Atlanta restaurants by cuisine 

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American

Ann's Snack Bar, Recently named best burger in the COUNTRY by the Wall Street Journal, it's hard to get a seat these days at Ann's. The favorite here remains a double cheeseburger with mayo only; it's under $5 and would fill a Great Dane. The masochistic order the Ghetto Burger, a plate-filling sandwich topped with chili, cheese, onions and bacon. Whatever you order, don't plan to move around much the rest of the day. L, D. $. 1615 Memorial Drive. 404-687-9207.

Apres Diem, Chic decor, bistro food, a crowded bar, a hot Euro waitstaff and a diet-busting dessert case. Brunch (Weekend), L, D $-$$ 931 Monroe Drive. 404-872-3333. www.apresdiem.com.

Babette's Cafe, Classic dishes remain complete and satisfying, including mussels steeped in white wine, fried oysters, and beef tenderloin with Gorgonzola sauce. Brunch at Babette's focuses on savory items such as omelets and quiche, but sweet-tooth types will melt over the gloppy French toast. Brunch (Sun.), D $$$ 573 N. Highland Ave. 404-523-9121. www.babettescafe.com.

Belly General Store One of the most pleasant spaces in a neighborhood known for pleasantry. Delicious prepared salads, gourmet sandwiches and -- most importantly -- some of the best bagels in town. Try the sea-salt one, but steer away from the wheat versions. B, L $ 772 N. Highland Ave. 404-872-1003. www.bellystore.com.

Buckhead Diner Chrome on the outside, wood-paneled booths on the inside, this clubby Buckhead Life diner has been packing them in for high-toned burgers and bleu-cheese potato chips going on 20 years. Brunch (Sun.), L, D $$-$$$ 3073 Piedmont Road. 404-262-3336. www.buckheadrestaurants.com/diner.html.

Cafe 458 One of those rare places that exists both for our brunching pleasure and for the good of the community. All proceeds go to Samaritan House, an organization that helps homeless men and women reach self-sufficiency. When the cafe isn't serving up some of the best brunch around, it offers meals all week long to the homeless community. Be sure to tip well -- the all-volunteer staff donates gratuities as well as time. $$. B, L. 458 Edgewood Avenue. 404-523-1239. www.cafe458.pmhclients.com.

Cafe Di Sol, James Ehrlich's sister eatery to Eclipse di Luna, Cafe di Sol is a neighborhood restaurant with spark. Expect an affordable, rangy menu of small plates, sandwiches, salads and a few deftly conceived entrees. Thirsty? The grapefruit-rosewater martini is our favorite way to get blotto. L, D $-$$ 640 North Highland Avenue. 404-724-0711. www.cafedisol.com.

Carroll Street Cafe, This winebar-cum-cafe embodies all the Apres Diem style with Cabbagetown's eclectic sensibilites. Try the smoked salmon lox platter for breakfast or the Carrol Street BLT for lunch. Brunch (Weekend), L, D. $-$$. 208 Carroll St. 404-527-2700. www.apresdiem.com/carroll_street

The Counter, Distinguishes itself from other customizable burger spots with retro-modern digs, regional wines and beers, and its use of freshly ground Meyer's Red Angus beef shoulder, a certified humane all-natural beef. Also serves starters such as fried dill pickles and french fries, and desserts such as apple crumble and milkshakes. 850 Mansell Road. Roswell. 30076. L, D. $$. 678-461-9661. www.thecounterburger.com.

Dakota Blue, Dakota Blue in Grant Park actually encourages kids rather than tolerates them. A whole corner of toys and coloring books to keep your child occupied proves the point. The booths are made from squirm-friendly, wide wooden planks, and there's plenty on the menu that should be acceptable to finicky little eaters. L, D. $-$$. 454 Cherokee Ave. 404-589-8002. www.dakotabluegrantpark.com.

Dante's Down the Hatch, Candlelit tables perched inside and around a faux boat make this fondue spot a good place for a cozy, romantic dinner. D. $$$. 3380 Peachtree Road. 404-266-1600. www.dantesdownthehatch.com.

Duck's Cosmic Kitchen, Duck's is a small cafe tucked in back of East Decatur Station that serves killer sandwiches on freshly baked bread, a selection of pizzas and some of the best doughnuts we've ever tasted. House-cured salmon on baguette is soft as butter. Pair a Belgian ale with Duck's James Calvin sandwich -- a delicious pulled pot roast with horseradish sauce and Dijon on walnut leek bread -- and you'll be in hearty heaven. Service is warm, like hanging out with distant but fond relatives. All bakery items, including a luscious carrot cake and a variety of gooey cheesecakes (and don't forget those doughnuts) are made on site. L, D $ 111-D New Street. 404-371-8823. www.duckscosmickitchen.com.

Eats, Jerk chicken, veggie plates and quickie pasta reign in this ultracheap indie mainstay. $. L, D. 600 Ponce de Leon Ave. 404-888-9149. www.eatsonponce.net.

Einstein's, Long-running casual restaurant with popular patio that serves American cuisine and packs them in for weekend brunch. $$. L, D. 1077 Juniper Street. 404-876-7925. www.einsteinsatlanta.com.

Flip Burger Boutique, ***** Flip Burger Boutique is Richard Blais' first project since leaving Tom Catherall's restaurant Home, where he stopped by for a while after almost winning Bravo's "Top Chef." The restaurant's mission is contained in its catch phrase: "fine dining between two buns." Menu stars include a pâté melt that pairs veal and pork pâté with swiss cheese, mustard and puckery cornichons, a po'boyger inspired by a shrimp po'boy, and a lamburger with cucumber yogurt. L, D $$ 1587 Howell Mill Road. 404-352-3547. www.flipburgerbotique.com.

Gilbert's, Many know Gilbert's as a nighttime watering hole with an ever-changing street theater. But the real bang for the buck lies in the eclectic all-you-can-eat weekend brunch that draws both the eccentric and the everyman. Customer's can order any four of the 16 items on the menu. After the first round, order the same, or four different offerings as often as desired. Feast on gyro meat dressed with feta and scrambled eggs or head in a more conventional direction with country steak, biscuits, a petite Western omelet and pancakes. Brunch (Weekend), L, D. $$ 219 10th Street. 404-872-8012. www.gilbertscafe.com.

Grindhouse Killer Burgers, This new spot in the Seet Auburn Curb Market excells at its area of focus: delicious burgers. The menu includes 5 house-designed burgers. The highlight is the Apache, featuring roasted New Mexico green chiles, grilled onions and American cheese. L. $, 209 Edgewood Ave. 404-522-3444. www.grindhouseburgers.com.

Jamal's Buffalo Wings, This restaurant is unique in that it only offers a few sauce selections done right, unlike others that offer an endless supply. The wings are fried to a perfect, golden crisp that never tastes (or smells) old, but may not be hot enough for some die-hards. L, D. $-$$. 10 Northside Drive. 404-221-0088.

Java Jive, Java Jive, the breakfast-only restaurant in the heart of town, has a retro vibe and tons of charm; the decor mostly consists of vintage kitchen appliances and old tin advertisements. Java Jive's owners, Shira Levetan and Steven Horowitz, a husband-and-wife team, have been making modern meals in their retro-feel restaurant for more than a decade now. Shira does the baking and Steven the cooking, and a fine division of labor it turns out to be, providing consistent quality throughout the years. Great coffee too. B. $. Cash only. 790 Ponce de Leon Avenue. 404-876-6161.

Kozmo Gastropub, *****, If you loved Globe, the previous restaurant of owner Oswald Morgan, then you'll like his new "suburban chic" location. The menu consists of what one would expect of comforting bar food, but with unexpected twists, such as spicy spaghetti with tomatoes, red pepper flakes, and bacon. L, D, LD. $$. 11890 Douglas Road, Johns Creek. 678-526-6094. www.kozmogastropub.com.

LottaFrutta, As the name suggests, LottaFrutta is totally adorable. Located in the heart of the Old Fourth Ward, LottaFrutta occupies a tidy row house at the corner of Auburn Avenue and Randolph Street. A cheeky mural of Carmen Miranda beckons to passers-by. The place bills itself as a "gourmet fruit house and market," specializing in heavenly fruit cups with fanciful names like dolce vitta and cremolatta. Besides the fruit cups, LottaFrutta whips up fresh fruit juices and smoothies, and stocks a freezer case with homemade tropical fruit pops. B, L. $ 590 Auburn Avenue. 404-588-0857. www.lottafrutta.com.

Luckie Food Lounge, ***** Located across from the Georgia Aquarium, this cavernous restaurant with a distinctly airport-like atmosphere offers a lot of tourist-oriented eats, such as the $12, 100-percent Kobe beef hot dog served on a stale bun. Pizza is highly edible with thin crust and fresh toppings, and the seafood, if you stay away from the sushi, is where the kitchen excels the most. But the fun ends there. It's probably a tough line to walk, to serve massive numbers of people, ranging from aquarium-weary kids to high rollers; Luckie Food Lounge makes a valiant effort, but falls short at delivering food worth eating when you're not in a pinch. $$. D. 375 Luckie Street. 404-525-5825. www.luckiefoodlounge.com.

Majestic, For all the debauchery and bleary-eyed clubbing that ordering a plate of hash browns at 4 a.m. entails, this is the only place to go. Delightfully greasy burgers, eggs, grits, and other diner favorites stave off oncoming hangovers and settle woozy, boozy tummies. Stone-cold sober? This Atlanta institution can provide all the inspiration you need to write that picaresque novel. Open 24 hours. B, L, D $ 1031 Ponce de Leon Avenue. 404-875-0276.

Matthew's Cafeteria, An honest-to-goodness Main Street small-town cafeteria with delicious homey food at unbelievably low prices. The roast turkey is really roast turkey, not processed turkey roll. Breakfast begins at 5:00 a.m. B, L, D $ 2229 Main Street. Tucker. 770-491-9577. www.matthewscafeteria.com.

Murphy's, For 26 years, Murphy's has been serving classic American fare in a breezy space at the corner of Virginia and Highland avenues. Also serving brunch, and with a bakery and wine shop attached. $$. Brunch (Weekend), L, D. 997 Virginia Avenue. 404-872-0904. www.murphysvh.com.

OK Café, Colorful folk art, friendly servers in retro diner costumes and consistently good comfort food keep this funky restaurant packed with loyal customers year after year. Buttermilk biscuits have a golden crust and creamy center just soft enough without being gummy. A paltry sum gets you an order of two massive biscuits best enjoyed at the counter, where you can watch the cooks deftly work the grill. B, L, D $ 1284 West Paces Ferry Road. 404-233-2888.

Paul's, ***** Counted as one of Atlanta's culinary legends, chef Paul Albrecht delivers oldies but goodies in his Continental- and Southern-inspired food. His signature fried lobster tails lead the eclectic menu, but try to avoid the modernist food for more regional dishes like trout over black-eyed-pea salad. Brunch, L, D. $$$ 10 King's Circle. 404-231-4113.www.greatfoodinc.com.

R. Thomas, If you think late-night food can't be healthy, stop by this 24-hour grill. The real food possibilities on the menu are sure to please any vegetarian or carnivore. For cheap eats, breakfast is the best bet. Fill up on two eggs, nine-grain toast and home fries for $6.75. B, L, D. $$. 1812 Peachtree St. 404-881-0246. www.rthomasdeluxegrill.com.

Ria's Bluebird Cafe, Wildly popular breakfast spot (that serves lunch, too), offering perfectly potent coffee, fluffy biscuits, and both creative dishes and traditional staples. Lots of vegetarian options, too. B, L $ 421 Memorial Drive. 404-521-3737. www.riasbluebird.com.

Rise 'n Dine, A bright and airy brunch spot in Emory Village serving simple, fresh breakfast fare with servings and prices that are easy to stomach. Decadent sweet-potato pancakes are a hit, and croissant sandwiches are yummy for lunch. B, L $ 1565 North Decatur Road. Decatur. 404-377-4407.www.risendineatl.com.

Roy's Cheesesteaks, This restaurant is the brainchild of Roy Brostrand, the South Jersey native who founded the Philly Connection in the early '80s. With juicy, flavorful meat and generous portions, this restaurant may be the only Atlanta eatery to get the cheese steak right. $. 2900 Highlands Parkway. Smyrna. 404-799-7939.

Shish Kabob, True to its name, this lunch buffet offers long cylinders of subtly seasoned ground beef and tender charbroiled beef tenderloin. D. $. 962 Roswell Street. Marietta. 770-499-7399.

Solstice Cafe, ***** Solstice is in the location last occupied by Nayarit Taqueria, and is obviously inspired by other intown casual spots such as Carroll Street Cafe. Far-better-than-average art hangs on the dark walls and the music actually makes you stop chewing to listen. Crepes Benedict wraps two delicate crepes around diced smoked ham, and tops the combination with poached eggs and hollandaise. For lunch there is the BLFGT, a generous play on the classic BLT but with fried green tomatoes and goat cheese to complement applewood-smoked bacon. Brunch, L, D. $$ 562 Boulevard. 404-622-1976. solsticecafeatlanta.com.

Souper Jenny, The quaint and tasteful ambiance of mom's kitchen is in full force at Buckhead's Souper Jenny. But it's the interaction of the familiar with the adventurous that makes it worth the traffic. Pick from a list of wholesome soups, tasty sandwiches and crisp salads. The menu changes daily, but if you happen upon the artichoke and roasted tomato sandwich with a goat cheese spread, go for it. L. $$ 56 East Andrews Drive. 404-239-9023. www.souperjennyatl.com

Stone Soup Kitchen, A yummy selection of soups, salads, sandwiches and brunch. Don't miss the "like pizza without the crust" tomato soup. B, L. $. 584 Woodward Avenue. 404-525-1222. www.stonesoupkitchen.net.

Thumbs Up Diner, Thumbs Up is a breakfast joint whose weekend waits are worth braving: Nutty whole wheat biscuits and nicely composed egg scrambles are served to one of the town's most wonderfully integrated dining crowds. B, L $ 573 Edgewood Avenue. 404-223-0690. www.thumbsupdiner.com

Tiny Bistro, In a weird way, the bistro feels like it's been around forever; this is undoubtedly due to its eight-year history as a catering company (in this same location) whose name recently changed to Figs & Honey Catering. Sandwiches dominate the menu and most are made with hand-stretched Cajun "pistolette" bread from a New Orleans bakery that's been in business for more than 100 years; the croissants and marble rye come from Masada Bakery. The Cuban is a worthy contender, as is the turkey meatloaf. L. $. 1039 Marietta Street. 404-745-9561. www.figsandhoneycatering.com.

The Varsity, Open since 1928, the V is America's largest drive-in restaurant, serving a staggering 300 gallons of chili, 5,000 fried pies, and two miles of hot dogs per day. The onion rings, Frosted orange and the formidable chili cheese slaw dog are local favorites. $. L, D. 61 North Avenue. 404-881-1706. www.thevarsity.com.

West Egg Café, This westsider offers two irresistible cupcake flavors -- red velvet and Coca-Cola -- though you'll find other creations such as key lime and hummingbird in the mix as well. Those with a slightly smaller sweet tooth can enjoy the Blue Plate Breakfast (served all day) or one of 10 winning sandwiches. Winner of Best Breakfast 2009. $. B, L. 1168-A Howell Mill Road. 404-872-3973. www.westeggcafe.com.

Wonderful World of Burgers and More, The folks who brought you Tin Drum have decided to venture into burgers in Emory Village. None of the menu items exceed $4, even the specials. Try the teri-mayo hot dog, which is a hot dog with teriyaki sauce, Japan's famous kewpie mayo and roasted seaweed. L, D. $. 1561 North Decatur Rd. 404-373-8887. www.wwburger.com.

 

Bakery

Alon's, Atlanta's most celebrated bakery has recently expanded its takeout selection (try the oven-roasted meatballs) and cheese counter. But nothing will ever surpass those chocolate-chunk-pecan cookies. L $-$$ 1394 North Highland Avenue. 404-872-6000. www.alons.com.

Atlanta Cupcake Factory, Walking into this cupcake-exclusive bakery is like walking into someone's kitchen; the young motherly energy is part of its appeal. The 25 different types of cupcakes could be a part of it too. Ranging from the utterly absurd snowball, with its concoction of shaggy pink frosting, to classic red velvet, the Cupcake Factory proves that cupcakes are not just for birthday parties anymore. $ 624 North Highland Avenue. 678-358-9195. www.theatlantacupcakefactory.com.

Australian Bakery Cafe, The star of the show here is the Australian meat pie, a hot and crusty personal pie filled with meat and gravy, but the Cornish pasty -- a buttery pastry filled with meat and vegetables -- is great, too. Whether you're an Aussie ex-pat or a newcomer to the cuisine, you can be sure you're getting the real deal here. B, L. $ 463 Flat Shoals Avenue. 404-653-0100. www.australianbakery.com

Bread Garden, Catharine Krasnow's bakery isn't the biggest in town, but it's been at the top of our list since it opened. Her raisin bread makes beautiful music with many cheeses. Her country Italian loaf loves to become a sandwich. Her pastries? The safest sex we've ever had. Winner of "Best Bakery" 2007. $ 549 Amsterdam Avenue, Suite 5. 404-875-1166.

Buckhead Bread Company and Corner Cafe, Buckhead Life's lunchtime café and bakery, serving soups salads and sandwiches. B, L. $. 3070 Piedmont Road. 404-240-1978.

