Atlanta, once the beating heart of the antebellum South, is now home to an exciting array of restaurants, diners and foodie spots which bring America’s culinary diversity to the fore. We offer our picks for the best of Atlanta dining, from Jewish delicatessens to K-town upstarts and the best seafood spot in town.
Empire State South
Empire State South returns to Atlanta’s Georgian roots, serving up Southern-style comfort food with a modern twist. The chef/partner of Empire State South is celebrated Canadian chef Hugh Acheson, who won the 2012 James Beard Award for Best Chef, Southeast. All of the heart-warming classics of Southern cuisine are here, from collard greens to grits, catfish po’boy and Benton’s country ham. On a sunny weekend, grab a seat on the outdoor patio overlooking the bocce ball court and order a lovely portion of pimento cheese with bacon marmalade followed by your choice of ESS’ deliciously meaty dishes, you can hardly go wrong with this menu. Simple, authentically Southern and full of flavor, ESS is the place to go to experience the modern South.
Packed with flavor and shamelessly hearty, a good home-style Southern breakfast is the best way to start the day. Home Grown’s specialty is its ‘Comfy’ chicken biscuit, an open-faced Southern style biscuit sandwich topped with crispy-but-juicy chunks of fried chicken drowned in delicious sausage gravy.
The General Muir
The General Muir pays homage to the classic New York Jewish deli and is named after the transport ship that brought owner Jennifer Johnson’s family, who had survived the Holocaust, to New York in 1949. Everything is made by hand in the shop, from pastrami cured and smoked in-house to hand rolled bagels to its freshly made desserts. In classic New York style, The General Muir specializes in bagels and sandwiches, its version of the Reuben comes with a heaped pile of corned beef, sauerkraut, Gruyère cheese on buttered rye. The pastrami poutine, a plate of fries, mixed with cheese curds, doused in chicken gravy and sprinkled with copious amounts of pastrami, also comes highly recommended.
Hankook Taqueria received Alton Brown’s enthusiastic seal of approval for ‘The Best Thing I Ever Ate: Bang for the Buck’ for its Bibimbap. A rice-based dish with marinated mushrooms, zucchini, mung beans, spinach, marinated rib-eye, fried egg and topped with a healthy dose of Hankook’s house red pepper chili sauce full of heat with a tinge of sweet. A true hole-in-the-wall cheap dining spot, Hankook Taqueria has built a loyal following for its Korean-Mexican fusion menu which, in addition to the bibimbap, also includes sesame fries, gogi-nachos (chips, jack cheese, Korean rib eye beef) and Korean BBQ tacos.
The Optimist exposes the breadth of Atlanta’s food, which is no longer limited to hearty Southern comfort. Catch a whiff of Boston’s wharves whilst downing a steaming bowl of She-crab soup or munching at a Maine lobster roll. Though land-locked, The Optimist shows that where there’s a will, there’s a way, bringing a classic seafood dining experience to Atlanta with an eye on sustainability and freshness.
Atlanta boasts of one of the largest Korean communities in the US, and that rich Korean presence is making its way into Atlanta’s signature dishes as wonderful culinary fusions are created. Honey Pig is a major factor on the Korean side of this culinary equation, bringing authentic Korean dishes to Atlanta. The centerpiece of each table is the communal grill on which anything from Honey Pig’s signature pork belly (samgyupsal) to assorted mushrooms and baby octopus can be infused with flavor. Be sure to save room for the tofu soup and kimchi fried rice to finish off the meal.
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