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Best Appetizers in Atlanta

Who doesn’t love starting their meal off with some appetizers?

Whether you’re splitting a few plates while you’re watching the game in a sports bar or enjoying a five-course gourmet feast, it just doesn’t feel right to dive right into the entrees (or even the salads) without something to nosh on beforehand.

Consider this your go-to guide for the finest appetizers in our fine city. 

(Side note: for the purposes of this article, wings will not be included as an appetizer because it would disproportionately dominate the list.)

Before we dive into the food, here are the four appetizer categories:

Cheesy Goodness: 

These are the dishes that are oozy, gooey, salty, savory, and…oh yeah, cheesy. Eat these with a fork, your hands, or whatever edible vessel it’s served with. Just make sure bedtime isn’t too far away because this much cheese can make one sluggish.

Dipping and Dunking:

Turn yourself into a two-limbed machine of scooping and soaking up all kinds of good stuff in a ramekin full of even better stuff. The dipper and the dip are co-stars of this beautiful production. 

A Little Fancy:

Pinky up! These starters can be found at spots a bit classier than your average sports bar or hole-in-the-wall joint, but just because they’re on the nicer side doesn’t mean they don’t pack a satisfying bite every step of the way. Just be careful with spills…chances are you’re wearing nicer clothes while you dive into these treats. 

Wild Card:

Every friend group needs its wild card, and this appetizer list is no different. From octopus puffs to pig ears, the rules are out the door and the flavor is cranked up to the max. It’s okay to be a little scared…just be hungry too.

Cheesy Goodness

Wu Fries – Torched Hop

This star of the Torched Hop menu takes perfectly crunchy waffle fries and drowns them in buffalo sauce, housemade ranch, bacon, green onion, and plenty of white cheddar. Each fry tells its own delightful story, with different combos of toppings in each bite you take, but my favorites are the final fries standing which have been absorbing the various sauces, ensuring plenty of deliciousness. 

 

 
 
 
 
 
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Nachos – Superica

There’s all kinds of stuff to savor at Ford Fry’s Tex Mex concept, but his nachos are wholly unique. They subvert your expectations of a nacho by putting each ingredient (beans, cheese, and jalapenos, though you can also add chicken or beef) on a single chip, so you only get a few per order but each one is like that perfectly loaded nacho everybody fights over in a typical platter.

Buffalo Totchos | The Nook | Photo Credit: AJC.com

Buffalo Totchos – The Nook

Whether you’re at The Nook for trivia or just a weekend brunch, you can’t go wrong with their Totchos ® (they alternate between using ® and ™ on the menu so I’m not sure if they actually are registered or trademarked at all but I’m not in the business of being sued). The Totchos are a thing of legend: part tots, part nachos, fully delicious. These smothered spuds are available in several splendid configurations, but buffalo is my personal favorite. Also, all totcho orders presently benefit The Giving Kitchen, so you can do good while eating good.

Saganaki from Taverna Plaka
Saganaki | Taverna Plaka

Saganaki – Taverna Plaka

This app is all about the spectacle. Sometimes you want a dish that’s all about the show (see: fajitas) and the Saganaki doesn’t disappoint. It’s Kefalograviera (don’t worry, you don’t need to pronounce it when you order it) cheese drizzled in rum and then lit on fire, arriving at the table fully engulfed in flames, then extinguished with lemon juice. What’s left is a salty, melty, and gorgeous treat to spread on a fresh piece of pita bread.

Potato Skins from The Greater Good BBQ.
Pimento BBQ Potato Skins | The Greater Good

Pimento BBQ Potato Skins – Greater Good BBQ

BBQ is all about hedonism: only eating the things you most enjoy. This concept is best embodied by the Pimento BBQ Potato Skins from Greater Good BBQ. Carbs? Check. Pimento cheese? Check. Pork, chicken, or brisket? Check, check, CHECK! They’re a killer app but don’t be afraid to order them as your entree (with some sides for good measure).