Cacao Laboratoire du Chocolat and Boutique, Inman Park store owned by Kristin Hard of the K Chocolat boasts a hoard of handcrafted artisanal chocolates. Her selection includes a mishmash of her traditional French training and premium ingredients. Tues.-Sun., 11 a.m.-7 p.m. 312-C North Highland Avenue. 404-221-2626. www.cacaoatlanta.com

Chocolate Pink Pastry Cafe, Chef Christian Balbierer helms this decadent pastry shop, producing desserts and treats that range from apple frangipane tarts and tiramisu cakes to the miniature chocolate truffle petit fours. $ 905 Juniper Street. 404-745-9292. www.chocolatepink.com.

Cookie Studio, Owners Barbara O'Neill and Sue Maschinot opened this bakery to satisfy their passion for baking. Each cookie is made with natural ingredients and contains no preservatives or additives. As if that wasn't enough, a portion of the revenue is donated to the Atlanta Day Shelter for Women and Children. 747-C East College Avenue. Decatur. 404-373-8527. www.thecookiestudio.net.

Douceur de France, Translated in English to "Sweets of France," this restaurant is headed by French chef Luc Beaudet, who dreams of bringing the true taste of fine French pastries made from scratch to America. 367 Glover Street. Marietta. 770-425-5050. www.douceurdefrance.com.

Desserts by Latrell, Bakery that specializes in owner Menia Chester's family recipes. With the tasty homemade dessert items and checkers sets available to play with, it's easy to forget you're in a bakery and not your grandmother's living room. 581 Edgewood Avenue. 678-705-3409. www.dessertsbylatrell.com.

Gabriel's, Owned by baking enthusiasts Johnnie and Ed Gabriel, this bakery opened in 1996 and has grown more and more each year. Since 2003, they tripled their space and they now serve breakfast, lunch and dinner six days a week. Today, they have an entire staff of talented bakers and offer holiday and special occasion cakes originally designed for each customer. 800 Whitlock Avenue, Marietta. 770-427-9007. www.gabrielsdesserts.com.

Highland Bakery, Milling its own flour from chemical-free grain is the cornerstone to this bakery's success. With signature whole-grain breads (white breads are available on request), you can stop worrying about preservatives in your food when you dive into an egg-and-cheese breakfast sandwich or one of the seven lunch sandwiches. Also a comfort to any Southerner's heart, grits served here are stone-ground on the premises and can be bought to take home. B, L $ 655 Highland Avenue. 404-586-0772. www.highlandbakery.com.

Jerusalem Bakery, It is impossible to visit this Middle Eastern bakery and leave with just one item. With items such as the finger date cookies and tangy feta studded with parsley and a sprinkling of oregano, this store is sure to delight locals and tourists alike. 585 Franklin Road, Suite 160. Marietta. 770-419-1666. www.jerusalem-bakery.com.

Joli Kobe, This French-Japanese classic in Sandy Springs is one of those rare places where the gleaming, highly styled creations taste as rapturous as they look. Stick to the bakery's signature chicken curry salad for lunch, and grab a Fraisier (sponge cake with vanilla buttercream and strawberries) or Matignon (flourless chocolate cake and chocolate mousse) cake to go. L, D $-$$ 5600 Roswell Road. 404-843-3257. www.jolikobe.com

Lee's Bakery, At Lee's Bakery, a varied clientele proves the universal language of food sometimes transcends cultural differences. Loyal customers come for the fresh French bread, Asian sweets and inexpensive bowls of rice or noodle soup. $2 sandwiches and refreshing smoothies are also a draw. L, D $ 4005 Buford Highway, Suite C. 404-728-1008. www.leesbakery.net

Little Cake Bakery, The tiny Buckhead storefront, owned by self-proclaimed Francophiles Pamela Laurent and Meg Genone, has become the spot for in-the-know locals longing for something a bit more sophisticated than the ordinary Publix cupcake. Little Cake is passionate about procuring high-quality ingredients such as sweet creamery butter, Cacao Barry chocolate sprinkles, Madagascar vanilla and Callebaut Belgian chocolate. Everything in the store is handmade, and you can taste it in each mouthful. $. 3792 Roswell Road. 404-841-8856. www.littlecakebakery.com.

Mozart Cafe and Bakery, The quirky tea-parlor-meets-twilight-zone speakeasy is filled with rows of Asian sweets. Peruse shiny buns filled with sweet potato, coffee-bean cream and red-bean paste. Nibble on vanilla sponge cake, walnut-chocolate squares and sweet green-bean pastries. What's this? Opium cookies? Don't get your hopes up: It's shortbread covered in poppy seeds. Giggling, hopelessly friendly cashiers ring you up, ensuring you walk out the door with your own lopsided grin. L, D $ 5301 Buford Highway. 770-936-8726.

Pastries a Go Go, This Decatur eatery serves a variety of stellar dishes, but its biscuits earn it the awards. The "cathead" biscuits are packed with fluffy layers and are slightly sweet from the sweet creamery butter and a pinch of sugar. If you're short on time, you can grab a biscuit filled with bacon and eggs for a portable meal that might make you think twice before hitting that drive-thru. B, L. 235 Ponce de Leon Place, Suite E, Decatur. 404-373-3423. www.pastriesagogo.com.

Southern Sweets Bakery, The mother/daughter team of Nancy Cole and Ashley Nelson has been serving desserts for 10 years to some of Atlanta's leading restaurants, country clubs and hotels. For more than five years, the bakery has been open to the public in an out-of-the-way spot near the DeKalb Farmer's Market. This is a working bakery, with just enough space to pick up a luscious Key lime pie, lemon gingerbread layer cake or sandwich and go. L $ 186 Rio Circle, Decatur. 404-373-8752. www.southernsweets.com.

Sugar Cakes Patisserie, Opened by a former pastry chef with the Buckhead Ritz-Carlton, this charming shop serves breakfast, sandwiches and a wide range of decadent pastries. B, L. 101 N. Park Square. 770-218-9994. www.sugarcakespatisserie.com.

 

Barbecue

Daddy D'z, The funky run-down shack is packed with crowds looking for 'cue. Blue collar, white collar and no collar at all -- folks gather to dive into plates piled high with sweet, savory barbecue (beef, pork, ribs and chicken) and traditional sides. L, D $ 264 Memorial Drive. 404-222-0206. www.daddydz.com

D.B.A Barbecue, Bringing in new chef Drew Kirkland has also brought some much-needed changes in overall quality and flavor to this barbecue joint. The "smokehouse" section of the menu inludes seven types of meat to be enjoyed separately, or all together with the massive "D.B.A. Whole House". The nicely spiced spare ribs and baby back ribs are standouts. L, D. $$. 1190 North Highland Ave NE. 404-249-5000. www.dbabarbecue.com.

Fat Matt's Rib Shack, Live blues and the love of good barbecue bring people from all over town to the small, boxy barbecue joint. An Atlanta landmark, Fat Matt's turns out ribs, chopped-pork barbecue sandwiches and chickens by the score. With classic sides like a creamy coleslaw, "rum" baked beans and Brunswick stew, this is the place to get a small (or large) slice of hog heaven. L, D $ 1811 Piedmont Avenue. 404-607-1622. www.fatmattsribshack.com.

Fox Bros Bar-B-Q, ***** Despite problems with consistency, Fox Bros. serves up super-smoky ribs, pork, chicken and brisket that inspires passionate barbecue love on good days. The atmosphere the brothers have created is admirable, turning the space into what feels like a genuine Texas shack. L, D $$ 1238 DeKalb Avenue. 404-577-4030. www.foxbrosbbq.com.

Maddy's, Jeff Buckalew worked at Fat Matt's for years before opening his own barbecue spot in Decatur. The family resemblance is unmistakable, but Matt and Maddy aren't twins. What Maddy lacks in rough-and-tumble bluesiness, she more than makes up for with good manners, cleanliness and a big, fat smile. The food seems fresher and feistier at dinner. Hone in on the ribs and the Brunswick stew. L, D $ 1479 Scott Boulevard, Decatur. 404-377-0301. www.maddysribs.com.

Ms. Betty's House of Ribs, This smokehouse of a barbecue joint is tailor-made for take-out, whether for a no-worries dinner or a catered afternoon of TV sports watching. The portions come as small as a rib sandwich or as large as a whole slab of ribs. The sides include everything from French fries to green beans and there is a range of sauces to choose from as well. But watch out, even the mild sauce has a peppery kick to it. L, D $$ 1281 Bouldercrest Drive. 404-243-8484.

Rolling Bones, We've always liked Rolling Bones, but since chef Todd Richards took over, our affections have grown. Richards has updated the 'cue – the sandwiches are less sloppy, the meat has more of the limelight – and is serving some seriously cool new items, including duck barbecue and smoked trout. Sides have also been given special consideration – the creamy potato salad with Benton's bacon has just the right mix of creaminess, smoke from the bacon and celery crunch, with none of the sugary undertones of lesser potato salads. Don't miss the duck sandwich with fig preserves. Winner of Best Barbecue 2009. L, D. 377 Edgewood Avenue. 404-222-2324. www.rollingbonesbbq.com.

The Swallow At The Hollow, The barbecue joint is long on hefty portions and intelligent updates of country classics. From pit-cooked portobello mushrooms to baby back ribs and mac-and-cheese, the cuisine has wide, if definitely Southern-style, appeal. L, D $$ 1072 Green Street, Roswell. 678-352-1975. www.theswallowatthehollow.com.

 

Cajun/Creole

Big Easy Grille, New Orleans-style restaurant that offers weekly specials. L, D. 1193 Collier Road. 404-352-2777. www.bigeasygrille.com.

Front Page News, Cajun cuisine and watering hole. Decent brunch. Large bar and patio, good for big parties. L, D $$ 351 Moreland Avenue. 404-475-7777. www.fpnatl.com.

Parish Foods & Goods, HHHII At this double-duty, two-level New Orleans-style restaurant, don't expect the classics. A search for jambalaya will be in vain, as will a search for printed menus (the owners are going way green). The baked goods - from one of the best pastry chefs in the city - are a highlight. The menu upstairs does feature some New Orleans-inspired food, and the market downstairs makes a mean muffaletta. L, D $$ 240 North Highland Avenue. 404-681-4434. www.parishatl.com

 

Chinese

BBQ Corner II, There are no smoky, sweet sauces or traditional sides (other than white rice), but this Chinese barbecue joint glorifies meat like its American counterparts. Try the supple roast duck, earthy soy-sauce chicken and buttery spare ribs. The whole barbecue suckling pig will make you want to host a Chinese banquet. L, D $ 5150 Buford Highway, Suite C-100. 770-451-2888.

Bo Bo Garden, Wan Lai's former chef Danny Ting made his move to Bo Bo Garden with 14 years of experience under his belt and also his skill for creating succulent dishes of pork, squid, and "Duck leg noodle soup" among others. Warning notice: his pork spare-ribs are meant for sharing as the portion is large and the flavors are entirely too rich for one person to consume. L, D 5181 Buford Highway, Doraville. 678-547-1881.

Cafe 101, ***** The decor of this Szechuan-focused Chinese restaurant might as well be an allegory for Buford Highway itself; colors and cultures collide and meld together in a delightful, dizzying, surreal room. You won't find the tongue-thrashing spiciness or mind-blowing bold flavors of the best authentic Szechuan cooking here, but the food is solid, and there are some standouts worth returning for again and again. Go for the veggies, fried tofu dishes, and the awesome, icey desserts. B, L, D $ 5412 Buford Highway. 770-458-8883. www.cafe101atlanta.com.

Canton House, Few dim sum restaurants are operated with such efficiency and such a broad menu. Anything made with shrimp or barbecued pork is bound to please even the most unadventurous diner. L, D $ 4825 Buford Highway, Chamblee. 770-936-9030.

Chef Lui's, Chef Liu's selection of inexpensive dumplings and buns typical to Northern China's cities appeals most strongly for breakfast and lunch. That's when the crowds show up. And they all start with an order of twisted crullers (i.e., Chinese doughnuts). Check out the leek pie and lamb dumplings, too. B, L, D $ 5221 Buford Highway, Doraville. 770-936-0532.

China Cooks Chinese Seafood, Large menu includes Peking duck without the usual 24-hour call-ahead requirement. But as the restaurant's name suggests, seafood is the specialty of the house. Lobster and Dungeness crab are exceptional. L, D $$ 215 Northwood Drive. 404-252-6611.

China Delight, In a glittery setting, servers push carts loaded with steamed scallop dumplings, flaky taro cakes, creamy rice porridge and turnip cakes studded with sausage and griddled crisp. Don't miss out on the magical tofu pudding, a custardy bowl of quavering tofu doused with a ginger-laced syrup. L, D $$ 2390 Chamblee Tucker Road. 770-986-0898.

Food Court At Chinatown Square, Got a hankering for a giant bowl of brothy seafood noodles or soy-lacquered duck that melts in your mouth? This food court offers six outstanding fast-food spots to satiate your Asian cravings for around $7. L, D $ 5383 New Peachtree Road, Chamblee. 770-458-6660.

Little Szechuan, Thank the food gods that this restaurant remains a thriving eatery. Steamed red snapper with black beans, flash-fried Chinese long beans, golden pot stickers and eggplant in garlic sauce are standouts among the lengthy menu. L, D $$ 5091 Buford Highway. 770-451-0192.

Ming's Bar B Q Duluth, The newer Duluth location adds an ambiance that the Buford Highway location lacks. There's a new menu section dedicated to contemporary Hong-Kong teahouses. Specializing in barbecue inspired dishes, menu items include young chow fried rice with honey-barbecued pork and dry-fried beef chow fun. L, D. $. 2131 Pleasant Hill Rd. 770-623-9996.

Mu Lan, A slightly fancier take on Chinese dishes from the owner of the local Chin Chin chain. L, D $$ 824 Juniper Street. 404-877-5797. www.mulanatlanta.com.

Tasty China, ***** In mid-2008, two new chefs took over the kitchen at Tasty China. It's taken them some time to hit their stride, but these days chef Liu and chef Wong are cooking in a way that revives Tasty China's reputation as Atlanta's best Chinese restaurant. The layering of ingredients in dishes is so masterful it's astounding. "Slice fish and sour cabbage soup" boasts a milky broth that hums with brightness -- vinegar tempered by puckery, soothing greens and crunchy cilantro. Old favorites - such as the dry fried eggplant - still satisfy your craving for hot and numbing. Winner of Best Chinese 2009. L, D $$ 585 Franklin Road, Marietta. 770-419-9849.

Wan Lai, Wan Lai loosely translates to "Fat Boy Shop," a fitting name for the absolute lack of self-control the restaurant's broad menu evokes. Some instant favorites: the "three kind dumpling," a bowl of clear, clean broth dotted with tiny bunches of al dente bok choy and an assortment of succulent homemade shrimp, pork and vegetable dumplings; and the "garlic flavor chicken," a plate of hacked-up crispy fried chicken covered in fried garlic, jalapeños, scallions and shallots. L, D $ 4897 Buford Highway, Chamblee. 678-530-0633. www.wanlairestaurant.com

 

Deli/Sandwiches

Café Mims, Café Mims is the latest spot to capitalize on the need for speedy lunchtime fare. The food, overseen by Livingston's executive chef Gary Mennie, is made fresh daily and pre-packaged so you can grab and go. The cafe opens early so you can pop in for some coffee and one of the homemade baked goods, such as the trio of mini bear claws filled with blueberries, cheese and almond paste. Sandwiches are the best thing the cafe has to offer at lunchtime. B, L, D. $. 659 Peachtree St. 404-897-5000. www.livingstonatlanta.com.

Fabiano's Italian Deli, There's much to love at this Midtown deli, but you can't do any better than the #1. A double fister of a sandwich, the #1 is a daunting stack of prosciutto, capicola and pepperoni with provolone or fresh mozzerella and paper-thin tomato slices. L, D $ 985 Monroe Drive. 404-875-0500.

The Kosher Gourmet, The Kosher Gourmet, where the selection is large and the options are plentiful, serves as a supermarket, bakery and deli specializing in glatt-kosher meats under the supervision of the Atlanta Kashruth Commission. Here you can find anything from challah and bagels to gefilte fish and chicken so good even your bubbie would shep nachus. B, L $-$$. 2153 Briarcliff Road. 404-636-1114. www.kgatl.com.

Mercantile, A specialty foods store in Candler Park that welcomes popping in for a roasted chicken or a crusty baguette. Sundries include an impressive assortment of teas, bags of Carolina Gold rice and an interesting variety of beverages, but the real treasures are the indispensable homemade stocks and mother sauces. Also sandwiches and sweet treats - wine sales sometime in 2009. L $$ 1660 DeKalb Aveue, Suite 150. 404-378-0096. www.themercantileatl.com.

Metrofresh, Mitchell Anderson opened MetroFresh after a stint at Souper Jenny's in Buckhead. Here, you'll find hearty soups and sandwiches, along with salads, pastas and a few more complicated entrees from time to time. A couple of specials are posted daily. You can eat in, but the food is ideal for carry-out since it's simple. L, D $ 931 Monroe Drive, Suite A106. 404-724-0155. www.metrofreshatl.com.

Muss & Turner's, ***** The perennial complaint of New York transplants was the lack of a good deli in the Atlanta area. Todd Mussman and Ryan Turner changed that when they opened their unique store: part gourmet grocery, part sandwich shop, part cooking school, part neighborhood bistro. Since the restaurant began serving dinner, it's revealed an entirely new side of itself. Weeknights, the restaurant feels cozy and intimate. Weekends, the place turns into a scene that feels energizing to be a part of. Chicken liver mousse, beef tartar, standout desserts from the pastry case and an exceptional beer list may prove that dinner here is just what your hungry soul needs. Winner of Best Sandwiches 2009. L, D $$ 1675 Cumberland Parkway, Suite 309, Smyrna. 770-434-1114. www.mussandturners.com.

