushrooms), massaman curry and mango sticky rice. If you ask nicely, regular diners might share their parking tips with you.
Why go: Tucked away in an obscure Atlanta strip mall, this restaurant serves some of the best Thai food in the city.
What is it: Politicians, presidents, hip-hop stars, sports stars, actors and hungry locals craving authentic Southern food all pass through these doors on the regular. Try the fried chicken or BBQ ribs and don’t forget to get some cobbler for dessert.
Why go: First of all, this is an Atlanta institution. Secondly (or, maybe, firstly): the fried chicken, BBQ ribs and cobbler.
What is it: That hammering sound you hear as you wait in line to order is the chop-chop-chop of delicious BBQ meats, all served in a dining room defined by the kind of country decor that will make you feel right at home.
Why go: The eatery is right by Emory University, so it’s the ideal dining destination for those looking to explore the school.
What is it: Gu’s is another resident of the oh-so-hip Krog Street Market. Here you’ll find authentic Szechuan grub, from Chengdu cold noodles to fried lotus root, but the main draw is the dumplings, of course. Our advice? Get a large box of the Zhong style dumplings. You’re welcome.
Why go: If nothing else, to take home a bottle of their homemade chilli oil and their secret recipe dumpling sauce.
What is it: Delicious and affordable banh mi and pho generally considered some of the best in Atlanta, if not the country. Fair warning: the line during the weekend is pretty long so opt for take out if you’re in a hurry. Just make sure not to leave empty-handed.
Why go: If you have never eaten banh mi, this is a good time to start. If you’re already a fan, you’ve found your second home. The house-made baguettes are also delicious so make sure to take a few loaves home with you.
What is it: The Colonnade has been serving meat and threes to hungry locals for almost 30 years. This is not a fancy restaurant or a trendy restaurant, but it is one of Atlanta’s favorite restaurants.
Why go: The wait. Yes, you read that right. Although the restaurant doesn’t take reservations, we suggest you put your name down on the list and spend some time hanging out at the popular bar on premise, among a slew of regular characters. Once your table is ready, order the fried chicken and choose from a long list of old-school sides (fried okra, mac and cheese, aspic).
What is it: New-ish kid on the Buford Highway block is wowing diners with its beautiful, stylish interior and a wide selection of Malaysian-style noodle bowls, bao and small plates.
Why go: Food Terminal is the hot new bright spot on Buford Highway, the city’s most beloved dining strip. Along with noodle bowls to suit every taste and mood is an array of vegetarian dishes and virgin cocktails that taste better than their alcoholic counterparts.
What is it: A cool and cosy sushi place on Church Street. It’s not cheap, so you’ll probably want to save this one for special occasions, but it’s certainly worth the treat. If you’re feeling particularly flush, book the omakase experience ($150, available 7pm Friday and Saturday), during which you’ll have a tasting menu prepared especially for you. Beverage pairing is an extra $50.
Why go: For an innovative take of traditional Japanese dishes.
What is it: Two freak auto accidents severely damaged O4W’s original home in the Old Fourth Ward, so the venue moved into temporary digs outside the perimeter in Duluth. Fans and others need not worry: O4W’s Detroit style, crispy-bottomed pan pizza tastes just as good in the suburbs as it does in the city.
Why go: The pizza, obviously.
What is it: Tiny but delicious sandwiches and apps packed with a variety of meats and flavors await you. Order two or more with a jar of pimento cheese and a spiked soda.
Why go: The entire endeavor is an effort to think outside of the box. From the fun (albeit loud) environment to the eclectic cocktail list and interesting sandwich options, this will be a very different dining experience.
What is it: In India ‘chai pani’ means popping out for a tea and a snack. A laidback, fuss-free kind of outing, which is exactly what Chai Pani offers. Here you can relax with authentic Indian street food, such as samosas, pakoras, stuffed rolls and thalis (like Indian tapas). And of course they serve chai, among other Indian drinks and desserts.
Why go: This is the perfect place to hang out for hours with good friends.
What is it: This small shack is the home of the Ghetto burger, a huge dish made with meat, cheese and bacon. Late owner Miss Ann, who passed away in 2015, is honored by her family, who keeps her legacy alive by offering great food and enforcing the rules listed above the counter: “No smoking, no cursing and no lying down on the counter.”
Why go: The burgers are on the bucket lists of foodies all over the world. How could you not try them all?
What is it: There is so much more to Latin American food than burritos. Meat eaters, vegetarians and the gluten-free crowd will find a lot to love here.
Why go: The arepas: little fried or stuffed pockets of homemade Venezuelan goodness that must be experienced at least once in a lifetime (if not more).