We recently took a nice relaxing trip to Atlanta. It was our anniversary! YAY, we made it to year 1, the big ONE, the greatest anniversary yet! Naturally, we chose the most romantic place in the world; Atlanta, Georgia. We wanted to get away for a bit, eat good food at the best restaurants in Atlanta, explore and relax.
Why Atlanta? Well, the flights were cheap and direct and you can’t beat that. On top of that, there’s some cool places to visit and we always like checking out new cities. Plus, any place can be as romantic as you make it!
Beyond that, the food scene in Atlanta is pretty good. I’m a big food guy and I often plan my trips around hipster restaurant joints and this one was no different.
It was a 5 night trip and I had reservations for four of those nights. I figured five days of fancy food was a bit much. Clearly, four was just the right amount. However, every other evening was filled with four elegant restaurants. We planned to dress up, have some fancy food and gaze longingly into each other’s eyes while we chewed our food. ROMANCE!
Since it was our anniversary, I also said as such with every reservation. It was basically “HEY ITS OUR ANNIVERSARY, CELEBRATE US AND MAYBE GIVE US FREE STUFF?”
I didn’t concern myself with prices too much. After all, I save to be able to live well and part of that for me is spending money on good food.
The reality is that while I might spend a lot here, often after these trips where we eat, eat and eat, I’m tired of eating out. That means we save money later by not going out the next few weeks when we get back. It all works out in the end! In either case, it was our anniversary week so definitely time to splurge and try new stuff.
For me, dining is a process that starts weeks in advance. I scour the James Beard award winners, look at menus, read reviews and eventually book stuff. Food is pretty much a hobby for me and I love reading about it so the process is very enjoyable. The reason I start so early is that a lot of these high end places in cities book up very early especially on weekends. Hell, some of them require you to pre-pay these days.
After all that research, I narrowed it down to four places. One of these was as mentioned above and required booking and paying in advance via tock, a common thing these days at high end restaurants.
What an outrage! I guess it does help them plan their menus and reduces late cancellations. The others were pay after you eat but some had cancellation fees if you cancelled without a 48hr notice. The dangers of high end eating at fancy restaurants!
I was excited to eat a bunch of food and also see what kind of difference dining on your anniversary would make. After all, it was my first one ever so I didn’t know what to expect. I’m not one for fanfare(I never say it’s my birthday when dining) BUT clearly the big first anniversary is a time to change that.
We went, we ate and now here I am telling you about these places in case you want to check them out. Beyond a food, Atlanta was actually a really cool city but that’s a topic for another time. This one’s all about the food!
Thee places below are four of the best restaurants in Atlanta. I was actually quite surprised by how many interesting food places the city had and I’m sure a few great ones didn’t make the list. After all, we were only there 5 nights so it was impossible to fit everything into our trip. There’s only so many dinners we can eat!
However, we arrived in Atlanta eager to eat and eager to have some fun in the city.
Dinner #1 – Bacchanalia
We arrived on a Tuesday, hit up the Trader Joe’s then checked into our AirBnB before heading out for dinner.
Bacchanalia is a staple of the Atlanta food scene. They’ve been around since 1993 in various locations. Their latest iteration is a large hip space in an industrial park-ish area. The restaurant is adjacent to star provisions, a meat and cheese store that has the same owners.
The space is large and wide open with hanging light bulbs and exposed duct work. It’s that type of hipster chic that’s super common in a lot of newer restaurants these days. If that wasn’t enough, they also had a bunch of rope separating seating areas which really made the hipster inside you nod in approval.
Just by the design, you can tell that the location is relatively new. For some reason, they chose weird metal seats that really gave your back a good workout with the digging they did. I let my wife sit on the leather seat which had it’s own problem as the heavy table had to be pulled out if she wanted to go pee. Life can be tough.
Bacchanalia is a four course menu situation with around six choices per course. There’s an appetizer, an entree, a cheese course and then the dessert. There’s also a bunch of expensive supplements you can take.
For example, you can have caviar service for $140 or replace your entree with A5(the highest of As) Wagyu for a $35 supplement. The four courses themselves cost $95/pp before any additions or drinks.
The food itself was quite good. It started with two small amuse-bouches, a cheese filled puff pastry and a cracker with some squash pate. I’m always a big fan of surprise courses and Bacchanalia didn’t disappoint there. After my beef tartare appetizer(pictured below), the server brought two bowls to accompany the entree. In the meantime, I had some bites of my wife’s crab fritter which was quite good. In the bowls were a lightly pickled cucumber salad and some sauteed turnips.
