Atlanta’s 6 Must-Book Restaurants This Winter

Credit: El Viñedo Local

As New Yorkers, Chicagoans, and Angelenos flock to the Emerald City, lured by lower costs of living and sunnier skies, there are more mouths to feed. Thankfully, a growing crop of excellent, cosmopolitan restaurants are rising to that challenge. Here’s where to make reservations now if you’re looking to heat up your winter. 

Buena Vida Tapas (Old Fourth Ward)

Can’t go to Europe quite yet? You’re in luck, because Juan Sebastian Calle and Adam Berlin, who opened their first bar in Athens over a decade ago, regrouped to bring Spain to Atlanta by way of this new venture, which opened in November. Executive chef Landon Thompson, a James Beard Rising Star semi finalist, formerly at The Iberian Pig and Cooks & Soldiers, doesn’t hold back on his rotating menu (subject to change). On it: pimenton chicken sandwiches on buttermilk biscuits with a fried egg, brown sugar honey, quince jam, and garlic aioli for brunch, and short ribs with truffle oil and cipollini onions for dinner. Vegetarian and vegan options, such as plant-based meatballs, bomba rice with confit mushrooms, and tortilla espanola omelets, fill out the well-rounded offerings. 

El Viñedo Local (Midtown)

Credit: El Viñedo Local

Tired of this unseasonably cold winter? Then pop over the equator, because South America just got closer. This Midtown favorite, which reopened in December, is decked out with comfortable leather chairs and an earthy color palette, evoking a cafe in Argentinean wine country. Small plates influenced by Incan, Spanish, and Italian traditions make up the menu. Dishes range from those inspired by executive chef Bruno Vergara’s native Uruguay, such as beef and hard boiled egg empanadas to poached shrimp ceviche, skewered meats, and sweet plantain and black bean arepas. Pair your food with South American wines — the restaurant prioritizes sustainable and organic producers — or beverages such as South American fair trade coffee and teas by the locally based Just Add Honey.

Hamp & Harry’s (Marietta)

Seasoned local restaurateurs Scott Hampton McCray and Scott Harrison Kerns chose historic Marietta Square as the site of this welcoming neighborhood joint, which they opened in October. The coastal bar is an ode to the duo’s meet-cute as college students in Hilton Head. Executive chef Matt Ratcliffe’s commitment to all things local stems from an agricultural Georgian upbringing, and explains why the menu here is seasonally influenced and farmer-sourced. Small plates include seared foie gras with melted leek polenta, apricot mustard greens, and blood orange miso glaze, as well as Marshall Cove mussels with white wine and grilled country toast. The handful of larger dishes highlight both the land — Australian wagyu, smoked pork belly —  and sea, thanks to a raw bar.

Yao (Dunwoody)

Credit: Yao

Yao’s Thai and Chinese concept isn’t an attempt at forced fusion — it’s a direct reference to the Yaowarat neighborhood in Bangkok, a historic area where both cultures have genuinely combined to take on a unique identity. And so has this very Instagrammable, multi-level venue by Tum Pok Pok owners Jakkrit Tuanphakdee and Adidsara Weerasin — who grew up in Bangkok — and partner Taya Denmark. The dramatic setting has plates to match: Whole fried fish lays on a bed of aromatics, beef is cooked tableside on a hot river stone, and roasted duck is topped with rosy quail eggs and a tangle of egg noodles, making for entrees that are literal and visual feasts.

Mount Royal (Buckhead)

Credit: Mount Royal

Montreal fuels the vibe at the new steakhouse, helmed by James Beard Award-winner and Top Chef judge Hugh Acheson, inside the Hyatt Centric Buckhead Atlanta. Though he sources most of the produce from local farms, Acheson, who opened the restaurant in December, evokes his native Canada with dishes such as split pea soup with smoked onion cream, or his spin on Lyonnaise salad, which adds celery leaves and apples to the frisee and poached egg combo. Dinner is inventive and elegant, with mains like ora king salmon with leeks and trout roe, grilled Canadian lobster, and, of course, steaks, like a 36-ounce, dry-aged tomahawk. Set on the hotel’s ground floor, this swish spot boasts its own patio, complete with a fire pit and mosaic glass mural.

Gaslight Bar & Grill (Roswell)

Credit: Gaslight Bar & Grill

This popular venue in quaint Roswell was one of the mourned casualties of the pandemic when it shuttered in 2020, but the Gaslight Bar & Grill, now under new ownership, is back with a bang The latest avatar, which opened in December, has a swankier feel and fine-dining-focused menu —  think garlic butter lobster, Australian rack of lamb, grilled oysters with garlic butter. But the entertainment Atlantans have come to love from this late-night date-night spot still remains (as do the smoked wings, served until 1am). You can expect live music every weekend, resident DJs spinning tunes from the’ 70s to’ 90s on the regular, plus open mic performances every Wednesday. If the hair of the dog is in order, it’s well equipped — the Gaslight’s brunch spread features a dedicated bloody mary bar.

Tried them all? Check out other options here.

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