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Tuesday, February 17, 2009

10 things to eat in Atlanta before you die (or leave)

Our frequent commenter Kali asked us a few weeks back to come up with a list for her of 10 things she should eat in Atlanta before she deserts us for the Great North. She wrote:

Besha and Cliff,

I am sure I have hinted, if not outright said (and I know I have!), that I am leaving my beloved Atlanta for Canadian climes in 8 weeks now. Please give me a list of 10 tastes I should have before I go. Atlanta is a city of foods, cuisines, and delicacies I am glad to know are out there. It makes me proud. My only caveat is this: I don't eat beef. It's something weird with me I am sure. Pork is fine, lamb is so-so, fish is ace, and there you go. But please: I would like recommendations.

So here we go - Cliff and I came up with five each. Cliff's list first:

These are dishes I crave. They have nothing to do with celebrity, restaurant ambiance or complexity. They are dishes I eat over and over.

click to enlarge La lot leaves at Com
  • La lot leaves at Com

The grape-leaf rolls (la lot) at Com Vietnamese Grill. I like them filled with lamb, but the duck and beef are good too. Even the tofu is good.

The yogurt dessert at Kyma. It's a thick Greek-style yogurt submerged in honey and garnished with candied walnuts.

The linguine with clam sauce at La Pietra Cucina. Chef Bruce Logue makes many fancier dishes but this is by far the best version of a popular dish that is hard to find well-made in Atlanta. Wear a bib.

The toffee-coffee-arctic swirl at Zesto. Yes, it's pure junk food, but I've been addicted to this concoction for years. It's soft-serve vanilla ice cream blended with Heath Bars.

Hot braised chicken at Pung Mie. I've been craving and eating this for two decades, I think. It's actually fried chicken pieces in a somewhat spicy, light sauce. I always add rice vinegar and red chili to the mix. Both are always on the table.

And now my picks:

Squash casserole at Son's Place. Son's fried chicken was the first true Southern meal I had in Atlanta, and I remain loyal. We can bicker about the fried chicken — who's is best — but no other restaurant can touch the squash casserole here. For a last hurrah of Southern food, (and hospitality) this is the place.

Any soup at Dynamic Dish. David Sweeny makes the most flavorful, amazing soups around. Cliff gives a shout out to the pizzas (available only on Saturday night) as well.

click to enlarge Monkfish liver at Sushi House Hayakawa
  • Monkfish liver at Sushi House Hayakawa

Monkfish liver at Sushi House Hayakawa. There's so much fantastic Japanese food to be had at this Buford Highway sushi house, but it lives in my heart as the place that officially converted my squeamish younger sister into a monkfish liver enthusiast. And for good reason.

Almond croissant at Parish. Some mornings I find myself driving towards Highland Avenue without even realizing it. The buttery crust, the nutty interior, it calls with its almondy siren song.

Burger at Holeman and Finch. Sorry Kali, I know you said no beef ... but I can't leave this off the list. The fast-food style burger shoulders its way up above all others for its purity of intention (to be a greasy burger) and components (house-made buns, pickles and ketchup, high-quality beef, etc.). The fact that it's only available after 10 p.m. makes it even more alluring.

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