Word of Mouth 

Our critics' guide to Atlanta restaurants

Page 7 of 9

Sotto Sotto, 313 N. Highland Ave., 404-523-6678. 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. -- EM

Japanese
Nickiemoto's Midtown, Piedmont at 10th Street, 404- 253-2010. A clone of George Rohrig's Buckhead sushi bar, this fast-track watering hole is more remarkable for burnished metal decor and intown haircuts than for its Asian-American food. To dine well, keep two words in mind: fried (squid, soft-shell crab hotpot, catfish) and desserts (ginger creme brulee, Vietnamese coffee float). -- EM

Stoney River, 10524 Alpharetta Highway at Holcomb Bridge Road, Roswell, 678-461-7900. The mainstream runs through this steaks-and-sushi dinner house from the creators of Brookwood Grill. The wilderness lodge decor, upbeat service and decent sushi bar are much superior to the salty, overseasoned American food. No reservations. Expect long waits at prime hours. -- EM

Yokohama, 2221 Peachtree Road NE, 404-603-5282. Reconstituted neighborhood sushi parlor with all-purpose Japanese-American menu (noodles, tonkatsu, teriyaki steak, ice cream) fills an independent niche on a busy intown strip. Tender tempura squid is a tasty treasure. -- EM

Malaysian
Malaya, 857 Collier Road, 404-609-9991. A tiny room in a modest storefront belies the wondrous repertoire of traditional Malaysian dishes available. For an introduction to this spicy crossroads cuisine, don't miss coconut soup laced with shrimp and chicken, acar (pickled salad with peanuts), rendang (an aromatic beef stew), curried salmon with okra, and spinach sauteed with okra. Chinese menu also available. Good for takeout. Now serving beer and wine. -- EM

Penang Malaysian Cuisine, Orient Center, 4897 Buford Highway, Chamblee, 770-220-0308. 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 summer house with all the latest conveniences, matches the upbeat, sunny ambience. -- EM

Mexican
Burrito Art, 1259 Glenwood Ave., 404-627-4433; Tower Walk, 3365 Piedmont Road, 404-237-0095; and 1451 Oxford Road, 404-377-7786. East Atlanta is the original home for this restaurant by Ryan Aiken, a young chef who trained at Indigo and Partners and developed the extraordinary opening menu at Terra Cotta. Now, the boy's cooking burritos! But these are amazing creations that feature the likes of barbecue chicken, roast pork and chile relleno. -- CBB

Frontera Mex-Mex Grill, 4606 Jimmy Carter Blvd., 770-493-8341; and 5070 Stone Mountain Highway, 770-972-3366. Sunday brunch at two locations of the local chain features energetic ranchera music, heady fiesta atmosphere and a succession of unusual Mexican specialties. Spice levels, thought toned down, are still lively enough to tickle gringo tongues. -- EM

La Coste-a, 2164 Briarcliff Rd. 404-329-0084. Though this new restaurant is stuffy and drab, the unusual combination of Nicaraguan and Jamaican cuisine is worth a whirl. Tender pork, beef and chicken dishes are laden with piles of rice, beans and plantains. Not everything listed on the menu is actually available, so flexibility is a must. -- SL

Noche, 1000 Virginia Ave., 404-815-9155. The nuevo New Mexican chow at this boutique cantina, while extremely inconsistent, combines campfire flavor with comfort food accessibility. Stylishly fitted out and moderately priced, with good service, it may be considered a flashier alternative to Sundown Cafe. -- EM

Nuevo Laredo Cantina, 1495 Chattahoochee Ave. 404-352-9009. 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. Although somewhat crowded on weekend nights, service is quick and the food is well worth the wait. So have a beer and soak up the atmosphere of Catholic kitsch. - KL

Taqueria del Sol, 1200-B Howell Mill Road at Huff Road, 404-352-5811. Spin-off of popular Sundown Cafe is long on informality and 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, jalape-o slaw and carnita tacos -- are still worth saying "Ole" to as well. -- EM

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