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The 38 Essential Atlanta Restaurants, January '13

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It's time to update the Eater 38, your answer and ours to any question that begins, "Can you recommend a restaurant?" This highly elite group covers the entire city (inside the perimeter), spans myriad cuisines, and collectively satisfies all of your restaurant needs. Every couple of months, we'll be adding pertinent restaurants that were omitted, have newly become eligible (restaurants must be open at least six months), or have stepped up their game.

This time around, after much reflecting and poring over reader emails and comments, the 38 bids adieu to Woodfire Grill, since the restaurant recently parted ways with its sous and executive chefs, and welcomes Bacchanalia and Ecco, among others, to the alphabetical list.

Beg to differ? Leave suggestions and explanations in the comments below or send them through the tipline.


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Note: Restaurants on this map are listed geographically.

1. 4th & Swift

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621 North Ave NE
Atlanta, GA 30308
(678) 904-0160
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4th and Swift was called the “au courant vision of Atlanta restaurant design” by Atlanta magazine and has food to match the décor. On the menu are things like crispy Southern fried quail, local corn soup, pan-fried squash blossoms, Tybee Island shrimp ravioli.

2. Abattoir

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1170 Howell Mill Rd.
Atlanta, GA 30318
(404) 892-3335
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With Chef of the Year Tyler Williams helming the kitchen and Anne Quatrano and Clifford Harrison behind the concept, it's hard to go wrong at Abattoir. Go for small plates, like the octopus dog and beef tartare.

3. Alon's Bakery & Market

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4505 Ashford Dunwoody Rd
Atlanta, GA 30346
(678) 397-1781
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The sandwiches and prepared foods at Alon’s are perfect for a casual lunch in the restaurant or taken to go. It only gets better with the old favorites like the fancy desserts and well-curated cheeses and the addition of wood-fired pizzas.

4. Antico Pizza Napoletana

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1093 Hemphill Ave. NW
Atlanta, GA 30318
(404) 724-2333
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This pizzeria splashed onto the scene with its signature pies and unique atmosphere. National recognition and a cult following have only fed its progress; plans for expansion are blazing away like the imported Acunto ovens that feed the masses.

5. Aria Restaurant

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490 E Paces Ferry Rd NE
Atlanta, GA 30305
(404) 233-7673
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The elegant cuisine at Gerry Klaskala's lovely Buckhead restaurant make it perfect for special occasions. Desserts from talented pastry chef Kathryn King only add to the experience.

6. Bacchanalia

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1198 Howell Mill Rd. NW
Atlanta, GA 30318
(404) 365-0410
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Bacchanalia's five-course prix-fixe menu is consistently one of the best meals in Atlanta. The dinner is worth its price, but dishes can be ordered a la carte at the bar for those who just want a taste.

7. Bocado

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887 Howell Mill Rd
Atlanta, GA 30318
(404) 815-1399
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Skill is evident in each of Bocado's carefully crafted dishes. The restaurant's most destination-worthy creation is the Bocado burger stack, which has deservedly achieved legendary status among burger aficionados, but the small plates and lunchtime sandwiches are just as good.

8. Cafe Agora

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262 E Paces Ferry Rd NE
Atlanta, GA 30305
(404) 949-0900
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Colorful salads, perfectly seasoned meats, and soft warm bread are only half of what’s appealing about this postage stamp of a restaurant. Owner Al Ozelci brings the other irreplaceable half: the fatherly charm and hospitality.

9. Cakes & Ale Restaurant

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155 Sycamore St
Decatur, GA 30030
(404) 377-7994
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Cakes & Ale continues to capture the local food-loving hearts of Atlantans, who seem to prefer substance and ease over style and status. The lunchtime grain bowls from the Bakery at Cakes & Ale are one of this city's gems.

10. Community Q BBQ

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1361 Clairmont Rd
Atlanta, GA 30033
(404) 633-2080
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David Roberts, one of the co-founder of Marietta's Sam & Dave's, branched out to Decatur and opened this locally-driven barbecue.

11. Desta Ethiopian Kitchen

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3086 Briarcliff Rd NE
Atlanta, GA 30329
(404) 929-0011
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This casual Ethiopian restaurant is the best of its kind in the city, and it's open until at least midnight every day to boot. Get the vegetarian platter and/or lamb tibs.

12. Ecco

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40 7th St NE
Atlanta, GA 30308
(404) 347-9555
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Ecco's seasonally inspired fare is carefully prepared and executed. Don't miss the fried goat cheese appetizer and olive oil stracciatella ice cream, and if the weather is nice, ask for a tour of the rooftop garden.

13. Empire State South

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999 Peachtree St NE
Atlanta, GA
(404) 541-1105
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Hugh Acheson’s first Atlanta project feels like it’s been open much longer than a year. Seasonal produce is spun into whimsical dishes with reverence and the wine list is a treasure trove for true wine lovers.

14. Floataway Cafe

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1123 Zonolite Drive
Atlanta, GA 30306
(404) 892-1414
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Though it has been through many a change, this semi-hidden and subdued Anne Quatrano joint remains the jewel in her crown. Looks for fresh oysters, Moscow Mule cocktails served in chilled metal cups, and the city’s only noteworthy steak frites.

