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Atlanta's 10 Hottest New Restaurants

By Christopher Hassiotis
June 2, 2014
Photo by: Andrew Thomas Lee

Atlanta's position as the regional heavyweight means it's the place to dine if you're in the South. Gems shine from all of its disparate neighborhoods, and there are hot places everywhere from bustling Westside to cozy Inman Park and collegiate Decatur. Where are Atlantans eating right now? Read on to find out which recently opened spots are topping people's lists…

  • Big Sky Buckhead

    Why It's Hot: This fast-casual restaurant-by-day, bar-by-night features a menu designed by Hector Santiago, currently executive chef at Abattoir and formerly of Pura Vida, Super Pan and Top Chef. A number of his Latin- and Asian-inspired sandwiches and bar food from Super Pan show up among the dishes.

    Must-Order: Santiago's famous steamed coconut buns meld Latin flavors with Taiwanese-style bao buns for simple, elegant and delicious sandwiches.

    Insider Tip: Head upstairs to the bar if the weather's nice - the rooftop patio provides an impressive view of the neighborhood skyline.

    3201 Cains Hill Pl. NW; 404-481-5168

  • Ink & Elm

    Why It's Hot: Aiming to be a simultaneous union of lounge, restaurant and tavern with its separate spaces, Ink & Elm turns a refined eye on Southern cuisine in its  Emory Village location. Executive chef Stephen Sharp favors farm-fresh and freshly caught ingredients like lamb prepared two ways, pork chops married with mustard greens, polenta, pear and a sweet Vidalia onion gravy and tilefish garnished with Sapelo Island clams and speck. Snacks, charcuterie and raw oysters round out the lounge and tavern menus.

    Must-Order: Ink & Elm knows how to handle a vegetable - make sure a few sides are part of your meal.

    Insider Tip: On Mondays, the restaurant serves a menu inspired by the Lowcountry (Savannah, Charleston, etc.). 

    1577 N. Decatur Rd.; 678-244-7050

  • Photo by: Andrew Thomas Lee

    Kimball House

    Why It's Hot: Taking its name from a demolished historic Downtown Atlanta hotel, the menu at Decatur's Kimball House gives equal focus to vegetables, meat and seafood, with plenty of sourcing from local foragers and farmers. Roasted sunchokes and dandelion greens complement crispy confit duck leg or a hearty steak salad. The cocktail program's top-notch, and Kimball House is one of only a few places in town with an extensive absinthe collection - and traditional absinthe service.

    Must-Order: Check out the rotating offerings of oysters - Atlanta's broadest and highest-quality selection - which come with mignonette served in an apothecary dropper bottle.

    Insider Tip: Kimball House hosts a half-shell happy hour from 5-7 PM, when oysters are half-priced. Word's out, though, so arrive early and snag a seat at the bar.

    303 E. Howard Ave., Decatur; 404-378-3502

  • Photo by: Sarah Dodge

    Lusca

    Why It's Hot: Adorned with two attention-grabbing murals of the restaurant's eponymous mythical sea creature, this Brookwood seafooder and separate raw bar comes courtesy of the team behind EAV hot spot Octopus Bar. Their first full-service restaurant, which sports a rustic-industrial vibe, expands beyond seafood to include grab-and-go breakfasts baked in-house, farm-fresh entrees and a basic, focused cocktail program.

    Must-Order: If you're sitting at the raw bar, the uni hand roll, if available, is to die for. Main dining room? Start off with some of the housemade charcuterie.

    Insider Tip: Brunch is an underlooked gem here, though lunch service is untested - it launches on Monday, June 9.

    1829 Peachtree St. NE; 678-705-1486

  • Pallookaville Fine Foods

    Why It's Hot: Pulling equally from carnivals, soda fountains, drive-thrus and other pop Americana kitsch traditions, this Avondale Estates joint (with origins in a popular corn dog food cart) bursts with color, personality and flavor. TV host and musician Jim Stacy opened the place to show that franks, sausages, milkshakes and more can be made with quality local ingredients too.

    Must-Order: The Fryinstein Monster combines a beef frank, Italian sausage and Polish kielbasa all into one massive cornmeal-batter-coated, well, monster.

