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100 Hottest Restaurants 2017
By The Editors | Photo: by Andrew Thomas Lee | February 23, 2017
In a major foodie city like Atlanta, it takes more than a perfect bite or a pretty plate to impress—although those factors are certainly important. A-Town diners also want the skinny on the see-and-be-seen spots, the happy-hour must-hits, the A-list clientele and the Instagram-worthy backdrops (we’re looking at you, Little Trouble!). That’s why we’ve compiled this 2017 edition of JEZEBEL’s 100 Hottest Restaurants, which takes into account not only the dishes we can’t stop dreaming about, but also the concepts that are drawing posh patrons week after week. Combining your votes with our editorial team’s expertise, we’ve created a list that reflects what’s happening now in Atlanta’s savvy eat and drink scene. Read on, and start making reservations!
$ - Dinner entree price range
B - Brunch available [times vary]
R - Reservations accepted [restrictions may apply]
P - Patio dining
F - Furry friends welcome
“Staplehouse” has become somewhat of a buzzword around our city—mention the name, and you can expect a conversation to ensue about one or more of the following topics. First and foremost, it’s a restaurant doing a ton of good in the community. The labor-of-love concept, born from late chef Ryan Hidinger and wife Jen’s underground supper club, now funnels post-tax profits to nonprofit org The Giving Kitchen, which supports Atlanta-area restaurant workers facing an unanticipated hardship. Next, it’s received a number of impressive accolades, from the No. 1 spot on Bon Appétit’s “Best New Restaurants 2016” list to the James Beard Award nomination for best chef: Southeast (chef Ryan Smith is a bona fide rock star in the kitchen and is completely redefining what modern Southern cooking looks and tastes like). And finally, it’s wildly popular—with a reservation waitlist and diners booking their tables months in advance, Staplehouse is easily the hottest ticket in town. Once you do snag a rez, you’ll be treated to a thoughtful, creative and ever-changing menu of seasonal offerings while seated in either the main dining room or at one of the communal-style tables on the enclosed patio. And, yet, despite all the hype, it’s the feeling you get from experiencing a meal at Staplehouse that stays with you more than anything else—it’s warm, joyful and comforting, like enjoying dinner at home with old friends.
HOT FACTOR Staplehouse’s five-course tasting menu with supplemental wine pairings is an over-the-top ATL dining experience that can only be described as magical. Smith’s talent is on full display here, delivering awe-inspiring dishes that draw heavily on availability and seasonality of ingredients.
Since opening in late September 2016 at The Shops Buckhead Atlanta, American Cut has quickly become a go-to dining and drinking destination for ATL’s posh set, with three levels offering a variety of experiences packed into one seriously sexy spot. Start by grabbing a cocktail at the swank downstairs bar packed with pretty people. Then, once your table is ready, enter the glitzy art deco-esque dining room (complete with supple Hermès leather chairs—really!) to indulge in executive chef John Adamson’s standout entrees like the 40-ounce cast iron-seared tomahawk rib-eye or chili lobster served with Texas toast while sipping an Old Fashioned smoked tableside. Save room for dessert: The Crackerjack sundae, monkey bread with grilled peaches and s’mores flame are as delicious as they sound. After dinner, The Regent Cocktail Club—the restaurant’s top-floor lounge—beckons for a Southside of the Border in a copper mug paired with breathtaking city vistas on the wraparound patio or private cigar porch. Lounge on one of the chesterfields or leather-slung butterfly chairs that look straight out of Mad Men and toast to the high life—at this hot new fixture on the Buckhead dining scene, it’s hard not to feel like a VIP.
HOT FACTOR American Cut has seen an all-star lineup of athletes come through its doors, from Buffalo Bills running back LeSean McCoy to New York Knicks forward Carmelo Anthony to Carolina Panthers QB Cam Newton. Keep your eyes peeled on your next visit!
When Kevin Gillespie decided to flex his culinary moxie in 2013 with the opening of his restaurant Gunshow, fans of the Top Chef alum were both excited and apprehensive about the red-bearded chef’s first solo foray. A dim-sum style dining experience where innovative dishes steeped in fresh, sustainable ingredients are wheeled out on a cart for guests to choose from was quite the gamble and shock to the Atlanta dining scene. But it’s one that’s paid off. The menu is a moving target of deliciousness that traverses the senses in dishes that range from rustic to refined, allowing the chefs to tell emotional stories through the lens of their food. Fast-forward four years, and it’s still tough to get a reservation at the Glenwood Park mainstay, which has garnered numerous accolades in Atlanta publications (including several prior JEZ “100 Hottest” nods); recognition in national outlets from GQ to Esquire; and, not to mention, the flood of celebs like Mindy Kaling, Usher and Andre 3000 who have gotten their tickets to the Gunshow.
