A sampling of great eats in and around Buckhead
10 DEGREES SOUTH
After 15 years on the scene, this Roswell Road establishment is a highly original destination where food and wine from the tip of the Southern Hemisphere are celebrated with flair. Before we could pose the server with a query on the peri-peri, we got the hard sell on South African reds—particularly the Rupert & Rothschild 2009 “Classique.” The big, full-bodied R&R was the perfect match for the luscious, spicy food that followed. We wager that nobody makes bobotie (the South African national dish) like 10 Degrees South. The dish consists of tantalizingly sweet curried ground beef topped with a custardy crust. It’s time to get your head out of the sand and indulge in the kind of stuff our parents enjoyed when “Continental” cuisine was in vogue.
When Iraqi native Saad Marwad and his wife, Kelly Rafia, opened Babylon Café in 2014, the city’s foodie community started to buzz about the couple’s fresh, flavorful repertoire of Middle Eastern classics, from falafel and hummus to kebabs and baklava. While the starters are quite good—try the fattoush salad, the lentil soup and the eggplant badenjan— the earthy, long-simmered stews are unlike anything else in town. We like the herb-based qurma sabzi with super-tender lamb shank and the bamia (okra and tomatoes) with oxtail. Don’t leave without a sip of the anise-flavored aperitif called arak and a bite of kanafeh, a sweet made of shredded phyllo, housemade sweet cheese, rose- and orange-water syrup and pistachios.
Appetizers and sides: $2-$7
Of all the restaurant staffs in Buckhead, these folks may be our favorite. Polite and accommodating to a fault, they make it nearly impossible not to enjoy its exotic comfort food. Whether you eat in the cavernous dining room or out on the sexy, music-infused patio, starters such as peek gai tod, thoong-thong and Crying Tiger will crush any doubt you may have about whether there’s good Thai food down South. For more substantial but no less authentic fare, dig in to the massaman and panang curries, Drunken Man noodles or our favorite Thai chicken dish, gai yang som tum. Save room for homemade coconut cake; it’s as sweet and genuine as the staff’s warm invitation to return again soon.
Starters, soups and salads: $7-$23
Curries, sautés and noodle and rice dishes: $14-$23
Main entrées: $19-$32
Even if you aren’t a sports fan, you’ll welcome a visit to this Mexi-Latin sports bar on Pharr Road. The 35 varieties of 100 percent agave tequilas are just the start. Kick off with a five-star margarita that’ll have you shouting “touchdown!” long before the national anthem begins. And just try to keep your eyes on the game when knockout dishes such as braised short rib empanadas, smokyspicy chorizo or chipotle shrimp tacos and a side of tender yucca fries arrive at your table. Mains such as the adobo chicken and charred rib eye, or healthier fare like the citrusy, fresh ceviches, are big winners as well. Let’s just hope your favorite team is, too.
Starters and shared plates: $5-$12
Tacos and sides: $3-$4
DAVIO’S NORTHERN ITALIAN STEAKHOUSE
With its handmade pasta, terrific steaks and foundation of classic Italian dishes, the Atlanta outpost of Massachusetts based chef-preneur Steve DiFillippo sets a higher-than-usual standard for a mall restaurant. Fine-food lovers flock to Phipps Plaza for Davio’s delicious fried calamari, tagliatelle Bolognese and warm spinach salad like ravenous shoppers on the hunt for Louis Vuitton bags, Tiffany silver and Dior gowns. And they can do no better than the buttery medallion of impeccably grilled top sirloin, slathered with Gorgonzola and paired with wilted spinach and sea-salt-and-truffle-oil fries. No wonder the Davio’s menu is as tantalizing as the shoe department at Nordstrom.
Appetizers and salads: $9-$16
Pastas, entrées and steaks: $18-$48
ECLIPSE DI LUNA
At the tail end of Miami Circle is one of the most convivial joints in town. Head over for happy hour Monday through Thursday when most drinks and tapas are half price, and there’s live music. Yummy small plates of habanero-spiced ahi tuna ceviche, smoky sun-dried-tomato mac and cheese (made with three different cheeses) and refreshing Granny Smith apple salad are some of our favorites. Still hungry? It’s hard to pass up the succulent balsamic-y spare ribs and flavorful, crunchy calamari. If you’re with family (or a family of friends), consider the exquisite saffron-infused paella, made with authentic Calasparra rice.
