Word of Mouth 

Our critics' guide to recommended restaurants in metro Atlanta

ARIA, 490 E. Paces Ferry Road, 404-233-7673. After yet another redesign, the former Hedgerose Heights is being repositioned as a Buckhead-casual hangout for young, hot entrepreneurs and similarly questing fast-trackers. Gerry Klaskala's accomplished American cuisine -- slow-cooked chicken and beef, soups, grilled meats -- and Kathryn King's dreamy desserts more than make up for the half-baked, weirdly erotic decor by Bill Johnson Studio. --Elliott Mackle

ATLANTIC STAR BRASSERIE, Ice House Lofts, 105 Sycamore Place, Decatur, 404-377-8384. A great place for hanging out at odd hours, this American brasserie is stronger on looks and atmosphere than proper French cuisine. Young intowners may not care. Warm and attractive, the spiffy watering hole on a newly gentrified block is yet another example of the restaurant renaissance taking place in DeKalb's county seat. --EM

BONE'S, 3130 Piedmont Road, 404-237-2663. 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. --Curt Holman

BUCKHEAD DINER, 3037 Piedmont Road, 404-262-3336. A little luster has rubbed off Buckhead's chic art deco eatery, but if it's no longer Atlanta's prime location to spot celebrities, it's still a decent place for a luxurious meal. Its signature appetizer of homemade potato chips and Maytag blue cheese is a crunchy highlight, as are the fancied-up takes on traditional roadhouse grub like the chili dog or grilled cheese sandwich. --CH

CAPITAL GRILLE, 255 E. Paces Ferry Road, at Bolling Way, 404-262-1162. Business-class steakhouse chain from Longhorn features smashing penthouse views, manly boardroom ambience, professional if somewhat talky service and corn-fed Midwestern beef that is dry-aged on site. The prime, bone-in Delmonico steak is tops. So are mashed potatoes and creamed spinach. Wine prices target the expense-account crowd. Valet parking, reservations. Dressy. --EM

CORNER CAFE, Buckhead Bread Co., 3070 Piedmont Road NE, 404-240-1978. Breads, muffins, pastries and service are better than ever. Sandwiches (egg salad, chicken club, portobello mushroom) are among the city's overstuffed best. Opens early for breakfast. --EM

DISH, 870 North Highland Ave., 404-897-3463. A Virginia-Highland gas station has been refurbished as an art deco environment with such "distressed" touches as a door-sized hole in the wall. The menu, offering appetizers, larger "tastes" and full entrees, encourages sampling such post-modern choices as potato fluff and rosemary pine-nut popcorn, dish's signature snack food. Among the most successful items are the prosciutto-wrapped pork filet and the dizzyingly rich Chocolate Dish. --CH

FLOATAWAY CAFE, 1123 Zonolite Road NE, 404-892-1414. A Southern Chez Panisse from the creators of super popular Bacchanalia with exquisite, inventive dishes made from fresh, often organic ingredients. The stylishly retro decor fits the former-factory setting too well. --EM

THE FOOD BUSINESS, 115 Sycamore St., Decatur, 404-371-9121. It's located in the heart of Decatur and feels like it, too, with its cheerful surroundings and second-story view of the town square. The menu provides a kind of overview of 1990s culinary trends -- crab cakes here, Asian-style flourishes there -- but with a generally fine execution. Don't overlook tasty touches such as the sweet potato biscuits in the bread basket. --CH

THE FOOD STUDIO, King Plow Arts Center, 887 W. Marietta St., Studio K-102, 404-815-6677. A gourmet outpost amid the warehouses and rail yards of West Atlanta, The Food Studio has factory-chic decor and severely hip servers. The kitchen shows a fancy but fine grasp of American regional cuisine, from New York strip steaks to pan-seared striped bass, with the attention to detail extending to the two kinds of cream cheese accompanying the breadbasket. With Actor's Express playhouse as a neighbor, it's also a nice spot for drinks before or after the theater. --CH

HARVEST, 853 N. Highland Ave., 404-876-8244. Matching arts-and-crafts furniture, vases, flowers, fireplaces, dramatic curtains and a comfy bar make the Craftsman-style bungalow the perfect venue for chef Justin Ward's weekday lunch service. Alas, as has been true since the restaurant's January 1996 debut, the contemporary American cooking is still wildly uneven. --EM

JOEY D'S OAK ROOM, 1015 Crown Pointe Parkway at Perimeter West Center, Dunwoody. 770-512-7063. All you really need to know about Joey D's is that they serve corned beef made from brisket ordered directly from New York's Carnegie Deli. And the French fries may be the best in the city. --AJL

KILLER CREEK CHOP HOUSE, 1700 Mansell Road at Ga. 400, Alpharetta. 770-649-0064. Killer decor, but don't let that stop you. The menu is small with straightforward entrees and funky appetizers. Blue cheese heaven. Well-trimmed steaks are cooked as asked, but stay away from the greasy rack of lamb. --AJL


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