Word of Mouth 

Our critics' guide to Atlanta restaurants

Page 3 of 9

Sage, 121 Sycamore St., Decatur, 404-373-5574. With no pretensions beyond generic American-bistro food and ambience, the Courthouse Square-area baby sister to Le Giverny offers hefty portions, modest prices, decent if spotty cooking, wide-ranging wine list and warm, welcoming service by a mostly female staff. -- EM

San Francisco Wraps, 8725 Roswell Road, Dunwoody, 770-993-3999; 2160 N. Decatur Road, Decatur, 404-320-9111. Best local effort since Tortillas on Ponce (and, arguably, Great Western Burrito Co.) to produce a variety of burrito-style wraps with plenty of flavor and minimal attitude. -- 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

Sweet Tomatoes, 6350 Peachtree Dunwoody Road, 770-913-0203; 1125 Barrett Parkway, Kennesaw, 770-429-5522; 3505 Mall Blvd., Duluth, 770-418-1148. Pizza, spuds, soups and about half the greenery are worth their weight in calories and cholesterol at units of this San Diego, Calif.-based buffet chain aimed at families and office workers. Atmosphere is bright and upbeat, prices reasonable. -- EM

Urban Cannibals, 307-B East College Ave., Decatur, 404-371-8700. Shoestring diner near Agnes Scott is notable for appealing sandwiches (mushroom Philly, grilled caponata, fried tilapia, burgers) and sides. Atmosphere runs from plastic forks and handmade banners to self service and a lot of friendly chatter from the grill cook - who's right out there in the room. Credit cards are accepted. Smoking is not permitted. The rehabbed space is less than perfectly wheelchair-friendly. --EM

Vortex Bar and Grill, 438 Moreland Ave., L5P, 404-688-1828; and 878 Peachtree St., 404-875-1667. Funky atmosphere, loud music, enormous selection of bottled beers and some of the best and biggest burgers in town. Black bean soup and homestyle pimento cheese are excellent, too. -- EM

Watershed, 406 W. Ponce de Leon Ave., Decatur, 404-378-4900. The combination restaurant, wine bar, package store, gift shop and takeout counter holds wonders aplenty. Offerings change daily. A slice of fish, a mound of creamed potatoes, a bowl of some unusual pasta may be heaven on toast points today, history tomorrow. Luckily the salads and sandwiches (beets, shrimp, roast pork) and desserts (pecan tart, apple cake, chocolate cake, macaroons) are fairly constant in both their excellence and availability. -- EM

Wingleader, 250 Auburn Ave., 404-589-9393. On historic Auburn Ave., Wingleader does wings any size order, but not just any sauce. They're serving up Hot Mama, Jamaican Jerk and Cinnamon Love. If that reads like a dirty Harlequin novel, then get the rest of the story and ring up Wingleader. They deliver. -- KL

Dreamland Bar-B-Que, 10730 Alpharetta Highway at Mansell Road, Roswell, 678-352-7999. Hit the road to Tuscaloosa, Georgians. The imported cultural icon features Alabama-style pork barbecue with its characteristic charred edges, subdued seasoning and slathered sauce. It's accompanied by tangy slaw, crisp fries, rich pecan pie and logo T-shirts. Salads, sandwiches and such round out the menu. Good for takeout. -- EM

Hodge's Bar-B-Que, 2141 Candler Road, Decatur, 404-289-1804.Offering home-style, working-class Southern cooking for a quarter century, this family style cafeteria is light on charm, big on value, convenient for takeout and friendly as a church supper. No smoking or credit cards. --EM.

The Swallow at the Hollow, 1072 Green St., Roswell, 678-352-1975. The joint venture of Bill Greenwood and Paul and Doreen Doster is long on hefty portions and intelligent updates of country classics. From pit-cooked portobello mushrooms to traditionally flavored baby back ribs and mac-and-cheese, the cuisine has wide, if definitely Southern-style, appeal. -- EM

Gumbo A Go-Go, 1405 Oxford Road, 404-687-0031; 736 Ponce de Leon Ave., 404-874-8620; 3256 Cobb Parkway, Marietta, 770-303-9970; and 11770 Haynes Bridge Road, Alpharetta, 770-777-1441. Head to the Emory Village location for a rough jewel where students wolf down dirt-cheap portions of the best jambalaya around. The second location on Ponce (by Tortilla's) offers the same Cajun-Creole dishes, like Big Chief Crazy Gumbo and, when it's in season, crawfish etouffee. -- CBB

Pappadeaux Seafood Kitchen, 2830 Windy Hill Road, Marietta, 770-984-8899 and other metro 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


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