15. Fox Bros Bar-B-Q

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1238 DeKalb Ave NE
Atlanta, GA 30307
(404) 577-4030
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It’s all about the gut-bombs at the icon that proved great barbecue is possible in Atlanta. Tater tots covered in chili and cheese, massive short ribs, and Frito pie are staples that make this the only spot you should go for the morning— afternoon— after.

16. Heirloom Market BBQ

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2243 Akers Mill Rd
Atlanta, GA 30339
(770) 612-2502
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This barbecue spot may be small, but the dynamic duo behind it bring more than enough pizzazz to compensate for the cramped quarters. Look for Korean-inspired Southern ‘cue and pitch-perfect sides.

17. Holeman & Finch Public House

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2277 Peachtree Rd. NE
Atlanta, GA 30309
(404) 948-1175
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This bar is so much more than the crafted specialty cocktails and cult burger. It’s the place to take out of towners to show them what’s great about Atlanta and/or test a companion’s food fear factor. Case in point: Fried chicken heads, anyone?

18. JCT Kitchen & Bar

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1198 Howell Mill Rd NW
Atlanta, GA 30318
(404) 355-2252
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Ford Fry calls JCT. Kitchen’s style Southern farmstead. The restaurant dishes out items that conjure up the South with a gourmet twist, like deviled eggs and pork belly with local clams as well as all kinds of poultry: fried chicken, hot chicken oysters, chicken liver mousse, and more.

19. Kyma

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3085 Piedmont Rd NE
Atlanta, GA 30305
(404) 262-0702
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The standard-bearer for upscale contemporary Greek food in the city, Kyma’s been bringing the bright flavors of Mediterranean seafood to life in Buckhead for a decade now. Look for show-stopping décor, fresh ingredients, good energy, and a nice wine list from this Buckhead Life Restaurant Group favorite.

20. La Tavola Trattoria

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992 Virginia Ave NE
Atlanta, GA 30306
(404) 873-5430
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La Tavola, Fifth Group's Italian restaurant in Virginia-Highland, does everything well. From mozzarella burrata to squid ink linguine or spaghetti and meatballs, the menu is sure to have something for everyone. Don't leave without trying the tiramisu.

21. Leon's Full Service

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131 E. Ponce de Leon Ave.
Decatur, GA 30030
(404) 687-0500
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Laid back and welcoming, this Decatur watering hole is a favorite hangout for those looking for well-crafted cocktail and fun nosh.

22. Little Bangkok

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2225 Cheshire Brg Rd. NE
Atlanta, GA 30324
(404) 315-1530
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This place is an exception to the “Thai food in Atlanta sucks” rule. Don’t expect weird dishes you’ve never had; instead, order slutty stand-bys like pad thai.

23. Miller Union

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999 Brady Avenue
Atlanta, GA
(678) 733-8550
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Steven Satterfield knows how to make Southern food somehow less guilt-inducing, but still comforting. The farm egg baked in celery cream with grilled bread is a top ten Atlanta dish and the desserts will have you excited about ordering dessert again.

24. Miso Izakaya

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619 Edgewood Ave SE
Atlanta, GA 30312
(678) 701-0128
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Named as one of Bon Appetit's six favorite izakayas in North America, Miso Izakaya also happens to be helmed by 2011 Eater Atlanta Award-Winning Chef of the Year Guy Wong. A favorite of locals and critics alike, the Japanese pub is a must-try.

25. Murphy's

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997 Virginia Ave. NE
Atlanta, GA 30306
(404) 872-0904
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The upscale, contemporary comfort food at Murphy’s captures the spirit of Atlanta: the menu items are modern but full of history and feature fresh, local ingredients. Go for weekend brunch and walk around Virginia Highlands afterward.

26. Muss & Turner's

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1675 Cumberland Pkwy Ste 309
Smyrna, GA 30080
(770) 434-1114
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This Smyrna spot is as close as we get to New York deli in Atlanta. Enormous sandwiches stuffed with all manner of homemade meats and fillings abound. The burger is definitely top three in Atlanta and the beer list is a whopper.

27. No. 246

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129 E Ponce de Leon Ave.
Decatur, GA 30030
(678) 399-8246
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It's been called an "instant classic." Simple, straight-forward cooking in a clean semi-industrial space. Go for the pastas, whole roasted fish, and hulking sandwiches at lunch.

28. Nuevo Laredo Cantina

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1495 Chattahoochee Ave.
Atlanta, GA 30318
(404) 352-9009
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Nuevo Laredo might not have the elaborate margarita menu that other restaurants boast, but the three classics they offer— house, Texas, and Cadillac— are strong and delicious. The food here is fantastic as well, so make sure you sit down for dinner instead of just drinking at the bar.

29. Octopus Bar

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560 Gresham Ave
Atlanta, GA 30316
(404) 627-9911
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Octopus Bar's late night only and caters to the industry crowd. Housed in what is So Ba by day, the restaurant opens at 10:30 p.m. and serves cocktails and dishes like salt and pepper shrimp, lobster rolls, and daeji bulgogi.

