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What we recommend

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ALON'S, 1394 N. Highland Ave., 404-872-6000. Atlanta's most celebrated bakery has recently expanded its take-out selection (try the oven-roasted meatballs) and cheese counter. But nothing will ever surpass those chocolate-chunk pecan cookies. Winner of "Best Bakery" 2006. L $-$$

BREAD GARDEN, 549 Amsterdam Ave., Suite 5. 404-875-1166. Katharine 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 pastries? The safest sex we've ever had. Winner of "Best Bakery" 2005. $

CHOCOLATE PINK PASTRY CAFE, 905 Juniper Street NE. 404-745-9292. 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. $-$$$

DUCK'S COSMIC KITCHEN, *** 111-D New St., 404-371-8823. This small cafe tucked in back of East Decatur Station serves killer sandwiches on freshly baked bread, a selection of pizzas and some of the best doughnuts we've ever tasted. 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.

HIGHLAND BAKERY, 655 Highland Ave NE. 404-586-0772. Milling its own flour from chemical-free grain is the cornerstone of this bakery's success. With its signature whole grain breads (white breads are available on request), you can stop worrying about preservatives in your food when you dive in to an egg and cheese breakfast sandwich or one of the lunch sandwiches. B, L $

SOUTHERN SWEETS BAKERY, 186 Rio Circle, 404-373-8752. 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.


DADDY D'Z, 264 Memorial Drive, 404-222-0206. This funky shack is always packed. Blue collar, white collar and no collar at all -- folks gather to dive in to plates piled high with sweet, savory barbecue (beef, pork, ribs and chicken) and traditional sides. Winner of "Best Barbeque" 2006. L, D $

FAT MATT'S RIB SHACK, 1811 Piedmont Road. 404-607-1622 Live blues and the love of barbecue bring people from all over town to this small, boxy BBQ joint. An Atlanta landmark, Fat Matt's turns out ribs, chopped pork barbecue sandwiches and chickens by the score. While the quality of the 'cue here is a subject of great contention among aficianados, Fat Matt's remains as popular as ever. L, D $

MADDY'S, 1479 Scott Blvd., 404-377-0301. 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 bluesy-ness, 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 $

ROLLING BONES PREMIUM PIT BBQ, 377 Edgewood Ave., 404-222-2324. This sleek pit serves up mouthwatering meats with succulent sauce and great side dishes quicker than most fast-food joints can take your order. The menu covers the smoky spectrum of meat from beef brisket to half pit-grilled chicken ... and, of course, ribs. You'll eat until your belly aches. L, D $

SAM & DAVE'S BBQ, 4944 Lower Roswell Road. 770-977-3005. A tiny shoebox-sized space that is more takeout place than a sitdown eatery, the barbecue is what's important here. Both the beef brisket and the pulled pork are the stars, each being moist and flavorful before the sauce even touches the meat. If you're in the mood for ribs, skip the St. Louis-style spareribs and go for the mammoth beef short rib, which has a delicious smoky goodness under the caramelized exterior. L, D $

THE SWALLOW AT THE HOLLOW, 1072 Green St., Roswell. 678-352-1975. This barbecue offers scrumptious chopped pork, mac-n-cheese with a gutsy crust and Brunswick stew that hums with porcine goodness. Vegetarians, Swallow has one of the finest sandwiches in the state -- smoked portabella with gouda and fried green tomatoes. Winner of "Best Barbecue" 2005. L, D $$

THOMPSON BROTHERS BARBECUE, 2445 Cobb Parkway. 770-818-9098. The gosh-wow handsome brothers who own this barbecue take your order, chop the saucy pork and ring you up with flawless, heartfelt smiles. Although their addictive smoked bologna surely has its legions of male fans, this place is purely eye candy for ladies. Winner of "Best-Looking Waitstaff" 2005. $

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