Noon Midtown, Noon's decision to serve only breakfast and lunch seems to be working in its favor judging by how packed the surprisingly large dining room has been. Sandwiches -- both "cool" and "warm" -- dominate the lunch menu, although a handful of salads, soups and sides are also available. Pole-caught tuna salad is not your average mayo, celery and canned tuna concoction. Instead, the diced pieces of potato, chopped Nicoise olives, perfectly crunchy greens beans, red onion, olive oil and lemon are more of a deconstructed Nicoise salad on soft country bread. B, L. $. 1080 Peachtree St. 404-496-4891. www.noonmidtown.com.

Sawicki's Meat, Seafood & More, Sawicki's sells gourmet meats and baked goods but the main draw here is the sandwich menu with 10 selections and a few daily specials. The roasted lamb sandwich with red-onion jam is juicy, embracing the meat's fatty, gamey goodness. There are also meatless approaches such as the artichoke and spinach with avocado and tomato tartine. For your sweet tooth there is a large range of cookies, breakfast pastries, brownies and scrumptious cupcakes. You can also find everything you need for that picnic in the park. L, D $ 250 West Ponce De Leon Avenue, Decatur. 404-377-0992. www.sawickismeatseafoodandmore.com.

Star Provisions, The take out menu varies slightly each day, but count on seductively constructed sandwiches such as homemade meatball hoagies with buffalo mozzarella; freshly made pizzas; family-size containers of mac-and-cheese; and entrees such as grouper escabeche and beef tenderloin with salsa verde. The jewel-like desserts, including the loveliest cookies in town, are meant for savoring not gobbling. L, D $ 1198 Howell Mill Road. 404-365-0410. www.starprovisions.com.

 

French

Anis Cafe & Bistro, French-Mediterranean cuisine in a charming house with a cozy patio. L, D $$ 2974 Grandview Avenue. 404-233-9889. www.anisbistro.com.

Atmosphere, Located in an elegantly decorated cottage, Atmosphere serves up French food that breeds nostalgia for Nice, featuring classically prepared dishes including puff pastry tarts and profiteroles. Entrees are beautiful to behold, especially the beef back ribs stewed in red wine with buttery leeks and tender tortelloni. L, D $$$ 1620 Piedmont Avenue. 678-702-1620. www.atmospherebistro.com.

Au Rendez Vous, For all the upscale, high-falutin' French places in town, our favorite is the decidedly homey Au Rendez Vous, tucked into a residential neighborhood in Brookhaven. The cash-only, Vietnamese-owned restaurant serves exactly the kind of food you'd find in a real working-class French neighborhood – traditional recipes cooked with love. You won't go wrong with any of the crepe appetizers, or rich, hearty meat entrees (try the rabbit cooked with red wine). The diminutive prices and feeling of eating in someone's jumbled living room only add to the appeal. Winner of Best French 2009. 1328 Windsor Parkway. 404-343-4983.

French American Brasserie, ***** At F.A.B you'll find upscale, straightforward French food that's reliably good. In a Frenchie interior of mirrors and marble, F.A.B. serves classic dishes including towers of seafood on ice, steaks and chops, and a pleasing assortment of a la carte sides and sauces. L, D $$$ 30 Ivan Allen Jr. Boulevard. 404-266-1440. www.fabatlanta.com.

Joel, ***** Joel Antunes has moved on, but he's left the kitchen in the very capapble hands of his longtime chef de cusine Cyrille Holota. Holota's technical exactitude and unlikely combinations make for some astounding dishes. The wine list is probably the best in the city. L, D $$$$ 3290 Northside Parkway. 404-233-3500. www.joelrestaurant.com.

 

Greek

Avra, Plunge into dinner several ways here, depending on your budget and your appetite. Request a pikilia plate of cold spreads while you peruse the wine selection and decide on other dishes. It's a standard mishmash of dips, many with wonderfully meandering names like melitzanosalata (smoked eggplant salad) and revithosalata (hummus). The kitchen nails its tzatziki and the grilled octopus is pliant and smoky in all the right ways. D $-$$ 794 Juniper Street. 404-892-8890. www.avragreektavern.com.

Kyma, Pano Karatassos' paean to his heritage isn't just the best Greek restaurant in town: It's an exquisite, authentic voyage into Mediterranean cuisine. Start with mezze (tapas/appetizers) -- pan-fried cheese in ouzo, stuffed grape leaves, wood-grilled octopus and shrimp -- and progress to the impeccably fresh fish simply grilled and adorned with lemon and olive oil. Don't leave without sampling the homemade yogurt with Greek honey and walnuts. D $$$$ 3085 Piedmont Road. 404-262-0702. www.buckheadrestaurants.com/kyma.

Nick's To Go, This tiny Greek gem is a complete family affair, with Nick Poulous working the front and his wife, Helen, and their daughters, Evie and Angela, in the kitchen. Although there's no dining area -- don't even try to eat inside or you'll get a fatherly scolding from Nick -- the comforting food travels well and is always made to order. Crispy wedges of Greek-style fries are lemony, heavily seasoned with dried oregano and served with a garlicky tzatziki sauce. The lamb gyro wrap is a cylinder of warm, pillowy pita overflowing with lamb sliced from the iconic revolving tower and spiked with tangy tzatziki that plays well against the heaviness of the meat. It's just like having your very own Greek mama. L, D $ 240 Martin Luther King Jr. Drive. 404-521-2220. www.nicksfood.com.

Taverna Plaka, To enjoy a meal at Taverna Plaka, get drunk off the lengthy list of Greek wines, dance and order the mezze. The many appetizer-size dishes tend to be better than the entrees, and we recommend the very spicy but irresistible pork-and-lamb sausage. D $$ 2196 Cheshire Bridge Road. 404-636-2284. www.tavernaplakaatlanta.com.

Veranda Greek Taverna, ***** Saturday nights at Veranda are when belly dancers take over, but the nights to hit this Roswell Greek kitchen are Thursdays and Sundays -- when the restaurant forgoes its regular menu and serves everything tapas style for $5 a plate (as well as $5 martinis). Seafood dishes stand out, particularly the incredibly tender and sweet xtapodi (grilled octopus). The restaurant has an impressive 100 percent Greek wine list, and their martini selection includes ingredients like Key lime and white chocolate. L, D $$ 11235 Alpharetta Highway, Suite 105, Roswell. 678-330-1218. www.verandagreektaverna.com.

 

Ice Cream

Jake's Ice Cream, What makes Jake's ice cream stand out isn't just its vibrant flavors, but its subtlety: The brown-sugar ice cream isn't gritty or cloying, but a smooth caress of your taste buds. The Chocolate Slap Yo Mama is justly celebrated, being not so much an ice cream flavor as an enhanced chocolate delivery system. $ Tues.-Sun., 11 a.m.-9 p.m. 660 Irwin Street. 678-705-7277. www.jakesicecream.com.

Jujubee's, Jujubee's keeps it simple by offering a few flavors of its Italian-style frozen yogurt along with all the usual toppings. The pomegranate, a usual suspect at modern frozen yogurt establishments, is tart and tasty. Instead of contending with rogue sprinkles and chocolate chips, the counter folks smartly secure the toppings with another thin layer of frozen yogurt, and they'll even let you mix up the flavors in the layers. L, D. $. 4279 Roswell Road. 404-303-0024.

Morelli's Gourmet Ice Cream, This gourmet mom-and-pop stand delivers highly inventive and inspiring ice cream creations. Traditional strawberry and chocolate are pure perfection, but flavors such as "black walnut," sweet corn" and "coconut jalapeno" are creative standouts. Non-ice cream items include made-to-order crepes - one filled with the heavenly, nutty Nutella and fresh strawberries. Winner of Best Ice Cream 2009. $ 749 Moreland Ave. 404-622-0210.

Paolo's Gelato Italiano, Tucked away in a small shoebox of a shop in the Virginia-Highland is Atlanta's own mad master of gelato. With flavors ranging from the pedestrian trifecta of strawberry, vanilla and chocolate to zanier flavors like pannacotta, fig and even rose (better than it sounds), all the gelatos are smooth, creamy and delicious. L, D. $. 1025 Virginia Ave. 404-607-0055. www.paolosgelato.com.

Yoforia, Bright green walls and a peppy staff greet you as you walk in the door of this local chain. The frozen yogurt is made with organic milk, organic yogurt, purified water and healthy live cultures. The fruity flavors are the best of the bunch. The mango tastes like a cross between puckery mango and passion fruit. The portions are huge and the toppings are pristine -- no withered looking pineapple or mushy kiwi here. L, D. $. 1402 N. Highland Ave. 404-685-3747. www.yoforia.com.

Yogurberry, This global yogurt chain has caused quite the stir among fro-yo freaks in Atlanta. The tangy, nonfat yogurt only has 25 calories per ounce and is sweetened with fruit sugar. No nasty artificial sweeteners here, and it's made on-site with sustainable products. Asian-inspired flavors such as taro and green tea pair beautifully with the multitude of toppings. L, D. $. 3280 Peachtree Road. 404-869-9788. www.yogurberry.com.

 

Indian

Bhojanic, In a city overrun with great South Indian options, Bhojanic offers some of the most vibrant northern Indian fare in Atlanta. Though you may encounter waits at dinner, lunch is friendly and considerably more mellow. Try the lusciously thick, smooth eggplant dip laced with caramelized onions and accompanied by cornmeal flatbread, a Punjab novelty. It's obvious there's a soulful, practiced hand guiding the food that comes from this kitchen. L, D $$ 1363 Clairmont Road. 404-633-9233. www.bhojanic.com.

Chopaati, Chopaati has a bright, clean, nondescript interior and serves good-value, fast-food-style vegetarian Indian fare. Start your meal with Gujarati dal -- a tomato and lentil soup spicy enough to steam your glasses over. Then move on to chole bhature (curried chickpeas served with crusty fried bread), and paneer kaas, a thick cashew nut and cream gravy with chunks of seared paneer cheese. L, D $ 1707 Church Street, Decatur. 404-296-2965.

Panahar, Atlanta's sole Bangladeshi restaurant is also one of its finest ethnic eats. Owner Mirza Chowdhury is justifiably proud of his cozy, comfortable restaurant and its exceptional dishes. Similar to Indian cuisine in its spices and ingredients, Bangladeshi meals are characterized by their lighter flavors and greater use of vegetables. The poori chicken tikka is a must-have combination of cushy, crusty, deep-fried bread and chicken curry, redolent with spices. Vegetarians have nearly 20 items to choose from, including the decadently rich shaag paneer of creamed spinach and fresh cheese. Save room for the 10 breads made in-house; the poratta, in particular, is the stuff food addictions are all about. L, D. $$. 3375 Buford Highway, Suite 1060. 404-633-6655. www.panahar.com.

Rose Of India, You won't notice the dodgy decor when eating at this Punjabi Indian eatery. No oil-laden dishes or one-curry-fits-all spicing here, just simply great Indian food. Be sure to try the meltingly tender lamb tikka and the phenomenal naan bread. L, D $ 4847 Peachtree Road, Chamblee. 678-330-1525.

Saravanaa Bhaven, Formerly Madras Saravana Bhavan, this mainly but not solely south Indian vegetarian restaurant is now part of a worldwide chain based in Chennai. New owners have made some changes and the place is better than ever. There is a huge picture window to watch chefs prepare food that is esoteric to the Western eye. The menu is colorful with two varieties of idly, spongy white cakes made of ground rice and lentils. With such great food carnivores will never miss the lack of meat. L, D $$ 2179 Lawrenceville Highway, Decatur. 404-636-4400. www.saravanabhavan.com.

Udipi Cafe, Savory rice pilafs, spicy vegetable curries and spectacular stuffed crepes and pancakes are but four reasons to seek out the city's newest South Indian vegetarian outlet. Sophisticated carrot desserts, traditional beverages and crisp breads double the pleasure. Table service is a plus. L, D $$ 1707 Church Street, Decatur. 404-325-1933.

Vatica, There is no menu at Vatica. For $10.99 at dinner and $8.99 at lunch, the restaurant offers an all-you-can-eat meal on a thali, a round metal tray upon which five or six harmonious dishes are served. This isn't the usual assortment of flabby, overcooked vegetables in creamy curry sauces found in many Indian joints. This is home-style cookin' like your mama would have made, had she been from the Gujarat in western India. The selection changes every day. L, D $ 1475 Terrell Mill Road, Marietta. 770-955-3740. www.indiagourmet.com.

Zyka, Zyka offers quick, affordable Indian food that rivals its more pricey and less flavorful counterparts in Atlanta. The name means "taste," and Zyka offers plenty of it. Try to overlook the low-rent production and concentrate on the food. Chicken 65 ($3.99), Zyka's signature dish, arrives brick red heaped with raw onions, with a choice of tamarind or mint sauces. The boneless chunks of chicken are marinated in ginger, garlic and mild spices and then batter-fried. L, D $ 1677 Scott Boulevard,Decatur. 404-728-4444. www.zyka.com.

 

Italian

Alfredo's, Push past Alfredo's squat, square, intimidating façade to the welcoming atmosphere where the waiters are enthusiastic and the eggplant parmigiana is the real Italian deal. Avoid seafood dishes and try the steak in port sauce, as meat seems to be the kitchen's forte. $$$. D. 1989 Cheshire Bridge Road. 404-876-1380. www.alfredositalianrestaurant.com.

Antica Posta, The Buckhead glitz factor is down at this old-world Italian eatery serving Tuscan specialties such as crostini with duck ragu and superior pastas. Service and comforts are first-rate, making this a special-occasion destination as well as a place to enjoy the kind of Italian food served in Italy, not New York. D $$$$ 519 E. Paces Ferry Road. 404-262-7112. www.anticaposta.com.

Di Paolo, "Eat little, well and often" is the motto at di Paolo, but you'll have a hard time eating a little with a menu full of lovingly prepared Italian-American greats. The pastas, especially the ravioli, are rich and satisfying but not too heavy, and meat dishes such as veal parmigiana are among the best renditions of this style of cooking we've had. D $$ 8560 Holcomb Bridge Road. 770-587-1051. www.dipaolorestaurant.com.

Dolce, ***** Dolce inspires fantasies of all stripes. Curved leather booths, white and black, lend the room a racy theme of contrasts, evoking a sexed-up Othello board, and the waiters -- clad in black shirts adorned with gold graphics on their rugged shoulders, are some of the best-looking in the city. Tuna tartar on little fried wonton crackers manages to turn up the heat and burrata, fresh mozzarella soaked in heavy cream, is sexy on the plate. The place is a little shallow, but fun all the same. D $$$ 261 19th St. 404-872-3902. www.dolcegroup.com.

Enoteca Carbonari, Luxurious in a country Italian style, this sister restaurant of Baronda brings the Italian ethic of "good food and good friends" to Midtown. Featuring an excellent selection of meats and cheeses paired with their extensive winelist, Enoteca is a place to connect with friends both old and new. $$$. L, D. 710 Peachtree St. 404-810-9110. www.enotecacarbonari.com.

Figo Pasta, Inventive, reasonably priced fresh pasta dishes. Friendly, efficient service. L, D. $. Edgewood Retail District, 1220 Caroline St., and other metro Atlanta locations. 404-586-9250. www.figopasta.com.

Il Bacio, Head to Il Bacio if you are craving a good plate of delicate manicotti topped with melted mozzarella. For dessert try the tiramisu that has just the right blend of sweet and bitter flavors and creamy foamy textures. L, D $$ 2571 Piedmont Road. 404-467-0333. www.ilbacioatl.com.

La Grotta Ristorante Italiano, Old-school Italian for the moneyed set. $$$. D. 2637 Peachtree Road. 404-231-1368. www.lagrottaatlanta.com.

La Pietra Cucina, ***** The recent renovation of La Pietra Cucina has produced something like someone's rococo fantasy of what an Italian restuarant should be, and it doesn't match chef Bruce Logue's cooking in the slightest. What would match Logue's style? Something bold. Classic lines with hints of modernity. Logue's food is slightly beyond definition, and continues to capture our imagination in ways that few chefs in this city are able. The food is most exciting when its flavors nip at the edges of confusion. Salmon over artichoke and field pea "minestrone" with shrimp gnudi takes at least a few tastes to wrap your brain around - your mind darts from flavor to flavor and wonders at the harmony of it all. Winner of Best New Restaurant 2009. L, D $$$ 1545 Peachtree St., Suite 101. 404-888-8709. www.lapietracucina.com.

La Tavola, Simple and well-executed Italian in a sleek and comfortable setting. The back covered deck, which winds around a parking lot and is shared by several Va-Hi restaurants, is perfect for kicking back with appetizers such as the divine grilled calamari, roasted cauliflower and cannelloni and, of course, a glass of Chianti. $$-$$$. D. 992 Virginia Ave. 404-873-5430. www.latavolatrattoria.com.

Neo, ***** NEO is an upscale Italian restaurant that's steeped in the hushed-room tradition of fine dining. Located in the Mansion on Peachtree hotel, the menu is full of high-priced luxuries, some of which stand out and some of which fall flat. The beautiful room and fantastic Italian wine list compliment dishes such as rabbit lon wrapped in pancetta. But dull, saltless appetizers and the kitchen's architectural aspirations, which often take precedence over flavor, often lead to disappointment. $$$$ B, L, D. 3376 Peachtree Road. 404-995-7580. www.rwmansiononpeachtree.com.

