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Zoo Atlanta February/March 2009

Eat Your Heart Out
A Sampling of Atlanta's Best Restaurants

The crème brulee at the recently opened Peasant Bistro.

When it comes to food, it’s no secret that Atlanta knows what it’s doing. Indeed, as a future or new Atlanta resident, you are sure to be pleased with the city’s nearly limitless choices. So, if you’re worried about leaving behind that great restaurant in your old town, fear not. It won’t take long for you to find new favorites in Atlanta—where great eateries make dining out a muchloved pastime. Even the sluggish economy hasn’t suppressed Atlanta’s appetite for fabulous fare. According to the 2008-2009 Zagat Atlanta Restaurants survey, 84 percent of surveyors say they are dining out more than or as much as they were two years ago.-class venues?

It’s no wonder Atlantans enjoy dining out—the city is home to exceptional chefs, innovative cuisine and local favorites that have become tradition. From fine dining to casual, and from social hot spots to places for kids, Atlanta’s dining scene choices are sure to please every palate. Here’s a sampling of Atlanta’s countless culinary experiences.

More than Fine

Inman Park
The sliced sirloin at new arrival Craft, opened by Tom Colicchio of Bravo Network’s Top Chef.
In Atlanta, where chic, inspired interiors meet world-class cuisine, fine dining is an understatement. Pano’s & Paul’s in posh Buckhead is no exception. Long considered one of the best fine dining experiences in Atlanta, the restaurant has been a recipient of the prestigious AAA Four-Diamond Award and has been recognized by Zagat Survey for Best Food and Best Service. Executive chef Gary Donlick serves up cuisine such as slow-roasted Scottish salmon, herb-crusted lamb rack and center-cut filet mignon pepper steak, which are even better when paired with one of the wines from the restaurant’s extensive list.

Another notable fine dining restaurant housed in a luxury hotel is Park 75, located in The Four Seasons Atlanta in Midtown. A large commissioned watercolor complements the warm, inviting interior featuring custom light fixtures and iron candelabras. Executive chef Robert Gerstenecker creates culinary masterpieces such as roasted halibut with summer corn chowder, house-smoked bacon and fennel oil or the eight-hour braised short ribs with summer vegetable succotash, arugula and crisp sweet potato salad. Up to 10 may be seated in the heart of the kitchen at the Chef’s Table, where guests can enjoy Gerstenecker’s cuisine as well as wine to complement every course.

Bacchanalia, Quinones
  The elegant interior at fine dining sensation Quinones at Bacchanalia.   Photo by: Joe Hans
Midtown is also home to fine dining sensation Quinones at Bacchanalia. Sister restaurant to the crowd-pleasing Bacchanalia, Quinones opened in 2005 to critical acclaim—and continues to be consistently recognized by local and national media as a great dining destination. The interior, with antique mirrors and hand-blown Venetian glass chandeliers and sconces, is just as fascinating as the menu that changes nightly and features modern Southern cuisine such as Gulf red snapper with littleneck clams, house-cured tasso and heirloom potato.

Bring the Kids

Although many may not think of Atlanta’s oldest continuously licensed tavern as the ideal dining experience for kids, Atkins Park certainly makes younger guests feel welcome. The Virginia-Highland location lets adults dine while their children are entertained. Kiddy’s Corner, a children’s play area filled with age-appropriate toys, is the place for young diners. Both younger and older guests will get a kick out of the kids’ menu that features items such as Chicken Toes and Mashed Nuts & Berries (aka PB & J).

American Girl Bistro at North Point Mall in Alpharetta is a doll-lovers’ paradise. Part of the American Girl doll store, which features characters, outfits and accessories, the bistro features fare that typically appeals to the younger crowd—chicken tenders, mac and cheese, spaghetti and meatballs— as well as more adventurous bites such as the grilled veggie panini or the Asian chicken salad. The bistro serves brunch, lunch and dinner, with a Dessert Counter that offers a variety of rich and creamy options.

Another restaurant that is sure to engage the children is housed in an 87,000- square-foot castle featuring a stone façade, dungeon and gift shop—there are also 22 Andalusian stallions in residence. Medieval Times in Lawrenceville certainly gives new meaning to “dinner and a show.” Guests enjoy an elaborate feast delivered by costumed “serving wenches and serfs” while watching knights complete skills tests and battle for honor. Birthday party packages offer children a courtly celebration.

