Buckhead’s popular steakhouse capitalizes on venue, views and first-rate victuals.
The first thing you notice about The Capital Grille is the view. It’s breathtaking. From its perch on the eighth floor of the Capital Building, The Capital Grille commands a view of Buckhead and beyond that could rival any famed city vista; alone it’s worth the price of admission. Add in the supreme comfort of the intimate, clubby dining room with its cozy oxblood booths, walls of mahogany paneling, mounted animal heads and broody oil canvases of Atlanta luminaries, and you have a space you never want to leave.
Did I mention the exceptional food and drink? We recommend beginning the night with one of the specialty cocktails like my personal favorite, the “Black Tie” margarita. If there were ever a tequila I could happily drink straight, it would be the Casamigos Reposado featured here. Smooth like butterscotch with a middleweight agave hit at the finish, a single shot added to citrus juices and Cointreau makes for a happy, boozy punch to last the night. The signature “Stoli Doli,” a Stolichnaya vodka-pineapple infusion, is just as good. Shaken and poured icy cold into a chilled martini glass, its ying-yang, naughty-nice flavors are an ideal accompaniment for what’s to come.
For the first courses, we went for surf and turf lite. Traditional crab cakes are jazzed up with the addition of delicately sweet lobster meat, then pan-fried to crispy. The mellow marine flavors are nicely offset by an earthy mélange of crunchy sweet corn, piquant red pepper and almost raw red onion. Better still is the burrata plate. Oozy, cream-filled mozzarella is served alongside a cherry tomato compote drizzled with viscous, perfumy 15-year-old balsamic, flavors that remind me of summers spent dining in Emilia-Romagna.
The 22-ounce bone-in ribeye is, simply put, a triumph. Baseball glove-sized, every inch of this succulent bovine real estate is impeccable, whether the crisp, charry crust, the tender-beyond-reason velvet red center, or the unctuous near-raw bits riding up the bone. Want to amp up the luxe factor? Don’t pass up a side of lobster mac ’n’ cheese. Served in a roaring hot cast iron skillet, tender campanelle pasta is tossed with a sinfully rich blend of mascarpone, Havarti, Grana Padano and aged white cheddar, and is improved further by chunks of fresh lobster. A second side, the soy-glazed Brussels sprouts with bacon, were less memorable, their glaze resembling a cloying hoisin more than a delicately sweet soy-based sauce.
For dessert, you can’t do better than the Callebaut chocolate espresso cake and fresh raspberries. As we sipped bitter espressos, my guest teased herself with increasingly smaller bites of the dense, brownie-like cake and marveled at the city lights popping up across the evening sky.
We kicked off a follow-up visit with a glass of Antinori Il Bruciato from the Grille’s formidable wine list. This fruit-forward Italian blend proved to be a perfect match for our tuna tartare, a vertical cylinder of finely diced cucumber, pale yellow avocado and sushigrade tuna topped off with burst-in-your mouth soy pearls. Red sriracha and yellow mango droplets encircle the plate and excite the tongue with a teasing, surprise burst of fiery chile. Classic, too, is the iceberg wedge salad. One can tell a lot about a place by this humble dish, using it as a barometer of how seriously a steakhouse should be taken. Capital Grille’s wedge makes the cut, its crisp outer layers and crunchy white heart commingle with just enough creamy Gorgonzola dressing to call to mind many a blissed-out meal at the late, great Palm Too in New York. Burnished nuggets of double-cut bacon and fragrant cherry tomatoes make the Grille’s salad even more distinctive.
This evening’s main attraction: the bone-in, Kona-crusted New York strip. The Grille’s proprietary spice mix and decaf Kona coffee are lovingly massaged into a 20-day, dry-aged prime cut that is tossed into a 1,200-degree broiler then whisked to your table black, blistered and sizzling. The smell knocks you back; your mouth waters. A quick slice reveals a quivering ruby center, tender and well-marbled but lean enough as to afford indulging, made even more decadent by way of the sweet, caramelized shallot butter over the top. From the list of old warhorse side dishes—creamed spinach, hash browns, sauteed mushrooms, et al—we chose the au gratin potatoes. The big-enough-for-three terrine of creamy, mandolin-shaved spuds covered in cheese sauce and crisped under the broiler paired perfectly with our strip.
Still hungry? Unlikely though it may be, the Grille’s silky coconut cream pie is sure to delight. With mountains of whipped cream piled high atop butter-colored coconut filling in a golden pastry shell, just a couple of bites of this Southern comfort food favorite is enough to satisfy anyone’s sweet tooth.
The Capital Grille isn’t perfect, and if you’re looking for a high gustatory adventure, there are spots around town more likely to scratch that itch. But if classic and authentic are your thing, as they are ours, The Capital Grille is the spot. It’s one of those rare high-end Buckhead dining experiences that never over promises and almost always over delivers, both in terms of four-star steakhouse eats and first-rate Southern hospitality.
THE CAPITAL GRILLE
255 E. Paces Ferry Road N.E.,
Prices (dinner): appetizers, soups and salads: $10 – $110; mains: $33 – $59; sides: $11 – $18; desserts: $11.
Recommended: tuna tartare, wedge salad, burrata with heirloom tomatoes, Kona-crusted New York strip, 22-ounce bone-in ribeye, lobster mac ’n’ cheese, au gratin potatoes, coconut cream pie, Callebaut chocolate espresso cake.
Bottom line: a popular high-end steakhouse that delivers exceptional quality across the board in a classy environment.
PHOTOS: Joann Vitelli
Food, beauty and interiors writer at Simply Buckhead. Linguist, teacher, chef, parent.