My 10 Favorite Places to Eat in Atlanta (So Far)

It’s hard to believe that there are only a few weeks of 2015 left, and even harder to believe that we’ve been in Atlanta nearly nine months already. To say we’ve been busy (working, traveling, house hunting) would be an understatement—did you notice it’s been more than a month since my last blog post?—but in between all of our obligations, we’ve managed to find a handful of great places to eat in our new home town. We have a l-o-n-g way to go before we’ve put any kind of true dent in Atlanta’s restaurant scene, but these are some of the reliable restaurants we’ve tried that guarantee a great meal. (This is by no means a best-places-to-eat-in-Atlanta list. They’re just the places that I, as a newcomer to town, have enjoyed most so far.)

Chai Pani, Decatur
My 10 Favorite Places to Eat in Atlanta (So Far) | Day In / Day Out
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I’m a longtime fan of Indian food, which, until we went to Chai Pani, I only knew as fork-and-knife dishes that involved lots of rice, sauces, dips, and meats (or, for me, veggies). Chai Pani serves Indian street food, which means it’s more casual and finger-friendly and less fussy than traditional Indian dishes. The line was long, but the wait was more than worthwhile. And the dining room is big, bright, and cheerful, and it’s a great spot for families. If you’re going for the first time, don’t be shy—order big, as you can always take leftovers home. What to try: Kale Pakoras (crispy fritters, pictured above with green chutney and sweet yogurt sauce), Bombay Chili Cheese Fries (top of the photo; we skipped the lamb hash that usually comes piled on top), Bhel Puri (not pictured, but tangy, crunchy, and spicy—just like the menu says), Vada Pav (spicy fried potato dumplings drizzled with green and tamarind chutneys and served on fluffy, ghee-toasted buns). Wash it all down with a glass of chai, which, happily, isn’t as sweet as what we often find in U.S. coffee and tea houses.

Del Frisco’s Grille, Buckhead
My 10 Favorite Places to Eat in Atlanta (So Far) | Day In / Day Out
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Del Frisco’s Grille has one of the best locations in Buckhead, right on Peachtree overlooking Lenox Plaza, and a great outdoor area where you can watch all of the professionals passing by on foot. We’d been once during the summer for a glass of wine and some appetizers in the evening, but earlier this week I was treated to an insanely delicious lunch when my friends at Del Frisco’s invited me to try its new mid-day menu. I was expecting the dining room to be overrun with loud-talking bankers and businessmen, but it was surprisingly quiet and felt more like a secret lunchtime retreat in one of Atlanta’s busiest hubs. Lucky for me, it’s located at the top of my street, so I’ll be back, and often. What to try: Ahi Tacos (crisp and crunchy miniature shells filled with buttery ahi tartare), Truffle Mac and Cheese (my favorite dish of the day; it’s made with radiatori pasta instead of traditional elbows, which, as a big texture eater, I loved), Roasted Mushroom Flatbread (fontina cheese, arugula, caramelized onions). I wasn’t planning to have dessert, but my friends in the kitchen surprised me with a slice of six-layer Lemon Doberge Cake and an entire Coconut Cream Pie (below), which was piled high with icy-looking white chocolate shavings and almost too pretty to eat. Both desserts were ba-na-nas.

My 10 Favorite Places to Eat in Atlanta (So Far) | Day In / Day Out
Photo via my Instagram

Northern China Eatery, Buford Highway
My 10 Favorite Places to Eat in Atlanta (So Far) | Day In / Day Out
Photo via my Instagram

In searching for good places to eat around Atlanta, I kept stumbling on to magazine articles  about Buford Highway, a stretch of highway in northeastern Atlanta lined on either side with amazing and cheap ethnic eateries. Earlier this summer I’d become smitten with Asian dumplings after buying a plate of them at a Piedmont Park farmers’ market, so we took our search for more delicious dumplings to Buford Highway, where we found Northern China Eatery, a hole-in-the-wall restaurant and favorite of Andrew Knowlton that we’d read about. It’s sort of hidden, it’s not at all fancy, and it’s super-affordable. We’ve been back at least twice since our first visit and will be back again. What to try: Pork Buns (per my husband), Fried Vegetable Dumplings (so crispy on the outside, served with a yummy vinegar dipping sauce), Potato-Cilantro-Carrot Salad (sounds strange. so good!), Stir Fried String Beans (with big chunks of garlic and pickled cabbage). I don’t have a menu handy, and there isn’t one online, so some of these dishes’ names might not be totally accurate. Just go and order what looks good to you!

St. Cecilia, Buckhead
My 10 Favorite Places to Eat in Atlanta (So Far) | Day In / Day Out
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A few friends had mentioned St. Cecilia in passing in the months since we’d moved here, and when we sat down for dinner on my birthday a few weeks ago, we understood what all the fuss had been about. The restaurant’s facade is somewhat misleading—it’s tall, with floor-to-ceiling windows, and a lot of glass and steel. So, I’d expected it to feel a bit sterile inside, like The Modern in NYC. But I was wrong! Instead, St. Cecilia is cozy despite its large size, and those huge windows provide nice views right out onto Peachtree Road. The lights were low, the wine was flowing, conversations were buzzing around us, and the food was totally excellent. What to try: Smelts (we didn’t love the tiny bones, but you’ll have that with smelts, and these were delicious), Burrata (always!), Cacio e Pepe pasta (taglioni with black pepper, pecorino, and parmigiano—it was DI. VINE.), and any kind of fish entree (they change) you can get your hands on.

