Restaurants come and go in Atlanta — I don’t know anyone who isn’t saddened that Hector Santiago’s Super Pan closed its doors this year, but chefs and restauranteurs continue to open new dining rooms to give us great culinary experiences. Here, in no particular order, is a small selection of the many fantastic restaurants that have opened in Atlanta in the last 12 months.
Emily Saliers of the Indigo Girls moved her restaurant from Decatur to Brookwood Hills this year, and held onto executive chef Joe Truex, who’s been running the kitchen since 2010. The Watershed’s bright and open decor stayed, too, but if you’re looking for the informal funky vibe of the Watershed of old, it’s been replaced by cordial professionalism you’d expect at a higher-end restaurant.
Must try: Fried Catfish Platter
With a menu that changes daily, and 2-for-1 deals in the last hour, Revolution Doughnuts on W. College has become my personal favorite bring-to-meeting food. Most of the menu is vegan-friendly (and even offers grain-free doughnuts on weekends), but don’t let that dissuade you carnivores — you can usually find caramel frosted (with bacon crumbles from the Spotted Trotter), and there’s a cream-filled slider selection (banana, pumpkin, nutella) almost every day.
Must try: One of each. Mmmm donuts
Named Esquire’s New Restaurant of 2012, Ford Fry’s elegant Oyster Bar in West Midtown has been a huge hit with culinary critics and diners. Chef Adam Evans moved from JCT Kitchen in the Westside Provisions District (another of Ford Fry’s restaurants) to create an irresistable menu of high-quality, sustainable seafood.
Must try: Angels on Horseback
Forget everything you thought you knew about Indian food. Chef Asha Gomez hails from India’s Kerala on the Malabar Coast, which resembles our own Gulf Coast. And there are similarities in the cuisine, too — spiced meats and fish that don’t have to be inferno-hot to be tasty. Gomez sees the similarity, and is fusing traditional southern US with Kerala at this beautiful restaurant on Northside at I-75.
Must Try: Fried Chicken and Waffles (seriously)
From lowly beginnings as a weekly BBQ night at P’Cheen in the Old 4th Ward, Mike LaSage opened Bone Lick BBQ in West Midtown in August to immediate and overwhelmingly positive reviews. With skee-ball lanes and a “barcade” featuring classics like Pac-Man and Street Fighter, LaSage has created a place to hang out, not just eat.
Must try: Fat Ass Sampler
Richard Blais has this little-boy-lost charm on tv that reminds me of Stan Laurel of Laurel and Hardy. But holy wow, the man can cook. And the room…one of the most open kitchens in the city means you don’t just get to smell the food being cooked – you can watch it happen.
Must try: Crisp Pork Belly, Octopus, and BBQ Chick Peas
Chad Clevenger’s last foray into the Atlanta dining scene was with Cabbagetown’s Agave, and with Alma Cocina on Peachtree Street near Peachtree Center Marta Station, he returns to his modern Mexican roots. Like many of this year’s new restaurants, there is a large community dining table among the small tables and booths, which can turn dining into an opportunity to make a new friend. This is the South, after all.
Must try: Fajita-Style Cazuela
Cameli’s has been around for a while, with a location on Ponce near Green’s liquor and Murder Kroger, but this new location in Little 5 Points has a custom-built gluten free kitchen. Yes, they allow smoking upstairs on the rooftop deck, but it’s a big balcony and there’s a great view. But how about the food? Big tasty slices of pizza, and a good, if not great, beer menu, make this deck a great place to spend a summer evening.
Must try: Pax Americana Pizza
The Old Fourth Ward has been a flurry of restaurant activity this year, as evidenced by our last four restaurants deciding to call the neighborhood home. Thumbs Up Diner has long been a favorite for breakfast — it’s on Esquire Magazine’s top 50 places to get breakfast in the US. This year the diner opened a cash-only barbecue counter. And it’s just that: a counter with a few stools, so be prepared to get your order to go.
Must try: Brunswick Stew
This new pizza joint on Edgewood Avenue in the O4W doesn’t care much for the Verace rulebook. This is not traditional Italian pizza, it’s new American; and that means locally sourced meats and toppings, and house-made mozzarella and dough. While there are booths and small tables, try sitting at one of the long communal tables to get to know your neighbor.
Must try: Pizza Carne
In August, Matt Hinton announced that Bell Street Burritos in West Midtown would close. Then he announced that he was opening a location in the Irwin Street Market in the Old Fourth Ward, right next to the entrance to the Eastside Trail of the Beltline. Friday is tamales day, and you can expect a line through the door from lunchtime, and if you go for dinner, be prepared for the tamales to be sold out. They’re that good.
Must try: Tamales. Otherwise try the pork quesadilla
Mike LaSage has been a busy boy. Bone Lick BBQ in West Midtown, followed quickly by the worst kept secret bar in town. In the back of Vesuvius Pizza there’s a book case. Move the right book, and the case swings open to reveal a beautiful cocktail bar in the style of the great cocktail bars of noir movies.
Must try: Brown Cow Cocktail