The Secrets of Atlanta, Georgia
From secret yoga classes to off-the-menu delicacies, we present the Atlanta you never knew existed.
REVERSING THE CULINARY COMMUTE
It's not just families escaping to the ticky tacky hills on the outskirts of the city — Atlanta's upscale foodie scene is fleeing the urban centers to settle in the suburbs.
BY BRET LOVE
Few would think to make a trip to a city's outermost fringes for unforgettable, upscale meals. But in Atlanta, increasingly, they should. The lagging economy of recent years has made lowbrow the new highbrow, with casual fare (think gourmet burgers, hotdogs and pizza) making up the menus of the most buzz-worthy restaurants. While dozens of expensive restaurants like Craft, Repast and the Dining Room at the Ritz-Carlton were closing shop, the suburbs beyond the city's I-285 perimeter were filling with hungry foodies ravenous for great restaurants that didn't require a 30-minute drive into town. As a result, many of the finest chefs escaped to the 'burbs, attracting devoted local clienteles to their tucked-away eateries on the outskirts of the metro area.
Roswell is arguably the artsy epicenter of North Atlanta's gastronomic golden age. While the funky town has been home to more than its fair share of incredible restaurants (see Relish, Taste, Van Gogh's), relative newbies like Table & Main (www.tableandmain.com) and Nine Street Kitchen (www.ninestreetkitchen.com) have helped it go from bubbling with buzz to trendsetting. The soul of Canton Street belongs to business partners Hicham Azhari and Fikret Kovac, who first brought their brand of big city cool to Roswell more than five years ago with Little Alley Café, a now shuttered tapas bar unlike anything the area had seen before. Since it's closing, they've opened three great new restaurants — the Salt Factory gastropub (www.saltfactorypub.com), the Latin American influenced INC Street Food(www.incstreetfood.com), and the All-American steakhouse Little Alley Steak (littlealleysteak.com), which opened in April — all within 100 feet of one another. Together, they've made Roswell a place where lines of gluttonous gastronauts snaking around the block are a common sight.
As the home of Newt Gingrich, the Dobbins Air Reserve Base and a bizarre landmark known as the Big Chicken, it should come as no surprise that upscale Southern food is the hottest thing happening on Marietta's hip strip, and that not one, but two respected chefs relocated there in 2011. Chicken & the Egg (www.chickandtheegg.com) came first, with former Pacci Ristorante GM Marc Taft re-imagining the traditional Southern Sunday Supper for 21st century palates. His flavorful Fried Chicken and homemade Chicken + Dumplings will turn even the staunchest northerners into southern-fried food fanatics. Seed Kitchen & Bar (www.eatatseed.com) opened alongside Whole Foods in Marietta's resurgent Merchant's Walk shopping center a few months later. There, owner/Executive Chef Doug Turbush (formerly of Bluepointe) combines Southern tradition with exotic influences in dishes like the mouthwatering Gulf Shrimp Sambal in a setting that's part happening hotspot and part laidback bistro.
Chef/owner Marc Sublette and partner Thomas Taylor deserve credit for bringing a taste of Buckhead to North Atlanta, opening their high-end Italian restaurant Trattoria one * 41 (www.trattoria141.com) and swanky steakhouse Viande Rouge (www.vrsteakhouse.com) in the same suburban strip mall. Once you step inside, you're immediately transported into a world of decadent luxury that lets you forget the frenzied shopping going on outside the doors. Sublette (a longtime veteran of the Buckhead Life Restaurant Group, best known for working at Pricci and Pano's & Paul's) crafts sumptuous menus that fly in the face of Atlanta's lower-price-point trend, with some entrees ranging $40 and up. Which makes perfect sense, seeing as how John's Creek is Georgia's wealthiest city.
Sleepy downtown Woodstock seems an unlikely setting for a classy Italian joint like Vingenzo's (www.vingenzos.com), New York native Chef Michael Bologna's loving tribute to the old-world Neapolitan cuisine he grew up on (see: pizza certified by the Associazione Pizzaiuoli Napoletani). Bologna, who won the James Beard Foundation Award for Excellence and was invited to prepare dinner at the James Beard House in NYC last December, makes everything from scratch using fresh, locally sourced ingredients. Dining at Vingenzo's, with its open-kitchen design and real-deal Italian ambiance, is like sitting down to dine at the table of one huge, hungry family. And finding it in such a welcoming, small community is like discovering a polished culinary gem in the proverbial suburban haystack.
Yum's the Word
Order these off-the-menu dishes by name and look like a real local.
BY ASHLEY HESSELTINE
Truffle and Egg Pizza at Cucina Asellina Settle in at this swanky-yet-casual Midtown spot and order a delectable wood-fired pie with buffalo mozzarella, fontina cheese, truffle and an egg cracked on top. While you'll smell the mouthwatering aroma the second it leaves the kitchen, you won't see it on the menu. www.facebook.com/cucinaasellina
Meatloaf at Wisteria Sink your teeth into the ultimate comfort food at this Inman Park hotspot. While the restaurant boasts "Southern savvy cooking" to all, Chef Walker Brown reserves the best for those in the know. His version of this Southern staple — beef tenderloin meatloaf over mashed potatoes, haricot verts and roasted shallots — is just like Mom used to make it. Only way, way better. www.wisteria-atlanta.com
Mac Daddy Taco at Bad Dog Taqueria For a Southern twist on a Mexican classic, meet the Mac Daddy — a homemade tomato corn tortilla stuffed with gooey mac 'n' cheese (cheddar, gruyere and jack) and fresh chorizo, topped with Holeman & Finch bread crumbs, caramelized shallots and fried sage crumbles. Bring your appetite; this puppy is larger than Bad Dog's regular tacos. www.baddogtaco.com
Rare Cuts at Park 75 Each week, a new, not-on-the-menu steak is yours for the eating. Past cuts have included a pecan, wood-grilled 15-ounce "Kansas City" New York strip and a 36-ounce bone-in ribeye tomahawk steak. Run, don't walk; the secret steak debuts each Tuesday but rarely makes it to the weekend.