    Insider Tip: Intimidated by the idea of creating your own alcoholic milkshake because you're afraid your impulses might lead you astray? Check the chalkboard for the daily special.

    17N Avondale Plaza, Avondale Estates; 404-500-1785

  • Photo by: Ration & Dram

    Ration & Dram

    Why It's Hot: This bi-level Kirkwood spot's concrete-and-metal design nods to its trainyard past, but two airy patios with two separate and full bars lighten the industrial landscape. The pub cuisine is mainly modern American, but Asian, Caribbean and South American notes make playful appearances (including at the weekend brunch), while the cocktail menu - owner Andy Minchow is an ATL bar vet - supplies thoughtful and creative sipping.

    Must-Order: Ration & Dram's menu changes regularly, but we've had great luck with duck dishes there. And keep an eye on the Cast Iron Pie, a version on the pot pie featuring different ingredients.

    Insider Tip: Don't sweat the sun - with a shaded patio and two separate upstairs outside areas, you'll find a way to maneuver yourself into a shady position.

    130 Arizona Ave. NE; 678-974-8380

  • Sobban

    Why It's Hot: Serving a mash-up of Korean and Southern cuisine, this Decatur spot takes its name from the "Korean version of the everyday Southern family table or TV dinner tray." Think nori seaweed corn dogs. Think pork chop donkatsu with a peach-infused hot mustard sauce. The diner-esque decor says retro, but the food's definitely from right now.

    Must-Order: The fried bologna-and-kimchi sandwich provides a solid introduction to how these two diverse culinary traditions find something in common.

    Insider Tip: If you're heading in at peak times, expect a wait. Better to plan ahead and try to dine earlier or later, as Sobban's been busy-busy since its fall opening.

    1788 Clairmont Rd., Decatur; 678-705-4233

  • Photo by: Andrew Thomas Lee

    St. Cecilia

    Why It's Hot: Atlanta restaurateur Ford Fry expands his empire with his newest and most glitzy undertaking, a Buckhead restaurant named for the patron saint of music where the gold-toned interior and soaring ceilings suggest some serious glamour. A raw bar with artfully topped oysters provides an intro to a menu inspired by Southern European coastal cuisines; you'll find pastas, roasted and grilled seafood and farm-fresh meats all prepared with a deft hand and an eye toward local, seasonal ingredients.

    Must-Order: St. Cecilia's menu changes daily. Start with something from the raw bar and order a pasta to share - ask your server what's freshest and most popular when it comes to mains. 

    Insider Tip: Enjoy your meal, but save room for dessert - pastry chef Chrysta Poulos makes some of the city's most indulgent final courses.

    3455 Peachtree Rd. NE; 404-554-9995

  • Stem Wine Bar

    Why It's Hot: Chef-owner Doug Turbush's East Cobb-located Seed Kitchen & Bar showed that OTP dining could be just as good as what's in the city, and the new Stem Wine Bar, a sister establishment to Seed located directly next door, does the same for wine bars. Small dishes like Nantucket Bay scallops with a pumpkin-seed romesco and seared foie gras with a huckleberry gastrique mean that there's an excellent meal to be made of many small bites.

    Must-Order: It's simple, but the salumi-and-cheese board features excellent varied local charcuterie and artisanal cheeses in a selection that changes daily.

    Insider Tip: Feeling a little intimidated by the wide array of wines by the glass and bottle? Stem plans to start leading classes in wine tasting.

    1311 Johnson Ferry Rd., Suite 516, Marietta; 678-214-6888

  • Varuni Napoli

    Why It's Hot: Diners have full view of the pizza-making stations, wood-fired ovens and climate-controlled dough room at this expansive, sociable Morningside pizzeria and Italian-food market. Neapolitan-style pizzas come bubbling hot, topped with ingredients like the famous San Marzano tomatoes and organic local produce, while Italian street-food snacks and a sampling of housemade desserts round out the menu.

    Must-Order: If you're one to judge a pizza place by its margherita - simple basil, tomato and mozzarella - you won't be disappointed.

    Insider Tip: Varuni Napoli offers sparkling Prosecco on tap. That's a thing! Who knew?

    1540 Monroe Dr.; 404-709-2690

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