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Good Eats in Atlanta
Some cities are best known for their museums, their architecture, or their culture. While Atlanta boasts a solid assortment of all three, what locals celebrate—and debate, and pontificate about—most is its food.
Though you can find grits, BBQ, and "meat-and-three" in many low-budget and wallet-busting restaurants, Atlanta's not only about down-home Dixie cooking. There are burger boutiques for the choosy carnivore, organic-only slow-food havens for the dedicated locavore, and enough fish, tofu, and offal to suit the most discerning omnivore. Prices in Atlanta restaurants can be significantly cheaper than those in other metropolitan areas, and most places don't enforce dress codes, so you can just come as you are. Today, the stars of Atlanta's food scene, chefs like Richard Blais, Kevin Gillespie, and Hugh Acheson, are getting their due on the national stage and putting Atlanta on the culinary map. The same goes for the city's cocktail scene, thanks to innovative mixologists and barkeeps, such as Holeman & Finch's Greg Best.
Market to Market
Every Saturday from 9 am to 1 pm, dozens of local farmers, cheese mongers, popsicle makers, and bakers line the path inside Piedmont Park's 12th Street gate for the weekly Green Market (12th St. and Piedmont Ave. 404/875-7275). It's fun to wander the stalls to admire the local produce, enjoy the live music, and sample some of the fresh goodies.
Atlanta Two Ways
Sampling Atlanta's gastronomic delights doesn't have to cost a mint—though it certainly can. Here, high-end and low-end choices from some of the city's favorite food categories.
Low end: Many locals swear by Ru San's (1529 Piedmont Rd., Midtown 404/875-7042 www.rusans.com), a Georgia chain with strangely named maki ("Gone With the Wind" roll?), a hectically fun atmosphere, and reasonable prices.
High end: Tomo Japanese Restaurant (3630 Peachtree Rd., Buckhead 404/835-2708 www.tomorestaurant.com) is a spectacular splurge for sushi lovers. The chef's choice omakase, a 10-course tasting menu, starts at $100.
Low end: One of the best sandwiches in town is at The Earl (488 Flat Shoals Ave., East Atlanta 404/522-3950 www.badearl.com). Order the "Greenie Meanie Chicken," a char-grilled Cajun chicken breast topped with roasted poblano peppers and salsa verde.
High end: Holeman & Finch (2277 Peachtree Rd., Suite B, Buckhead 404/948-1175 www.holeman-finch.com), a small and cozy public house, made a name for itself with an impressive cocktail program and a signature burger. The kitchen serves small plates that include creamy farm-egg-and-pancetta carbonara and a tiny 4-ounce N.Y. strip steak.
Low end: Carver's Country Kitchen (1118 W. Marietta St., Westside 404/794-4410 www.carverscountrykitchen.com) is where locals go for huge portions of meat loaf, turnip greens, baked ham, and fried catfish for budget prices.
High end: Empire State South (999 Peachtree St., Midtown 404/541-1105 www.empirestatesouth.com) serves modern, sophisticated versions of Southern classics. The house charcuterie and "In Jars" appetizer shouldn't be missed.
Buford Highway, which stretches northeast from Buckhead to outside the perimeter, is packed with all manner of ethnic food, shopping, and nightlife. Check out the Buford Highway Farmers Market for hard-to-find Asian foodstuffs and Plaza Fiesta for everything from tacos to quinceañera dresses.
There's no shortage of cheap, delicious Mexican food along the international thoroughfare, but Taquería El Rey del Taco (5288 Buford Hwy., Doraville 770/986–0032) stands out for its carnitas tacos on homemade tortillas.
There are a number of Korean BBQ restaurants to match the burgeoning Korean population. One of the area's oldest and best, Hae Woon Dae BBQ (5805 Buford Hwy., Doraville 770/451-7957) serves outstanding bibimbap and grilled marinated meats on charcoal tabletop barbecues.
Head to Sushi House Hayakawa (5979 Buford Hwy., Doraville 770/986-0010) for authentic Japanese dining.
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