Noni's Bar And Deli, ***** A bricked-out, wooded space speckled with old family photos. Chef Matt Ruppert excells at starters, including a delicious white bean dip and a sinful, bitter-soaked mushroom bruschetta. The going rate for a pasta dish is $8, and you can pay extra for their homemade noodles, which they execute flawlessly without clumps. L, D. 357 Edgewood Ave. 404-343-1808. www.nonisdeli.com.

Osteria 832, Taking its namesake from the small pasta cafes found in Italy, Osteria 832's spot in the former North Highland Bagel location is downright celebratory. The focaccia basket is fluffy, the pizzas are thin and bubbly, and the Bolognese and boscaiola pastas shine. Petite tumblers of reasonably priced wine and an inviting brick patio hearten this affordable dining destination. L, D $ 832 N. Highland Ave. 404-897-1414. www.osteria832.com.

Pasta Da Pulcinella, Cozy, romantic Italian restaurant in an old house with small, quirky menu and top-notch Caesar salads. $$. L, D. 1123 Peachtree Walk. 404-876-1114. www.pastadapulcinella.com.

Pricci, ***** Waiters in white tuxedos glide around a room that's almost comically clichéd, the Disney version of an Italian restaurant. If it's a bit silly, it's in equal measure pure fun, an unabashed homage to the idea that dining out is (and should be) a form of entertainment. Buckhead Life opened Pricci in 1991, and Piero Premoli, a native of Milan, has been the restaurant's chef since 2005. All the pasta is house-made, and walks that enchanted line between delicacy and heartiness. While the regular menu offers plenty of classic dishes, the excitement often lies on the specials menu. L, D. 500 Pharr Road at Maple Dr. 404-237-2941. www.buckheadrestaurants.com/pricci.

Sotto Sotto, ***** As a place to dine extremely well, see friends and plug into what people are talking about, Riccardo Ullio's Italian outpost in Inman Park hardly can be beat. Pastas, risotti and desserts are winners, as is the high-energy factor. D $$$ 313 N. Highland Ave. 404-523-6678. www.sottosottorestaurant.com.

Stella Neighborhood Trattoria, ***** Opened by Rich Chey, who created Doc Chey's Noodle House and Osteria 832 Pizza & Pasta, this family-friendly joint serves pizza, pasta and appetizers such as light and savory salt cod fritters with lemon-garlic aioli. The two main draws here are the prices and organic and often local ingredients. Weekend brunch, L, D 563 Memorial Drive. 404-688-4238. www.stellaatlanta.com.

Valenza, ***** Valenza, named for a city in northern Italy, is exactly what Brookhaven needs: a grown-up restaurant that feels safe to traditionalists and mildly exciting to the adventurous. The menu ranges from predictable bruschetta, ravioli and halibut to coniglio, rabbit served over polenta with tomatoes and olives, and a quail appetizer that shows off the wonderful Italian relationship with gamey meats. Chef Matt Swickerath's technique is spot-on and he succeeds at adding details that transform a dish into something spectacular, like the short ribs agnolotti brought to life with tarragon. Desserts are certainly worthy, but the all-Italian wine list is even better. $$$ D 1441 Dresden Drive, Suite 160. 404-969-3233. www.valenzarestaurant.com.

Veni Vidi Vici, Power lunches and swanky Italian dinners have been the draw here since the early '90s. $$$$. L, D. 41 14th St. 404-875-8424. www.buckheadrestaurants.com.

 

Korean

88 Tofu House, Tucked just inside the Perimeter on Buford Highway, 88 Tofu House serves tofu nearly 88 ways, predominantly in soups rounded out with meat, vegetables, seafood or bean paste. Even better, the restaurant stays open around the clock, meaning that you can order up the ultimate hangover cure before your hangover even sets in. $. Daily, B, L, D. 5490 Buford Highway. Doraville. 770-457-8811.

Cho Dang Tofu, Although 88 Tofu House is hailed by many as the spot for soon dubu, Cho Dang Tofu's version of the Korean tofu stew served in a heated stone bowl is just as good, and its atmosphere much calmer. $-$$. L, D. 5907 Buford Highway, Doraville, 770-220-0667.

Hae Woon Dae, Easy to miss in a drab strip mall just outside I-285, Hae Woon Dae serves some of Atlanta's most delicious and entertaining Korean cuisine, with bul gogi beef and other meat dishes charcoal-grilled in sunken cauldrons at your own table. The pickled kimchi sides come in so many colors and flavors you're bound to find one you adore. L, D $$$ 5805 Buford Highway, No. 5, Doraville. 770-458-6999. www.realpagessites.com/haewoondaebbq

Hanil Kwan, A sunny Korean restaurant with a la carte dining in the front room and charcoal Korean barbecue in the back room. Go for the barbecue. A variety of meats are offered, and the panchan includes a delicious fresh kimchee -- salad greens dressed in chili, vinegar and sesame oil. L, D 5458 Buford Highway, Doraville. 770-457-3217.

Honey Pig, ***** If you've never ventured into a Korean barbecue restaurant but have an inkling that tons of grilled meat cooked in front of you might be fun, then get thee to Honey Pig. It's about the most delicious, least intimidating Korean restaurant imaginable. This isn't to say that Honey Pig is inauthentic or watered down. On the contrary, the "samgyeopsal jip" is a specialized type of Korean barbecue house that deals in pork belly. There are numerous pork belly options, including a number of marinated versions, but the house specialty -- the honey pig -- is the way to go. Winner of Best Korean 2009. L, D $$ 3473 Old Norcross Road. 770-476-9292.

Myung Ga Won, Tucked away in a small strip mall just off I-85, Myung Ga Won's colorful -- and slightly retro -- façade looks more like a bowling alley than a 24 hour dining establishment. The menu is rife with Korean specialties -- bubbling tofu stew, bi bim bop, seafood and scallion pancakes and beef soup. But the restaurant's barbecue -- especially the marinated versions -- is where it's at. B, L, D $-$$ 1960 Day Drive, Suite 100, Duluth. 770-622-1300. www.mk1usa.com.

 

Mediterranean

Cafe Agora, ***** The dishes at Café Agora originate in owner Al Ozelci's native Turkey, and you can taste the love and heritage. Eating here is a collaborative process, as close to eating in someone's home as you're likely to get in a restaurant. Don't miss the mezze plate, full of beautiful dips and salads. And don't be surprised at Ozelci's enthusiastic, super-personal service. L, D $$ 262 E. Paces Ferry Road N.E. 404-949-0900. www.cafeagora.com

Cafe Istanbul, Turkish restaurant with hookahs and belly dancers as well as typical Mediterranean eats. $$. L, D. 1850 Lawrenceville Highway, Decatur 404-320-0054. www.cafeistanbulatlanta.com.

Ecco, ***** Owned by the same people who operate South City Kitchen, this classy, but not theatrical restaurant has traditionally served bold flavors from France, Spain and Italy. A new menu focuses on seafood. D $$$$ 40 Seventh St. 404-347-9555. www.ecco-atlanta.com

Efes Mediterranean and Vegetarian Turkish Cuisine, The humble storefront is open during the day for a quick kebab or gyro, but at night the back room of rugs and pillowed seating is open. You can enjoy belly dancing on the weekend, but you don't need that to enjoy the authentic Mediterranean cuisine on the square. $$. B, L, D. 113 N. Park Square, Marietta. 770-419-0159. www.efesrestaurant.com.

Feast, A homey and somewhat upscale destination serving mostly Mediterranean fare near the train tracks in downtown Decatur. $$. L, D. 314 E. Howard Ave. 404-377-2000. www.feastatlanta.com.

Ibiza, Situated next door to its sister restaurant Imperial Fez, this tapas invites you to plow through a hearty selection of luscious baba ghanoush, seared scallops in an amazing saffron cream sauce, or buttery chicken baked with a mascarpone sauce and Spanish paprika. $$. D. 2285 Peachtree Road. 404-352-3081. www.ibizarestaurantlounge.com.

Imperial Fez, Take off your shoes, lounge on floor pillows, and eat a multicourse, prix-fixe Moroccan meal. While you enjoy sweet-and-savory b'stella and fragrant tangine, belly dancers undulate about you, candles balanced on their heads. $$$. D. 2285 Peachtree St. 404-351-0870. www.imperialfez.com.

Joia, Joia's menu, by chef Brett Maddox, is slightly unadventerous. However, some winners do stand out. The basket of fried calamari with jalapenos and tomato sauce is well done, as are the super-rich short ribs with roasted carrots, haricots verts, and fingerling potatoes. L, D. $$. 1100 Crescent Ave. 404-537-5000. www.joiaatlanta.com.

Pastis, Like a short trip to the Mediterranean coast, the menu includes risotto, Salad Niçoise, grilled ribeye steak, crunchy fried calamari, gazpacho, lamb shanks, sea bass. Different rooms have different themes, from wine cellar to sun-dappled balcony. $$. L, D. 936 Canton St. 770-640-3870. www.roswellpastis.com.

Social, ***** Social's affordable menu revisits the owners' childhoods along the French/Italian border, excelling at small Mediterranean dishes and simple, fresh sandwiches. The split-level space is chic and welcoming, but a little hidden on a hard to reach one-way street. Nevertheless, Social is a place where diners can have a sophisticated dinner with a great glass of wine without feeling that nasty pang in the pocket. L, D. $$ 12 W. Peachtree Place. 404-525-2246. www.socialintown.com.

 

Mexican/Tex Mex/Southwestern

Across The Street, This Old Fourth Ward Mexican cantina features daily drink specials and a funky patio that overlooks Freedom Parkway. L, D, Sunday Brunch. $. 668 Highland Ave. 404-781-0931. www.across-the-street.com.

Adios Café, The café's name does not mean goodbye, but "of the gods" -- a tribute to the Mayans, who discovered chocolate in 600 A.D. and believed it was a gift from the gods. They offer such goodies as handmade chocolate trufas (truffles), immensely fruity little strawberry pound cake loaves that are flavored with Jarritos (a Mexican soft drink), and more. B, L, D $ 180 Walker St. 404-574-5678. www.adioscafe.com.

Agave, The restaurant takes its name from the plant from which tequila is made and for good reason. The bar is heavily stocked with rows of enticing tequilas. Stuffed mountain trout tomatillo and grilled red chile pork tenderloin are among the most satisfying offerings on the creative and eclectic Southwestern dinner menu. D $$ 242 Boulevard. 404-588-0006. www.agaverestaurant.com.

Blue Frog Cantina, This casual cantina in East Atlanta village serves up Mexican fare, an array of margaritas, and $1 tacos on Mondays and Tuesdays. D. $. 469 Flat Shoals Ave. 404-658-6108. www.bluefrogatl.com.

El Myr, The wait staff is languid, to say the least, so consider the time you spend in burrito limbo part of the entertainment. We recommend the green burrito and a PBR. L, D. 1091 Euclid Ave. 404-588-0250. www.elmyr.com.

El Rey del Taco, Unlike the quesadillas that most gringos are accustomed to, El Rey's are made of large corn tortillas folded in half with a filling. But the tortillas themselves make the trip worthwhile. They are big, fluffy, hot and redolent of corn. Check out the taco and quesadilla specials usually offered on Saturday and Sunday. On the regular menu try the suadero taco, a smooth and creamy meat from the cow's rib in a taco served with flavorful sauces. L, D $ 5288 Buford Highway, Doraville. 770-986-0095.

El Taco Veloz, El Taco Veloz serves up the real deal, albeit in dingy surroundings. A better beef-tongue taco would be nearly impossible to find, as would a creamier, more satisfying bean burrito. The barbacoa is extraordinary, whether rolled into a soft, steamed corn tortilla or packed into a flour one. Tacos are irresistible snacks whose $1.69 price tag makes sampling the whole lot easy. Eating one of the massive burritos feels a bit like making out with food, with habanero salsa providing a crowning, thrilling burn. B, L, D $ 5084 Buford Highway, Doraville. 770-936-9094.

El Tesoro, ***** El Tesoro is located in a big, old Decatur house. Popular with families and non-child-bearing foodies alike, El Tesoro serves some good Mexican and Tex-Mex food at neighborhood-friendly prices. The appetizers list is full of nibbles and accompaniments that can make a fun meal, especially tossed back with a basket of chips and a pitcher of margaritas. Steaming, corny tamales are the best reason to visit. Entrees can be fun as well but are less authentic. L, D. $$ 129 Church St., Decatur. 404-377-9797. www.eltesorodecatur.com.

Holy Taco, Chef and part owner Robert Phalen, who is an alumni of Shaun Doty's kitchens, is trying something interesting at this East Atlanta taqueria: Mexican fusion. The result is an incredibly cool neighborhood eatery that's going places with its food that even some of the most daring high-end chefs in town wouldn't dare. Try the chicken heart tacos, and don't miss the pork belly torta. L, D. $$. 1314 Glenwood Ave. 404-230-6177. www.holy-taco.com.

La Oaxaquena Taqueria, Dining at La Oaxaquena Taqueria used to sometimes be difficult because of the limited seating. But the restaurant has moved to an expansive new location where there's plenty of seating and parking. The salsa and condiment bar is full of the same pristine choices. The sopes have the requisite qualities of greatness -- a crispy crust, soft masa center and fresh toppings. And there are tacos galore. But the restaurant's famous tlayudas -- a specialty of Oaxaca resembling a large pizza made with a crunchy tortilla base and topped with chewy strings of Oaxacan cheese -- are impossible to pass up. Winner of Best Mexican 2009. 605 Mt. Zion Road, Jonesboro. 770-960-3010.

Mexico City Gourmet, Now in its 25th year, this storefront restaurant near Emory was one of the first to treat Mexican cuisine as more than a jumble of quickie combo dinners. L, D $$ 2134 N. Decatur Road. 404-634-1128.

Mi Barrio, Walking into this boxy restaurant is like being transported to Mexico in five seconds flat. Steamy, beef-filled gorditas and aromatic pork tacos blow anything available from chain restaurants away. While there are plenty of Tex-Mex favorites to satisfy the non-Latino customers, there are Mexican favorites such as menudo and posole to tempt the adventurous. L, D $ 571 Memorial Drive. 404-223-9279.

Nuevo Laredo Cantina, From its obscure location on Chattahoochee, Nuevo Laredo offers home-cooked Mexican food that is as sabroso (delicious) as it is sana (healthy). The food on your plate looks fresh, not as if it's sat under a heat lamp for even a second. L, D 1495 Chattahoochee Ave. 404-352-9009. www.nuevolaredocantina.com.

The Original El Taco, ***** The Original El Taco (roughly translated to "The Original The Taco") has been an instant hit – there's a wait for tables almost any time of the night on any night of the week. The crowds bring a party atmosphere, ramped up with large, well-made margaritas. You can see consulting chef Shaun Doty's touch on the menu of tacos, "Mexican pizzas" and Tex-Mex entrees: a pork belly taco here, a fried egg atop a stack of tortillas and chili there. But in general, it seems that all Original El Taco hopes to provide is inexpensive, decent Tex-Mex that won't challenge anyone too much. D $ 1186 N. Highland Avenue NE. 404-873-4656. www.eltaco-atlanta.com.

Plaza Fiesta Food Court, For an unusual mix of mariachi music, decorative Madonnas and Mexican shrimp cocktails, visit this unique Asian/Latino mall nestled into an otherwise prosaic shopping center. For a Colombian snack, try the arripes at La Fonda Paisa, and to satisfy a south-of-the-border sweet tooth report to La Suprema, an authentic Mexican bakery, for the pastel de elote. L, D $-$$ 4166 Buford Highway. 404-982-9138.

Pozole, Pozole's's decor evokes Mexico but is firmly rooted in urban Atlanta style -- as is the food. Don't miss the mussels in a broth of tequila, or the squiggly churros with chocolate dipping sauce. D $$ 1044 Greenwood Ave. 404-892-0552. www.pozolerestaurant.com.

Pure Taqueria, The concise menu is a close fusion of Mexican tradition and American inclination: Hone in on the guac, the queso fundido with chorizo, the beef cheek tacos and ceviche. Even gringos with little fondness for Mexican will be dazzled by the gloriously goopy Hamburguesa Sedgwick. L, D $$ 103 Roswell St. 678-240-0023. www.puretaqueria.com.

Rosa Mexicano, Upscale Mexican in Atlantic Station. Entrees can be hit or miss, but the guacamole, margaritas and simpler specialties are of a far higher quality than Mexican cooking is usually afforded. L, D 245 18th Street NW. 404-347-4090. www.rosamexicano.com

Supermarket Chicago, Excellent tacos and tamales are available during the workweek at the back of this Latino grocery store, but the eatery truly shines on the weekend, when an expanded menu is available. 5263 Buford Highway. Doraville. 770-452-1361.

Taqueria del Sol, Comfortingly Americanized Mexican and Southwestern fare. It's decidedly short on glitz, and guests order at the bar and carry their own drinks. Seafood specials can be really special. Old favorites -- spicy turnip greens, jalapeño slaw and carnita tacos -- are still worth saying "ole" to as well. $$ 1200 Howell Mill Road. 404-352-5811. www.taqueriadelsol.com.