Poutine | The General Muir | Photo Credit: TGM

Poutine – The General Muir

The General Muir is one of Atlanta’s premier delis, but their finest appetizer is far from a traditional deli staple. They take the Midwestern delicacy poutine (fries with cheese curds and gravy) and kick it up a notch by adding pastrami, a New York delicacy. Talk about a culinary marriage!

Burrata | A Mano | Photo Credit: Joey Weiss

Burrata – A Mano

At some point recently, burrata had itself quite a surge in popularity. It’s like mozzarella with a glow-up, even creamier and even more flavorful; how could it NOT be good in a salad? A Mano adds a bright balsamic reduction with tomato jam, basil oil, smoked sea salt, and grilled sourdough to scoop up all the collateral tastiness. 

Dipping and Dunking

 

 
 
 
 
 
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Spinach & Artichoke Dip – Houston’s

Look, if you’re going to Houston’s, you’re getting the Spinach & Artichoke Dip. You and your fellow diners can dance around the topic, but it’s a done deal. Good luck finding any other dip that’s as creamy and salty and packed with veggie flavor (but, you know, the fun kind) as this dip. The chips are fresh and they also come with sides of salsa and sour cream, so you can change it up every single bite. Pro tip: establish cross-dipping rules early on because each sauce plays well with the other two.

Reuben Egg Rolls | Goldberg’s Fine Foods | Photo Credit: TripAdvisor

Reuben Egg Rolls – Goldberg’s Fine Foods

What if you took the beloved reuben sandwich and deep fried it? Fortunately for the world, Goldberg’s answered that question with their Reuben Egg Rolls. They take all the components of the classic deli sandwich – corned beef, chopped sauerkraut, and swiss cheese – and roll them up in a crispy wonton. As if that wasn’t enough fun, you can take those bad boys for a swim in some 1000 Island Dressing.

Kale Pakoras – Chai Pani

Chai Pani serves Indian street food, which leaves plenty of space to test out new and exciting dishes. Perhaps their most successful is the Kale Pakoras, an Indian-style fritter made by dipping kale in a curried chickpea batter and then deep frying it. These little clusters are divine on their own, but the dual threat sauces of sweet yogurt and green chutney on the side elevate them to unprecedented heights. 

 

 
 
 
 
 
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Riesenbretzel – Der Biergarten

Prost! Der Biergarten is a singular type of German restaurant right in the heart of downtown ATL. They’ve got a huge beer list served in even bigger steins, but no visit to Germany is complete without getting the Riesenbretzel, or the big pretzel. It’s a perfectly-twisted soft pretzel served with three types of mustard of varying sweetness and spice.

Pommes Frites | Leon’s Full Service | Photo Credit: Snapwire.com

Hand-Cut Pommes Frites – Leon’s Full Service

Leon’s is one of Decatur’s finest, serving innovative yet comforting American cuisine out of an old gas station. Bring a group (or go full send on your own) and split the Hand-Cut Pommes Frites served with any two (or up to six for an extra charge) sauces, from garlic aioli to smoked jalapeño mayo. Don’t let courtesy stop you from taking that last fry.

 

 
 
 
 
 
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Sampler of Spring Rolls – Davio’s Northern Italian Steakhouse

When we think of northern Italian steakhouse, don’t we ALL think of spring rolls? While their filet mignon, gnocchi, and beet salad are certainly fantastic, it’s all about the spring roll sampler. Get one of each type of their fan-favorite spring rolls with their respective dipping sauces: Philly Cheese Steak with spicy homemade ketchup and spicy mayo, Chicken Parm with marinara, and Buffalo Chicken with bleu cheese.

Fox Bros BBQ - Chicken Fried Ribs | Photo: Instagram/andrewthomaslee via Facebook/FoxBrosBarBQ
Chicken Fried Ribs | Fox Bros BBQ | Photo Credit: Fox Bros BBQ

Chicken Fried Ribs – Fox Bros. Bar-B-Q

Fox Bros. is the standard-bearer for ATL BBQ and rightfully so. While everything on the menu is a winner, the Chicken Fried Ribs are one of the most satisfying twists you’ll find on the cuisine. They bread and fry their already thick and tasty ribs and then serve them with their famous white BBQ sauce, which beautifully balances the salty batter with the vinegary sauce. You’ll have no problems cleaning these bones.

