We may be talking ABC’s, but the Buckhead area food scene is all grown up. Consider this comprehensive guide to eating well in our favorite neighborhoods.
A IS FOR ALFRESCO
The mercury is rising, and for foodies, that can only mean one thing: patio weather. Fortunately, opportunities abound to park at an outdoor table, either in the shade or the full sun. The covered outside tables at King + Duke, along with the restaurant’s dedicated outdoor bar, overlook the corner of “Main and Main,” or in Buckhead terms, Paces Ferry and Peachtree roads. One of the area’s newest and most spectacular alfresco spaces is at Little Alley Steak. Opening this month, the eatery boasts a 2,500-square-foot patio complete with dining space, lounge and bar at which to nosh on their delicious dry-aged steaks. There are few more transformative places to enjoy a patio than Le Bilboquet in The Shops Buckhead Atlanta. The white tablecloths, guests leisurely strolling the surrounding shops and the French-American menu can transport you to Paris. Similarly, you can enjoy the neighborhood vibes at the aptly named Haven, where the tables are shaded by leafy elm trees, and locals often walk back to their surrounding Brookhaven homes. After the sun—and temperature— goes down, head to Seven Lamps in the Shops Around Lenox and grab a seat by the fire pit, a cozy spot to imbibe with a well-made Manhattan or glass of wine from an under-the-radar growing region.
B IS FOR BRUNCH
While breakfast (see “Y is for Yolk”) is a straightforward pursuit, designed to fuel us for a productive day or even serve as the backdrop for a business meeting, brunch is another thing entirely. This typically weekend meal that occupies the liminal space between breakfast and lunch, and sometimes beyond, is best enjoyed with a friend, spouse or, better yet, a group. For a brunch feast, you can’t do better than St. Cecilia, where $28 ($8 for children) buys you nearly all-you-can-eat of Chef Craig Richards’ coastal European fare. The marble chef’s table in front of the kitchen overflows with fresh salads, antipasti, cheeses and grilled focaccia. Make yourself a plate while you choose an entrée from a list that includes airy ricotta waffles with citrus conserva, whipped cream and barrel-aged maple syrup, and wood-grilled steak with creamy polenta, roasted mushrooms and a sunny-side-up egg. After the main event, head back to the buffet to satisfy your sweet tooth with cannoli studded with chocolate chips, Italian cookies and an ever-rotating selection of cakes. Paired with a punch-packing (and aptly named) Rising Sun Blues cocktail, you’ll want to stay a while. Other worthy brunch spots include Bistro Niko, where the croque madame served with potatoes crisped in duck fat is a perennial favorite, and Astor Court at the St. Regis Atlanta, where the luxe eggs Benedict are served alongside your choice of a lump crab cake or grilled steak. For a decidedly more casual midday experience, venture to Food 101. Its brunch was recently named one of the hottest nationwide by Zagat, in part because of Chef Ron Eyester’s signature Fatboy Brunch, a calorie-busting feast with buttermilk fried chicken, potatoes, scrambled eggs and a biscuit with sausage gravy.
C IS FOR CARNIVORE
a quick loop around Buckhead, and it’s clear we love our steak. Hal’s has been serving well-heeled patrons prime cuts of beef since the early 1990s, and it’s still a favorite spot for clandestine meals and live piano music. Even earlier—since 1979—Bones has been Buckhead’s steakhouse destination for business meetings and special occasions. For meat-on-demand, Brazilian steakhouses such as Chama Gaúcha and Fogo de Chão are a slam dunk. Simply give the signal to your trusty server-slash-gaucho, and your plate gets filled with your choice of succulent pichana (a churrasco signature), beef ribs, tenderloin, chicken, lamb and pork. Speaking of pork, Southern Art boasts its own ham bar. It offers more than a dozen of the South’s best varieties for a mind-blowing charcuterie served with housemade bread, mustard, jams and pickles.
