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100 Hottest Restaurants 2016
Produced by Allison Mitchell | Photo: Cape Dutch photo by Heidi Geldhauser; Himitsu photo by Angie Mosier | Written by Kate Abney, Kelly Jordan, Kate Parham Kordsmeier, Allison Mitchell, Kelsey Ogletree, Amelia Pavlik, Elissa Rosen and Chris Watkins | February 29, 2016
In a city as well-versed in food as Atlanta, it takes much more than a perfectly cooked steak or an artfully stacked cheeseburger to impress. That’s why we’re back with the 2016 edition of JEZEBEL’s 100 Hottest Restaurants, a list that takes into account not only what dishes we had to post on our Instagram page, but also which concepts are pulling in a fleet of posh patrons week after week. Thanks to you, our in-the-know readers, a record 30,000 votes, combined with the expert knowledge of our editorial team, has helped to create one of our most competitive lists yet (with six new concepts holding a spot in the top 10!). Read on to find out which restaurants to make a reservation at ASAP. Check, please!
$-Dinner entree price range
B-Brunch available [times vary]
R-Reservations accepted [restrictions may apply]
F-Furry friends welcome
This elegantly finessed concept from Justin Anthony (restaurateur behind 10 Degrees South, Yebo and the brand-new Biltong Bar at Ponce City Market) sits at the top spot on this year’s list for good reason. Since opening this past November in the former home of Woodfire Grill on Cheshire Bridge Road, it all but ushered in a real-estate revolution on this somewhat-seedy in-town strip, where even old-school Italian institution Alfredo’s will soon close. The message was clear: The future of Atlanta dining is here.
Inspired by the South African wine country from which Anthony hails, Cape Dutch gets its name from the country’s most popular mode of architecture. True to theme, its stunning interiors were devised by Anthony’s wife—the immensely talented Kelly Wolf-Anthony—and combine the multi-influential design hallmarks of the highly colonized locale with features like dry-brushed woods, weathered metal, tufted upholstery and airy glass accents. (Don’t forget to take a pic in front of the “Frankly my dear, I don’t give a damn” canvas before your visit’s end.)
The buzzing bar scene—relegated to the front half of the restaurant—is comfy but chic, like the keeping room of a well-appointed home where a good-looking crowd routinely fills its numerous seating groups, under the watchful eye of General Manager Mitch Flowers. Cocktails by lead mixologist Sean Gleason include The Luchador, a tequila version of the Old Fashioned; and the food menu, which is somehow simultaneously light and ultraflavorful, was whipped up by legendary Executive Chef Philippe Haddad (formerly of The Ritz-Carlton and F&B Atlanta). His robust proteins are braai-grilled right in the dining room (sit at table one for the best view). Top menu items include the out-of-this-world elk chop (paired with spaghetti squash, oyster mushrooms and a berry-filled lady apple); melt-in-your-mouth, fall-off-the-bone braised rabbit leg (served on a bed of roasted shallots, carrots and spinach-whipped mashed potatoes); whole Maine Lobster (truffle vinaigrette, anyone?); three cuts of steak (including the shareable 30-ounce porterhouse); and the delicate porcini ravioli bathed in sage, brown butter and Parmesan (splurge for the fresh black truffle shavings). Wines are a big draw here, so be sure to call upon sommelier Stacey Blalock for a few suggestions (she’ll help you sample them right at your table); then sweeten the deal with the Callebaut Belgian chocolate soup paired with H&F bread and sweet rice crisps for crunch. This is Anthony and Haddad at their best, and it’s better than we ever dreamed.
START WITH Foie gras brulee
MAIN COURSE Elk chop
SIP ON The Luchador
END WITH Callebaut Belgian chocolate soup
HOT FACTOR Sit at the chef’s table for the best view of the braai and the entire dining room. (Hint: It’s table one.)
There’s no denying sushi is H-O-T in Atlanta, but none can compete with the level of freshness, variety and finesse you’ll find at Umi, undeniably Atlanta’s superlative sushi restaurant that’s scored a spot on our list since its debut. There’s a reason that nearly three years after opening, Umi, owned by longtime Atlantans Farshid Arshid, Charlie Hendon and chef Fuyuhiko Ito, is still the toughest table to snag in the city.