A Little Fancy

Truffle Popcorn – Local Three

We all love popcorn. But what if it was also coated in truffle oil and parmesan cheese? Take my money! Local Three rotates plenty of high-end and tremendous dishes in and out of the menu, but their Truffle Popcorn has been a comforting mainstay on the menu practically since the very beginning. It’s a light start that sets the tone for a lovely meal. 

Lobster Fritters from Kevin Rathbun Steak.
Lobster Fritters | Kevin Rathbun Steak

Lobster Fritters- Kevin Rathbun Steak

Lobster is fine and all, but let’s be honest: it can get a little boring. Besides the usual methods of boiled and dipped in butter or chunked and put in a lobster roll, restaurants aren’t doing much with lobster. Kevin Rathbun may be one of the kings of Atlanta’s steakhouse scene, but his seafood contributions are just as esteemed. His eponymous steakhouse’s Lobster Fritters are chunks of deep-fried lobster served with a sweet and zesty lemon honey mustard. There’s nothing boring about that!

 

 
 
 
 
 
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Soft-Shell BLT Steamed Bun – Ruby Chow’s

Ruby Chow’s is one of the (not-so) hidden gems near Ponce City Market serving modern and innovative Chinese small plates and other noodle dishes. There’s no shortage of creative items on the menu, but none shine brighter than the Soft-Shell BLT Steamed Bun. While steamed buns are almost always spectacular, this dish stands out for what’s on the inside: soft-shell crab, sambal aioli, bacon, lettuce, and tomato. It’s like nothing you’ve ever had before or will likely have again (until you go back for more).

 

 
 
 
 
 
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Farm Egg Baked in Celery Cream – Miller Union

Miller Union is regarded as one of the finest restaurants in Atlanta, and the Farm Egg dish is a huge reason for that reputation. The egg is baked atop a pool of celery cream (seasoned with shallots, onion, peppercorns, thyme, and a bay leaf) and then sopped up with a rustic grilled country bread. It’s all the comfort of eating some runny sunny side up eggs, but classed up and cranked to the next level.

Lobster Arancini | The Select | Photo Credit: The Select

Lobster Arancini – The Select

The Lobster Arancini is a new and impressive dish from one of the most impressive restaurants in Sandy Springs. Imagine an absolutely lovely arancini (risotto fritter) that is already teeming with umami goodness, but add in some wild Maine lobster and place it on a peppery arugula pesto and top it with a spicy nduja aioli. As if you needed more reasons to go to The Select, this new dish should shoot to the top of that list.

 

 
 
 
 
 
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Braised Short Rib Dumplings – Hamp & Harry’s

Hamp & Harry’s is one of the finest restaurants in Marietta Square and these Braised Short Rib Dumplings are simply one of the best bites you’ll find anywhere around town. They are stuffed with the same short rib you can find around the menu (such as the Smoked Short Rib Grilled Cheese); this filling would make it delicious enough. But it’s also served with szechuan peppercorn, soy citrus broth, chili oil, and peanut, and these make it one of the most delicious and perfectly spicy things you’ve ever popped in your mouth. There’s four dumplings in an order, but you’ll need to demonstrate impressive restraint to not inhale them all at once.

Crispy Fried Lobster Tails | Cabernet Steakhouse | Photo Credit: Cabernet

Crispy Fried Lobster Tails – Cabernet

Cabernet has been an Alpharetta fixture for over two decades, and this is due to many factors: the highest quality of steaks, a robust wine list, and a classy yet comforting ambiance. Yet an undeniable part of this success comes from these Crispy Fried Lobster Tails, as concocted by Chef Richard Holley. Thanks to his tenured team (including fry cook Francisco, who has been on the team since day one), this dish jumps to life, crunchy on the outside and practically melting in your mouth with each bite. The honey mustard on the side is the cherry on top.