D IS FOR DONUTS
Donuts have gone gourmet in a craze that’s taken over the nation. Kamal Grant put Atlanta on the map for artisan donuts when he opened his Midtown shop Sublime Doughnuts in 2008. The second location in Brookhaven is open 24 hours a day, serving kosher certified flavors such as the A-Town Cream, an airy version filled with vanilla bean custard and topped with Callebaut dark chocolate glaze, and the s’mores donut topped with chocolate glaze, dusted with graham cracker crumbs and filled with a toasted marshmallow. Bon Glaze’s locations in Buckhead and Brookhaven also keep guests on a perpetual sugar high with yeast donuts covered with toppings such as Fanta orange glaze and fresh whipped cream, butterscotch and bacon, and raspberry glaze and cotton candy. The sweet treats have become a favorite of brides looking to offer a late-night surprise for wedding guests. For a choose-your-own flavor adventure, Duck Donuts puts the power in guests’ hands. A vanilla cake donut is the canvas for your choice of base coating (sugar glaze, powdered sugar, vanilla icing or peanut butter), topping (Oreo, coconut or sprinkles) and a drizzle (hot fudge, salted caramel or blackberry).
E IS FOR EVERYBODY KNOWS YOUR NAME
On a recent Friday night, regulars came flooding into the bar at Il Giallo. Bartender Sharon Iannotti warmly greeted longtime guests, inquiring after their families, recent trips and jobs. One local even brought a book she thought Iannotti would enjoy reading. It’s a similar scenario when perpetual guests show up at the White House for breakfast. The restaurant has been around since 1948, which is plenty of time to cultivate myriad loyal lovers of its strong coffee, throwback atmosphere and Greek-influenced diner fare. Another haven for neighborhood regulars is 10 Degrees South, which celebrated its 20th anniversary this year. “It’s neat to see that customers who have been coming here for ages now have kids who are grown up and are making this their regular place, too,” says owner Justin Anthony. “It’s been a family business from day one, and a lot of our regulars have become part of the family, even outside of the restaurant.” That bond has led to more than a few of the restaurant’s staff and guests dating and even marrying!
F IS FOR FROZEN
When summer temperatures soar in the city, we’re on the hunt for tasty ways to cool down. Kids of all ages love Southern Custard, where owners Matthew and Heather Mohalski offer an ultra-dense, made fresh daily chocolate and vanilla custard. Get your sweet, frozen fix in shakes, malts, floats and sundaes, or step up the flavor with the always rotating special of the day (favorites include Key lime pie, black sesame and banana pudding). At Amorino Gelato, each bowl or cone is a work of art. Choose your flavor of gelato or sorbet from a selection that includes tiramisu, pistachio and lime-basil, and the friendly clerk will mold the scoop into a rose-shaped creation worthy of an Instagram pic before you dig in. Grown-ups looking for a bit of booze with their frosty treat should venture to The Ivy lounge for frozen rosé (or frozé, as all the cool kids call it).
G IS FOR GAMES
Atlanta has gotten major upgrades to its sports venues, thanks to Mercedes- Benz Stadium and SunTrust Park, but sometimes kicking back and watching your favorite team play on a big screen is just the ticket. Fadó Irish Pub is a longtime favorite for viewing all kinds of sports, but football (read: soccer) enthusiasts particularly enjoy catching a match with a pint and a plate of pub sliders with Guinness mayo. Zinburger, located in Lenox Square mall, might not be the first place you’d think of to watch a game, but the wall of TVs, juicy-burger-of-the-week specials and selection of fun Moscow mules served in copper mugs make it a terrific under-the-radar spot when you want to take a break from retail therapy. Not content to be a spectator? Get in on the action at The Painted Pin, where bowling, indoor bocce ball, giant Jenga and shuffleboard are paired with refreshments including wood-fired pizzas, local beers and fun cocktails to keep you playing all night.
H IS FOR HEALTHY
With so many ways to indulge, we could all use a less-gluttonous bite now and again. Fortunately, whatever your preferred health-conscious fare—vegetarian, vegan, gluten free, heart healthy, paleo—you’ll find it here. At Cassis, located one floor below the main lobby of the Grand Hyatt Atlanta, the weekday salad bar packs a nutritious punch. Have your fill of any or all of it, either to take away or eat in, for $12.95. The 30 fresh ingredients include greens; proteins such as chicken, beef and tofu; veggies, nuts and seeds; and a variety of dressings. Vegetarians and vegans can nosh on anything from the menu at Cafe Sunflower, while dishes such as fried avocado tacos, spicy basil tempeh and orzo eggplant lasagna keep even meat eaters from feeling deprived or bored. At Sama, the Balance Bowls, fresh juices and smoothies are available with a side of wellness classes in the on-site studio. Grab an Ayurvedic-designed bite after guided meditation or yoga.