Social Scenes

Social hot spots are very much a part of Atlanta’s restaurant scene. LOLA, Here to Serve Restaurants’ first Italian concept, has two outdoor patios that encourage mingling—one patio is for dining and the other is for lounging and enjoying a signature Bellini. Located in the Terminus building in happening Buckhead, the restaurant serves delectable fare such as wood-fired pizzas, salads, seafood and Italian-style American steaks such as steak Florentine. With its great food, views and sleek interior, LOLA indeed offers a vibrant social scene.

Known as a happening hot spot, Trilogy also serves up delicious cuisine such as these crab cakes.
With its own space created especially for entertaining, Trilogy in Marietta is an ultimate dining and entertainment destination. The restaurant’s entertainment room features a bar, dance floor, three 104-inch projection flat screens and a state-of-the-art sound system. Every Friday and Saturday, some of the most popular bands in the Southeast liven up the space—a DJ keeps the action going during breaks and after the band’s performance. The diverse menu features delectable fare such as maple salmon, chicken parmesan and grilled rib-eye.

Shout offers international flavors in a lively, hip atmosphere. Guests enjoy Mediterranean-inspired tapas, pizzas cooked in wood-burning ovens, as well as noodle bowls and a full sushi bar in the Bamboo Room. But perhaps the highlight of the experience is the rooftop bar, one of the hottest hangouts in Atlanta. A DJ plays Wednesday through Saturday, and the crowd makes good use of the dance floor.

More Bang for Your Buck

As the saying goes, you get what you pay for. But as that other saying goes, there are exceptions to every rule. Indeed, at some of Atlanta’s restaurants, you get more than you pay for. Souper Jenny in Buckhead is a very popular neighborhood café headed by self-taught chef Jennifer Levison. Consistently recognized by Zagat Survey as offering great food at a great price, the eatery features a daily-changing menu that typically includes six hot soups (hence the café’s name), a couple of sandwiches, as well as a few salads. Favorites include chicken tortilla soup and turkey chili, but there are also vegetarian and vegan options. Check the Web site for the daily menu, or sign up to have the menu emailed to you every morning.

Another Atlanta café known for great taste and value is The Fickle Pickle, housed in an 1800’s Victorian cottage in Roswell. Along with its famous fried Cajun pickles served with Creole rémoulade sauce, the eatery also offers salads, hot and cold sandwiches, dinner sandwiches (e.g., grouper sandwich, bacon blue cheese burger), and dinner entrees such as buttermilk fried catfish and shrimp and grits. Although typically considered a lunch destination, don’t count this one out for dinner.

Thumbs Up Diner offers the classic diner experience, complete with a curved counter and delicious, hearty fare that’s priced right, including burgers, melts and sandwiches. Breakfast favorites such as pancakes, eggs, French toast, biscuits and waffles are served all day. A menu highlight is the Build Your Own Breakfast plate.

Come As You Are

It’s always fun to dress up for a meal, but sometimes it’s nice to just show up in what you’re wearing. At Village Tavern in Alpharetta, experience exceptional fare in a relaxed, casual Old World tavern-style atmosphere. The chalet-like entrance, soft lighting and fireplace create a comfortable, welcoming space. The something-for-everyone menu is sure to please any palate, boasting appetizers and small plates, soups and salads, steaks, fish, pasta, chicken, burgers, wood-oven pizzas and desserts. There’s also an award-winning wine list, cocktails, martinis, specialty drinks, draft beers, microbrews and spirits.

The delectable halibut at casual yet elegant Portofino. Photo: The Reynolds Group.
Billed as an “unassuming restaurant,” Portofino offers delectable American-Italian cuisine. The restaurant’s stone and brick patio is a popular dining choice for many Atlantans. Inside, hardwood floors, vaulted ceilings and vibrant artwork conspire to create an inviting atmosphere. The eclectic menu features items such as seafood stew, panseared chicken breast and lamb Bolognese pasta.

If you’re looking for fluffy biscuits and a diverse menu, then the Flying Biscuit Café is the place to be. Pleasing patrons at six locations in Metro Atlanta, the restaurant offers delicious breakfast choices such as The Flying Biscuit Breakfast (two large farm fresh eggs, chicken breakfast sausage, a namesake biscuit, and choice of oven-roasted potatoes, grits or a side salad) and the Piedmont Omelette (dressed up with chicken sausage, turkey bacon, sautéed onions and cheddar cheese). The oven-fried chicken, flat-iron steak and the vegan barbecue burrito round out the varied menu.

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