Once inside the luxe dining room (think floor-to-ceiling hand-charred cypress walls, striking orb chandeliers and a showstopping terrarium, all anchored around the 23-foot custom white-oak sushi bar), it’s clear Umi far surpasses the hype.
And that’s before the fish procession begins. Though you’ll find a curated selection of sushi rolls (you can’t go wrong with the pressed lobster box roll) and Nobu-inspired dishes, where Umi outshines its competitors is with Tokyo-born partner-chef Ito’s sashimi and nigiri. Splurge on the omakase menu (meaning chef’s choice) and let the vivacious Ito San (as he’s known to regulars) spoil you with jet-fresh fish. With more than two dozen species behind the counter, expect a parade of seafood (it’s flown in from around the world, including the legendary Tsukiji fish market in Japan, every day) that goes way beyond standard tuna, salmon and yellowtail. We’re talking shima-aji; kinmedai (goldeneye red snapper), hotate (live scallop); and high-end delicacies, like A5 wagyu beef, foie gras, uni (sea urchin) and monkfish liver. Don’t leave without trying the specialty nigiri—melt-in-your-mouth otoro (fatty tuna belly) elegantly draped over supple rice with a drizzle of truffled soy sauce, a dollop of caviar and a fiery serrano chile. Be sure to save room for dessert as well, and we don’t mean an orange slice. You’ll find unexpected creature comforts rarely found in Asian restaurants, from incredible desserts prepared by the chef’s wife, Pastry Chef Lisa M. Ito, to an exceptional craft cocktail program and tableside coffee service from Lamill Coffee.
Truly, no detail is left undone. Every single item, from reservations and glassware to chopsticks, paper and even the heated toilets is hand-picked and reviewed on a daily basis. And it’s all served up by one of the city’s most passionate, hospitable and knowledgeable staffs. Yep, Umi checks all the right boxes.
START WITH Avocado salad
MAIN COURSE Rock shrimp tempura
SIP ON Moscow mule with fresh ginger and sake
END WITH Green tea souffle
HOT FACTOR Though the dining room buzzes with celebs and socialites, the best seat in the house is at the sushi bar, where chef Ito personalizes your meal (spring for the omakase) as you watch him slice and dice with theater-like showmanship.
It’s been a little more than six months since Dolce Italian landed on the scene at The Shops Buckhead Atlanta, and A-Listers like Carrie Underwood, Ludacris and Gabrielle Union have already made pit stops at this LDV Hospitality stunner. One trip up the glass-paneled elevator, wedged between Etro and Intermix, will instantly transport you back to Fellini’s Rome of the 1960s. Midcentury furniture, courtesy of Chris Sheffield of SL Design, invites guests to stay awhile via supple leather booths, warm wooden tables and Instagram-worthy mosaic floors. Outside, a 50-person patio wows with chic red wicker chairs and tufted leather sofas, the perfect spot for enjoying an aperol spritz while taking in the Buckhead skyline. And we’re not the only ones buzzing about the city’s hottest throwback concept—the brand recently beat out the competition on Bravo’s series Best New Restaurant alongside sister locations in Miami and Chicago.
Charming General Manager Nick Ladikos (previously of Here to Serve Restaurants) is providing leadership direction while chef Brandon Hughes is highlighting authentic Italian flavors accompanied by artful presentation. While the menu will be updated seasonally, standout staples include a variety of seafood and meat options, pizzas and handmade pastas. To start, the grilled octopus with grilled endive, confit artichokes, romesco and smoked fingerlings is a choice option for adventurous palates. Traditional tasters will love the Dolce meatballs with creamy polenta and Parmigiano. Main-course highlights include the Tartufata pizza (fior di latte, speck, spicy salami and truffle oil), butternut squash tortelli (sage, brown butter, mushrooms and pumpkin seeds) and pappardelle alla Bolognese (braised beef, veal and pork ragu). For hearty eaters, the whole roasted branzino with vegetable couscous and palermo sauce shines. Follow each savory bite with a sip of the spicy raspberry Collins, a refreshing cocktail punctuated by a surprising kick of jalapeno. And before you finish an evening Don Draper himself would envy, save room for the Nutella Budino (oatmeal cookie crumble and amarena gelato) or house fave semifreddo (caramelized pecans, maple syrup and bomboloni). Now that’s amore!