Lee’s Bakery, Buford Highway
My 10 Favorite Places to Eat in Atlanta (So Far) | Day In / Day Out
Photo via my Instagram

Another happy discovery I made not long after moving to Atlanta was Pho (I know—I’m late to the game), and one of my husband’s office mates pointed us toward Lee’s Bakery for some of the best in town. She was right. The bowls are enormous, and the pho is chock full of cabbage and other colorful veggies. The restaurant’s exterior and location leave a little to be desired, but don’t be deterred. It’s so good, and so affordable. What to try: Pho, of course! (My regular order is a combo, which offers vegetable/tofu noodle soup and half a vegetarian banh mi—which is all the more excellent when dunked in your pho. Strange, maybe, but so what?

Murphy’s, Virginia Highlands
My 10 Favorite Places to Eat in Atlanta (So Far) | Day In / Day Out  My 10 Favorite Places to Eat in Atlanta (So Far) | Day In / Day Out
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Murphy’s was one of our earliest dining-out experiences here, and though we haven’t had a chance to go back yet, I’m sure we will. We went for brunch on a warm, sunny Sunday, and it was packed with families (in town for university graduations and/or Mother’s Day), which made for a great, lively atmosphere. The portions were almost too big to fit on our tiny table, but we managed to get it all down anyway. And before you go ordering a great-big biscuit dish, know that a basket of hot, fluffy biscuits will come to your table anyway, along with homemade fruit preserves. What to try: Malted Waffles, Portobello Frittata (both shown above), Shrimp and Cheddar Grits.

Sweet Auburn Barbecue, Poncey-Highland
My 10 Favorite Places to Eat in Atlanta (So Far) | Day In / Day Out
Image via Sweet Auburn Barbecue

Sweet Auburn holds a special place in my heart not only because it’s ridiculously good, but also because it’s the first place we ate in Atlanta, and before we even lived here. We happened upon it in the early spring when we drove over to Atlanta from Birmingham for a day to see if we even liked it here. I think our lunch at Sweet Auburn helped sell me on the city. I didn’t get a photo of our lunch, so I’ve borrowed this one from the restaurant’s website. What to try: True to form, I’ve ordered the same thing on each of our two or three visits—the “Eat Your Veggies Plate,” which is your choice of any four sides. For me, it’s always the Hand Cut Fries (skin on!), Pear Cole Slaw (so crisp and refreshing), Mac & Cheese, and Skillet Green Beans. I can’t vouch for any of the meat dishes, but even to this longtime vegetarian, they looked and smelled so good. Come to think of it, I’d like to go back to Sweet Auburn soon.

True Food Kitchen, Buckhead
My 10 Favorite Places to Eat in Atlanta (So Far) | Day In / Day Out
Image via True Food Kitchen

True Food Kitchen is one of my favorite spots in Atlanta for its huge selection of healthy dishes, plus vegetarian-, vegan, and gluten-free options (if you need them). Lucky for us, it’s just up the street in the Lenox Plaza shopping center and has a big outdoor seating area, which is a great spot to relax for dinner after work or for lunch on the weekends. I usually just drink water when we eat out, but if you come to True Food, you’ve got to start with a fresh fruit juice or other tasty drink, all of which are pressed, juiced, and mixed right on site (the Root & Remedy and the Medicine Man are my go-to drinks). True Food is big, bright, airy, light-filled, and colorful. Combine that with its good—and good-for-you—food and you can’t but feel happy when you’re there. What to try: Shiitake and Organic Tofu Lettuce Cups (pictured), Miso Soup, Kale & Avocado Dip, Harvest Chopped Salad (I add tofu), Seared Spicy Wild Caught Tuna Wrap, and Andy’s Favorite (and mine!) “TLT” (Tempeh, Lettuce, and Tomato), which is served with a half-and-half side of sweet potato home fries and crispy sautéed kale.

Seven Lamps, Buckhead
My 10 Favorite Places to Eat in Atlanta (So Far) | Day In / Day Out
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Another nearby spot in Buckhead, Seven Lamps is cozy and a great spot for a catch-up lunch with a friend, or a casual, long weekend lunch. A lot of their ingredients are sourced from local farms (on my last visit, our server told us that a local farmer drives her trout—as in, the Bramlett Farms Trout plate—in herself and delivers it in a self-packed cooler), so the menu might change from one visit to the next. I love its tucked-away spot in the Shops Around Lenox, and its long, family-style tables. Whatever you order, add a glass of wine. The warm, rustic, and woody atmosphere just kind of demands it. What to try: Cottage Fries (served with Duke’s mayo and espelette),  Crispy Cheese Sandwich (gruyere, fromage blanc, jack cheeses, avocado, egg, brioche—GAH!), Catfish Sandwich (pickled veggies, jalapeño dressing). I’m sure some of their lighter dishes are just as good—just haven’t gotten around to trying any yet!

Pho King, Buckhead
My 10 Favorite Places to Eat in Atlanta (So Far) | Day In / Day Out
Image via Pho King

My original pho find here in Atlanta, Pho King is crammed into a mix of shops in a mini strip-mall next to door to my consignment shop in Buckhead. I popped in for lunch one day while waiting for a load of consigned clothing to be sorted, and it turned out to be one of my best discoveries yet. It was brand new when I found it, and we’ve been back at least 10 times since then, each time to find it more and more packed. The pho (tofu for me, sometimes chicken for my Mr.) is simple, always hot, and comes with a side of bright, fresh mint, thai basil, lime, bean sprouts, and culantro. It’s not as loaded up as Lee’s, but it’s nice to have two pho options in town that are so different but equally delicious. What to try: Two essentials—Pho Tofu and the Thai Tea-flavored bubble tea with tapioca.

Which spots should we try next? Happy eating, Atlanta!

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