Taqueria El Rey Del Taco, Finding something to eat in the wee hours of the morning can be a tough task if greasy spoons aren't your thing. But Buford Highway has plenty of ethnic options serving food designed to soak up for a belly full of alcohol. Taqueria El Rey Del Taco is one of the best taquerias in Atlanta that just so happens to be open daily from 10 to 5 a.m. Handmade tortillas, an abundance of taco fillings, large seafood cocktails and some stellar salsa with serious kick are just as good at 4 in the morning as they are at lunchtime. And the occasional group of rowdy Latina drag queens only adds to the already colorful scenery. Winner of Best Restaurant for Late-night Dining 2009. 5288 Buford Highway, Doraville. 770-986-0032.

Taqueria La Oaxaquena, Tlayuda (pronounced klie-YOU-da) is the key word here. It's a Oaxacan curiosity that's part pizza, part open-faced burrito with pedigree: An oversized tortilla, bigger than the average dinner plate, is griddled and smeared with bean paste, then topped with pork or steak, lettuce, two kinds of cheese and sundry other goodies. Taqueria La Oaxaquena makes the best we've tasted in the metro area. $$ 6738 Tara Blvd. 770-960-3010.

Taqueria Los Hermanos, Small family-run establishment, big flavor. Extra special: tamales made every day by the owners' mother, an unbelievably moist grilled tilapia with black olives in white wine sauce, and the incredible bread pudding with tequila sauce. L, D $ 4418 Hugh Howell Road, Tucker. 678-937-0660. www.taquerialoshermanos.net.

Tin Lizzy's Cantina, Located in the old Six Feet Under location, this new Tex-Mex joint serves up a decent margaritas and a bevy of taco options. L, D, Late $ 415 Memorial Drive. 404-554-8220. www.tinlizzyscantina.com.

Zocalo, The place that introduced authentic Mexican food to in-towners does a busy lunch trade and boasts an extensive tequila list. L, D $$ 187 Tenth St. 404-249-7576. www.zocalocreativemex.com.

 

Middle Eastern

Byblos, Cozy and spotless, this Lebanese restaurant tucked away in a strip mall in Roswell offers a menu of authentic mezza and mashawis (skewered meat kebabs). Standards like tabbouleh, hummus and baba ghanoush are present as well as more out-of-the-ordinary habra nayyeh (raw beef with garlic) and basterma (thin slices of spicy fillet). L, D $$ 10684 Alpharetta Highway, Roswell. 678-352-0321. www.byblos-atlanta.com.

Falafel Cafe, ***** What was once a campus takeout joint is now a family restaurant serving hearty Persian cuisine. Skip the falafel and go for the delicious, exotic Persian stews and appetizers. Winner of Best Middle Eastern 2009. L, D 950 Cobb Parkway. 770-429-8999.

Mezza: A Lebanese Bistro, ***** You can easily go overboard at Mezza ordering lots of the Middle Eastern appetizers for which the restaurant is named. If you come with a group of three or more, try the family meal option. L, D $$ 2751 LaVista Road. 404-633-8833. www.mezzabistro.com.

Rumi's Kitchen, Comfort mixed with a hint of the exotic. This Persian eatery offers such treats as kashk badenjoon, a warm, blended eggplant and onion appetizer, Mast mousir, a garlic and yogurt dip, and Shirazi salad, a medley of chopped cucumbers, tomatoes and parsley with a citrus dressing. L, D $$ 6152 Roswell Road. 404-477-2100. www.rumiskitchen.com.

 

New American

4th & Swift, ***** Located in the Southern Dairies' former engine room, 4th & Swift epitomizes industrial elegance. The Swift in the name refers to chef Jay Swift, who came to prominence as the chef at South City Kitchen. Here, he maintains his focus on Southern cooking, but with a more refined and personal touch -- taste comes first, not aw-shucks gimmickry. The summer menu offered a jumble of tender braised lamb shoulder "lasagna" with wild mushrooms and ricotta cheese, and an elegant summer pea and radish salad paired with a kickin' tuna tartare in hot mustard oil. Despite the stampede of customers, 4th & Swift has managed to maintain an uncommon level of quality and composure. D. 621 North Ave., Building B. 678-904-0160. www.4thandswift.com.

Abattoir, ***** Anne Quatrano and Clifford Harrison have created another remarkable restaurant. The pair has been at the forefront of farm-to-table dining in our city and Abattoir -- featuring "local proteins" -- is a natural extension of that. Besides joining the whole-animal trend of eating everything from the ears to the tail, the restaurant is also a response to the recession. Prices, like a $10 burger, are significantly lower than Bacchanalia's and Floataway's. And the menu, prepared by executive chef Joshua Hopkins, is not all weirdness, even though any adventurous foodie will be drawn to the offal dishes. L, D $$$ 1170 Howell Mill Road. 404-892-3335. www.starprovisions.com.

Aria, ***** Aria is the third incarnation of the old Hedgerose Heights Inn, brought back to glorious life by chef Gerry Klaskala's contemporary cuisine and Kathryn King's delectably composed desserts. Expect respectfully prepared, seasonal accompaniments for classic luxury ingredients like lobster, foie gras and jumbo soft-shelled crabs. Be sure to glance upward to check out the ceiling light fixture that looks like an LSD-inspired sex fantasy from a Jules Verne tale. Winner of Best General Manager 2009. D $$$$ 490 E. Paces Ferry Road. 404-233-7673. www.aria-atl.com.

Bacchanalia, ***** At once modernist and classicist, the California-influenced cuisine of owner-chefs Clifford Harrison and Anne Quatrano is based on solid technique, simple presentation and fresh, first-quality ingredients. The spare industrial setting fits the food like beurre blanc on fish, while the service, wines and physical comforts leave little to be desired. Winner of Best Overall Restaurant 2009. D $$$$ 1198 Howell Mill Road. 404-365-0410. www.starprovisions.com.

Bistro VG, ***** Van Gough's has been redesigned and revamped, and the white walls and airy feel work wonders for the restaurant. Van Gogh's famous crab cake is dangerously rich and still available at the restaurant's second incarnation. Service is gracious and competent. L, D $$$ 70 W. Crossville Road. 770-993-1156. www.knowwheretogogh.com.

Cakes & Ale, ***** Cakes & Ale is neighborhood-friendly, obviously chef-driven, simple yet quirky and full of personality. The restaurant also gets points for aesthetics and unexpected extras. Corina Darold, one of the best barkeeps in the city, serves some wickedly good cocktails in lovely vintage glassware. Chef Billy Allin, who worked for two years as Watershed's sous chef under Scott Peacock, has created an unpretentious menu focused on everyday ingredients. Allin takes Southern home cooking and refines it in a way that's both soulful and precise. D $$ 254 W. Ponce de Leon Ave., Decatur. 404-377-7994. www.cakesandalerestaurant.com.

Craftbar, ***** The heart of Craftbar occupies the space between decorous dinner and casual drinks. The restaurant excels at small plates and does well with sandwiches, but loses some steam when it comes to entrées and desserts. But Craftbar succeeds on many fronts. It's a nice entry point to the Tom Colicchio aesthetic and empire. It's not cheap, but it's not anywhere near the financial commitment you'll make when dining upstairs. L, D $$$ 3376 Peachtree Road. 404-995-7580. www.craftatlanta.com.

Dogwood, ***** A refreshing two-story space with an airy upstairs dining loft, Dogwood is an elegant, updated look back to classic Southern décor. Co-owned by Shane Touhy and Scott Black, both Blue Ridge Grill veterans, Dogwood is another restaurant featuring an innovative take on Southern cuisine. L, D $$$ 565 Peachtree St. 404-835-1410. www.dogwoodrestaurant.com.

The Farmhouse At Serenbe, Using ingredients gathered daily from the organic farm that is Serenbe, Marie Nygren creates intensely fresh tasting and seasonal menus. Whatever is freshest that day is what is used to make the rustic, three-course dinners. B, D $$$ 10950 Hutcheson Ferry Road, Palmetto. 770-463-2610. www.serenbe.com.

Floataway Cafe, ***** Fast-forward American fusion from the creators of the peerless Bacchanalia, with exquisite, inventive dishes made from fresh, often organic ingredients. At its best, this is headquarters for an instantly memorable meal in a thousand. D $$$$ 1123 Zonolite Road. 404-892-1414. www.starprovisions.com.

Grace 17.20, ***** Consider Grace the Holy Grail of OTP dining. Despite its skeptical location in an outdoor mall, the team behind this fresh New American restaurant knows how to create a great dining experience. Start your dinner with the decadent mussels and grits, and then eat your way through a menu in tune to the seasons. A disappointing dish is a rarity here. The taupe dining room, suggestive of California wine country, feels relaxed at lunch and casual-swanky at night. L, D $$$ 5155 Peachtree Parkway, Norcross. 678-421-1720. www.grace1720.com.

The Hil, ***** The restaurant excels at simple beauty, in its classic American setting and in its flavor combinations. Cauliflower has just the right amount of lemon and caramelized edges to set it off. The antipasto plate will have you moving appreciatively from the warm semolina bread to the creamy feta cheese to the cured meats and pickled veggies. One may have a gut reaction to the all-around perfection, to the modern country club vibe, and feel of exclusivity. But there's no doubt that the Hil's food lives up to its surroundings, in quality as well as aspirations. B, D $$$ 9110 Selborne Lane, Suite 110, 770-463-6040. www.the-hil.com.

Holeman and Finch, ***** At Holeman and Finch, the self-described Public House that acts as a low-key younger sibling to Restaurant Eugene, the menu makes no sense, is wholly unbalanced and would scare the bejesus out of most fiscal-minded restaurateurs. But owner Linton Hopkins and barman/owner Greg Best are more ambitious and ballsy than most restaurateurs. Best's cocktails display as much creativity as any dish made by any chef in town. The food selection is unapologetically meat-centric and heavy, but the fried pig's ears, house-cured meats and the city's best burger are great fun and great to drink to. Winner of Best Brunch and Best Burger 2009. D $$ 2277 Peachtree Road. 404-948-1175. www.holeman-finch.com.

Leon's Full Service, ***** Chef Eric Ottensmeyer's menu excels most at nibbly bits to go with drinks. There can be great meals here made up entirely of selections from the "snacks," "sides" and "starters." Peppadews (tiny red sweet/hot peppers) stuffed with goat cheese are the ultimate in creamy/piquante contrast -- utterly simple and satisfying. The pig smörgás is like a gourmet version of the toaster oven concoctions that, um, slightly high schoolers might make -- Benton's country ham and melted Gruyère grand cru on toast with cherry jam and pineapple. Salty, cheesy, crispy, gooey, sweet. Dude, that's gooood. D $$ 131 E. Ponce de Leon Ave., Decatur. 404-687-0500. www.leonsfullservice.com.

Livingston, ***** Livingston is an Atlanta-specific restaurant. The Georgian Terrace couldn't be more homegrown, from its location at the corner of Peachtree and Ponce de Leon, to its history as the place where Gone With the Wind stars partied after the movie's premier, and Chef Gary Mennie has deep roots in the city's dining community. It's entirely possible to have a fabulous meal here, and the drop-dead gorgeous surroundings make small slipups easier to forgive. Subtle and nuanced juxtapositions show up in dishes like the short rib ravioli, where a surprising sauce intensely flavored with honey brings out the dish's deep, meaty nature. Winner of Best Restaurant Design 2009. B, L, D $$$ . 659 Peachtree St. 404-897-5000. www.livingstonatlanta.com.

Lobby at Twelve, The rectangular design of Bob Amick's Atlantic Station baby is very New York in a self-contained way, and a welcome deviation from the frenetic pubescence of One Midtown Kitchen and Two Urban Licks. Nick Oltarsh is the executive chef in charge of forward-thinking combinations. Servers can be out to lunch, but dreamy desserts and a sure hand in the kitchen make for a blessedly grown-up experience. L, D $$$ 361 17th St. 404-961-7370. www.lobbyattwelve.com.

One Midtown Kitchen, This stylish, see-and-be-seen restaurant helped catapult Bob Amick to citywide dominance. Drew Van Leuvan has recently taken over as chef. D $$-$$$ 559 Dutch Valley Road. 404-892-4111. www.onemidtownkitchen.com.

Park 75, Located in the Four Seasons Hotel, Park 75's menu runs the gamut from Continental classics to innovative new American cuisine. Quiet pampering from the staff provides a final touch to a dining experience that is well worth its price. B, L, D $$$$ Four Season's Hotel. 75 14th St. 404-253-3840. www.fourseasons.com

Rathbun's, ***** This smash hit restaurant takes Atlanta's favorite dining-out elements -- industrial redo decor, tapas, comfort food -- and combines them into a hip, delectable experience. Chef/owner Kevin Rathbun culls his impressive culinary career into a rangy menu with many highlights. Smoked salmon tostadas, fries with blue cheese fondue and veal chop in a pool of sweet corn and Gouda are but a few choice bites. Sound like something you're interested in? This place is crazy busy. Make reservations. Right now. D $$$ 112 Krog St. 404-524-8280, www.rathbunsrestaurant.com.

Repast, ***** Repast is one of Atlanta's best restaurants, in vision, execution and service. Husband-and-wife team Joe Truex and Mihoko Obunai go from classic French to boldly Asian to straightforward bistro fare in a way that many American chefs aspire to but few manage. The restaurant also boasts one of the better wine lists in the city, and a staff that knows it back and front. D $$$ 620 N. Glen Iris Drive. 404-870-8707. www.repastrestaurant.com.

Restaurant Eugene, ***** Restaurant Eugene has always been commendable. Chef Linton Hopkins was one of the original chefs in Atlanta to strongly commit to using local produce. He was also one of the first to recognize the potential for Southern food and ingredients to shine with more refined presentations and in a fine dining setting. But the food at Restaurant Eugene over the past year has become brighter, bolder and more accessible, and Hopkins is now cooking on par with the absolute best chefs in the Southeast. Winner of Best Chef 2009. D $$$$ 2277 Peachtree Road. 404-355-0321. www.restauranteugene.com.

Rosebud, Rosebud is the new name of Food 101 in Morningside. Executive chef Ron Eyester bought out the co-owners recently and rechristened the restaurant. Eyester has altered ingredients and side dishes on some dinner entrees, principally to lighten them up. A favorite is the three slices of toast spread with a chicken-liver pate and topped with a relish of chopped bread-and-butter pickles, then garnished with crunchy bits of smoked bacon. Brunch, L, D. $$. 1397 North Highland Ave. 404-347-9747. www.rosebudatlanta.com.

Serpas, True Foods, This is Scott Serpas' first solo venture after stepping out from under the Concentrics umbrella where he worked for three years as chef at Two Urban Licks. The chef is experimenting with the idea of American cuisine as a melting pot. Much of his menu nods to his Louisiana roots, but there are many flavors represented, including Asian, Southwestern and classic French. Serpas finds the most success when he sticks to one influence per dish. $$. D. 659 Auburn Ave. 404-688-0040. www.serpasrestaurant.com.

The Shed at Glenwood, ***** Much of Chef Lance Gummere's menu reads like a kind of International House of Bistro Classics. Depending on your mood you could hit Britain with a no-nonsense preparation of fish and chips; France with a creamy, truffley version of moules frite; or Germany with a tender, juicy and comforting pork schnitzel topped with melting leeks. Perhaps the most interesting dish on the menu is also the one Gummere claims to be most proud of -- pan fried chicken hearts with "egg in a basket." If chicken hearts are offal you've not encountered before, the Shed is a great place to dive in. The restaurant has also become more budget-friendly, most notably with its Wednesday night $3 sliders special. Brunch, D $$ 475 Bill Kennedy Way. 404-835-4363. www.theshedatglenwood.com.

Shaun's, ***** Chef Shaun Doty has stepped up to the stove at this charming 80-seat bistro in the old Inman Park Patio spot. The sage walls and old-fashioned bar make for a low-key atmosphere, and the menu is self-assured, with very little pomp, but plenty of pleasant surprises. The chopped liver East Village-style is a daydream-worthy appetizer of chicken liver folded into egg salad, set atop toast, and garnished with baby watercress. Doty moves blithely between dishes such as the adventurous amaretto-scented butternut squash ravioli and the classic beef tartar. What truly makes Shaun's stand out is clean, simple, classic food made with a deft touch. Winner of Best Recession Dining Deal 2009. D $$$ 1029 Edgewood Ave. 404-577-4358. www.shaunsrestaurant.com.

Table 1280, Table 1280 is the de rigueur place to dine before a show, but the restaurant is struggling to navigate a number of different needs. The theater crowd is the bread and butter, but catering mainly to them -- to getting food out quickly and without incident -- takes away from the more subtle pleasures of true fine dining. The menu is lovely in its simplicity, and the space speaks of a restaurant that should be at the center of the city's attention. L, D $$-$$$ 1280 Peachtree St. 404-897-1280. www.table1280.com.

Top Flr, ***** Top Flr is what happens when the kids who used to wait tables and bartend in other people's restaurants grow up and become their own bosses: a user-friendly restaurant with a menu that is short and pretty sweet. Chef Shane Devereux serves up dishes packed with bold flavors like mussels with a coconut-soy-lime broth and fistfuls of ginger and a salad of microgreens with goat cheese and honey lavender dressing with an intoxicating whisper of vanilla. Owners Darren Carr and Jeff Myers have made a restaurant for their friends; the rest of us are just lucky to join in. Open late. D $$ 674 Myrtle St. 404-685-3110. www.topflr.com.

Twist Restaurant and Lounge, Part of a local chain of posh restaurants, Twist features tangy tapas and fruity libations. $$$. L, D. 3500 Peachtree Road. 404-869-1191. www.heretoserverestaurants.com.

