Being a serious foody, I tend to be very picky about the quality of food, especially the food that I pay good money to eat in local restaurants. On that note, this article will focus on my personal experiences with really good restaurants in which I have dined in Atlanta, and not as much on the word of the restaurant critics.
One of the first restaurants that comes to my mind when thinking of a place I would recommend in Atlanta is Emeril’s in Buckhead (see link). We were lucky enough to be one of Emeril Lagasse’s choices of cities in this country to be blessed by his talent and knowledge of delicious food. We have visited Emeril’s on three occasions and were wowed by the taste and quality of the food each time. The ambience is incredible, and you can’t miss the round wine room encasing its own dining area when you walk in the door – it’s a sight to behold! The other design feature of note is the chandeliers holding flasks of what looks like olive oil – exactly like the ones shown on the newest set of “Emeril Live”. My daughters thought that was very “cool”.
Unlike some restaurants of the caliber and price range of Emeril’s Atlanta, we felt very comfortable taking our daughters with us to enjoy this experience. The staff did not seem put off by their presence – in fact, they made every effort to give them the same special treatment we received, which we sincerely appreciated.
If you visit Emeril’s Atlanta for dinner, expect to pay an average of $20-$30 per entrÃ?Â©e, with some specialty entrees exceeding that range; it is all worth it. The dress code is business casual, but they state on Emeril’s web site that “smart casual” is acceptable and they ask that “gentleman not wear sleeveless shirts”.
Another of my family’s favorites is Rainwater (see link). It is located in Alpharetta and boasts some of the most flavorful and unique dishes in the area. We have visited there on several occasions, both with our daughters and without. The atmosphere is more elegant than the family atmosphere of The Roasted Garlic, but we feel very comfortable taking our daughters there.
The menu as Rainwater changes, so you can always expect to see something you haven’t tried before. Yet, in this elegant and upscale atmosphere, they also serve chicken fingers and macaroni and cheese for the children, along with child-size portions of steak. My husband and I have tried everything from steak to fish to pork, and we are impressed with every dish every time. Take note, this restaurant does not serve any dish that is not unique in some way, and the combination of meat and sides is wonderful. This is not to downplay the starters, whether that is an appetizer and/or a salad. My favorite salad, when they have it, is the warm spinach and brie salad. It’s the perfect combination of greens with the surprise sweetness of the brie, served over thinly sliced apples and sprinkled with walnuts. The portions are not family-size, but they are certainly ample, especially since you must save room for one of their sinful desserts. I highly recommend the apple beignet.
Dress code at Rainwater is dressy to business casual, and the prices average $25-$35 per entrÃ?Â©e.
Rainwater’s atmosphere is essentially romantic, but they accommodate large groups easily, including a second floor for private parties. The wait staff is brilliant. Not once did we have an empty glass, yet they did not make unnecessary interruptions. The dining room had, at all times, no less than three “runners” in attendance, in addition to the waiters, who displayed perfect timing in removing empty plates and refilling glasses, including the offer to refill cocktail and wine glasses in time to allow you to finish your drink, but not have to wait for another.
Another restaurant in the Alpharetta area that is one of our favorites for Italian/Greek cuisine is The Roasted Garlic, which implies an Italian restaurant, but you can definitely see the Greek influence in the dishes. They had five locations at one time, and we visited their location in Roswell, GA on many occasions when we lived in that area. It became a favorite dinner spot not only for us, but for our daughters, our family and our friends.
The Roasted Garlic is family owned and operated, and you get the feeling of being family when you walk in the door. The location in Roswell was operated by the owner’s son and his wife, and we were frequently seated by the son and served our drinks (of the non-alcoholic variety) by their 8-year-old daughter. We also had the privilege of meeting the owner on his rounds through that location one evening, and he stopped by our table to entertain us with the history of his family. His mother was Greek, and his father was Italian, both of which were his inspiration for the food you will find on the menu.
At present, there remains only the original location. The owner told us that he was having a difficult time keeping track of the chefs in five restaurants because of his advancing age, and the quality was not always up to his exacting standards, so he chose to close down all but the original location in an effort to maintain the quality he set out to achieve when he first opened. This also allowed the restaurant to remain a family-run operation. I, for one, commend him on that decision. Too many times, we see a business expand so much that the quality suffers in the process.
EntrÃ?Â©e prices for The Roasted Garlic average $20-30; however, the portions are very large, so you get quite a plate full of food for that price. We have never left there without doggy bags enough to have lunch AND dinner the next day. They also serve some very good wine, and the wait staff is quite knowledgeable about the wines and their varying tastes, including what they recommend with each dish. The dress code is casual, and it is a very child-friendly environment.
If you visit The Roasted Garlic, be sure to have the ciabatta bread as a starter. They toast ciabatta slices and serve them with a roasted tomato, and the waiter brings a head of roasted garlic to the table and squeezes the garlic cloves on top of the bread. This can also be ordered Greek-style where they add olives and feta cheese to the plate. YUM!
For me, these are only a few of the truly wonderful restaurants Atlanta has to offer, but they are my favorites for their quality, atmosphere and affordability. We don’t have to wait for a special occasion to visit these restaurants, but we still view them as special places to eat.
A good resource for finding local restaurants and reading their reviews is on CitySearch (see link). This site shows restaurant ratings, exact locations and price ranges.