I IS FOR INDULGENT
Where do you go when money is no object and decadence is of no concern? One such place is Himitsu, where you can spring for a wagyu beef roll ($36) and lobster box ($28), paired with a signature Toryufu cocktail ($18) made with white truffle and pear vodka, grapefruit and tonic. You can go big at Cape Dutch with oversized bottles of wine from South Africa’s Western Cape. A 1.5-liter bottle of 2015 Mulderbosch Rosé only sets you back $60, while the 2014 3-liter bottle of The Chocolate Block Red Blend by Boekenhoutskloof runs $300. For a true splurge, go for the 2014 vintage of Napa’s Schrader Old Sparky Cabernet Sauvignon, which will set you back $1,200. It’s a perfect pairing with another of Chef Philippe Haddad’s mega menu items: the $96, 30-ounce tomahawk ribeye. Dry aged for an impressive 35 days, it’s big enough to share. At CheeseCaked Creamery & Cafe, you can get your budget- and calorie buster in the form of the impossibly decadent milkshakes. The large, $12 version of the Unicorn comes with your choice of ice cream in a sprinkle- dipped cup that’s topped with rainbow candy, a giant marshmallow, a lollipop, cheesecake bar, cotton candy and an edible unicorn head.
J IS FOR JAMES BEARD
Chef Linton Hopkins was nominated for the prestigious James Beard Award, honoring the best cooks in the country, for four consecutive years before taking home the honor in 2012. With it, he became the only chef who lives and works in Buckhead to score the distinction. The humble Hopkins, whose favorite quote is “Success is not final and failure is not fatal” by Winston Churchill, sees the award as a call to greater responsibility within the culinary community. “I take our guild and the role of culinarians and chefs very seriously,” he says. As the driving force behind Restaurant Eugene and the other eateries in his Resurgens Hospitality Group, he has the opportunity to mentor younger chefs and to make impactful choices in the company’s food supply chain, which have a trickle-down effect on local farmers and food artisans. “[The award] makes me feel part of something bigger than me, and I really like that feeling,” says Hopkins.
K IS FOR KID-FRIENDLY
Eating out with little ones no longer means you’re relegated to palaces of chicken fingers and fries. Avellino’s Pizzeria, for one, has plenty of things kiddos love, namely build-your own pizzas and cheese tortellinis, but adults will find equally appealing selections including fresh salads; Pizza Bianca topped with fresh mozzarella, speck and arugula; local beers on tap; and a largely Italian wine list. Likewise, after a day of shopping at Phipps Plaza with mom and dad, pint-sized diners can look forward to golden grilled cheese sandwiches and linguine with their choice of sauce at The Public Kitchen & Bar, where cocktails, burgers topped with pimento cheese and bacon, and Savannah shrimp and grits will entice older guests. The Café & Bar inside the Mandarin Oriental, Atlanta hotel is the height of chic, with its sleek decor and soft music, but unexpectedly, it’s a place where youngsters can feel comfortable, too. At breakfast, little ones may find it hard to choose between the French toast sticks with maple syrup and the chocolate chip silver dollar pancakes. At lunch, even upscale PB&Js get an upgrade alongside housemade potato chips.
L IS FOR LATE NIGHT
Remember your college days when late night food meant playing drive-thru roulette with whatever was open? Fortunately, Buckhead offers more grown-up fare to satisfy, even after hours. The Elbow Room kitchen is open until 2 a.m. (except Sundays), for bites such as the sweet and spicy Sriracha samurai wings tossed in black and white sesame seeds. At the Landmark Diner, which is open 24/7, you can soak up whatever boozy leftovers are in your system with grilled steak and two eggs any way you like ’em. The appropriately named Midnight Cowboy Burger at The Bucket Shop Cafe comes topped with bacon, melted American cheese and a fried egg. At Fellini’s, a wee-hours slice of the house special (pepperoni, sausage, meatballs, mushrooms, onions, green peppers, black and green olives and extra cheese) only sets you back $4.40. For a late-night bite that’s a little healthier, there’s Dantanna’s The Jive, a turkey burger with lettuce, tomato and avocado.
