Eater's tradition of surveying food writers for their takes on the Atlanta dining scene continues. We've covered the best restaurant standbys, top newcomers, and best neighborhoods for food. We've summed up the local dining scene in one word and listed the biggest dining surprises. Now it's time to talk about the best eating experiences this year.
What was your single best meal of 2015?
Bill Addison, Eater national restaurant critic: The five-course tasting menu I had recently at Staplehouse made the years-long anticipation for this restaurant so worth the wait. Ryan Smith puts all his creativity and years of experience forward on his plates, which comfort with their earthiness but surprise with bursts of acidity and electric flavor from ingredients like preserved maitake mushrooms and fermented pepper. The a la carte bar menu is a great way to wade into Smith's aesthetic, but putting yourself in his hands with the tasting menu is really the way to experience all the dimensions of his talent. Atlantans tend to be wary of tasting menus in all but our fanciest restaurants (few of which exist any longer), but I'm hopeful that Staplehouse is the place they can discover coursed meals to be at once casual and transcendent.
Ligaya Figueras, Atlanta Journal-Constitution food editor: Late night at Marcel. You cannot beat the steak frites with sauce vert for $10. It is just a smaller serving of the restaurant's l'Entrecôte, which, in my opinion, is the best item on the menu. Sitting at that fancy turn-of-the-century polished wooden bar, the rye-based cocktail La Vie en Rose in my hand ... I could have stayed there for hours. Actually, I did.
The Foodie Buddha: Tie between Craigie on Main in Boston and my NYC visits to El Rey and to Soto ... oh and the various foods David Sweeney served. Totally different experiences but loved them all. That counts as one, right?
Grant Goggans, Marie, Let's Eat! editor: My best meal at a restaurant might have been at Little Pigs in Columbia, S.C., which entered my top-10 favorite barbecue list. I'm actually hoping my daughter will get accepted and attend USC in a couple of years so I'll have an excuse to eat here a whole lot in the future. In Georgia, possibly a dinner at Parish a few months ago. It's been around long enough for people to overlook it — I came very late to it myself — but every time I come here, I leave very, very pleased.
Angela Hansberger, Creative Loafing contributor: You have to travel out of Atlanta for Three Michelin Star dining and Christopher Kostow's food at The Restaurant at Meadowood in Napa is powerful and evocative. Those ten-plus courses left an impression.
Brad Kaplan, Creative Loafing contributor and Thirsty South founder: Not an easy choice — but for food and all-around experience, I'd have to say doing the tasting menu in the dining room at Staplehouse. Chef Ryan Smith and crew are doing great things.
Evan Mah, Atlanta Magazine food editor: In Atlanta? Tough question, but I have to give it to Restaurant Eugene. I went there on my birthday with three of my best friends, and it was one of those perfect dinners where food, wine, service, and conversation really came together. When I think of a special occasion, a place of intimacy and class, I think of Restaurant Eugene.
Beth McKibben, Eater Atlanta contributor: Hands down, Staplehouse.
Laura Scholz, Eater Atlanta contributor: The seven-course tasting menu at Better Half. I love seeing Zach going back to his Push Start roots, and his creativity and presentation are hard to beat.
Bob Townsend, Atlanta Journal-Constitution contributor: Atlas for atmosphere, service, and food in a most surprising setting, though Marcel was a close second.