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The best restaurants in Atlanta for Southern fare and more

Whether you're looking for down home cooking or a mind-blowing omakase, the best restaurants in Atlanta have what you need

Written by
Gerrish Lopez
Contributors
Frances Katz
&
Jennifer Bradley Franklin
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When it comes to Southern food, Atlanta has long been a hub, offering every kind of down-home, meat-and-three treasure you can imagine. But in recent years, the city has seen its culinary scene continue to expand and grow, drawing more and more attention from the national food media.

Our list of best restaurants in Atlanta offers a handy snapshot of what makes the city’s dining community among the strongest in the country. Whether you’re looking for an inexpensive, rib-sticking feast – remember, the local BBQ scene is unquestionably one of the very best in the world – or a fanciful, opulent fine dining experience that wouldn’t be out of place in New York City or San Francisco, Atlanta’s collection of best eateries has what you’re looking for.

Some of these eating spots are architectural gems, while others are hole-in-the-wall spots hidden away from the bright lights and media attention. Just know that some of America’s best chefs call the ATL home, which explains why more and more culinary travelers are adding Atlanta to their foodie bucket list. So whether you’re looking for a quick meal, a leisurely brunch, or a luxurious dining experience, the city has what you need. Eating great food is truly one of the best things to do in Atlanta.

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Best restaurants in Atlanta

From appetizers that star farm eggs and celery cream to one of the best grass-fed burgers in town and the to-die-for duck breast, this is Southern cooking at its most elevated. Miller Union 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?

Named after chef Kevin Gillespie’s dad, Gunshow is a one-of-a-kind culinary experience. Watch the 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. Insider tip: you’ll be tempted by most of what passes by, so go with a small group of adventurous eaters to make sure you can sample everything.

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This rustic Italian eatery in SPX Alley serves up some of the best pizzas around. Love Grandma’s Pie at O4W Pizza? Nina & Rafi serves up equally stunning options like The Detroit Red Top: thick crust with marinara on top of the cheese and a layer of baked cheese around the corner. The Detroit is undeniably the star of the menu, but you can also indulge in other memorable pizza options as well as Italian favorites and a substantial selection of amaros.

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This Buckhead restaurant is easily one of the sexiest in town, confirmed by the constant parade of visiting A-list celebrities and local tastemakers. The dimly lit dining room is packed every night of the week, so plan ahead with reservations. Spring for the omakase menu and let Atlanta’s preeminent sushi master, chef Fuyuhiko Ito, guide you through his artful menu with dishes like otoro caviar nigiri, Madai carpaccio and lobster toban-yaki.

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Located in Inman Park, this Italian-American spot is both a neighborhood favorite and a must-try for visitors to Atlanta. Chef Bruce Logue’s 'pasta kingdom' serves fresh noodle dishes, many of which have become instant classics. Don’t miss the 20-yolk tagliatelle with wild mushrooms and Tuscan kale kimchi or the black spaghetti with hot sausage, red shrimp, and scallions. The wine list is equally impressive.

For an elegant meal in a laid-back setting, head to Kimball House, housed in the former Decatur train depot. The award-winning cocktails are a highlight, especially at happy hour when paired with fresh oysters, but stay for dinner and you’re in for a treat. Local fish and veg dishes, top notch steaks, and impressive desserts are all on the menu.

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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 signature dishes remain the same. The four-course tasting menu will surprise you in the best possible way. This is the place to go to celebrate a happy occasion or enjoy a great meal with family, close friends or that special someone.

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This funky and innovative izakaya-slash-wine bar-slash-cocktail bar in Poncey-Highland takes an inclusive approach to all aspects of the restaurant and treats everyone like family. The Japanese-focused menu is delicate and delicious, featuring sushi, ramen and other typical izakaya fare. L8Arm, the after-hours incarnation, features special cocktails and bar bites. The wine list leans towards natural and small-producers, and there’s a nice list of sakes as well.

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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. It's 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.

Pasta is the name of the game at this basement-level Buckhead restaurant and Italian market but, while you’ll find a few old standby favorites like lasagna and cacio e pepe, the kitchen shines in more unexpected creations. Delicately fried Roman artichokes, bucatini with little neck clams and white wine, and cavatelli with wild boar ragu are menu standouts. Chef Michael Patrick is a culinary historian of sorts and has done deep research over years spent in Italy to understand and resurrect near-forgotten varieties of pasta, many of which are available for purchase in the market.

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Housed in a strip mall along Buford Highway, Sushi Hayakawa’s unassuming exterior belies the treasures within. Reservations are a must, especially for sushi lovers who want to experience the two-hour honkaku omakase, an unforgettable, one-on-one experience with the chef himself.

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It’s hard to do better than this stylish downtown eatery on a cozy date night. The two-story restaurant serves small plates of contemporary Spanish cuisine, including the delicious Iberian ham after which it’s named. Everything is exceptionally well presented and offered in satisfying quantities. For a slice of Spain in the heart of Georgia, don’t miss the cast-iron–seared octopus, braised pork-cheek tacos and braised veal-shank ravioli.

Chinese master chef Rui Liu serves delicious Szechuan food in an unassuming strip mall in the Duluth section of Buford Highway. Both adventurous and timid diners will find something to love here. The shrimp and vegetable entrées, like the exceptionally good eggplant and string beans dish, as well as dry pot shrimp and spicy mapo tofu are all on order. 

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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. Serious BBQ scholars rank Heirloom Market among the best BBQ spots in Atlanta. The spicy Korean pulled pork sandwich with kimchi is a firm favorite topped with any one of five different sauces. The sides are equally memorable.

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. First of all, this is an Atlanta institution. Secondly (or, maybe, firstly): the fried chicken, BBQ ribs and cobbler.

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Bones has been serving prime beef, fresh seafood, and regional specialties since 1979. The old-school vibe, exceptional service, and clubby dining rooms make it a top choice for special occasions and corporate gatherings. From the seafood tower to the beef tartare or any steak on the menu, the food is of the finest quality, and the acclaimed wine cellar has just the right pairing to take a meal to the next level.

That less-than-delicate tapping sound you'll notice 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. The eatery is right by Emory University, so it’s the ideal dining destination for those looking to explore the school.

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Tuck in to delicious and affordable banh mi and pho generally considered some of the best in Atlanta. Fair warning: the line during the peak weekend meal times can get pretty long so opt for take out if you’re in a hurry. Just make sure not to leave empty-handed. Plus, it’s one of the few Vietnamese places on Buford Highway where you can get a pho-banh mi combo, so you don’t have to choose between favorites.

The Colonnade has been serving meat-and-three plates to hungry locals and visitors alike for almost 30 years. This is not a fancy or trendy restaurant, but it is one of Atlanta’s favorite ones. 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, from bikers to blue hairs. 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). Note: cash only!

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Food Terminal is the hot new bright spot on Buford Highway, the city’s most beloved international dining strip and the eatery wows diners with its beautiful, stylish interior and a wide selection of Malaysian-style noodle bowls, curries, bao and small plates. 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. The garlic bone marrow noodle bowl is mind-blowingly delicious.

Tiny but delicious sandwiches and apps packed with a variety of meats and flavors await you. Order two or more and a jar of pimento cheese and a spiked soda to go with it. From the boisterous environment and the eclectic cocktail list (including the locally famous frozen Jack-and-Coke) to the interesting sandwich options, the entire endeavor is an effort to think outside of the box and might be a very different dining experience than what you’re used to.

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In India, 'chai pani' means popping out for a tea and a snack. A laid-back, fuss-free kind of outing, which is exactly what this downtown Decatur restaurant 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, desserts and surprisingly tasty cocktails.

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