Mmm, meat and hey, all right, free stuff!
We both had the dry aged NY strip which was perfectly cooked.
However, I found the cheese course a bit weird. Maybe it’s just me but I think it’d fit better before and not after the entree. Beyond that the burrata didn’t really pair well with the dry oats but I did enjoy the scuppernong. That sounds like some video game monster but apparently, they’re a type of grape more common in the south. They’re also the state fruit of North Carolina. We’re learning stuff about food guys and gals!
They must have been in season because we saw them at a lot of restaurants during our week here. They had a sweet scent and a nice taste so I wasn’t complaining.
Speaking of those bad boys, after our cheese course was done, we got a cute little jar filled with scuppernong juice to get us ready for dessert. It’s a fun word to say, scuppernong!
We both went with the chocolate for dessert. It was one of those melt in your mouth flour-less chocolate cakes that I absolutely adore. I typically eat KETO but that went out the window a little bit this week as I experienced all that Atlanta had to offer(many carbs).
The only negative was that it came with a lavender chocolate gelato. Eww, flower flavors. The gelato would have been much better without the lavender. I am not a fan of flower flavors in my foods but at least it wasn’t overly strong.
Beyond that, since it was our anniversary, the server brought us a little plate of stacked cupcakes with a candle to celebrate. It was a nice little gesture and we hoped a sign of things to come. FREE STUFF!
The meal ended with a small plate of petit fours, in this case, chocolates to share. Before we left, the person at the front desk also asked us if we wanted some fresh bread for later which we took.
Service was excellent. The staff was welcoming, fast and responsive. Our waitress was great at explaining everything and the food came out at a good clip. On top of that, the bathroom had cool wallpaper of farm animals so that’s a huge plus.
Overall, Bacchanalia really hit the spot as the first stop in our tour of the best restaurants in Atlanta. After eating here on day 1, I was eagerly waiting to see what else Atlanta had to offer.
Dinner #2 – Spring
Spring in Marietta was dinner on Day 2 of our Atlanta trip. I’m not exactly sure if Marietta is part of Atlanta or a separate town but it’s on the list either way. We’re throwing geography out the window here!
Marietta is a good little day trip from Atlanta either way. It’s not too far and Marietta Square and the area that surrounds it has some nice stores, eateries and parks to visit plus it’s very walk-able. Plus, it’s got sloths for some reason. Sloths are cool. Stay slothsome gang!
We made our way here after doing some escape rooms at The Battery(Atlanta Braves stadium area). A plus was that it had decent and free after 5 P.M. parking(it was a weekday though). I’m super keen on free parking anywhere I go!
Spring is this tiny little place right off of Marietta Square. It’s got a bit of an awkward entrance in the back of a building by some train tracks and all that guides you is this little sign that’s easy to miss.
Saying it’s by some train tracks makes it sound creepy but it really isn’t, it’s just an odd entrance. It’s not like you’re gonna have to fight off train monsters and avoid getting mugged while you get there.
The place is small, maybe just north of a dozen tables in one long room. It was empty when we arrived and got seated. We are 35 going on 65 so we like to eat around 5:30 so that wasn’t a surprise. However, the place filled up pretty quickly as the evening wore on.
The service is simple as is the decor making the food the star of the show and it sure was.
Spring was one of the best meals we had in recent memory. It’s a simple and small menu with four starters, four entrees and four desserts.
My tuna crudo was a treat and my wife’s apple endive salad was a good mix of bitter and sweet flavors. My crudo looked so pretty and the fish was very fresh!
The dry aged ribeye was nothing short of amazing, seasoned to perfection with a good accompaniment of various vegetables. The only negative was that the braised short rib that came with was a bit too fatty for my taste.
On the dessert side, my wife’s gianduja custard(chocolate and hazelnut stuff) was great but it would have been better without the cherries hidden within.
And then came my dessert. Simply put, it was glorious. The best sweet thing I’ve eaten in quite some time. I’m not a sweets guy but my panna cotta was the perfect mix of flavors. There was a light sweetness with a hint of vanilla combined with the tartness of the citrus fruit that came with it.
It was heavenly, I want more of it. I’d go back to Atlanta just to eat it again. The cute little candle they added to our bowl was a nice touch for our anniversary celebration. They also comped one of our desserts as well.