M IS FOR MARKETS
There was a time in the not too distant past when big-box supermarkets were the most obvious place to score ingredients. Now, weekly neighborhood farmers markets connect savvy shoppers with produce, meat, egg and dairy farmers, and artisan bread and cheesemakers. At the Peachtree Road Farmers Market, held Saturday mornings from April through December at the Cathedral of St. Philip, visitors wander through the largest producer-only market in the state. By limiting vendors to producers (meaning they made or grew their wares), the market eliminates the middleman and ensures fair prices. Grab a cup of Batdorf & Bronson coffee and shop for locally made kombucha, nut butter, bone broth and produce grown nearby. Watch live chef demonstrations using market ingredients to spark ideas in your own kitchen. The Heritage Sandy Springs Farmers Market is open Saturday mornings from April to November with almost 50 vendors and music from live bands. The Brookhaven Farmers Market focuses on sustainably grown products and artfully prepared foods, and has become a Saturday morning destination for families walking over from the surrounding neighborhoods.
N IS FOR NIGHTCAPS
Having a nightcap is such a civilized tradition for evenings when friends or sweethearts aren’t quite ready to bid farewell. Fortunately, Buckhead is full of opportunities to partake. A favorite sip at The Regent Cocktail Club is the Martinez, made with Plymouth Gin, Italian vermouth, Maraschino liqueur and a dash of bitters. At the Holeman and Finch Public House, there’s the Up In Smoke, a blend of reposado tequila, smoky mezcal, Pedro Ximénez sherry, bitters and a bit of grapefruit. For a sublime nightcap and dessert in one, the Affogato Correcto at Bar Americano features creamy vanilla gelato, a shot of espresso and your choice of nine shots, including nocino, an Italian walnut liqueur.
O IS FOR OLDIES BUT GOODIES
Statistics show that a good majority of small businesses close within the first 18 months, and that number seems to be amplified for restaurants. Here, we tip our hat to some of the Buckhead-area stalwarts of hospitality that have been serving area patrons for 20-plus years. OK Cafe opened its doors in 1987 and has been welcoming diners ever since, except for the time it took to rebuild after a 2014 fire. Buckhead Diner opened in 1987 as well, and the iconic chrome eatery has been a favorite spot for breakfast, lunch and dinner for locals and celebrities alike (witness the lobby lined with photos of the famous faces who’ve eaten there). The Atlanta Fish Market created a stir with its 65-foot fish sculpture out front when it opened in 1993 and remains a top choice for seafood lovers to this day.
P IS FOR PASTRY
The undisputed grand duke of Buckhead pastry shops is Henri’s Bakery & Cafe, which has been turning out petits fours, apple fritters, cream horns, scones, cinnamon rolls, cakes and more for decades. Its shiny new spot in Andrews Square, along with its diminutive Sandy Springs location, continues to be a go-to spot for baby shower cakes, morning coffee and sweet treats. Gluten-averse? You don’t have to go without, thanks to Sally’s Gluten Free Bakery. The Sandy Springs storefront may be small, but its celiac-friendly selection of breads, rolls, cupcakes, cookies and cakes packs a flavor punch. “Our chocolate chip cookies are so good, no one can tell they’re gluten free,” says co-owner Taylor Owings.
Q IS FOR QUICK
For occasions where a leisurely meal is too much of a luxury, speed is the name of the game. Breeze into Chicken Salad Chick for the freshly packed containers of its signature dish (a popular version comes with white-meat chicken, Fuji apples, pecans and grapes), and skip the wait for your custom order. At Phipps Plaza’s new Genuine Pizza, each pie spends only 75 seconds in the rotating Marra Forni oven before emerging. That means a still-bubbling Margherita pizza could arrive tableside faster than you can buzz through a drive-thru.
R IS FOR RETAILERS
Eating out is a treat, but sometimes a dinner at home appeals. For just such occasions, gourmet retailers provide vital assistance. At Lucy’s Market, for example, shoppers can score artisan dried pasta, Georgia olive oil, ready-made breakfast casseroles, grab-and-go prepared foods and even flowers and decor to dress a table. At Savi Provisions, you’ll find everything from toothbrushes and Jittery Joe’s coffee to wine and fresh fruit. For evenings when making a meal from scratch isn’t going to happen, its selection of dailymade sous vide entreés is a lifesaver. Choose your protein from options such as wine-braised short ribs and dill-and-chile-crusted tuna, and pick the sides that strike your fancy. For the best flavor, simmer the vacuumsealed bag in a pot of water, and your guests will be none the wiser.