START WITH Dolce meatballs
MAIN COURSE Pappardelle alla Bolognese
SIP ON Spicy raspberry Collins
END WITH Semifreddo with caramelized pecans, maple syrup and bomboloni
HOT FACTOR Depending on who you know, you can order a Stella pizza, which is any of the menu’s pies in the shape of a star.
It’s usually a safe bet to judge a Tex-Mex restaurant based on its guacamole. Superica’s is good—fresh and simple, served with extra-thick chips—but where Ford Fry’s Krog Street Market establishment really shines is outside. “The patio is just clutch,” remarks Wes, a server who lives in the neighborhood, which straddles the line between Inman Park and Cabbagetown. And he’s right: It’s the kind of spot that makes you want to settle in for a while.
The laid-back environs are a big part of the charm, and you’ll find an eclectic mix of ATLians—from business suits to BeltLine walkers to hipsters with manbuns—noshing and imbibing until the wee hours (the kitchen takes orders until about 10:30pm on weekends). From spring through fall, alfresco tables are in high demand. Prepare to wait two or three hours on a weekend night, as reservations aren’t a thing.
But the opportunity for catching up over cocktails with choice picks like The O.G. margarita (small but mighty), the Vampire Weekend (with housemade horchata and spiced rum) or Mexican beer served in a frosty mug make the time fly. A window bar with seats outside opening to the bar inside fills up fast; there are also plenty of bar stools inside in the Texas-mod inspired interior by New York-based firm Parts and Labor Design.
The Bob Armstrong, a Texas-inspired queso made with yellow cheese and topped with ground beef, avocado and sour cream, is a must-order. Both that and the guacamole come highly recommended by General Manager Andrew Palermo (formerly of King + Duke). For the main course, the steak fajitas are divine; and for the extra hungry, the tampiquena (marinated wood-grilled skirt steak covered with a cheese enchilada and fried egg) or the whole-roasted Gulf red snapper are both smart choices.
Dessert options include a to-die-for tres leches cake with passion fruit-infused whipped cream that’s worth undoing that extra button on your now-snug pants. Then again, it’s just as easy to skip dessert in lieu of another round of cocktails and soak up the ambience a bit longer. Tex-Mex looks good on you, Mr. Fry, and we’re bold enough to say, it’s the best in town.
START WITH Queso fundido
MAIN COURSE Chicken verde enchiladas
SIP ON Texas Star
END WITH Tres leches cake
HOT FACTOR Catch live music starting at 10pm on Fridays and Saturdays. Not much of a night owl? Pop in Monday through Friday for the $11 lunch special.
3050 Peachtree Road NW | Buckhead | $6-$50 | R
Shhh, Himitsu is now open. There’s no phone number. No sign. No line. Reservations are mandatory and notoriously tough to snag. To get in, you need a password, or your eyeballs must be in their Rolodex for entry via the iris scanner. What kind of bar is this?! If you haven’t already heard, Himitsu (meaning secret in Japanese) is the latest progeny of Atlanta entrepreneurs Farshid Arshid, Charlie Hendon and Fuyuhiko Ito of Umi fame.
If it sounds like the kind of place where James Bond and Batman might go tête-à-tête over martinis, you’re right. In its opening week, DETAILS named Himitsu the world’s most exclusive cocktail bar. The very first full American concept from world-renowned designer Tom Dixon (the lounge was featured last month in Vogue Italia), Himitsu is not your average cocktail watering hole. By raising the barrier of entry, what could be just another bar has been elevated to Michelin status.
Revel in the $200,000 worth of Baccarat crystal in which each artfully crafted cocktail is served at this sexy bi-level speakeasy, reminiscent of a posh jewelry box. Plush emerald leather banquettes and luxe mirrored tables twinkle below lava-like chandeliers and shining copper surfaces, all anchored around a massive masterpiece—Todd Murphy’s “King of Birds” painting.
