Atlanta diners prize consistency over trendiness, so the restaurants that have been here the longest can be the hardest to get into. The city is awash in inexpensive neighborhood Vietnamese, Italian, Indian, and Thai restaurants, and the savvy local diners reward those who’ve leveled-up the experience with better ingredients and prettier presentations. Here are 24 Atlanta restaurants that are tricky to get into, but easy to order from.
Cibo e Beve means “food and drink” in Italian, and the plain-Jane name says it all. Chefs Linda Harrell and Gianni Betti, both veterans of Buckhead’s classic Antica Posta, know that the best Italian food is the simplest. Taglierini in a tomato-free Bolognese and a white bean and kale soup show off Betti’s Tuscan heritage, while the tender ricotta-laden meatballs and eggplant Parm feel more Italian-American. Any way you go, you win.
This showstopper of an Italian restaurant from restaurateur Ford Fry is so glossy, so pretty, it’s popped up on the big and little screen. (Did you catch it in the final season of “Ozark?”). That glamour translates to a tough reservation, so enjoy the just-as-pretty food at home. The grilled octopus with ’nduja (spreadable sausage) and gigante beans and the lush agnolotti stuffed with braised beef cheek have been on the menu since day one, and remain as appealing as ever.
Chad Clevenger, Alma’s longtime chef, has a distinctive way with Tex-Mex cooking, delivering bold flavors and textures while lightening the recipes enough to prevent a food coma. Start with his Guacamole Trio, which comes with three varieties, some outfitted with hearts of palm or in-season peaches. Then move onto handmade empanadas filled with huitlacoche (corn truffle) and cheese-stuffed squash blossoms, which are like low-carb enchiladas. Finish with street tacos filled with either carnitas or fried avocado.
There are some fun, modern touches on this Indian food menu, such as tandoori octopus (genius!), samosas filled with duck confit, and freshly baked naan slathered with jalapenos and amul cheese — India’s answer to Kraft singles. For snackability, the lassoni cauliflower, crispy and spicy, has no equal. But don’t scroll past the list of regional curries, all prepared with your choice of protein. Our favorite has to be moilee, a specialty of Kerala made with coconut and mustard seeds.
Bengali cooking reflects its particular crossroads with Persian and Mughal influences. If you want to try one of the regional specialties, then think about niramish, a veggie stew flavored with panch puran, a whole-seed spice mixture. quail bhuna is a typical Bengali curry featuring loads of fresh tomato, and the whole braised pomfret is delightful. The goat menu has six dishes to choose from, but if game meats aren’t your thing, the butter chicken rocks.
Centrally located in Brookwood Hills, Sufi’s Kitchen offers the same kind of elegant, fresh, satisfying Persian cuisine you might associate with your favorite restaurants in Sandy Springs. There’s no way to go wrong, but the way to go extra right is to begin with an appetizer combo of fantastic dips. Our favorite is kashk bademjan, roasted eggplant with caramelized onions, mint, and yogurt whey. Then it’s kabob time: A chicken kabob with a side of nut-and-barberry-studded zereshk polo rice, ideally.
This Buckhead classic has been the place for seafood for generations of Atlantans, and few restaurants can prepare such good food at such a high volume. The signatures? Too many to mention, but if you’ve never tried the Hong Kong sea bass with ginger and spinach in a sherry soy broth, now’s your chance. Good sushi rolls, a delicate, plump crab cake, and a lightly fried lobster tail with honey-mustard aioli (once the signature of long-gone sibling restaurant Pano’s and Paul’s) are a few other highlights on a gloriously long menu.
There’s really one question when the serious Fox Bros. craving kicks in: Are you going Tomminator or going Lopez? For the uninitiated, the Tomminator smothers extra-crisp tots in Brunswick stew and cheese, while the Lopez subs in brisket chili. There is no wrong answer here. The chopped brisket burger with pickles and pimento cheese is a gut bomb in the best possible way. But if you’re watching your carbs, the BBQ salad topped with your choice of meat is huge and satisfying.
The crown jewel of the Niyomkul family group of Thai restaurants serves refined plates that are dressed to impress. Imagine all your favorite go-tos getting a business-class upgrade. Penang curry bathes tender beef short ribs in the gang nuea, while pad thai features enormous tiger prawns or a whole lobster tail. Don’t miss the ka-nom jeeb — prettily pleated shrimp and chicken dumplings with a galangal-scented dipping sauce.
When Ecco opened its original Midtown location in 2006, it pioneered a kind of shared-plate dining that has since become standard. Think: All kinds of wonderful snacks to get your table through its first bottle of wine, then a curated menu of entrées and pastas for the second bottle. Two classics, praise be, that have never gone off the menu are the creamy-crispy fried goat cheese balls with cracked pepper and honey, and the silky roasted piquillo peppers stuffed with braised beef. If you’re feeding a crowd, consider the family-style housemade pappardelle with braised pork dinner, which includes salad and good bread and comes in two- and four-person size options.
This Alpharetta restaurant serves some of the most elegant Thai cooking in the metro area. Chef Nahm Thongyoung has an artist’s eye and an epicure’s palate. Her menu encompasses all the Thai favorites, including impeccable curries and spicy basil noodles, but her specialties show range. The roast duck in red curry, for example, comes with a slice of seared foie gras.