Wild Card

Takoyaki | Yakitori Jinbei | Photo Credit: Yakitori Jinbei

Takoyaki – Yakitori Jinbei

Yakitori Jinbei is a phenomenal Japanese restaurant in Smyrna where it’s hard to regret your order whether you’re getting sushi or their legendary Korean Fried Chicken (I’d include those on this list but that would violate my completely made up rules about wings). Their Takoyaki is a plate of octopus puffs mixed with green onions. Whoa! These balls are then topped with a flavorful takoyaki sauce, ponzu aioli, and bonito flakes. The taste of these is subtle and not too fishy, but the texture is simply unlike anything you’ve ever had before. Be mindful that these things maintain heat like nobody’s business and they’ll burn your mouth from bite to swallow unless you cut a ventilation hole or wait a long time to dig in.

Curly Corn | Win | Photo Credit: DoorDash

Curly Corn – Win 

Balinese cuisine isn’t easy to describe, but Bali is a province of Indonesia, whose fare is best described as an all-of-the-above mix of the approximately 6,000 islands with over 1,300 ethnic groups. All that to say, there’s no telling what you might expect when you’re at Win. While the menu is chock full of creative options, the Jagung Keriting, or Curly Corn, is one of the most interesting dishes you’ll find anywhere. It’s charred “curly” corn on the cob topped with savory crispy crumbles, so it not only looks unlike any corn you’ve ever had but tastes that way too.

Dinosaur Egg | Momonoki | Photo Credit: Uber Eats

Dinosaur Egg – Momonoki

Dinosaurs might have gone extinct millions of years ago, but it’s an exceptional loss if their eggs actually tasted anywhere near this good. This “Dinosaur Egg” is Momonoki’s take on Scotch eggs but with their Japanese influence. The soft-boiled egg is wrapped in stir-fried pork, breaded in panko, and then deep fried and topped with chili aioli and takoyaki sauce. 

 

 
 
 
 
 
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Roasted Cauliflower – Nur Kitchen

I enlisted my close friend and local chef Chad, AKA Chad The Food Dude, to write this blurb. He has worked as a mercenary chef of sorts at Nur for over a year, so I knew he’d do this dish the justice it deserves.

“From the very first glance, you’re hooked. But why? Is it the arresting visual contrast from a black slate plate, smeared with stark white house-made labneh and dusted with ruby-colored, citrusy sumac? Perhaps it’s something more primal, stemming from the love of fire, evident around the edges – a feature of the char bestowed upon the roasted cauliflower from the brick oven, a common theme in most of Chef Shay Lavi’s spirited cookery.  Even still, it may be the finishing touches…as the dish arrives peeking from beneath the generous spoonfuls of za’atar olive oil, a deep forest green whose fragrant aromas quickly find your nose as the plate hits the table. Whatever the reason may be, people are obsessed with this beautifully burnt brassica, and I highly encourage you to come in and check it out for yourself.”

Thanks, Chad!

Lasooni Cauliflower | Tabla | Photo Credit: Tabla

Lasooni Cauliflower – Tabla

From one cauliflower dish to the next! Cauliflower is having an identity crisis as of late, taking on forms from pizza crust to rice, but you won’t find me complaining, especially when I’m eating the Lasooni Cauliflower from the Indian restaurant Tabla. This extra crunchy cauliflower is swimming in a chili garlic sauce that emulates a more refined and international buffalo flavor that you’ll wish you ordered two more orders of.

 

 
 
 
 
 
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Crispy Pig Ear – Food Terminal

Food Terminal is one of our most charismatic restaurants, serving Malaysian food, which draws an influence from a wide variety of Asian cuisines. They have everything from Mango Tofu to Curry Laksa Chicken to Thai Tea, but have you ever had Crispy Pig Ear? Once you look past the potential squeamishness of eating a pig’s ear, you can appreciate a truly magnificent dish. It’s fried to a perfect crisp and served with a sauce that’s simultaneously sweet, spicy, and sour. 

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