S IS FOR SECRET DISHES
We love a good secret, and in this case, we can’t keep it to ourselves. You won’t find any of these decadent dishes on the menu, but ask your friendly server, and the chef will make them specially for you. At Atlas, Beverage Manager Chris Lodge will put together a special wine or spirit flight for guests upon request. With a few insights about taste preferences, food order and curiosities, he pulls from the restaurant’s extensive cellar and liquor library to create a one-ofa- kind flight. At $28, the Lobster Mac at Chops Lobster Bar is a splurge. It’s large enough to share and comes with a generous helping of sweet lobster meat folded into cavatappi pasta, layered with an obscene amount of Gouda, Gruyère, white cheddar and Parmesan. An insider tells us, “This dish has tracked a large following from word of mouth, despite having never made an appearance on the menu.” American Cut might be known for its high-end, flawlessly cooked steaks, but it’s off-menu burger is equally buzzworthy. Ask your server what comes on top of the flame-grilled patty, made of ground prime steak, and prepare to be delighted. Cabo Cantina regulars know to start their meal with the creamy queso with chorizo that isn’t advertised anywhere on the menu. This last one is less of a specific secret dish and more of a secret experience: At Mission + Market, Chef Ian Winslade welcomes guests to his chef counter, where he’ll ask about their preferences and cook from there. It’s a unique experience with dishes you’ll likely never see on the menu.
T IS FOR TAPAS
Something about sharing dishes turns a formal meal into a convivial one. Fortunately, there are plenty of places in our backyard where making a meal of tapas, or small plates to be shared, is the idea. Yebo Beach Haus specializes in a playful take on South African dishes including peri-peri popcorn, curried prawns, grilled pineapple salad with mint cream and castacán crispy pork tacos. At Saltyard, Chef Nick Leahy uses locally sourced ingredients to make group-friendly dishes such as butterbean “guac,” muscadine-glazed pork belly and chicken liver pâté with blueberry bacon jam. Passing plates around is the name of the game at Gypsy Kitchen, where the Spanish and “gypsy”-style fare takes the form of medjool dates stuffed with tangy blue cheese and wrapped in serrano ham, za’atar-spiced scallops and crispy fried potatoes with fragrant paprika aioli. With delectable dishes like these, though, you could be tempted to keep them all to yourself.
U IS FOR UNDER THE RADAR
Whether these offerings are tucked out of sight or just plain undiscovered, you shouldn’t miss them. Hidden in the bottom of a Peachtree Road condo building, La Grotta Ristorante Italiano has been catering to a loyal cadre of guests since 1978. Co-owner and Chef Antonio Abizanda prides himself on his authentic preparations of Italian classics and on accommodating special requests. When you discover La Grotta for the first time, be prepared to kick yourself for not visiting sooner. Similarly, a little navigating is worth the effort at 1Kept. Pull into the same entrance you’d use for Imperial Fez and wind left to a back parking lot. Follow your nose up a flight of stairs to this clandestine gem, where you’ll find crisp flatbreads, a smoked pimento cheese board, steak frites and other wildly delicious dishes. Harried grocery shoppers can unwind with a glass of wine or locally brewed beer at the new bar inside the Brookhaven Kroger. Krobar, as it’s come to be called, opened quietly in February in the old cafe space at the front of the store and is a fun discovery for shoppers. “I stopped in with a full cart and the friendly staffers insisted I stay for a drink,” recalls Brookhaven resident Jennifer Walker. “There was a nice selection of beer and wine, and the prices were so affordable. Best of all, the bartenders offered to check out the items in my basket right at the bar.”
V IS FOR VALET
We have a bit of a love-hate relationship with the idea of valet parking. When it works well, the convenience of it is brilliant, shaving valuable moments off of getting into a restaurant and saving us from being tardy to important dining appointments. Plus, with many Buckhead parking decks charging more than $5 per hour, complimentary valet (even with a hefty tip) can save you money over the course of a leisurely meal. But sometimes we just want to park our own car, you know?