FREE STUFF PART DEUX!
Service was good, not over bearing and the food was just a treat.
Dinner #3 – Staplehouse
Staplehouse’s claim to fame is being named best new restaurant in America by bon appetite magazine in 2016. The story behind the place is sad as it starts with the owners husband passing away from gallbladder cancer as they were planning to open Staplehouse.
However, it speaks to the power of community support and the good that can come from tragedy. The people who run Staplehouse donate all of their profits after payroll and taxes to The Giving Kitchen, a non for profit the owners started after the diagnosis.
You need to reserve via Tock to eat here and that requires full payment in advance. That’s $105 + taxes + gratuity which means a dinner for two here will run you $280 before drinks.
Staplehouse is a tasting menu situation. That means there’s no picking or choosing what you want to eat. You just get several dishes in small portions and eat them as they come. It’s a great thing for people who are into food but not great for those who are picky eaters. In the case of Staplehouse, they don’t even give you a menu at the start so you don’t really know what’s coming.
The whole affair is about two hours with a dozen or so plates to try. I’m a big fan of this type of menu format as you get to try a lot of things that you wouldn’t normally eat. My wife is less excited about it as she finds some of the weirder stuff gross.
The food comes at a good clip without and the wait staff does a good job of describing the food and answering any questions.
After all, there’s no menu at the start so you want to know what you’re eating! The plates start off small with small bites like the first one where the highlight was the corn puree cannoli with roe then switch to small appetizers like a tasty ribeye beef tartare.
The standout in the middle was actually a squash dish with wonderful flavor and the added crunch of some roasted quinoa.
It looks kind of sloppy but it was quite good.
The plates start to get bigger as we proceeded to a wonderful sablefish with mushrooms. This is more of an entree sized portion which is then followed with a very pretty chicken liver tart. I found the flavor too strong though and my wife thought it tasted disgusting. She did enjoy Grandma Lillian’s potato bread(a family recipe) that came after.
The final course before dessert was an aged duck which was bursting with flavor. If the meal ended there, it would have been quite great but the dessert had some issues.
It started with a kombucha as a plate cleanser then was followed by a very disappointing slice of cake paired with buttermilk ice cream. The ice cream was fine but the cake’s mix of muscandine grapes and sunflower was a real miss. The flavors didn’t pair well and the texture was too dry on one end and too soft on the other. I just don’t see sunflower a dessert flavor and that was the case here in a big way. My wife who has a big sweet tooth didn’t even finish off that course.
It was disappointing but at least the tiny scuppernong(welcome back friend!) jelly and miso chocolate we received to end the meal were delicious.
Overall, Staplehouse was an uneven meal. Most courses were delicious but some were downright bad and given the price point, that’s a bit of a downer. I’d still do it again because the highs were greater than the lows. The squash dish was as good as squash can taste and the sablefish might have been some of the best fish I’ve had. Plus, since the menu changes often(monthly for big changes and nightly for small changes), the lows might not stick around that long. However, I do think that the liver tart is a staple so uhh, I guess that’s good for liver lovers?
My wife, the picky eater, liked most of the dishes as well. The liver tart was particularly hated and she didn’t find the beef tartare particularly amazing.
Service was good and the food was delivered at a good pace.
As a nice little keepsake, they gave us a tiny little notebook with happy anniversary on it before we left. It came with a cute little pencil too.
How nice of them but I think I’d have liked a better dessert instead.
Dinner #4 – Lazy Betty
Lazy Betty was our last meal on our last night in Atlanta. Like Staplehouse, Lazy Betty offers a tasting menu. However, here you can choose between a 7 course menu in the dining room or a 10 course menu at the chef’s counter.
We went with ten course menu which has you sitting right in front of the kitchen where the chef’s cook. It’s a cool experience and well worth the high price of admission if you’re at all interested in seeing how a restaurant runs. At $165/pp, it’s one of the more expensive dinners in Atlanta but I had high hopes given the pedigree of the chefs and reviews I’ve read.
Dinner at the chef’s counter runs about 2-2.5 hrs and includes a good amount of interaction with the chefs. They bring out each course personally, explain it to you and see if you have any questions. The head chef came by a few times too to chat and ask us how things are going.
I will say that being a picky eater is hard at this place since the chefs can look at you as you eat. My wife felt embarrassed to pass off the one or two dishes she disliked to me with the person who made it standing right there.
