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Atlanta's 10 Hottest Restaurants

By Christopher Hassiotis
March 3, 2014

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 new places everywhere from bustling Westside to cozy Inman Park and collegiate Decatur. Where are Atlantans eating right now? Read on to find out.

  • 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: Sriracha buffalo wings offer a good kick without overdoing the spice, and 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

  • Gunshow

    Why It's Hot: Inspired by Brazilian churrascaria-style dining and Chinese dim sum joints, Top Chef alum Kevin Gillespie takes an innovative turn at his spacious new Glenwood Park joint. The constantly changing dishes are priced à la carte and delivered to the communal dining tables by the chefs themselves as the food's prepared - diners can opt in or out of any dish, confident another creative creation will pass by soon.

    Must Order: There's no way of predicting - Gunshow's menu goes through a complete overhaul every week. But as the chefs bring their dishes by, they're happy to explain everything.

    Insider Tip: Reservations are tough to get. Ask if there are seats at the counter available - it's reserved for solo diners and smaller walk-in groups.

    924 Garrett St. SE, Suite C; 404-380-1886

  • Ink & Elm

    Why It's Hot: Aiming to be a simultaneous union of lounge, restaurant and tavern, Ink & Elm turns a refined eye on Southern cuisine in its newly opened 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 Low Country (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

  • King + Duke

    Why It's Hot: Executive chef Joe Schafer has a passion for fire, and it shows in his take on classic American cooking. This Buckhead newbie with an inviting reading-room vibe has gained national press for its huge hearth built especially for the restaurant. That cooker imparts a powerful char to dishes like rabbit three ways, a great house burger, or grilled steak and fish. Even King + Duke's pastries feature items cooked on the iron, like peaches grilled and paired with Cracker Jacks ice cream.

    Must Order: If you're with a group and up for sharing, order the impressive "King," a one-kilo, bone-in rib-eye steak for two.

    Insider Tip: Sitting on K+D's patio is great, but the overflow from the outside bar area can make for a noisy crowd. If you're dining alfresco, request a table as far from the bar as possible.

    3060 Peachtree Rd. NW; 404-477-3500

  • 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

  • Paper Plane

    Why It's Hot: Modest in size but big in personality thanks to classy throwback decor and a great cocktail program, this new Decatur spot from the owners of Victory Sandwich Bar shines when it comes to both cocktails and food. The libations manage to be thoughtful without being pretentious and are all-around excellent, and the food matches that tone - chilled carrot soup and beet salad set the stage for braised short ribs paired with celery root, radishes and smoked peaches, while an entree of smoked chicken pops with the addition of cherry, Brussels sprouts and liver pâté.

    Must Order: If there are housemade sausages on the ever-changing menu, give 'em a go - they're usually pleasantly smooth and milder than a lot of others around town.

    Insider Tip: Paper Plane's pretty small, so if you want to guarantee a seat, bring friends - reservations are only made for parties of six or more.

    340 Church St., Decatur; 404-377-9308

  • Sobban

    Why It's Hot: Serving a mash-up of Korean and Southern cuisine, this newly opened hot spot in Decatur 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 glamor. 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, but keep in mind the fact that executive chef Brian Horn knows his way around a grill - 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

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