W IS FOR WINE
Wine has become an important part of many dining experiences, but if terms such as “toasty,” “chewy tannins” or “jammy” leave you scratching your head, it might be time to leverage the expertise of the restaurant’s on-site expert. Don’t be intimidated at the prospect of having a sommelier help choose your wine. Part of their training is listening to pick out the clues about what will most resonate with your unique palate and the food you’ve chosen. “It’s not about us; it’s about them. It’s about listening and finding that great bottle of wine that’s going to be perfect,” explains Andrés Loaiza, the wine director and GM of Aria. He also notes that while price is typically part of the conversation, it doesn’t need to dominate the chat or be awkward. Another great time to engage the help of the resident wine expert is if you’re looking for pairings for a special meal or hoping to branch out from what you typically drink. At places such as Aria, the wine list typically has a number of less familiar varieties available by the glass, in case you’re feeling adventurous but don’t want to commit to a whole bottle. Looking to increase your wine knowledge? One Tuesday each month, Watershed on Peachtree hosts its popular 20 Tastes for $20 at the bar. Would-be wine aficionados sample sips from boutique wineries from around the world and nibble on bites from the chef. Occasionally, the winemakers themselves are on hand to answer questions and provide additional insight.
X IS FOR X-CEPTIONAL SERVICE
Great service can take a meal from the run-of-the-mill act of eating to a sublime experience where, for an hour or two, you feel truly cared for, your needs anticipated before you even think to ask. One such server is Artelle Peters at Davio’s Northern Italian Steakhouse. “He’s a real gentleman,” says investor and part time Buckhead resident Fred Bowen, who has known Peters for more than 15 years, even before his current post. “He’s very thoughtful and attentive, but not intrusive.” Bowen is part of a professional group that meets for lunch every six weeks or so, and if the meetings are in Atlanta, they’re always at Davio’s. Naturally, Peters is the server of choice. “Our group shares a lot of things in confidence, and with Artelle, we don’t have to worry about anything slipping out of the room,” says Bowen. “There’s a high degree of trust there.” While there isn’t enough room here to include every spectacular server in Buckhead, we salute those who can turn an ordinary meal into something that warms the soul.
Y IS FOR YOLK
If it’s true that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, choosing where to have it is equally important. Buttermilk Kitchen, which opened in 2012, is a consistent favorite, evidenced by the line often stretching out the door. Chef-owner Suzanne Vizethann has proved her mettle in front of a national audience on the Food Network’s Chopped, and the restaurant has been featured on Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives. While light(ish) dishes such as house roasted granola with fresh berries and local Atlanta Fresh Greek yogurt or stone-ground organic oatmeal topped with caramelized bananas are available, the kitchen really shines with down-home Southern fare, including the signature omelet stuffed with Benton’s bacon and pimento cheese, and the namesake buttermilk biscuit topped with a fried chicken breast and sweetspicy red pepper jelly.
Z IS FOR ZANY
When it comes to out-there restaurants, there’s one place that rises above the rest. R. Thomas’ Deluxe Grill, which is open 24 hours a day, has been around since 1985, and while the menu of healthy comfort food isn’t particularly wacky, the restaurant itself is. In fact, it’s easy to mistake this colorful eatery for a garden shop or pet store, thanks to the proliferation of potted flowers and chirping birds. The atmosphere can’t help but bring a smile, thanks to Sam (a toucan), Peaches (a Moluccan cockatoo) and Cecelia (a macaw), who greet guests right along with the restaurant’s namesake.
FOR MORE INFO …
10 Degrees South
Atlanta Fish Market
Brookhaven Farmers Market
The Bucket Shop Cafe
The Café & Bar
CheeseCaked Creamery & Cafe
Chicken Salad Chick
Chops Lobster Bar
Davio’s Northern Italian Steakhouse
Fadó Irish Pub
Fogo de Chão
Henri’s Bakery & Cafe
Heritage Sandy Springs Farmers Market
Holeman and Finch Public House
King + Duke
La Grotta Ristorante Italiano
Little Alley Steak
Mission + Market
The Painted Pin
Peachtree Road Farmers Market
The Public Kitchen & Bar
The Regent Cocktail Club
R. Thomas’ Deluxe Grill
Sally’s Gluten Free Bakery
Watershed on Peachtree
Yebo Beach Haus
STORY: Jennifer Bradley Franklin