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Word of Mouth 

Our critics' guide to Atlanta restaurants

Page 8 of 9

Zocalo, 187 10th St., 404-249-7576. Midtown's former monument to mucho-Mexican mole has been mainstreamed and Americanized. The city's best stuffed peppers, the still-peppy chicken mole and a collection of 150 tequilas don't make up for greasy tacos, hard-edged service, hard-to-read menus, inappropriate music and uncomfortable chairs. Note that visitors with hotel room keys get a 10 percent discount. -- EM

Casbah, 465 N. Highland Ave. NE, 404-524-5777.A fun place to take yourself, and not just for a special occasion, this comfy, affordable North Highland harem features belly dancing, notable sweet-spicy salads, first-rate couscous and more-or-less traditional versions of Moroccan poultry pie and lamb with apricots and honey. -- EM

Imperial Fez, 2285 Peachtree Road, 404-351-0870. Atlanta's most luxurious interpretation of the Casbah, this carpet-lined, pillow-strewn hideaway serves authentic prix fixe Moroccan in a five-course ceremony complete with hand-washing and belly dancing. Take your shoes off and stay awhile. -- SSS

Coast 92, 625 Crossville Road, Roswell, 770-649-6739. The second shopping-center venture for Dick and Harold Marmulstein (Dick and Harry's) features solidly prepared fresh-seafood platters, steamed crabs, sushi and all the trimmings in a visually bizarre, not to say amusing, underwater setting. Keep your eyes shut, your mouth wide open and enjoy superlative specialties such as the jumbo lump crab cakes, shrimp crunch rolls, fried shrimp and Key lime pie. Moderate prices. No reservations. --EM.

Indigo Coastal Grill, 1397 N. Highland Ave., 404-876-0676. Reopened after yet another makeover, the restaurant's once funky decor has been smoothed to a near-corporate sheen. Fried seafood, big salads, comforting side dishes (couscous, cheese grits, shoestring fries) and gooey desserts are still tops. Service by a clean-cut, knowledgeable staff who's textbook sharp. -- EM

McCormick & Schmick's Seafood Restaurant, 600 Ashwood Parkway, 770-399-9900. Lavish chain-link offers first-class seafood in a variety of preparation styles, though with an emphasis on those of the Northwest and Pacific Coast. Despite the glass domes, privacy booths, snappy linens, heavy flatware and list of 30 to 40 varieties of fresh seafood on offer daily, prices are moderate at the big-volume fish house. Valet parking. Reservations encouraged. Smoking permitted in bar only. --EM.

Pappadeaux Seafood Kitchen, 2830 Windy Hill Road, Marietta, 770-984-8899 and other locations. Who'd have thought a chain serving enormous volumes of food could be this good? Spectacular etouffee, lovingly prepared gumbos, delicately broiled seafood and mountains of fried stuff are turning out crowds that cause 90-minute waits. Go early. Real early. -- CBB

Uncle Bud's, 725 Concord Road, west of South Cobb Drive, Smyrna, 770-434-1881. Updated, corporatized catfish barn, replacing two franchise stores, serves reliable, affordable catfish meals with all the fixings, including memorably good hushpuppies and cole slaw. Swift, upbeat service and squeaky-clean (if a little too kuntry-kute) surroundings add to the family-style fun. -- EM

Atlanta Grill, the Ritz-Carlton Atlanta, 181 Peachtree St., 404-221-6550. A clubby, semi-casual Southern steakhouse has replaced the once fiercely formal restaurant. Expensive grilled beef and super-size spuds are perhaps the most reliable offerings at this corporate attempt to please road warriors, conventioneers and expense-account hosts seven days a week, three meals a day. -- EM

Blue Ridge Grill, 1261 W. Paces Ferry Road, 404-233-5030. Southern haute cuisine is served in a Ralph Lauren-ish mountain lodge setting; fresh-picked organic vegetables are family-style, and the Iron Skillet Georgia Trout and steaks are sublime. Take note, though: Organic ain't cheap. -- SSS

Horseradish Grill, 4320 Powers Ferry Road NW, 404-255-7277. First-rate fried chicken, pork barbecue, mashed potatoes, savory greens, hot biscuits and traditional Southern desserts from rising-star chef Dave Berry are served in an elegant trophy room masquerading as a Chastain Park stable. Lovely outdoor tables can be requested in nice weather. -- EM

Justin's, 2200 Peachtree St. NW, 404-603-5353. Rap dinner theater in the former Sfuzzi and Coco Pazzo features big smiles, gorgeously draped staff, moderately loud musical background static, otherworldly prices and formularized soul food of the warm-and-serve persuasion. -- EM

Thelma's Kitchen, 764 Marietta St. NW, 404-688-5855. Thelma Grundy's venerable soul-food cafeteria appears to be coasting. After three years at the new stand, the lunchtime crowds are steady but the cooking -- especially the once-marvelous fried chicken -- is notably inconsistent. Worthwhile choices include fried catfish, sweet potatoes, mac-and-cheese and almost any form of beans. --EM

Thomas Marketplace, State Farmers Market, 16 Forest Parkway, Forest Park, 404-361-1367. Venerable purveyor of heirloom Southern cooking, hefty portions and down-home hospitality is among the Southside's best bets for traditional breakfasts, meat-and-two lunches and corn muffins. Fried chicken livers, grilled salmon, turnip greens and corn muffins recommended. Go elsewhere for barbecue. -- EM

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