HOT FACTOR Keep an eye out for Gunshow’s Hired Guns series featuring rising culinary talent from across the nation. Although the March 12 edition featuring Top Chef alum Jennifer Carroll of Washington, D.C.’s Requin is already sold out, save the date for May 7, when chef Grae Nonas of Tullibee at the Hewing Hotel in Minneapolis will helm the kitchen for a night. Tickets go on sale one month prior to the event.
To simply call Umi the best overall sushi restaurant in Atlanta would be an understatement and doesn’t do justice to the ethereal culinary undertaking executive chef Fuyuhiko Ito has created. While nigiri and sashimi are sliced with surgeonlike precision, and the freshest seafood is bathed in flavor only amplified by Ito’s French training, the complete aura of Umi’s elegant warmth is what draws patrons to this Buckhead sushi temple like moths to a flame. Always a packed affair, the scene that plays host to a deluge of Hollywood heavyweights, music royalty and sports icons too many to name was only compounded when the team lifted the veil on their exclusive, reservation-only bar next door, Himitsu. The moody and glitzy space from acclaimed designer Tom Dixon screams exclusivity, and part of the fun is the enigmatic process of gaining entry. From imbibing meticulously crafted cocktails and sipping bespoke Japanese whiskies to dining on the most incredible sushi in the city, Umi and Himitsu serve as the litmus test for Atlantans looking for a one-of-a-kind dining experience.
HOT FACTOR Impress any date by planning your evening ahead with an Umi/Himitsu one-two punch. Secure a spot at the reservation-only bar by requesting the date/time at firstname.lastname@example.org, including the word “LOVE” in the subject line. Upon confirmation, guests receive an email or call regarding the details of the request.
Though this beloved Fifth Group Restaurants concept isn’t new by any means, the addition of a buzzy Buckhead outpost in 2016 helped catapult South City Kitchen to the top of this year’s “100 Hottest” list. The eatery’s new location, nestled at the base of a bustling high-rise on Peachtree Road, maintains the charming quality of its successful sister spots in Midtown and Vinings, yet boasts a charisma that’s entirely its own—thanks in large part to an inviting two-tiered patio that’s become a magnet for the after-work crowd and Sunday brunch-seekers alike. Of course, it wouldn’t be a meal at SCK without the classic fried green tomatoes or the mind-blowingly-good Springer Mountain Farms fried chicken (at brunch, the fried chicken and malted buttermilk waffle is a must-order—trust us!), but Buckhead menu highlights like spice grilled quail and Georgia mountain trout—not to mention a special “For the Table” section featuring large plates to be shared family-style—are equally hard to resist. (And don’t get us started on the divine desserts... chocolate caramel angel pie? Yes, please!). With every dish, executive chef Jason Starnes is focused on locality, crafting sophisticated Southern eats from regionally grown, seasonal ingredients. And what could be more delicious than that?
HOT FACTOR Elevate happy hour (literally) on South City Kitchen Buckhead’s epic patio situation overlooking Peachtree. The bar stocks three custom-blended bourbons—perfect for sipping by the outdoor fireplace on a warm Atlanta evening.
This old-school Atlanta steakhouse continues to please patrons’ palates more than two decades after opening, cementing itself as one of the city’s most iconic fine-dining destinations. A two-in-one concept keeps things exciting and fresh: Upstairs, Chops boasts a dimly lit, dark-wood dining room complete with white tablecloths and elegant booths, making it the ultimate romantic date-night spot; while downstairs, Lobster Bar offers an uberexclusive speak-easy experience (the lighting is so excellent here that many film crews request to use it in TV shows and movies!). Regardless of where you land, the resto’s main focus is on exceptional service and the highest-quality surf and turf, from the certified 100 percent A5 authentic wagyu Kobe beef (Chops is one of the only restos in the city currently serving it) to the Maryland-style jumbo lump crabcakes and, of course, the famous steamed and cracked Maine lobsters. Shareable sides shine just as bright, whether you opt to indulge in hashed potato tots with blue cheese truffle sauce or creamy curly mac and smoked Gouda. Sweet, warm bread pudding or toffee crunch pie are the cherries on top of a decadent evening.
HOT FACTOR After dinner, if you know the right people, head to The Club, the swank, invite-only spot downstairs. Special wine options are available, as well as cigars chosen from the house humidor room. Rumor has it that celebs and VIPs hang here, so privacy is king.
8Arm, a hip Va-Hi restaurant with an adjoining coffee shop from the guys behind Octopus Bar, opened in fall 2016 and has been steadily gaining steam, despite the tragic death of chef/co-owner Angus Brown in January. It would have been easy to quit after such a devastating loss, but Brown’s partner, Nhan Le, is moving forward with their concept, recently adding a full beverage program to elevate the rotating eight-item menu. Now, the edgy-industrial space on Ponce truly offers something for everyone, at any time of day: coffee from Octane and other top-notch roasters; daily breakfast available via counter service, and brunch on weekends; bread and pastries baked in-house; and lunch and dinner menus highlighting clean, healthy dishes with a less-is-more approach—think burrata and prosciutto drizzled with sherry, olive oil and basil, and mussels atop pain au levain with nori butter and ginger. In February, the resto also opened a covered patio, offering guests the option of dining outside on warm spring days and ordering drinks at the walk-up bar housed in a renovated shipping container (too cool!). And now the team’s announced plans for Ama, a seafoodcentric spot on the BeltLine with a raw bar and wood-fired grill, scheduled to bow this summer. They’ve truly got their tentacles in everything.