Two Urban Licks, HHHII Executive chef Cameron Thompson has created a succinct menu that's heavy on apps and smaller plates in this high-energy locale. Even with a diverse crowd and ever-changing menu, Two can be relied upon to provide consistent pleasures such as salmon chips, lamb lollipops and meaty baby back ribs. Its greatest draw, however, remains its atmosphere. With glamorous, dramatic digs and a view of the city skyline, Two's dining experience is like something out a movie. L, D $$$ 820 Ralph McGill Blvd. 404-522-4622. www.twourbanlicks.com.

Vinocity, The wine bar and restaurant that made its mark in a cozy Midtown house brought a notably upscale addition to lofty Kirkwood Station. Dishes include free-form shitake ravioli and double-cut pork chop with fig demi-glace. 1963 Hosea Williams Drive. 404-870-8886. www.vinocitywinebar.com

Woodfire Grill, HHHII Chef Kevin Gillespie, who is currently making a killer run on Bravo's "Top Chef," brings a modern touch to California-inspired cuisine. The young chef is growing in confidence and technique every day, and his knack for showcasing pristine ingredients makes for some truly lovely eating. D $$$ 1782 Cheshire Bridge Road. 404-347-9055. www.woodfiregrill.com.

 

Pan-Asian

Bluepointe, As at Karatassos-chain sisters Nava, Chops and Veni Vidi Vici, this highly theatrical, biz-casual survivor takes time-tested ideas and recipes, tones them down, dresses them up and attempts to reproduce the lot on what amounts to a culinary assembly line. Definitely a be-seen scene for the champagne-and-cell-phone crowd. L, D $$$$ 3455 Peachtree Road. 404-237-9070. www.buckheadrestaurants.com/bluepointe.

Doc Chey's, Oodles of Asian noodles and dim sum make this Emory Village staple a hot spot for Emory kids and neighborhood locals. L, D. $. 1556 N. Decatur Road. 404-378-8188. www.doccheysnoodlehouse.com.

Market, ***** At Market, chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten's second Atlanta venture, the décor and menu make it feel as if the chef and his staff are aiming to see exactly how far they can push our discombobulation. However, most of the culinary execution is flawless. This means expertly cooked pieces of fish: a slow-cooked salmon that melts on the tongue; red snapper so delicate it brings to mind flower petals. Prices, for this level of dining, are fairly reasonable. B, L, D $$$ 3377 Peachtree Road. 404-523-3600. www.marketbuckhead.com.

Penang Malaysian, Cuisine A clever, classy take on the crossroads cuisine of Malaysia, one of Asia's sleeping tigers. Whole fish with Thai sauce, pancakes with chicken curry, satays, noodles and crisp vegetables - all with a moderately spicy kick - are authentic, approachable and well-prepared. The setting, a bamboo summerhouse with all the latest conveniences, matches the upbeat, sunny ambience. L, D $ 4897 Buford Highway. 770-220-0308. www.penangatlanta.com.

Real Chow Baby, Build your own stir-fry. L, D $ 1016 Howell Mill Rd Nw. 404-815-4900. www.therealchowbaby.com

Sia's, Southwestern and Asian on the same menu? The pairing may sound unlikely, but Sia's has been forging its own brand of fusion for six years with consistently thrilling results. Set in the tony Shops of St. Ives (an oxymoron-defying upscale strip mall), the restaurant's amber-hued ambiance inspires locals to pull out their cocktail dresses and sports jackets for an evening of easygoing glamour. L, D $$ 10305 Medlock Bridge Road. 770-497-9727. www.siasrestaurant.com

Silk, Pan-Asian surf and turf in a fancy setting. L, D $$$ 919 Peachtree St. 678-705-8888. www.silkrestaurant.com.

Spice Market, ***** Spice Market, in the W Hotel on 14th Street, brings Jean-Georges Vongerichten and his take on Asian street food to Atlanta. It may be a fluke that the restaurant celebrates a cuisine that Atlanta is rich in, along Buford Highway and beyond, and while authenticity is lacking, Spice Market does showcase a highly artistic brand of cooking. There are few chefs in Atlanta who think about texture, exactitude and composition in the way Vongerichten does, and none at this price point. Spice Market may not be the holy grail, but it has significantly elevated our upscale pan-Asian offerings, and what we should expect from them in the future. Be sure to try the beguiling sweet-and-sour kumquat mojito. L, D $$$ 188 14th St. 404-549-5450. www.spicemarketatlanta.com

Straits, ***** Among Atlanta foodies, the adage goes that the farther out of town you venture, the more authentic the food. Luda-owned Straits, right in the heart of Midtown, isn't authentic Singaporean any more than our swanky high-end sushi places are authentic Japanese. But the restaurant delivers thoughtful, well-spiced, often expertly cooked homages to the tiny nation's food. Dishes such as watermelon and steak salad are favorites. The "Lady Finger Sambal" features okra better than your mama's. Sunday Brunch, D, LD $$ 793 Juniper St. 404-877-1283. www.straitsrestaurants.com.

 

Pan-Latin/South American

Beleza, Inspired by a Brazilian cocktail lounge, Beleza serves amazing drinks with exotic fruit juices. The restaurant has recently abandoned its health-focused menu, and will begin serving Brazillian steet foods in November. D $$ 905 Juniper St. 678-904-4582. www.frittirestaurant.com/beleza.

Cafè Circa, Elegant urban setting for a menu that is kind of international and kind of Caribbean. The chocolate chicken wings are spicy, slightly hot and not too sweet. For an entree the jerk chicken with pineapple and mango salsa and side of rice and black beans will have you cleaning your plate. L, D $$ 464 Edgewood Ave. 404-477-0008. www.cafecircaatl.com.

Chez Carmelle Pastry and Restaurant, Chez Carmelle Pastry and Restaurant is a tiny Haitian place tucked away in the corner of a nondescript strip mall, which offers a concise menu of Haitian standards that change daily and are written in English and French. The space is tiny -- as in one-table tiny -- but that doesn't stop the ex-pats from grabbing a chair and excitedly digging into the food. You can't ask for a more qualified endorsement than that. L, D $ 560-A Windy Hill Road, Smyrna. 678-213-2892.

La Churreria, Finally given up on all that high-protein hoo-ha? Then take a celebratory trek to La Churreria for some Columbian baked goods. Nary a word of English is spoken here, so come armed with a choice list of vocabulary words. Pan de bono is the South American cousin to France's gougere: a hot puff of satiny, cheesy bread. Sublime empanadas, golden and crispy, are stuffed with a cumin-tinged mixture of beef and potato. And don't miss the bakery's namesake: churros rellenos -- warm, braided doughnuts slicked with melty glaze. Carbs rule. $ 5730 Buford Highway, Norcross, 678-646-0421.

Las Brasas, Owned and operated by a Peruvian family all the way from Lima, this chicken shack may be teeny-tiny, but it has a big heart with kick-ass chicken to boot. The chicken is slow-cooked with charcoal that imparts a delightfully smoky nature to the already flavorful deep brown skin and moist flesh. And no feast of Peruvian chicken is complete without a healthy dose of salsa de huacatay (a minty herb), slightly spicy and grassy green. L, D $ 310 E. Howard Ave., Decatur. 404-377-9121. www.lasbrasasdecatur.com.

Las Palmeras, The masitas are perfect here and the restaurant serves a killer boliche. This cafe, which has a pleasant patio, is one of the intown area's under-appreciated jewels. L, D $ 368 Fifth St. 404-872-0846.

Little Cuba, You have to have a heart for a restaurant that names its lunch specials after characters from "I Love Lucy;" Little Cuba, the long-standing, but little-known strip-mall restaurant in Chamblee, does just that. The menu features classic Cuban comfort food, such as slow-cooked pork, beef, and chicken served with mounds of yellow rice and a sea of soupy black beans, that is the Latin equivalent to mom-made meat and potatoes. Try the "Ricky," the combo half Cuban sandwich, or the "Fred," a complicated chicken asado for lunch. L, D $ 3350-D Chamblee Tucker Road. 770-451-0025.

Mitra, Upscale Latin American cuisine in a colorful, rustic setting. D $$$ 818 Juniper St. 404-875-5515. www.mitrarestaurant.com.

Rincon Latino, Central American located off Buford Highway. The pupusas are definitely the thing to order--three disks of speckled masa filled with cheese, beans, pork, and lorocco, all for $1.85. L $ 5055 Buford Highway. Doraville, GA. 770-936-8181.

Salsa, A colorful secret Howell Millers have been harboring for years, the newly renovated Latin bistro offers a myriad of authentic cuisine. The Mojo chicken and roast pork (served with black beans and rice) and the corn-crusted salmon taco should not be missed, but it's Salsa's salsa that keeps people coming back. L, D $ 2020 Howell Mill Road. 404-352-3101. www.salsaatl.com.

Tierra, ***** Just up the street from Ansley Mall, Tierra's provocative pan-Latin fusion cuisine is a welcome reprieve in an area of town notorious for the uneven quality of its restaurants. Cheese pupusa, trout relleno and beef tenderloin in tomatillo sauce are winning menu staples. Well-crafted desserts, competent service and a succinct wine list see meals here to harmonious completion. D $$ 1425 Piedmont Ave. 404-874-5951. www.tierrarestaurant.com.

Tropical Flavors, The tiny restaurant is crammed between two large fast-food joints. The Jamaican specialties served here include jerk pork and chicken, chicken curry, beef patties (a pastry filled with beef that is also available filled with chicken or veggies) and whole fried tilapia. Each entrée comes with a choice of rice (yellow or rice with peas) and a side of veggies. Order the jerk chicken and you'll be given the option of smothering the dish in oxtail gravy -- a rich, dark gravy that is meaty and comforting. For the more adventurous, there are some Jamaican beverages for sale that might be of interest. But the best thing about this little restaurant is its pioneer spirit -- a small island of sincere food in a sea of greasy commercialism. L, D $ 381 Moreland Ave. 404-659-2548.

 

Pizza

Antico Pizza Napoletana, This pizza is truly a breakthrough in our city. It's a dollar or two more than the average gourmet pie in town, but the kitchen is using such high-quality ingredients, the pies are a bargain. For example, many of the pies feature pricey bufala mozzarella, which is special-order-only at Varasano's. L, D $$ 1093 Hemphill Ave NW. 404-873-1272.

Athens Pizza, Serving Greek-style pie to Emory kids for more than 30 years. L, D $ 1341 Clairmont Road. 404-636-1100. www.athenspizzaatlanta.com.

Baraonda, The Italian word for "hubbub" gives its name to this killer Midtown spot with excellent designer, thin-crusted pizzas like shrimp with arugula. Keep it in mind for dinner before a show at the Fox. L, D $$ 710 Peachtree St. 404-879-9962. www.baraondaatlanta.com.

Cameli's Gourmet Pizza Joint, Folks are always pleasantly surprised when they stumble onto Cameli's. The crust is thin and crispy, their sauces have chutzpah, and the unconventional but fun toppings (we're partial to their rosemary potatoes) make for a lively pie. One of their monster slices is more than enough for lunch. They've recently updated their booths and chairs to make eating in a bit more comfy -- though you still have to bus your own tables. L, D $ 699 Ponce de Leon Ave. 404-249-9020. www.camelispizza.com.

Chris' Pizza House, Don't let the modest name fool you; Chris' Pizza's simple storefront opens to a bright interior painted, plastered and "plastiqued" in the blue and white of the Greek islands. The effect is a comfortable mix of ethnic elegance and classy Americana kitsch that resonates in both the décor and the food. Try the mousaka, layers of eggplant and meat topped with a creamy bechamel sauce, or the avgolemono soup with lemon chicken-and-egg broth. Don't leave without trying a slice of Chris' pizza and its mid-thick crust; there's a reason it's a part of the namesake. L, D $ 2911 N. Druid Hills Road. 404-636-7544. 404-636-7544.

Everybody's Pizza, A mainstay in Emory Village, Everybody's offers unique twists on traditional pizza, and the ever popular create-your-own option. L, D $ 1593 N. Decatur Road. 404-377-7766. www.everybodyspizza.com.

Franco's Pizza & Grill, Thirtysomething pizzeria and casual Italian restaurant is a Cheshire Bridge landmark. L, D $ 1740 Cheshire Bridge Road. 404-873-1577.

Fritti, Fritti remains one of the best pizzerias in town, despite much hoopla over a few newcomers. Part of its appeal is the starters. Mushrooms fried in rice-flour batter with white truffle oil is especially appealing. The pizzas are to die for - try the margherita, the speck and arugula and the Napoli with bufala, anchovies and capers. L, D $$ 309 N. Highland Ave. 404-880-9559. www.frittirestaurant.com.

Grant Central, You can't go wrong with the white pie or the lasagnas here -- both gooey New York Italian-style dishes that add a quarter-inch to your waistline each time they are eaten. But the kitchen also does specials nightly, scrawled on a chalkboard that needs to be replaced. The servers are just slightly weird and never brain dead. L, D $ 451 Cherokee Ave. 404-523-8900.

Jagger's, After closing in 2005, Jagger's has returned in a new location and is back with a vengeance. The restaurant once again offers its trademark Atlanta pizzas smothered in cheese and mildly sweet sauce. Pick-up and delivery service is also available. L, D $ 1799 Briarcliff Road. Atlanta, GA 30306. 404-876-8880. www.jaggerspizzaemory.com.

Max's Coal Oven Pizzeria, Max's is yet another project of the gigantic Concentrics Restaurants group. Heading the kitchen here is native New Yorker and longtime Concentrics chef Nick Oltarsh. He is a talented chef who made his name in town at Murphy's and has most recently been chef at the Lobby at Twelve. Pies here are substantial and best when shared, and the space has an informal vibe and entertaining staff. L, D $$ 300 Marietta St. 404-974-2941. www.maxsatl.com.

NY Famous Pizza & Falafel, Offers pizza in one size only: 10 inch thin crust, no slices. Plain cheese pizzas are five dollars, and any additional toppings are one dollar apiece. They are also expanding their menu, and they offer other sandwiches and special orders as well. 2179 Lawrenceville Highway. 404-325-2072. www.famouspizzaatlanta.com.

Pizzeria Fortunato, Whether you want to enjoy a slice straightaway or grab a pizza to enjoy later with the family, this spot has you covered. The thin crust is crackly with nice tug and is topped with the proper ratio of well-balanced sauce and cheese. While there are plenty of pie choices, the plain cheese Neapolitan is the hands-down fan favorite. L, D $$ 5350 United Drive. 770-432-7454.

Pizzeria Venti, Franchise restaurant with an enthusiastic staff. The specialty item is pizza el taglio, or "pizza by the cut," which is cut into squares with a Pizza Hut-like thick crust. L, D $$ 2770 Lenox Road. 404-228-2013. www.pizzeriaventi-atlanta.com.

Quattro, Pizza and paninis on the edge of Piedmont Park, pal. L, D $ 1071 Piedmont Road. 404-881-0000. www.quattroatlanta.com.

Rosa's Pizza, If you need a New York slice fix, this is the place. You'll probably arrive to find a line literally out the door. As the line moves, the cook points to you and asks for your order, which is usually ready by the time you get to the counter. This beauty of a slice has all the requisite qualities: the substantial crust, the tangy but unobtrusive sauce, and the thin veneer of orange grease you mop off with a napkin. Fold in your hand and enjoy one of the best slices the city has to offer. L $ 62 Broad St Nw. 404-521-2596. Savage Pizza, Among the best local sources of real, hand-thrown, honest-to-Palermo pizza, this slightly bent independent in L5P is notable for fresh ingredients, homemade sauces and clever, knowing service. Wide selection of pizza toppings and calzone fillings. Good for takeout. L, D $ 484 Moreland Ave. 404-523-0500.

Shorty's, In an area of town not known for the high quality of its restaurants, this cozy pizza joint-plus stands out. Go for the guacamole and a pie loaded with fresh, gourmet-ish ingredients. Shorty's is a regular hang for the 'hood. L, D $$ 2884-B N. Druid Hills Road. 404-315-6262. www.myspace.com/shortys_pizza.

Slice, A surprisingly fashionable pizza bar, Slice offers quality pizza loaded down with delicious toppings at relatively good prices. The build-it-yourself lasagna and the pick-your-fillings sandwiches aren't bad, but go for the pizza pie with the chewy golden crust. L, D $ 259 Peters St. 404-588-1820. www.sliceatlanta.com.

Village Pizza, Having closed in 2008, the V.P. was later resurrected under new ownership. The menu is the same, though some have found the execution a bit spottier than before. Still, where else can one find a decent vegan pizza? D $ 186 Carroll St. 404-586-0040.

Vintage Pizzeria, A pizza joint for the new millenium offering good old American grub. Try Vintage's "Carmen's Own" specialty pizza -- a riff on the classic margherita with tomato, fresh basil and cheese. L, D $$ 5434 Peachtree Road. 678-646-0400. www.vintagepizzeria.com.

 

Pub Food

5 Seasons Brewing, More so than any other restaurant in the Atlanta area, 5 Seasons Brewing is bringing slow food to the masses. First in their Sandy Springs location and now in Alpharetta, the restaurant quietly slips organics into the rotation of their all-American brewery menu. Chef David Larkworthy uses local farm produce on the regular menu as much as possible, but the ever-changing specials are where the freshest food and the most innovation can be found. Unfortunately, the company's newest location on the Westside has failed to live up to the quality showcased in the original locations. L, D $$ 3655 Old Milton Parkway. 770-521-5551, and other Metro Atlanta locations. www.5seasonsbrewing.com

Bookhouse Pub, Beer and a book? The BookHouse lives up to its literary theme with a thick upper shelf of novels snaking around the place and a great selection of beers to guzzle while reading. Chef Julia LeRoy's menu is an amusing range of deep fried munchies, including a funnel cake and crunchy fried pickles, perfect for famished late night clubbers. D $ 736 Ponce de Leon Ave. 404-254-1176. www.bookhousepub.com.