The team is equally first-class. Himitsu’s beverage program is helmed by Creative Director Shingo Gokan, founder of Speak Low in Shanghai, director of Angel’s Share in NYC and winner of the global Bacardi Legacy Cocktail Competition in 2012; and local mixologist extraordinaire T. Fable Jeon. Husband-and-wife team chef Fuyuhiko and pastry chef Lisa Ito from Umi handle the eats.
With more than 110 wines and 30 sakes, the cocktail program complements the wide-ranging list (which is delivered via iPad) with seven signature Ginza-style cocktails (think ritual-heavy, culinary-influenced concoctions indicative of Japanese precision and finesse) and seven classic Americana cocktails from Jeon. For non-drinkers, Acqua Armani water entices.
Even the bathrooms are over-the-top. Aesop soap, $20,000 toilets with warmed seats and state-of-the-art bidets are exactly the kind of details nearly every other bar overlooks. But not Himitsu. They know in order to be truly extraordinary, you can’t be for the ordinary. And if you can score a reservation, you’ll see Himitsu is anything but.
START WITH Ito-Gio pizza
MAIN COURSE Scallop tiradito
SIP ON Toryufu
END WITH Mille crepe
HOT FACTOR If you’re a regular at Himitsu, ask to be put on file for quick, anytime entry via the iris scanner.
Steak and seafood take center stage at Chops Lobster Bar, an iconic Atlanta restaurant that has been wowing patrons for more than two decades with its exceptional service and high-quality fare under the watchful eye of General Manager Kevin Brown. A dimly lit dining room dotted with white tablecloths and supple booths awaits at the upstairs Chops, while an uberexclusive speakeasy-esque party beckons downstairs at Lobster Bar. No matter where you take a seat, knowledgeable servers will guide you through Executive Chef Ryan Delesandro’s magical menu.
Decadence shines throughout with tableside specialties like tenderloin steak tartare and fresh Dover sole, adding a theatric element to the dining experience. Go big with an over-the-top shellfish tower, a must-try for seafood lovers. Think Maine lobster, jumbo shrimp, ceviche, cold-water oysters and colossal lump crab nestled on a tiered bed of ice. All offshore fare is flown in daily for top-notch taste and texture. For carnivore enthusiasts, you can’t go wrong with any of the resto’s namesake entrees. Only USDA prime cuts will make their way to your plate, whether you prefer the filet mignon or the epic bone-in New York sirloin dry-aged with Himalayan pink salt. Our top rec? The coveted 100 percent A5 authentic wagyu Kobe beef (available in filet- or New York strip-style cuts). Chops happens to be one of the only restos in the city to even have it on the menu. Please your palate by slathering foie gras, white truffle butter or traditional bearnaise sauce on any of the exquisite meat options.
And what would a true steakhouse be without satiating sides to pair with the main course? Shareable picks include truffle Parmesan fries, thin green beans with shallot butter, cream curly mac and smoked Gouda, and the memorable hashed potato tots with blue cheese truffle sauce. Light eaters will equally enjoy the Italian-inspired burrata mozzarella, tomato and arugula salad (with fresh basil, white balsamic and extra virgin olive oil), the chilled iceberg wedge BLT (with triple- cream blue cheese and bacon) and the specialty warm spinach and mushroom salad (prepared tableside).
Finish off the meal with indulgent chocolate toffee crunch pie or sweet, warm bread pudding with vanilla sauce. No matter what you order, Chops delivers. Now, meat your match!
START WITH Signature fried lobster tail
MAIN COURSE A5 wagyu steak
SIP ON Chops classic martini
END WITH White chocolate banana cream pie
HOT FACTOR While Chops and Lobster Bar share a menu, Lobster Bar has the best lighting in the city, making it a choice spot for a romantic date night. Many film crews request to use it in television shows and movies due to the lighting!
When Top Chef alum Kevin Gillespie left his post at the now-defunct Woodfire Grill to open a dim sum-meets-Brazilian-churrascaria restaurant in East Atlanta’s Glenwood neighborhood, we weren’t sure what to expect. Turns out, that’s the beauty of Gunshow. No matter how many times you dine at the interactive eatery, you can never guess what your meal might hold. Gillespie works with Executive Chef Joey Ward and a curated handful of young guns (pun intended) to create new, innovative dishes on a near daily basis.