HOT FACTOR In addition to launching a full bar in February, 8Arm also debuted a late-night menu (starting at 10pm, to cater to ATL’s service industry) featuring a delish lobster roll, plus the beloved burger formerly served at Brown’s and Le’s now-shuttered Lusca.
It’s a trip around the globe—no passport required—at Gypsy Kitchen. The restaurant’s flavor-packed food is only rivaled by the sweeping views from the rooftop patio and gorgeous people filling every booth. Step inside this hot spot next to brother concept The Southern Gentleman at The Shops Buckhead Atlanta and head straight to the lively bar (the one with a giant metal fighting bull perched above—you can’t miss it). There, you’ll discover stellar wine and cocktails like The Seville Rose, made with dried rose petals. In addition to the oversize Spanish symbol, design elements like Moroccan-inspired pendant lights and ornate Indian tile add to the multicultural ambiance. But it’s the food that truly takes diners on a culinary adventure (the restaurant’s motto is, after all, “Travel like a gypsy; eat like a king”): Platos largos like whole roasted fish and dry-aged bone-in New York strip steak mingle with smaller yet equally shareable entrees such as seafood paella and Moroccan spiced Berkshire ribs. The menu also features tapas ranging from garlic shrimp and yellowfin tuna tartare to heartier grilled Spanish octopus and lamb kefta tagine, as well as a variety of a la carte embutidos (cured meat) and quesos. Wrap up your tour abroad with a selection off the amaro and sherry cart, paired with sugary churros for a sweet finish.
HOT FACTOR Aside from Gypsy Hour (Monday to Friday, 4:30 to 6:30pm), when tapas are just $4 to $5, the time to go to Gypsy Kitchen is every Sunday at 5pm, when the resto’s Basque Sundays promotion is in full swing, featuring a live flamenco guitarist, an expansive selection of half-off bottled wine, and a special rotating menu of pinchos and montaditos. Salud!
Since Kimball House opened in the old Decatur railway depot in 2013, the spot known for absinthe-based cocktails and an impressive raw bar selection has been a staple on our “100 Hottest” list. (And, diners, rejoice! Kimball House now accepts reservations.) The restaurant itself is a throwback to a public house in a bygone era, with stacks of antique books, vintage sconces and high-backed tufted leather booths—even a library ladder on a rolling track behind the polished wood bar—oozing relaxed elegance. Ubertalented co-owner and mixologist Miles Macquarrie works his magic with meticulous drinks like the Afternoon Delight (absinthe, pineapple, lime, bay, cava) that pair well with an order of oysters on the half shell, which arrive on an ornate iced-down pewter tray. Then it’s on to the dinner menu, a dazzling, daily-changing variety of veggies, fish and meats, with one mainstay: the three-course steak dinner, which includes soup, salad and New York strip, along with a mix of seasonal vegetables (much of Kimball House’s produce is grown on-site). It’s simple yet classic—much like the restaurant itself, which nods to the past while being decidedly of-the-moment.
HOT FACTOR Kimball House expanded last year with the opening of Bonanza!, a private event space and casual weekend cocktail lounge in the back of the building. The kitchen here is focused on cheese and fresh charcuterie in addition to oyster and caviar service, with cocktails serving as perfect aperitifs.
Sushi is elevated to an art form at glam Charleston, S.C., import O-Ku, from the folks behind Avalon’s Oak Steakhouse and Colletta. The Westside Ironworks hot spot with a killer rooftop patio overlooking the Midtown skyline—you’re lucky if you can snag a seat—provides an innovative, more cosmopolitan take on traditional Japanese sushi and cuisine, with former Umi chef Jackie Chang at the helm as executive chef. From the delicate O-Ku Karaage oysters topped with creamy masago aioli all the way to the showstopping O-Ku Omakase, a multicourse tasting of the freshest fish (sourced from the finest fish markets in Tokyo and Hawaii and flown in daily!), the restaurant’s menu offerings are anything but basic. Pair your meal (other faves are the Marilyn Mon roll, as well as the box-style Black Magic roll) with the unique Sugar & Spice martini, a blend of passion-fruit puree, lemon juice and habanero-infused vodka for a smoky kick, or try any of the premium sakes and wines. Each colorful bite and sip at O-Ku is crafted with creativity and care—and ATLiens can’t seem to get enough.
HOT FACTOR Hit up O-Ku from 11pm to 1am every Friday and Saturday for a stellar late-night menu of seasonal rolls as well as hakozushi (box-style sushi) and nigiri. We recommend the indulgent Crème de la Crème with otoro, truffle shavings and caviar. Midnight munchies solved.