The meal started with three small bites, salmon, duck and a little cup of roe; all quite good.
My wife actually liked most of the food here. However, the two dishes my wife she did dislike came early on.
First was the cucumber cannelloni filled with horseradish. I loved it but the horseradish was strong and my wife doesn’t handle that type of flavor well. It was definitely a dish that spoke to my Polish roots with the variety of slavic flavors. After that we had the cauliflower “bone marrow”. That succeeded at looking a bit like it’s namesake and had a mild but appealing flavor.
My wife’s next secretive pass off was the foie gras that looked pretty but wasn’t overly pleasing in flavor or texture. The pastry that the foie was encased in didn’t have the right texture and just came off as chewy.
My wife had no issues with the rest of the meal nor did I. The crab in a dashi soup was tasty and the charred Spanish octopus was cooked perfectly. My wife even ate her octopus and crab. That’s a surprise as she is not a big seafood person at all.
I will say that neither of these dishes wowed me but they were solid nonetheless.
The dukkah crusted lamb was the highlight of the meal. It included three types of lamb on two separate plates. The waiters made a big show of lifting the top plate with the weird indentation and revealing the bottom plate which had more meat! Apparently, they had the plates made specially for that dish and it took months to figure out the design. I guess it was impressive. I don’t know.
The lamb loin came with a lamb ragu and a lamb rib. All three were absolutely fantastic and made me want more as the portion was very tiny. The flavor, cook and spices were on point.
Dessert was excellent as well. The plum sorbet with ginger crumb and pomegranate foam was a good start. The foam actually had a lot of flavor which was nice to see as sometimes these foam dishes are just putting on airs.
Afterwards, our big happy anniversary plates of Bavarian with white chocolate and apple sorbet arrived. The apple sorbet was downright amazing, just full of green apple flavor. As a white chocolate fan, I also quite enjoyed the other parts of the dessert. The presentation was just as pretty as the taste and the whole thing was a perfect end to a good meal. My wife loved this dessert as well.
It wasn’t quite as good as the dessert as Spring but not much can match that.
Before we let, we got another little plate; first was another scuppernong jelly alongside a white chocolate ball and a peach macaron.
No free stuff here though. How dare they not celebrate our amazing union!
Overall, Lazy Betty was a very good and consistent meal. The highs were just as good as Staplehouse if not better and the lows were much less frequent. I’d only count one dish(the foie gras) as a miss. That’s a pretty good hit rate when you’re looking at a ten course menu. The lamb was great and the desserts really ended the meal on a high note.
Service was good and sitting at the chef’s counter gave me a good view at what was going on in the kitchen. It was nice to have the chef right there to ask any questions but it was also weird to have them there in case something sucked. The counter itself was also a bit high for the chairs. Hell, even my tall ass felt like I was a kid sitting at an adult’s table. It’s like they’re forcing you to be polite and remove your elbows from the table. Still, I quite enjoyed the meal.
It’s expensive but quite good.
The Best Restaurants in Atlanta
It’s SPRING. Crown it; the best restaurant in Atlanta. I’ve made the decision and I matter!
In all seriousness, Atlanta has a lot of good food. I only spent five days there but had four fantastic meals. However, I’m sure I missed out on a lot of places that are deserving to be on a list like this. A man who visits can only eat so much!
I was most excited about Staplehouse. However, it turned out to the worst dinner I had in Atlanta. I say worst in the best possible terms. It was still a good meal but it missed in a few spots. Perhaps that speaks to the quality of the food that’s currently on offer in Atlanta.
I’d highly recommend all four of these places. All four should be in the conversation for the best restaurant in Atlanta. I missed a lot though, I am sure of that.
These are just four of the places that stood out to me when I was doing my research. There were a ton of others that fell of the list for one reason or another. However, I still left the city very happy with the food I ate there.
Spring was definitely the best meal as shown by the rating. It was also the cheapest too so that’s a double bonus. The food was simple, straight forward and delicious.
However, if I lived in Atlanta or if I ever visit again, I’d happily visit all four of these places in a heartbeat. The food was across the board delicious. I rarely see Atlanta on any of the lists for best foodie places in America. However, after eating at these four places, I think that’s a mistake. I’m sure that will change quickly as more and more people eat at these four great places and all the other places I missed out.
For all you Atlantans(is that the right term); let me know what other places are a must try. I’m sure I’ll make my way there again sometime.