Cypress Street Pint and Plate, Cozy neighborhood pub on a quiet, tree-lined street. The outdoor patio is remarkably pleasant in the summer heat and warmed by a built-in fire pit during chillier months. Inside boasts sleek wooden booths, a nifty tap suspended from the ceiling and a long, antique-ish wood table. L, D, Late $ 817 W. Peachtree St., Suite E-125. 404-815-9243. www.cypressstreetpintandplate.com

The Earl, Not only do staffers serve up chili dogs and burgers that cushion the belly for a long evening out, but their brunch is heaven-sent if your Saturday night lasted well into Sunday. The loaded steak is as much sloppy fun as making out in one of the bar's dark booths. Winner of Best Bar Food 2005. L, D $ 488 Flat Shoals Ave. 404-522-3950. www.badearl.com.

The Glenwood, The Comfy gastropub located in East Atlanta Village. Offers creative, quality food for a bargain, as well as a new, smoke-free wine bar. L, D $$ 1263 Glenwood Ave. 404-622-6066. www.theglenwood.net.

Highlander, The Hard-rock attitude abounds at this restaurant/bar with attached game room. You've got to admire a place with the balls to serve tater tots by the pitcher. L, D $ 931 Monroe Drive, Suite C-101. 404-872-0060. www.thehighlanderatlanta.com.

James Joyce Irish Pub, From the folks behind Brewhouse Café in L5P, this Irish-style pub has a homey patio, a nice selection of Irish whiskeys and a solid menu of pub grub and gaelic-accented entrees. L, D $-$$ 22 N. Avondale Road. 404-296-5097. www.jamesjoyceirishpub.net.

Marlow's Tavern, Features the best classic tavern cuisine and updates them to a gourmet level. Customers are invited to watch the chefs work courtesy of the open kitchen, and several plasma TVs show a variety of programs. If the dining room gets too stuffy, simply walk outside and enjoy your meal on one of the spacious patios. B, L, D $ 4156 La Vista Road. 678-987-1197. www.marlowstavern.com.

P'Cheen, In this economy, nothing succeeds day-to-day like the formula of the neighborhood pub: good food, low prices and lots of booze. That -- and quite a crowd -- is what you'll find most evenings at P'cheen. There's much on the regular menu from cultures as diverse as Jamaica, the U.K. and Mexico. Vegetarians won't go hungry, either. If you're a meat eater, though, you definitely want to get to P'cheen on Monday night when the restaurant hosts "Mike's Bone Lick BBQ." The stuff beats most of the barbecue around town. L, D $$ 701 Highland Ave., Suite 5. 404-529-8800. www.pcheen.com.

The Porter Beer Bar, ***** The Porter delivers with a cheap, thoughtful and satisfying menu, and beer to match. Most of the food is designed to please beer drinkers, and the regular menu doesn't get much wackier than the combination of applesauce and the addictive applewood smoked bacon hushpuppies. For beer lovers, the Porter gives us a world-class list without having to drive to Decatur. The close to 200 beers range from all manner of domestic microbrews to hard-to-find Belgians to $100 bottles from Switzerland. L, D $$ 1156 Euclid Ave. 404-223-0393. www.theporterbeerbar.com.

Pub 71, Irish pub named for the year the owner was born and the street number of the house where he grew up. Serves brunch and the usual bar food including burgers, sandwiches, wings and even pigs in a blanket. Quench your thirst with an Irish car bomb. $$ L, D 4058 Peachtree Road. 404-467-8271. www.pub71.com. Standard, The From the owners of 97 Estoria, the Flatiron and Universal Joint, this sleek Grant Park restaurant and bar is housed in a former filling station and offers up higher-end bar food. L, D, Late $ 327 Memorial Drive. 404-681-3344. www.thestandardbar.com.

Tap, A glamorous gastropub seving small plates, including hot-sauce-spiked calamari or chocolate spread on toast with olive oil and chorizo, and an impressive list of beers. With entrees such as Alaskan halibut with spaetzle, Tap is clearly not your average pub grub. B, L, D $$ 1180 Peachtree St. 404-347-2220. www.tapat1180.com.

Tavern at Phipps, Dark-stained tavern offers reprieve for super-shoppers and happy hours for 9-to-5ers. L, D. $$-$$$. 3500 Peachtree Road. 404-814-9640. www.centraarchy.com.

Vortex Bar & Grill, The You can't miss the big skull with psychedelic eyes on Moreland Avenue. Walk through the gaping mouth, and you'll find some of the city's best burgers, excellent chili and even good vegetarian bar fare. The food overshadows the servers' often surly attitudes. L, D $ 438 Moreland Ave. 404-688-1828. www.thevortexbarandgrill.com

 

Seafood

Atlanta Fish Market, Buckhead Life's seafood-centric entry with the giant fish out front. L, D $$$ 265 Pharr Road. 404-262-3165. www.buckheadrestaurants.com/afm.html.

C&S Oyster and Seafood Bar, ***** C&S is an astute mix of old-school New York and Paris brasserie and the grand feel of the place is an accomplishment, given it used to be an Eckerd pharmacy. The menu is dominated by classics, but chef Jon Schwenk's inventive fish dishes deliver the real high points. The wine list is filled with smart, seafood-friendly selections. L, D $$$ 3240 Cobb Parkway. 770-272-0999. www.candsoysterbar.com.

Geraldine's Fish And Grits, Fish and grits seem to have an inspirational influence over hip-hop and R&B lyrics these days, as OutKast's ATLiens and Jill Scott's Whatever can attest. Should you seek similar inspiration, look no further than the grilled trout with cheese grits for breakfast or lunch at Geraldine's. B, L $$ 971 Hairston Road, Stone Mountain. 770-498-3660.

Legal Sea Foods, ***** Located in the Hilton Garden Inn, Legal Sea Foods is just one of the restaurants to pop up downtown near the aquarium catering heavily to tourists and business folk. The style is simple New England seafood with an emphasis on freshness, which has made the restaurant legendary in Boston and Cambridge, Mass., and led to more than 30 locations nationwide. Leave the entrees and crab dips for the tourists and expense-account lunchers. Go for the steamers, the wine (great selection and amazing prices), the oysters and the lobster roll. L, D $$$ 275 Baker St. 678-500-3700. www.legalseafoods.com.

Nathalie's Fish House, This restaurant brings the world of coastal dining to Decatur. Serves the freshest meat, produce and fish along with vegetarian dishes. L, D $$ 308 W. Ponce de Leon Avenue. 404-378-8881.www.nathaliesfishhouse.com.

Six Feet Under, The paneled Southern seafood shack decor works (think wooden booths, long tables, a horseshoe bar). And so does the food. Shrimp, crab cakes, oysters, crab legs, clams, scallops, mussels, catfish and po'boys are all fresh and tasty. All in all, Six Feet Under fills the gap of the disappearing inexpensive seafood shack. L, D $$ 437 Memorial Drive. 404-523-6664. www.sixfeetunder.net.

 

Soul Food/Southern

Beautiful Restaurant, Popular soul-food cafeteria in an eccentric building a couple of miles southwest of the West End is open 24 hours on Friday and Saturday. B, L, D $$ 2260 Cascade Road. 404-752-5931. beautifulrestaurant-atlanta.com.

Bobby and June's Kountry Kitchen, Just down the street from the Four Seasons, this log cabin restaurant looks about as out-of-place as Jed Clampett at a Jaguar dealership. But it packs in the locals by serving meat-and-three, blue-plate specials, serious barbecue and gallons of sweet tea. B, L $ 375 14th St. 404-876-3872.

Busy Bee Cafe, This venerated soul-food joint dishes up some of the city's best Southern cooking at a price that's hard to beat. From corn muffins and fried chicken to field-fresh vegetables and banana pudding, these folks know their way around comfort food. Winner of Best Soul Food 2009. L, D $$ 810 Martin Luther King Jr. Drive. 404-525-9212. www.thebusybeecafe.com.

Chip's Southern Cookin', The food lineup here could make a good ole boy cry with joy and still please all the urban sophisticates. Southern delights like country-fried steak, macaroni and cheese, collard greens and fried okra headline a menu that is made to order instead of sitting in steam trays. Dodge the meatloaf for the chicken barbecue sandwich and you won't go wrong. L, D $ 8290 Roswell Road. 678-822-2200. www.chipscookin.com.

Colonnade, The The overt country-club feel meshes with a distinct undercurrent of mellow booziness at this Southern-style restaurant that stands out from its surroundings on one of Midtoen's seediest strips. Don't be daring. Go for the basic meat-and-two and choose the hot vegetables for sides. When you're looking for the dining equivalent of a comfortable old friend, visit the Colonnade. L, D $$ 1879 Cheshire Bridge Road. 404-874-5642.

Depeaux, This Louisiana-style restaurant in Decatur's 115-year-old Georgia Railroad Depot offers a particularly pleasant exterior and a cavernous but warm dining room. Platefuls of tasty Cajun food with an unusual zing include a crispy and juicy fried-seafood platter, with shrimp, crawfish, catfish, oysters, and seafood au gratin. The menu also includes poboys, salads, and desserts. D $$ 303 E. Howard Ave. 404-377-7234. www.thedepeaux.com.

Flying Biscuit Cafe, No Southern breakfast is complete without biscuits, but the Flying Biscuit has made the biscuit -- cakey, oversized and with a touch of buttermilk -- the cornerstone of all its meals, even its lunch menu items and dinner entrees. Next door to the restaurant, there's a small to-go shop that's always crowded where you can get your biscuits, sold by the dozen, to go with your morning coffee. B, L, D $$ 1655 McLendon Ave. 404-687-8888. www.flyingbiscuit.com.

Greenwood's on Green Street, Greenwood's is a cozy, home-style Roswell restaurant with elements of a hippie commune; you can enjoy the kitschy '60s decor and sprawling garden while waiting for your table. The authentic Southern cooking is worth the occasional delay, particularly the sweet, honey-fried chicken, the buttery, boneless pork chops and the soul-food sides. The pies are some of the best in the Atlanta area. D $$ 1087 Green St., 770-992-5383. www.myspace.com/greenwoodsmenu.

JCT Kitchen, ***** JCT Kitchen struggles with the very real challenge of how to gussy up Southern food without offending die-hard traditionalists. The beige and cream-colored room, with its appealing industrial patio space, represents the urban/country dichotomy of Atlanta's personality. For the most part, the food follows suit. Standouts include fried oysters over creamed spinach and killer desserts such as the dreamy tapioca pudding. Gracious service and a good wine program make up for the occasional misstep in the kitchen. L, D $$$ 1198 Howell Mill Road. 404-355-2252. www.jctkitchen.com

K&K Soul Food, K&K's will take you back to what Atlanta soul food is all about. It serves as a grab and go, cafeteria-style restaurant with extensive options that certainly give you something to ponder as you wait in line. Items range from cheesy chedder mac and cheese to stewed pigs feet. B, L $ 881 Donald Lee Hollowell PKWY NW. 404-685-1073.

Mary Mac's Tea Room, Atlanta's best known home of soul food, Mary Mac's delivers quality Southern favorites like fried chicken, collard greens, Hoppin' John and fried okra. Fried food is the order of the day so people with an aversion to crunchy, crispy goodness probably should find other places to be. L, D $-$$ 224 Ponce de Leon Ave. 404-876-1800. www.marymacs.com. Our Way Cafe, You'll find basic, good and cheap home-style food at this mellow, egalitarian hole-in-the-wall. Vegetables, casseroles and sides are particularly appealing here; we like the black-eyed peas, greens, mashed potatoes and spicy cornbread. If you owe someone in the area of lunch, this is the place to bring 'em -- whether it's your mechanic, your debutante niece or that philosophy professor you want to butter up. L, D. Brunch $ 2831 E. College Ave. 404-292-9356. www.ourwaycafe.com.

Paschal's, Same name, same owners and similar Southern-food menu -- fried chicken, catfish, rib-eye steaks -- to its Civil Rights-era predecessor on Martin Luther King Jr. Drive, but the updated Paschal's has a banquet-room feel and somewhat elevated prices. B, L, D $$ 180 Northside Drive. 404-525-2023. www.paschalsrestaurant.

Pot and Pan Restaurant, We've tried them all. We've gone here and there all over Atlanta, gobbling up the grease, but we keep coming back to Pot and Pan Restaurant. We have to confess we like this breakfast joint because the cooks go relatively light on the grease in preparing traditional Southern faves. L $ 1865 Piedmont Ave. 404-874-0340.

Silver Skillet, One of the city's last true diners, the Skillet serves big buttermilk biscuits available straight up or stuffed. Our favorite order remains the mild country ham with two eggs (over easy), biscuits, grits and red-eye gravy. You can get the same heart-stopper with pork chops or corned beef hash instead of ham. B, L $ 200 14th St. 404-874-1388. www.thesilverskillet.com.

Social House, The owners of Rare and Harlem Bar recently launched their latest venture – an aptly named breakfast and brunch eatery called the Social House. At the corner of Howell Mill and Chattahoochee the cheery restaurant that declares itself "The Home of Good Food," has a variety of breakfast basics including breakfast potatoes, huge-as-your-head pancakes, perfectly fluffy biscuits, and thick, maple-infused Belgian waffles that melt in your mouth. There is also a section of the menu dedicated to grits, and healthier options such as oatmeal, granola and turkey sausage. B, Brunch $$ 1663 Howell Mill Rd. 404-350-1938. www.socialhouseatl.com.

South City Kitchen, New Southern cuisine swanked up. L, D $$-$$$ 1144 Crescent Ave. 404-873-7358. www.southcitykitchen.com.

Southern Skillet, Stick-to-your ribs Southern fare and meat-and-three – fried catfish, sugar-cured ham, biscuits and gravy, etc. – in a country-fied dining room. B, L, D $ 1037 Alpharetta St. 770-993-7700. www.theskillet.com.

Sycamore Grill, White-tablecloth Southern cuisine in an antebellum-style house. Also serves brunch. L, D $$$ 5329 Mimosa Drive. 770-465-6789. www.thesycamoregrill.com.

Thelma's Kitchen and Rib Shack, This meat-and-three joint combines two Atlanta institutions in one: the storied Thelma's soul food restaurant, which has moved twice since being displaced by Centennial Olympic Park, and the former location of the legendary Auburn Avenue Rib Shack. B, L, D $ 302 Auburn Ave. 866-505-7781. www.thelmaskitchenandribshack.com.

Watershed, ***** Watershed has become one of the city's culinary cornerstones. The menu is a showcase for executive chef Scott Peacock's deceptively simple and soulfully satisfying Southern fare. Tuesday night fried chicken has achieved legendary status, but other wonders to sample include the gentle, seasonal soups; feisty salmon croquettes; and a better-than-your-mama's carrot cake with pecan-cream cheese frosting. P.S.: Sunday brunch rocks. L, D. Brunch $$$ 406 W. Ponce de Leon Ave. 404-378-4900. www.watershedrestaurant.com.

Wisteria, ***** Wisteria deserves credit for being among those that have led the recent revitalization of Southern cooking. Jason Hill and his crew have crafted a solid neighborhood gathering spot with a confident menu that includes sharp Southern touches like beef tenderloin paired with mac-n-cheese flecked with greens, and skate wing over grits. D $$$ 471 N. Highland Ave. 404-525-3363. www.wisteria-atlanta.com.

 

Steakhouse

Aspen Signature Steaks, Feel like you jumped to the Rockies with the cabin interior located in a typical strip mall in northeast Cobb. Part of the family of restaurants including Van Gogh's, Aspen offers steaks that are thick and juicy and big, big servings. D $$$ 2942 Shallowford Road, 678-236-1400. www.knowwheretogogh.com.

Bone's, The essential Buckhead spot where Atlanta's bullish businessmen carve out deals and carve up steaks with equal gusto. Carnivores will delight at any of the melt-in-your mouth cuts of beef or the massive, lip-smacking lamb chops, and hoop-sized onion rings and salt-crusted baked potatoes stand at the ready. With crisp linens, red leather chairs and unctuous service, the atmosphere is pure, unapologetic men's club. L, D $$$$ 3130 Piedmont Road. 404-237-2663. www.bonesrestaurant.com.

BLT Steak, ***** BLT Steak is the Atlanta outpost of Laurent Tourondel's acclaimed New York City high-end steakhouse that first opened in 2004. Most dishes, including the steaks, are flawless, but the price factor makes this restaurant a hard sell. There were also some slip-ups with saltiness, and the tables are full of Cabernet- (or cosmo) swilling CEO types -- the only ones who can afford the restaurant's price tag (around $250 for two). But money aside, the experience at BLT Steak, revolving around big, bloody prime steaks and assuredly seasoned sides, is rife with pleasure. Winner of Best Steaks 2009. B, L, D $$$$ 45 Ivan Allen Jr. Blvd., inside the W Hotel downtown. 404-577-7601. www.bltrestaurants.com.

Capital Grille, The Upper-crust steakhouse overlooking Buckhead Village. L, D $$$$ 255 E. Paces Ferry Road. 404-262-1162. www.thecapitalgrille.com.

