Feature

The Best Restaurants for Every Budget in Atlanta

By Christopher Hassiotis  |  February 13, 2017
Credit: Emily Schulz

When you're heading out to eat, there's a lot to consider: cuisine, vibe, neighborhood, novelty, the ever-nebulous Atlanta traffic report. But what's at the base of everything? Totaling up that bill, tax and tip. Thankfully, the diverse Atlanta dining scene offers many options for those on any budget. Here's where to dine whether you're out for a splurge or a bargain.

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  • Credit: The Palm

    Business lunch

    Inexpensive: Open since 1993, Eats has seen many neighborhood changes from the strip-mallification of the former Atlanta Crackers field to the development of Ponce City Market. But this old-school counter-serve favorite, with its eclectic mix of jerk chicken, Southern food and heaping pasta bowls, serves up all of its plates at shockingly affordable prices, drawing an eclectic mix of neighborhood residents, Midtown office workers, construction workers and more. It's great if your business lunch is more of an easygoing affair.

    Moderately priced: For a casual, unfussy lunch, Horseradish Grill in Buckhead's northern Chastain Park district serves Southern food with approachable panache — the fried green tomatoes are topped with goat cheese and spiced pecans, while fritters made with grits and pimiento cheese are garnished with an aïoli flavored with country ham. It even keeps the Southern blue-plate special alive with its $14 meat-and-three lunch special — and the patio makes for a semi-secluded spot to talk business.

    Worth a splurge: Few things say power lunch in a more confidently traditional way than a steakhouse, and The Palm (at the Westin Buckhead) delivers on all counts — efficient service, colorfully clubby decor and satisfying lunch fare. Head in with an expense account and a few business associates and opt for steaks, lobster, martinis and more. 

  • Credit: Brush Sushi Izakaya

    Sushi

    Inexpensive: Want some quality sushi in a hip atmosphere? Head to the brand-new Makimono, which has replaced Craft Izakaya in the Krog Street Market food hall. Either pick your own sushi roll ingredients or go with a pre-designed selection, served up in sizeable portions, or opt for a bowl of sushi rice topped with veggies and fresh fish, all for about $10.

    Moderately priced: Don't let the awkward name dissuade you from making your way to The One Sushi Plus, an under-the-radar sushi spot tucked away in Brookhaven. The contemporary locale deftly handles the balance between time-honored sushi and sashimi preparation and modern, more creative technique, and turns out an excellent cocktail too.  

    Worth a splurge: There are plenty of worthy, upscale sushi spots in town, particularly in Buckhead, and you'll have no problem spending a paycheck or two in one visit. But lately, we're partial to newcomer Brush Sushi Izakaya in downtown Decatur. While there's much to admire about the restaurant all around — it ups Decatur's dining game with something serious, the casual atmosphere provides options for different prices, the food's delicious and beautiful — the omakase menu is the best way to experience chef Jason Liang's cuisine. His artful presentations of whatever's freshest and catching his fancy that day is one of the priciest meals in Decatur, but also one of the best.

  • Credit: Sarah Dodge

    Southern fare

    Inexpensive: Located just barely ITP on Lawrenceville Highway, the Southern restaurant Pea Ridge is unassuming but instantly comfortable. Familiar salads and sandwiches with modern updates comprise the bulk of the menu, which changes depending on available seasonal produce. The Southern lunch is one easy-on-the-wallet option, consisting of ever-changing chalkboard specials.

    Moderately priced: Revival, the homey Southern eatery in Decatur from chefs Kevin Gillespie and Andreas Müller, has gotten a lot of attention for its generous but relatively pricey, $42-per-person family-style dining option. Opt instead to order à la carte, and you'll be treated to elegant, comforting entrees often under the $20 mark, and a meal in this welcoming converted Southern house becomes much more approachable.

    Worth a splurge: Canoe has a well-deserved rep as a special-occasion spot, and while that's accurate, it's not necessarily the case. You can eat at this refined space on the banks of the Chattahoochee without breaking the bank...but you can also go all out, and we totally recommend doing so. Let your server know you're in for the long haul, with a starter course or two, an entree and perhaps a mid-meal cocktail to stroll the grounds by the river, then wrap up with dessert and an after-dinner drink. It won't come cheap, but it'll be unforgettable.

  • Credit: Emily Schulz

    Weekend brunch

    Inexpensive: Barbecue brunch? Heck yes. That's just what you'll find at The Smoke Ring in Castleberry Hill. Just think of all the wonderful nooks and crannies that oozing egg yolk can find in a pile of pulled pork. Slow-cooked 'cue subs in for Canadian bacon on the pulled pork Benedict, for instance, and the prices are wholly reasonable. Another positive? Brunch here is served on both Saturday and Sunday.

    Moderately priced: 101 Steak is Vinings' newest upscale steakhouse, but its brunch is a great way to try the cuisine without dipping into the savings. Steakhouse fare shows up in dishes like the Reuben made with Wagyu beef pastrami, while many dishes highlight local ingredients — chicken from Springer Mountain, for instance, or grits from Logan Turnpike. Don't miss 101's "libations bar," where a build-your-own cocktail selection offers an attractive array of choices.

    Worth a splurge: Want to drop some cash on a decadent brunch? Got some time to kill? Head into The Café at The Ritz-Carlton Buckhead for an extravagant buffet replete with bubbly. More than 100 breakfast and lunch dishes are available: seafood, salads, sushi, a carving station and waffles, plus omelets cooked to order with the ingredients of your choosing, from across the board. And then there's the sparkling wine cocktail station.

  • Credit: R. Thomas

    Uniquely ATL

    Inexpensive: High on the list of essential Atlanta experiences is diving into a box full of wings from iconic take-out joint J.R. Cricket's (which even makes a cameo in Donald Glover's Atlanta). Swing by any of the near-dozen metro spots, though the original is in Midtown. You can split your order's flavor, but the way to go is the unimpeachable lemon pepper — order the "swimming" for a full blast of flavor, best enjoyed standing in a parking lot before you even make it back to your car. They're not fancy, they're not reinvented or deconstructed...they're wings. But they're Atlanta wings, and worth arguing about. 

    Moderately priced: A visit to R. Thomas is a rite of passage when it comes to Atlanta morning, afternoon and nightlife. The kitschy, three-decades-strong restaurant is not much more than a patio enclosed in a semi-permanent plastic structure, decorated with neon lights and other random knickknacks. Caged, squawking tropical birds divide customers into love-'em-or-hate-'em camps, while the expansive menu scratches many itches — from pasta bowls to all-day breakfast fare. (Plus, plenty of health-conscious, vegetarian and vegan options, as R. Thomas was a spot that had quinoa on the menu well before anyone had heard of it.)

    Worth a splurge: The Sun Dial holds an iconic position in the city. Popular for tourists, prom-goers and wedding proposals, it's still a must-visit at least once for a full experience of Atlanta. The multi-tiered, rotating restaurant on the 73rd floor of the Westin Peachtree Plaza offers an unbeatable view of the city and its surroundings, while the food is elegantly New American with European influences, and there's live jazz on Wednesday and Thursday nights.