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Too Cool To Be Cool

We define what “cool” is in as many different ways as there are people. For some it’s the timeless classiness of Frank Sinatra. For others it’s the style of a subversive movie-maker like Quentin Tarantino or Kevin Smith. As Cake said, it’s having the t-shirt to prove you were there, that you heard of them first.

So how about Atlanta’s cool restaurants? How do you measure what makes them cool? Well, we think that what makes this list of in-town restaurants cool is that they offer an experience you can’t get anywhere else. It can’t be replicated and franchised. They’re dining experiences that owe as much to the environment and ambience as they do to the menu (and that’s not to diminish the skills of the chefs at all). Here, in no particular order, are some of Atlanta’s coolest dining experiences.

Lunacy Black Market

Lunacy Black Market is … surprisingly sane. The comfortable clutter of couches and living room chairs lit by paper lantern seem a bit at odds with the bustle of downtown Atlanta near Mitchell and Spring Street. But that’s the point. It’s a tremendous restaurant with more-than-reasonable prices that feels more like an alternative coffee house, the sort of place for writers of vampire fiction and men with unironic beards.

Agave

Again, the incongruity of the presentation – the burnt orange New Mexico cantina juxtaposed against the Oakland Cemetery of Cabbagetown – lends itself to making a list of interesting restaurant spaces in Atlanta. The broad open brick room does not shield the diner from the chefs. Green chile and sizzle sells the place as much as the clay pottery and Tarentino-esque bar.

Octopus

Octopus is what happens to the relatively-new Vietnamese restaurant So Ba in East Atlanta Village when the night is late and the belly is empty. So Ba’s patio becomes Octopus, a restaurant that’s effectively underground. They don’t advertise. There’s no “Octopus” sign. It’s Fight Club for the food industry set, and serves delicious … weird … seafood. At 2:30 a.m., that’s the best kind.

Porter Beer Bar

Suitcases in a row as décor. Hipster irony as accent. The Porter Beer Bar in Little Five Points looks like they’re deliberately trying to make the place seem a little cramped and shabby on first impression, but that’s to keep the mainstream folks from noticing. Generally, that strategy doesn’t work. It’s elbows and hip checking on a Friday night, but that’s because the gastropub’s beer selection is absurdly extensive and the herb and garlic fries and vegan burgers are just that good.

Parish

This New Orleans eatery sits behind an unassuming brick face in the middle of Inman Park. The ultramodern apartments across the street contrast with the surprising 19th Century general store appeal, with its tin plate roof and exposed brick. Parish is a market and a bakery with an open-air coffee bar, and the wafting joy of live music, fresh bread and fried chicken makes the place worth a parade inside.

Ammazza

A pizza joint, one says mockingly. The kind of Napoletana pizza joint built for lines out of the door, with rows of tables and benches and bar stools and whatever other space one might use to eat, packed tightly to accommodate the well-deserved traffic from Old Fourth Ward patron. Giant wood-fired ovens lay behind glass, visible to the diners so they can press their noses and drool.

Veni Vidi Vici

This is the place to get your Patrick Bateman on from the movie “American Psycho.” If you want the power lunch or the serious dinner in Buckhead, it’s hard to beat the clean lines and pastels of the 80’s art deco interior and white table cloths of this Italian trattoria.

Corner Pub

Borne of fire, literally, the Corner Pub emerged from the ruin of a blaze in its first home in Oakhurst eight years ago. Now in East Decatur Station near the Avondale stop on Marta, a grand curving bar table dominates the open space of the pub.

Homegrown, Ga

A flower blooms in the urban desert with Homegrown. The self-described “meat-plus-three” has the feel of a traditional 50’s diner, in Reynoldstown. In a stretch of Memorial Drive typified by semi-occupied industrial sites, graffiti tags by Civil and empty lots. The happy octopus and bright yellow colors inside the white and green building make one wonder when Zoe Deschanel will come bounding around from the kitchen, ukelele in hand.

Photo Credit: Creative Loafing Atlanta