30. One Eared Stag

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1029 Edgewood Ave
Atlanta, GA 30307
(404) 525-4479
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One Eared Stag quickly became an Atlanta hotspot. Known for chef/owner Robert Phalen's inventiveness in the kitchen, for which he'd gained “one to watch” status at Holy Taco, the restaurant's brought the buzz back to Inman Park.

31. The Optimist

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914 Howell Mill Road
Atlanta, GA 30318
(404) 477-6260
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Ford Fry's much-hyped fish camp and oyster bar in West Midtown opened in May and has since been the recipient of praise galore. It gets crowded, so for lunch or sit at the bar, and don't forget to leave some time for miniature golf.

32. Quoc Huong Bahn Mi Fast Food

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5150 Buford Hwy C-170
Doraville, GA 30340
(770) 936-0605
Airy bread slathered with mayo and filled with roasted pork, pickled vegetables, and a fluffy omelet? Yes, please. Oh, yeah? That sandwich will cost you $2.50. You’re welcome.

33. Rathbun's

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112 Krog St NE
Atlanta, GA 30307
(404) 524-8280
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There aren’t many bad things to say about Kevin Rathbun’s restaurant, so we’ll focus on the good: the food is great and so is the service. Rathbun’s is also conveniently located next to Krog Bar, so stop in before or after your meal for a glass of wine and an appetizer or a nightcap.

34. Restaurant Eugene

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2277 Peachtree Rd
Atlanta, GA 30309
(404) 355-0321
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Restaurant Eugene’s Linton Hopkins won last year's James Beard Award for Best Southeast Chef, and for good reason. This restaurant puts a definite emphasis on good food and an even bigger one on making sure everything is sourced locally.

35. Star Provisions

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1198 Howell Mill Rd.
Atlanta, GA 30318
(404) 365-0410
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The prices at this gourmet boutique may deter you, but the sandwiches— especially the unorthodox Reuben and shrimp po’boy— offer big flavor at an affordable cost.

36. Sotto Sotto

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313 N Highland Ave NE
Atlanta, GA 30307
(404) 523-6678
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If one Atlanta Italian restaurant must be crowned supreme, this Inman Park favorite deserves the title. A long list of Italian pastas made with care are the menu’s centerpiece.

37. Souper Jenny

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56 E Andrews Dr NW
Atlanta, GA 30305
(404) 237-7687
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Based on the line that’s usually out the door, Souper Jenny shouldn’t be overlooked. The cafeteria-style restaurant offers soups, sandwiches, and salads six days a week. But heads up: they don’t take credit cards and the last hour of each day is take-out only.

38. Tomo Japanese Restaurant

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3630 Peachtree Rd.
Atlanta, GA 30326
(404) 835-2708
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Definitely a cut above the average sushi. The talented chefs take care to present you with alluring plating that is not soon forgotten whether you go for dinner or weekday lunch.

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1. 4th & Swift

621 North Ave NE, Atlanta, GA 30308
4th and Swift was called the “au courant vision of Atlanta restaurant design” by Atlanta magazine and has food to match the décor. On the menu are things like crispy Southern fried quail, local corn soup, pan-fried squash blossoms, Tybee Island shrimp ravioli.
621 North Ave NE
Atlanta, GA 30308

2. Abattoir

1170 Howell Mill Rd., Atlanta, GA 30318
With Chef of the Year Tyler Williams helming the kitchen and Anne Quatrano and Clifford Harrison behind the concept, it's hard to go wrong at Abattoir. Go for small plates, like the octopus dog and beef tartare.
1170 Howell Mill Rd.
Atlanta, GA 30318

3. Alon's Bakery & Market

4505 Ashford Dunwoody Rd, Atlanta, GA 30346
The sandwiches and prepared foods at Alon’s are perfect for a casual lunch in the restaurant or taken to go. It only gets better with the old favorites like the fancy desserts and well-curated cheeses and the addition of wood-fired pizzas.
4505 Ashford Dunwoody Rd
Atlanta, GA 30346

4. Antico Pizza Napoletana

1093 Hemphill Ave. NW, Atlanta, GA 30318
This pizzeria splashed onto the scene with its signature pies and unique atmosphere. National recognition and a cult following have only fed its progress; plans for expansion are blazing away like the imported Acunto ovens that feed the masses.
1093 Hemphill Ave. NW
Atlanta, GA 30318

5. Aria Restaurant

490 E Paces Ferry Rd NE, Atlanta, GA 30305
The elegant cuisine at Gerry Klaskala's lovely Buckhead restaurant make it perfect for special occasions. Desserts from talented pastry chef Kathryn King only add to the experience.
490 E Paces Ferry Rd NE
Atlanta, GA 30305

6. Bacchanalia

1198 Howell Mill Rd. NW, Atlanta, GA 30318
Bacchanalia's five-course prix-fixe menu is consistently one of the best meals in Atlanta. The dinner is worth its price, but dishes can be ordered a la carte at the bar for those who just want a taste.
1198 Howell Mill Rd. NW
Atlanta, GA 30318

7. Bocado

887 Howell Mill Rd, Atlanta, GA 30318