Perhaps the most successful restaurant marketing tactic in history, pushcarts carry the latest creations from Gillespie and his fellow culinary maestros directly to diners. Chefs personally explain their works of art, describing the taste, the technique and the story behind each dish, making it impossible to turn down any plate—not that you’d want to. Though there have been the occasional misfires over the years, nearly every dish bursts with unique flavor, innovative combinations and intoxicating aromas you won’t find anywhere else in the city: Just look at the Indian-inspired escargot and Jamaican curried goat, Vietnamese chicken and waffles or oyster-mushroom Rockefeller for proof.
Gunshow’s high-energy space is equally distinctive—the open kitchen sits front and center in the communal dining room (long tables are shared by multiple parties), so sparse it’s virtually undecorated, save for a small merch stand up front. And don’t miss the cocktail cart. Barkeep Mercedes O’Brien invents a short list of dangerously delicious sippers each week, which she wields around the room, rewarding thirsty patrons while she shakes and strains. Bottoms up!
START WITH Kung Pao Brussels sprouts
MAIN COURSE Closed-On-Sunday chicken sandwich
SIP ON Toasted Old-Fashioned
END WITH Warm old-fashioned banana pudding
HOT FACTOR Hired Guns (aka hot chefs from around the country) cook dinner on select Sunday and Monday nights (when the restaurant is closed) for $95 per person. This season’s all-stars include Brian Baxter of HUSK in Nashville, Tenn.; Kenny Gilbert of Gilbert’s Underground Kitchen in Fernandina Beach, Fla.; Brooke Williamson of Hudson House in Redondo Beach, Calif., and more.
Ford Fry’s first hotel project inside Midtown’s Four Seasons Hotel Atlanta has everything you’d expect—a classy design, relaxed vibe and over-the-top delicious food, courtesy of Executive Chef Robert Gerstenecker. Its richly hued surrounds, comfy seating (think navy leather and burnt-orange velvet banquettes) and lively bar scene works equally well for post-work cocktails on Tuesday as it does for a first-date spot on Saturday.
The menu begins with “Snacks.” Underwhelming in title, the crab toast is overwhelmingly flavorful. Grilled bread topped with huge chunks of fresh crab, avocado coulis and rooftop garden herbs is bright and lemony; it’s also the perfect complement to the delicate, refreshing Lady Victoria cocktail (Hangar One vodka, lemon juice, Cocchi Americano and rosemary), served in a retro glass.
Next up is “More,” a section of the menu also filled with shareable apps. The cheese and charcuterie plate is good (the honeycomb is a nice touch), but the ahi crudo topped with soy truffle vinaigrette will be gobbled up first. Small plates are a plus here because you’ll want to sample nearly one of everything off the cocktail menu too. Bartender Joe Haywood’s old-school concoctions like Mercy Street (a twist on an Old Fashioned) and Sour in the Dark (whiskey sour, the remix) are palate pleasers. And if you have a preggo (or just a teetotaler or DD) in your group, Haywood shakes up some great mocktails too.
If you have room for a main dish, the spicy shrimp sugo with rice dumplings is just the right size and has a nice kick (soak up the sauce with extra crostini from your charcuterie plate), and you can’t go wrong with the simple tagliolini cacio e pepe pasta.
The most impressive part of a meal at Bar Margot? By far, it’s dessert. For a special occasion, go for the chocolate bomb. It requires 24-hour notice to the kitchen, but it’s one of the most impressive desserts we’ve seen in Atlanta. A hand-painted chocolate sphere—almost too pretty to eat—gets doused in hot caramel sauce to reveal ice cream inside. Scoop the entire melted, gooey mess into the accompanying bowl of homemade brownies, and we’re pretty sure this is what heaven looks (or tastes) like.
START WITH Burrata with pistachio butter, sorghum and grilled sourdough
MAIN COURSE Bavette steak with butter-poached king crab and potato puree
SIP ON Gin Margot
END WITH Sticky toffee cake with ginger ice cream
HOT FACTOR Get your late-night groove on Friday and Saturday nights when a DJ spins until 1am.