Tapas: $2.95-$14.95 (most in the $5-$8 range)
Large plates (for two or more): $20-$24
The name means “wave,” and making waves is exactly what executive chef Pano I. Karatassos has been doing at his family’s stellar Greek seafood restaurant since 2002. From marides (tiny, “French fry”-size white fish) to Greek specimens grilled whole (try the barbounia or bronzino), Kyma excels at delivering the kind of simple, unadorned flavors you’ll encounter on a patio by the Aegean. Order a glass of Greek wine (there are many options) and a few classic meze for sharing (we like the dolmades, spanakopita, cuttlefish stuffed with lamb stew and the feta-zucchini fritters), and your meal will go just swimmingly.
Mains: $26-$46 (whole fish $30 or $36 per pound)
You can surely find trendier pizza parlors or posher places to eat Italian in Atlanta. But if you’re looking for old-fashioned linguini with clam sauce or chicken Florentine in a relaxed and inviting atmosphere with a loyal following, this Buckhead favorite has got you covered. The restaurant is beloved by many for its home-style cooking, casual ambience, reasonable prices and a staff of servers who have acquired faithful customers of their own. Owner Nancy Powell treasures her crew, most of whom have been on the job for more than a decade. Given the refined state of Italian dining in America today, Pasta Vino is not likely to win any awards for innovation or inspiration, but it remains a perfectly fine, frequently delicious trattoria.
Starters and salads: $2-$10
Saltyard offers a menu of small plates with reverence for local farmers and the current growing season. Employing global imagination, it heightens these dishes with international seasonings and flavors to create worldly comfort food. With an ever-changing menu, Saltyard is never the same place twice. Rustic dishes such as crispy duck confit and super-tender grilled octopus are masterful in their simplicity and depth of flavor. Raw and cured items such as the deconstructed salmon pastrami, while lighter, offer an equal flavor punch. This is not the place to skip the dessert course. The same amount of effort goes into the decadent chocolate nemesis with Brandy cream as it does the entrées.
Large plates: $18-$25
Starfish—which can look just a little lost on the block that houses Restaurant Eugene and Holeman and Finch— is exactly the kind of sushi joint we have been trolling for. In a city where Japanese cuisine can be hit-or-miss and sometimes not the freshest, chef owner Seung K. “Sam” Park’s reticent little pearl is a superior catch—cute and compact as a bento box but with just a hint of luxury. At dinner, we were delighted to see how the kitchen plays around with untraditional ingredients such as truffle oil and balsamic vinegar, slicing fish as thin as carpaccio and arranging it in dazzling presentations. When our flounder sashimi arrived, the server told us to place a dab of the ponzu jelly spiked with cilantro, jalapeño and lime on a strip of the fish and roll it up. Exquisite. Starfish isn’t the kind of place that announces itself with screaming klieg lights or red carpets. But in this culture of excess, sometimes being a little bit under-the radar can be very seductive.
Lunch entrées: $7-$16
Dinner entrées: $12-$30
WHITE HOUSE RESTAURANT
At this venerated breakfast nook, you’ll find Atlanta movers and shakers in ties and starched shirts huddled over omelets and pancakes. But regardless of a guest’s status, owner Demos Galaktiadis, who came to America from Greece in 1966, treats everyone the same. He has run this Peachtree Road institution for 45 of its 68 years, and over time, the food has evolved into a unique combination of home-style Southern and Greek standards. At lunch, you might have moussaka and collards or fried grouper and a Greek salad, finished off with a dish of banana pudding. But breakfast is king here. We recommend the Olympic omelet, stuffed with spinach, tomatoes, onions, mushrooms and peppers and served with a side of tzatziki, or a breakfast sandwich laden with sausage, cheese and egg.
BY: Wendell Brock, Rebecca Cha and Angela Hansberger
PHOTOS: Sara Hanna
Drinks columnist at Simply Buckhead. Food, spirits, and culture writer.