This Buford favorite serves all the Japanese faves at reasonable prices, which keeps the dining room hopping. Sushi, bento boxes, and teriyaki bowls are the backbone of the menu. If you’re in the mood for hibachi and don’t mind missing the show, it’ll arrive boxed up with all the veggies, rice, and sauces you’ll want. The combo plate allows you to fully express your hibachi personality. Are you a scallop and strip-steak person, or chicken and tilapia? Do you like your meat rare or medium-rare? Miso or chicken broth; ginger dressing or ranch? Who knew hibachi could make you feel so seen?
This ever-packed, heart-of-Buckhead restaurant has curated its menu for carryout and delivery, so you can be guaranteed the dishes will travel well and represent the best of the kitchen. The crispy Smokebox Half Chicken with salsa verde is as good a chicken dinner as you can have, particularly if you begin the meal with the messy but delicious Gulf shrimp in brown butter hot sauce with a thick rusk of toast to sop up the juices.
Bookmark this North Fulton spot, because it has all the friendly, generously portioned, Southern-ish fare that Atlanta folks crave from time to time (or all the time). Popular entrées like fried chicken and blackened salmon meet rib-sticking sides like buttermilk mashed potatoes and pimento cheese grits. There’s more: warm lobster dip, fried green tomatoes, sweet potato shrimp fritters, and chicken tenders for your kids. Or for you.
The flagship property of Fifth Group Restaurants, SCK has had an outsized influence in setting the tone for the kind of modern, urbane Southern cooking that Atlanta excels in. The food feels special, but it’s still something your parents would recognize. The most popular dish may be the Springer Mountain Farm fried chicken served with collard greens, mashed potatoes, and a honey-thyme jus. But the most iconic would be the pulled pork draped over a scallion hoe cake with horseradish slaw. And where else in town can you get pan-fried chicken livers with creamed corn?
There are any number of sushi-Thai restaurants throughout Atlanta. There are more than a few in the environs of Virginia Highland. But Mali stands out from the pack because the food is fairly priced and always on point. The remote working set takes advantage of the lunch specials, which go beyond menu standards. The Gingerine Lunch gets high marks for the fresh, bright ginger flavor of its stir-fry sauce and its plentiful shiitake mushrooms.
Atlanta has an amazing wealth of options for Neapolitan pizza. We like them all but keep going back to Varuni, which nails its chewy-tangy crust and devises fresh topping combinations we never tire of. The Bastardo, with both pepperoni and ’nduja, is our go-to, but we love them all. Hearty, messy Parm sandwiches and righteous arancini (fried rice balls) only add to the many pleasures of this menu.
This Old Fourth Ward standby makes very good pizza with a hearty, well-fermented crust and a generous hand with the toppings. If you haven’t tried the Amarena pizza with black cherry sausage and caramelized onions, get on that. And Ammazza makes amazing vegan pizzas with cashew cheese and a wide variety of toppings (sauteed wild mushrooms, Calabrian peppers). There’s also a crazy-delicious vegan cheesecake for dessert (really!).
Here’s the sushi you want when you need to level-up from your neighborhood regular. The sushi chefs here work with the premium ingredients you’ve learned to love, such as otoro, the meltingly tender fatty tuna belly. Other creative nigiri includes seared black cod misoyaki and wagyu beef with shiitake mushroom bacon. If you feel like living large, the Creme de la Creme roll combines otoro with shaved black truffle and caviar. Definitely an upgrade from the neighborhood standby.
This bumping restaurant in the heart of Virginia Highland has an impressively long menu that extends beyond its Turkish base to encompass Middle Eastern, Persian, Greek, and Moroccan dishes. You can make a meal from the hot and cold meze alone. Load up on falafel, mini lahmacun (flatbreads topped with ground meat and fresh salad veggies), stuffed grape leaves, and the popular (gluten-free!) zucchini pancakes flavored with dill and feta. A doner kebab always hits the spot, but if you order the mixed grill, you get a taste of everything.
A San Francisco import, Curry Up Now has found a welcome audience at its two Atlanta-area locations where locals bring their appetite for Indian street food. At lunchtime folks crush hard on the bowls, particularly those with the restaurant’s iconic tikka masala. The hearty burritos filled with rice, chickpeas, and your choice of protein (including vegan plant protein) make for an excellent desk lunch. At night, there are plenty of Bombay street snacks (mini samosas), curries, and thali platters to combine into a family meal, not to mention naan pizzas.
Have you ever driven by Daddy D’z iconic and weathered sign on Memorial Drive and wondered if the barbecue is any good? Here’s your answer: Yes! Ribs, brisket, and pulled pork are the most popular meats, and they come with the full cohort of Southern veggies from fried okra to (yes, it’s a vegetable in the South) macaroni and cheese. Not to be missed are the Daddy D’z Famous Que Wraps — barbecue pork spring rolls which come by the dozen or the half dozen. Go for the dozen.
Buckhead Life’s elegant Italian restaurant Pricci has stood proud on its corner location for decades while the city has grown around it. The menu has changed a bit over the years, staying up to date on the trends in Italian dining. So you can find an excellent cacio e pepe, a fine burrata outfitted with roasted tomatoes and pesto, or a darn good pizza topped with sausage and sopressata. Old timers will point you toward the creamy goat cheese spread topped with marinara sauce and focaccia sticks for dipping.
Opening chef Guy Wong sold this West Midtown Vietnamese restaurant a few years ago, but the food remains as good as ever. The dishes may be a bit more mainstream than what you might order from a restaurant on the famously delicious Buford Highway, but no one complains when the signature clay pot with crispy rice and aromatics can be prepared with your choice of beef, chicken, salmon, shrimp, or tofu. The green papaya salad features shreds of apple and mango in the mix, and the shaking beef is next-level thanks to its use of Angus ribeye.