The Hot List: Atlanta’s Top Restaurants

Food critic John Mariani finds the hottest tables in town.

Aug 13, 2012
  • The Optimist, Atlanta
  • The Spence Dining Room, Atlanta, Ga.
  • Park 75 Restaurant at Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts Atlanta
  • Alama Cocina’s Patio, Atlanta, Ga.
  • Mussels at Lure, Atlanta, Ga.
1/5
The Optimist, 404-477-6260, 914 Howell Mill Road
Why go: This brand-new, big, gregarious restaurant specialises in American seafood of the most pristine quality, and young chef Adam Evans is well on his way to being the next Southern star.
You must try: Red snapper in a lime broth with herb salad, and spicy glazed octopus with watermelon and coriander.
And this: There is a separate oyster bar where you can sit at the counter and slurp away on a wide variety of oysters and shellfish with a glass of wine from an excellent list or one of a wide selection of American beers, including Atlanta’s own Sweetwater brewery.
Photography courtesy The Optimist Restaurant
2/5
The Spence, 404-892-9111, 75 Fifth Street NW
Why go: Concentrics Restaurants runs some of the city's hottest restaurants, and this is their newest. It's headed by Richard Blais, formerly Oprah Winfrey's private chef, and the cuisine is as modern as it comes, without any gimmickry. You can dine casually at the bar or slip into a roomy booth. Plates are meant for sharing, and eating with your fingers.
You must try: Buffalo fried sweetbreads; porcini noodles with lamb's tongue, egg and truffle; and rabbit mole with rice and pickled beans.
And this: Blais and his crew welcome conversations about their cooking. Take advantage of the opportunity.
Photography courtesy Rowina Amick/Concentrics Restaurants
3/5
Park 75, 404-881-9898, Four Seasons Hotel Atlanta, 75 Fourteenth Street NE
Why go: Park 75 is one of Atlanta’s best steakhouses, but Chef Robert Gerstenecker draws his diverse ingredients from very local seasonal sources, not least his own rooftop terrace garden.
You must try: Angus beef strip steak with any of eight sauces, and mesquite-smoked brisket with corn purée and crispy sweet potatoes.
And this: Explore the signature cocktail series available in the living room–like lounge, which serves small plates of food.
Photography courtesy Four Seaons Hotels and Resorts
4/5
Alma Cocina, 404-968-9662, 191 Peachtree Street NE
Why go: Downtown has been humming with new restaurant activity, and this Mexican spot has all the right vibes for lunch, after-work cocktails and dinner. Choose from small plate antojitos or lavish entrées and irresistible desserts like crunchy churros fritters with chocolate dipping sauce.
You must try: Chicken mole Oaxaca with pickled onions, sesame seeds and cilantro.
And this: The variations on the margarita include the Naranjarita, made with resposado tequila, blood orange infusion, orange brandy and fresh citrus juices.
Photography courtesy Innovative Images by Lisa
5/5
Lure, 404-817-3650, 1106 Crescent Avenue NE
Why go: The name tells the tale, or tail, for Lure is devoted to a long menu that is mostly seafood, many items raw or chilled, and many others meant to be shared. It’s safe to say this is the place everyone’s talking about right now.
You must try: Broiled Gulf shrimp, seared scallop crudo with snap peas, and Georgia trout with pickled ramp butter.
And this: Get a chilled seafood platter for the table or eat it at the bar; it contains peel-and-eat shrimp, salmon tartare, whelks, devilled crab salad and surf clam with aged soy.
Photography courtesy Andrew Lee Photography

Atlanta might well claim to be the capital city of the South, and it certainly enjoys bragging rights for having many of the most exciting new and established restaurants anywhere in the U.S. Some of the best refine and update traditional Southern cooking in dazzling dining rooms that exhibit the kind of swagger plus mannerliness that characterizes the region’s hospitality.


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3 Comments about The Hot List: Atlanta’s Top Restaurants

  1. Michael says:

    Alma Cocina is a most unusual pick for a “Mariani List”. Uninspired food with amateur service in a well designed setting. So if you don’t want to eat but just look around the room, then give it a try. Park 75 is obviously related, but deserves its stripes; excellent food from an excellent chef.

  2. allen says:

    I live in Atlanta and have heard of all of them– with the exception of Park 75, they are the newest, trendiest places, most with celebrity chefs or restaurant group pedigrees. In most case, they’re popular for a reason. Park 75 doesn’t quite fit the mold, but considering it is a Four Seasons publication, I would have been shocked if they hadn’t included it.

  3. Taz Lake says:

    I live in Atlanta and not only have I not heard of most of these top restaurants, your omission of some key Atlanta restaurants combined with the shameless plug for Park75, invalidates this list in my opinion.

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