Ask the typical coastal gastronome to name the country's greatest food cities, and you'll hear about New York, San Francisco, Chicago.....but to me, as a food writer, Atlanta is the place I want to go, the epicenter of the most important American food movement of the past fifty years. The south, as the saying goes, has risen again.
Linton Hopkins, the owlish and professorial chef at this superb restaurant, doesn't look like a commanding presence -- but his vision is so powerful and his authority over his cooks so absolute, that the amazing food here seems like the expression of a single mind. Which it is.
A tiny, exclusive jewelbox of a restaurant hidden under a famous winebar, the Quinones Room is one of Atlanta's best kept secrets, and one of its hardest spaces to penetrate. It's worth the trouble though -- this is very special food.
One of Atlanta's hippest and most modern restaurants, 4th & Swift serves minimal, locally sourced food in a pared-down industrial space with a lot of electricity in the air.
Add the best chef in Atlanta and one of the best craft cocktail bars anywhere, and the result is Holeman and Finch. Forget about the hamburger: all the food here is magnificent, and more than worthy of the incredible drinks.
The modern meatery generally works on American principles, especially when it's found in a state like Texas; but Abattoir is that rare exception that draws on classic French cookery for its carnivorous revels.
Southern comfort food gets raised to an almost preternatural level as this brilliant restaurant, thanks to the energy and imagination of chef Steven Satterfield.
Celebrity chef Huge Acheson has made a huge splash with this big, urbane, exciting restaurant that pairs the chef's innovative take on southern food with a top-notch cocktail program. Great to hit late at night.
Ford Fry's first seafood restaurant might have easily gone awry; Atlanta is not a seafood town, and the chef made his mark mostly with meat. But The Optimist is a triumph: original, exciting, and somehow exactly what the city needed.
Cardamom Hill may well be the only South Indian / Modern Southern hybrid restaurant in America, which is a sad thing, since the food at this Northside bistro is absolutely wild, and somehow totally natural to both cuisines. Don't miss the fried chicken.
If you like live fires and dead animals, King + Duke is the place for you: three immense cast iron grills hold blazing logs, the better to impart crust and sear to steaks, chops, fish, and one hell of a hamburger.