Sometimes you just need to enjoy some sinfully cheesy potato gratin with an exquisite bottle of bubbly. And there’s no better place to indulge in this foodie fantasy than at The Shops Buckhead Atlanta’s Le Bilboquet. This little piece of Paris, with roots that go back to 1986 in NYC’s Upper East Side, opened its Atlanta doors in late 2014. And with design details (courtesy of Paris native Carolina von Humboldt of NYC’s CvH Interiors) like blue velvet banquettes, well-appointed art, crisp white tablecloths and sidewalk seating straight out of a Parisian postcard, you’ll feel like you’ve been transported to a French cafe—minus the jet lag.
If you’re looking for a spot to enjoy a post-shopping sip, sidle up to Le Bilboquet’s posh pewter bar, which has become one of the see-and-be-seen drink destinations in the neighborhood. And the brunch set can rejoice as well, as the eatery hosts a weekly Saturday brunch party from 1 to 5pm, where you can dance away the afternoon while sipping on champs. Menu highlights include crepes with a caramelized blend of fresh orange juice and Grand Marnier or Nutella, brioche French toast with maple syrup or poached eggs with smoked salmon and spinach.
Thanks to chef Jean Louis Sangare (a 16-plus-year veteran with the resto), madames and monsieurs (including A-Lister Robert De Niro, who’s pulled up a chair more than once) in the mood for an authentic French bistro meal have a variety of palate pleasers from which to select. Must-tries include the tuna tartare, jumbo lump crab with corn and avocado, Cajun chicken, and lemon veal scallopini paired with creamy mashed potatoes. And don’t you dare forget the mouthwatering PEI steamed mussels served in a delicious white wine and shallot sauce with a side of fries. (We indulge every time.) Finish your feast on a sweet note with the decadent mousse au chocolat, profiteroles or sweet creme brulee. Oui, s’il vous plaît!
START WITH Crispy octopus with chickpeas
MAIN COURSE Signature Cajun chicken with beurre blanc and french fries
SIP ON French Buckhead 75
END WITH Mousse au chocolat
HOT FACTOR Le Bilboquet has become the state’s largest buyer of Champagne. Pair a glass of bubbly with homemade crepes suzette (available on Sundays for in-the-know guests).
Having opened in July, this European-inspired steakhouse from Ford Fry proved to be everything we anticipated and more: a touch Moulin Rouge—with sumptuous, residential-inspired furnishings and a plush, parlor-like entryway. Further inside, you find a square-shaped bar occupied by charming barmen and fabulously relaxed patrons, plus a dining room replete with Midcentury-style light fixtures, oxblood-colored leather booths and cheeky baroque wallpaper inspired by New York City street scenes. That last little detail serves as an unexpectedly entertaining conversation piece—that is, if chef Brian Horn’s cuisine doesn’t get you talking enough. Fans of JCT. Kitchen & Bar know that Horn’s fare is exceptional to say the least.
The dining experience here starts with a selection of cappicola and olives, plus oily focaccia with herbaceous whipped ricotta. Next up? Perhaps a Caesar salad with the ideal amount of unctuous dressing and an attractive scatter of decadent, pungently flavored croutons. So far, so good. You also can’t go wrong with the garlicky escargot with parsley butter, nor with the oysters Bienville, a sizzling savory dish topped with decadent accompaniments like mushrooms, cheese and bacon bits. Opt for the pommes aligot (pureed potatoes)—they’re dangerously addictive, especially alongside a bloody cut of steak. True to expectation, these supreme-quality, perfectly aged proteins set this restaurant head and shoulders above others. And if you want to enjoy these eats at a steal, just come in late night—after bar-hopping on the Westside—when faves like duck confit-topped fries and a bacon cheeseburger are offered for just $10 a plate. If you’re still down for a nightcap, pair your haute chow with a La Vie en Rose, a delectable rye whiskey libation that zings with orange bitters and grenadine. Have any questions? General Manager Mac Angulo will make sure your every whim is attended to. At your service, indeed!
START WITH Oysters Bienville
MAIN COURSE Beef Wellington for two
SIP ON Le Bombardier
END WITH Baked Alaska
HOT FACTOR Midnight munchies won’t break the bank at Marcel, as the resto’s late-night menu on Fridays and Saturdays offers many of the most popular entrees for just $10 per plate.