Chops/Lobster Bar, Upstairs is the power-lunch steakhouse, downstairs is the fruit of the sea. L, D $$$-$$$$ 70 W. Paces Ferry Road. 404-262-2675. www.buckheadrestaurants.com/chops.html.

Kevin Rathbun Steak, ***** Kevin Rathbun Steak serves food perfectly suited to the modern business dinner. Steaks and sides are excellent, as they should be. But where Rathbun really impresses is with his other dishes, and particularly with seafood. A grand new addition to Rathbun's Krog Street empire. D $$$ 154 Krog St. 404-524-5600. www.kevinrathbunsteak.com.

Room At Twelve, ***** Leave it to Concentrics Restaurants to take a trendy concept (steak/sushi/cocktails), fit it into the constraints of a hotel, and do it exactly right. Chef Nick Oltarsh has opted for a "modern steakhouse" menu with winning results. The quality of sushi is far beyond what you'd expect at a place that mainly specializes in steak and schmooze. Speaking of steak, the cooks here manage to tap into that alchemy that can turn a piece of meat into lusty satisfaction B, L, D $$$ 400 W. Peachtree St. 404-418-1250. www.roomattwelve.com.

Sal Grosso, ***** Sal Grosso is a sleek, modern take on the all-you-can-eat Brazilian-style steakhouse concept that's taken Atlanta by storm. The $39.95 dinner includes a classic retro deluxe salad bar and as much meat as you can stomach. Don't miss the succulent fraldinha or bottom sirloin with a likeably nubbly texture. Don't save yourself for dessert -- the meat's the thing to fill up on here. L, D $$$ 1927 Powers Ferry Road, 770-850-1540. www.salgrosso.com.

 

Sushi/Japanese

Geisha House, ***** If you can get past the garish strips of red lights when you enter, you'll find there is some un deniably cool food to be had here. Although more than a little over-the-top in design and concept, it's fun through and through, serving small plates and sushi, along with the usual slew of melted-Popsicle-flavored martinis and well-chosen sakes. D $$ 1380 Atlantic Drive, Atlantic Station. 404-872-3903. www.dolcegroup.com.

Hashiguchi Jr, A Japanese restaurant that offers a diverse menu of soulful regional specialties. Located in a strip mall near Phipps Plaza, Hashiguchi is unassuming inside and out, but service is superfast and you're bound to see plenty of Japanese-American customers -- always a positive sign -- crowding around the well-worn wooden tables. At lunch the grilled salt mackerel has a nicely charred skin that gives way to a moist and flaky interior. At night nibble on deep-fried tubes of dense, green-flecked fish cake, served with a dollop of creamy Japanese mayonnaise. L, D $$ 3400 Around Lenox Road. 404-841-9229.

MF Buckhead, ***** This sushi restaurant from Alex and Chris Kinjo is glamorous, sleek and very expensive. Fish is flown in daily from the Tsukiji Fish Market in Tokyo, and it's this extravagance in part that justifies the very high prices. Sometimes, the fresh grated wasabi, or a light, feathery and yet creamy bite of uni makes it all seem worthwhile. But there's also an undercurrent of arrogance in the high prices and some of the service that sometimes makes it hard to justify the expense. L, D $$$ 3280 Peachtree Road. 404-841-1192. www.mfbuckhead.com.

MF SushiBar, ***** Join the glamorous crowd at Atlanta's next evolution in sushi dining, a sexy, serious room that serves mostly the raw stuff -- no tempura, no miso soup and no teriyaki. Ask the staff to explain some of the more unusual offerings, such as chutoro, a buttery cut of tuna. Exquisite cold sake is the perfect accompaniment. L, D $$$ 265 Ponce de Leon Ave. 404-815-8844. www.mfsushibar.com.

Miso Izakaya, ***** Not only does Miso Izakaya have one of the coolest drink lists in town, but its food has improved considerably as well. A hulking hamachi kama (yellowtail collar) is fried somewhat crudely, but burrowing in through the crispy exterior and digging out the sweet, white flesh is worth the 20-minute wait noted on the menu. It's wholly worth going for the shochu alone. The beer list is also impressive, especially for its selection of Hitachino. L, D $$$ 619 Edgewood Ave. 678-701-0128. www.tapanese.com.

Mt Fuji Japanese Steak House, Despite its location at the back of a down-market strip mall, Mt. Fuji has been Marietta's fancy, dress-up steak and seafood restaurant going on 20 years now. Also has the obligatory sushi bar. D $$ 180 Cobb Pkwy, Suite 26. 770-428-0955. www.mtfujimarietta.com.

Nakato, ***** Nakato's been the king of Japanese steakhouses in Atlanta for 35 years. It's a dinosaur of Atlanta dining, outmoded on so many fronts by the flashy Japanese restaurants that have come since, and yet another example of how slow and steady can win the race. The wide selection of appetizer-sized plates is full of the classic flavors that make Japanese dining an obsession for so many. D $$$ 1776 Cheshire Bridge Road. 404-873-6582. www.nakatorestauraunt.com.

RuSan's Sushi, the long-time Japanese favorite, has finally become Americanized. Those looking for authentic sushi may want to try somewhere else, but anyone looking for a quick flavorful bite to eat for a fair price will not be disappointed. L, D $ 1529 Piedmont Avenue. 404-875-7042, and other Metro Atlanta locations.

Shoya Izakaya, ***** Shoya's encyclopedic menu, spread over seven crowded pages, will either send you into a rapture of excitement or cripple you with indecision. Dishes tend to be surprising. The aji namerou, a dish described on the menu as chopped horse mackerel with miso, sounds pretty standard, but what arrives is a small disk of the freshest mackerel, finely chopped, its oily flavor complemented by ginger and its color turned green from the addition of copious amounts of scallion. It's a totally balanced and utterly fantastic surprise of a dish. That's half the fun here. Order away and see what shows up. D $$ 3065 Peachtree Road, A-101. 770-457-5555. www.shoyaatlanta.com.

Sushi House Hayakawa, ***** Authentically Japanese, from the pristine fish flown in daily to the clean, spare light wood décor, to the bottles of sake and sochu lined up behind the chef. Art Hayakawa, Some of the best dishes are only found through word of mouth, such as the fabulous monkfish liver in ponzu sauce, or the salmon roe marinated in rice wine. The owner, Atsushi "Art" Hayakawa is meticulous with his knife skills, slicing and dicing fish flown in daily from Japan. The restaurant only serves dinner, but stays open late--until 2 a.m. on Friday for those craving sashimi well into the night. Winner of Best Japanese and Best Sushi 2009. D 5979 Buford Highway. 770-986-0010. www.atlantasushibar.com

Sushi Kiku, This restaurant brings an exotic combination of hibachi meals, sushi and other Japanese dishes to South Buckhead. Whether it's preparing a freshly cooked meal or wowing the customers with their mad knife skills, the hibachi chefs are here to please. For the squeamish, don't worry; many sushi offerings come with cooked fish. Brunch, L, D $$ 2770 Lenox Road. 404-467-4544. www.kikujapanese.com.

Taka Sushi Cafe, ***** A disciple of Soto struck out on his own and opened what is debatably the best kept secret in Buckhead. Go for the inventive cooked specials and the quirkily named sushi rolls. D $$-$$$ 385 Pharr Road. 404-869-2802.

Wasabi, ***** In a sea of mediocre sushi, Wasabi stands out as being simple, elegant and perfectly executed. Chef Nhan Le leaves behind gimmicky rolls and flashy plates to deliver high quality delectable sushi, sashimi and rolls. A modest selection of sake coupled with a wide assortment of cocktails ensures that this sushi shop will lead the way in Castleberry Hill. L, D $$ 180 Walker St. 404-574-5680. www.wasabiatl.com.

Yakitori Jinbei, A taste of Tokyo, complete with a quirky door chime, young servers sporting Manga-inspired haircuts, minimalist décor and menu of hard-to-find traditional Japanese dishes. The yakitori (food grilled on bamboo skewers) is the main attraction here, but is sadly only served during dinner. Daily specials are a deal for the mound of food you get, and the tonkostu soup will have you hooked after one noisy slurp. L, D $$ 2421 Cobb Parkway, Smyrna. 770-818-9215. www.yakitorirestaurant.com.

Zuma, This sushi restaurant (whose name means "strong horse") is all about coolness. It's got the late hours and modern décor that should appeal to the Armani crowd. Even though the strictly sushi and sashimi bar is a bit claustrophobic the chef is friendly and the sushi, for the most part, is first-rate. The pricey otoro is worth the money, as the fatty tuna belly just about dissolves in your mouth. Unagi, smoked eel, is another dish where you can't go wrong. D $$$ 701 Highland Ave. 404-522-2872. www.zumasushibar.com.

 

Tapas/Spanish

Eclipse di Luna, Chic tapas restaurant that serves up scrumptious Latin favorites and festive libations. L, D $$$ 764 Miami Circle. 404-846-0449. www.eclipsediluna.com.

Iberian Pig, Named after the source of the finest ham in Spain, the restaruant serves up typical food from Spain, tapas, and much more. You pay a small price compared to the very large portions that come out. D $$ 21 Sycamore St. 404.371.8800. www.iberianpigatl.com.

Krog Bar, ***** The folks behind Rathbun's opened Krog Bar in a tiny building in the parking lot of the Stove Works complex. It's the closest thing to a genuine tapas bar's ambiance our city has ever seen: The interior is tiny and you'll likely be forced, just as you are in tapas bar in Sevilla, to sit at long tables with strangers. Cured meat and other nibblies comprise the menu, to be consumed alongside vino from an astutely composed list. $ D, Late 112 Krog St. 404-524-1618. www.krogbar.com.

Pura Vida, ***** The Poncey-Highland tapas spot that has grown steadily in popularity since its opening a few years back is a true neighborhood restaurant, chef-owned and community-based. The food is made with a measure of soul that is impossible to fake. Chef Hector Santiago infuses his menu with Spanish flavors that have been filtered through the culture of South America, bringing a brightness and a tropical edge that warms the cuisine. D $$ 656 N. Highland Ave. 404-870-9797. www.puravidatapas.com.

 

Thai

Little Bangkok, ***** Some of the best Thai food in town is at this absurdly inexpensive hole in the wall. Pay close attention to evening specials like chicken with eggplant or spicy squid. Seasonings are fiery, portions are very large and ingredients always include a few surprises. The menu also features Chinese cuisine. L, D $$ 2225 Cheshire Bridge Road. 404-315-1530.

Kokai Thai Bistro, KoKai specializes in bringing "the streets of Bangkok to you." The "rice plates" are decent, but the fried rice, noodles and curries deliver the most flavor. L, D $ 5495 Jimmy Carter Blvd. 770-409-9219. www.kokaithaibistro.com.

Nan Thai Fine Dining, Midtown power brokers rub Brooks Brothers-suited shoulders over lovely Thai cuisine here daily. Elegantly understated yet thoroughly royal, Nan's dining room is the perfect spot for those who like to make people listen by whispering, not shouting. Prices are the same day and night, with entrees running up to $32. Winner of Best Expense Account Lunch 2005. L, D $$$ 1350 Spring St. 404-870-9933. www.nanfinedining.com.

Penang Malaysian Cuisine, Clever, classy take on the crossroads cuisine of Malaysia, one of Asia's sleeping tigers. Whole fish with Thai sauce, pancakes with chicken curry, satays, noodles and crisp vegetables -- all with a moderately spicy kick -- are authentic, approachable and well-prepared. The setting, a bamboo summerhouse with all the latest conveniences, matches the upbeat, sunny ambience. L, D $ 4897 Buford Highway, Chamblee. 770-220-0308 www.penangatlanta.com.

Spoon, Taking over the space formerly occupied by Thelma's Kitchen, Spoon has big shoes to fill, yet does so with ease. Sister chefs Aim and Sjuaree Suteeluxnaporn bring an intensity of layered flavors to their Thai dishes. Best of all -- there's plenty of parking. Winner of Best Thai 2009. L, D $$ 768 Marietta St. 404-522-5655. 749 Moreland Ave. 404.624.4713. www.spoonatlanta.com

Tamarind Seed, ***** Reopened, this spawn of Tamarind is more intimate than the old space, and still retains the flawless Thai fare of the former. Exquisitely prepared dishes feature intricate, and often quite spicy, flavors. Whether or not you were a regular to the old Tamarind, be sure to visit for some of the best Thai food in town. L, D $$ 1197 Peachtree St. 404-873-4888. www.tamarindseed.com

Thai Chili, Tom-kha-kai, spicy curries and delicious specials such as baked mussels and short ribs masaman curry are served up at one of Atlanta's most refined and venerable Thai restaurants. L, D $$ 2169 Briarcliff Road. 404-315-6750. www.thaichilicuisine.com.

Thai Palate, A dashing little space with a modern, bold look and mixed menu of Thai and Malaysian offerings, Thai Palate's reasonable prices and casual air make it just right for a quick weeknight meal. And really, that's just what this neighborhood needs: a dependable Thai joint that does the basics justice. L, D $$ 265 Ponce de Leon Ave, No. A. 404-685-9988. www.thaipalate.com.

 

Vietnamese

Chateau De Saigon, This Vietnamese/Chinese chateau cooks in both styles and does so with ease. The service is charming and the space is comfortably furnished, with a diverse menu featuring delightful meat and seafood dishes, Chinese noodle bowls, as well as classic Vietnamese bun plates. L, D $$ 4300 Buford Highway. 404-929-0034.

Com, ***** Com explores Vietamese from a fresh angle for this city. Frisky salads start the meal, and then you head into DIY territory with build-your-own bun dishes and intriguing la lot leaves, which resemble grape leaves but with a haunting, smoky flavor. L, D $-$$ 4005-F Buford Highway. 404-320-0405. www.comgrill.com.

Dua Vietnamese Noodle Soup, Owners Mylinh Cao and her mother, Tham Mai, strive to bring a taste of Vietnam to downtown, and standard Vietnamese dishes -- such as pho and com -- abound. The bún dishes provide a refreshing spin on the average lunchtime salad - chilled rice vermicelli noodles are loaded with your choice of meat (or tofu), shallots, ground peanuts, crunchy shreds of lettuce, fresh herbs and a hacked-up fried spring roll. L $ 53 Broad St. 404-589-8889. www.yougotpho.com.

Nam, The wonder brothers behind the posh MF Sushi take Vietnamese cooking to a thrilling new, fine-dining level. Start your journey into this cuisine with the grilled fish, Vietnamese crepe and "shaking" filet mignon. Watch out for the price tag on the prized kobe beef! It's a treat to have a new spot in Midtown that cooks to its own distinctive inner tune. L, D $$ 931 Monroe Drive, Suite A-101. 404-541-9997. www.namrestaurant.com

Pho Dai Loi, When it comes to Vietnamese food, most fans will tell you that both locations of Pho Dai Loi are the place to go no matter what you're craving. The massive menu includes a long list of bún choices (such as lemongrass chicken and finely sliced pork skin) and provides enough variety no matter how adventurous you are. L, D $ 4186 Buford Highway. 404-633-2111. 4061 Jonesboro Road. 404-363-2423.

 

Vegetarian

Cafe Sunflower, Scrumptious dishes here satisfy meat-free diners on the prowl. Serving outlandishly tasty vegan and vegetarian food since 1994, Cafe Sunflower has it all, from stir-fries and sandwiches to vegan desserts. L, D $-$$ 5975 Roswell Road. 404-256-1675, www.cafesunflower.com.

Dynamic Dish, ***** Discovering this cafe among the shappy storefronts of Edgewood Avenue is like stumbling across a small box of jewels in the back of a musty thrift store. David Sweeney is the chef and proprietor of the sleek, warm-feeling space, and almost 100 percent of his daily creations are organic and usually vegetarian. Be prepared for the intensity of flavor in his food; on a cold day Sweeney's soups can be a revelation, the thick, warm carrot, sweet potato and ginger soup will make you feel stronger with every bite. Dynamic Dish is a gem of a place that any great neighborhood would consider a true treasure. Winner of Best Vegetarian 2009. $ L, D 427 Edgewood Ave. 404-688-4344.

Green Sprout, A vegetarian Chinese restaurant serving beef, chicken, pork and shrimp dishes all made from flour, potatoes and other meat replacements, along with typical vegetable dishes. L, D $ 1529 Piedmont Ave., Suite D. 404-874-7373. www.greensproutga.com.

Life Grocery, Located a half mile east of the Big Chicken, this store is dedicated to serving the community by offering healthy organic food. Also features a vegan cafe. 1453 Roswell Road. 770-977-9583. www.lifegrocery.com.

Lush Life Cafe, Vegetarian restaurant with live jazz on weekends, but no alcohol. L, D $ 1405 Ralph David Abernathy Blvd. 404-758-8737. www.myspace.com/lushlifecafe.

Soul Vegetarian, One of the restaurants owned by the Kingdom Enterprises, a business run by African Hebrew Israelites of Jerusalem. Offers both vegetable-laden salads as well as plenty of faux meat dishes such as tofu-based meatloaf and the specialty roasted gluten loaf called the Kalebone. L, D $ 652 N. Highland Ave. 404-874-0145. www.soulvegetarian.com/restaurants.

World Peace Cafe, A sanctuary in the midst of a stressful world, the goal of this restaurant is to serve nutritious and tasteful vegetarian food in a warm, graceful environment. About two-thirds of the staff are volunteers from the Rameshori Buddhist Center who understand the importance of inner peace. All proceeds of the cafe go to Rameshori. L, D $ 227 Sandy Springs Place, Suite 302. 404-256-2100. www.worldpeacecafe.com.

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