Three years ago, when I was a freshman, the restaurant world seemed so small. I was trapped in the Emory Bubble – a meal in the Emory Village was a treat; eating off campus felt like opening a present on Christmas morning.
This summer I escaped the bubble, lived in Midtown and, for the first time, had a car. As the dining intern at Atlanta magazine, I was also responsible for knowing every bit of food news out there.
Over the three months I spent eating around the city there were six dishes that stood out to me. Some of the restaurants may be a tinge pricey for a college budget, but if your parents are still around helping you unpack, tell them that you love them and that you deserve this one last treat before they leave.
Fried Chicken & Pimento
Cheese Biscuit ($6)
Empire State South
999 Peachtree Street Northeast #140
Back in May, Hugh Acheson, former contestant and current judge of “Top Chef,” took top honors in the Best Chef Southeast category awarded by the James Beard Foundation. Acheson’s restaurant, Empire State South, has captivated Atlantans with its energized take on Southern cuisine. While the kitchen serves a mean dinner, don’t overlook this breakfast gem: crispy fried chicken and sharp pimento cheese sitting comfortably between an airy, buttery biscuit. Mornings never tasted so good.
H&F Burger ($10)
Holeman & Finch
2277 Peachtree Road Northeast
No burger in the city beats Holeman & Finch’s nationally-recognized one. The design is simple – H&F bread, two 4 oz. patties made of ground chuck and brisket, two slices of Kraft American Singles, julienne red onions and three butter pickles – but the result is a religious revival. They only make 24 burgers a night, Monday through Friday starting at 10 p.m. (get there at 8 to reserve one), but they’re served all day during brunch on Sundays.
Rotisserie Chicken ($11)
310 East Howard Avenue
If there were ever a place Emory students should love, it’s Las Brasas. This Peruvian shack serves up superb rotisserie chicken at prices that would make even a Chinese restaurant nervous. For $6, get half a chicken that feeds two people with sides. For $11, get a whole chicken. Don’t miss out on the herby green sauce that goes with this moist bird. Heads up: the only seating is outside.
Lobster Roll (Market Price, $14 at the time)
914 Howell Mill Rd.
Ford Fry (JCT Kitchen, No. 246) opened this nautical-themed restaurant over the summer, and for anyone who thinks a seafood-centric restaurant in a land-locked city is a bad idea, think again. While raw oysters and Georgia shrimp are prime pickings, Fry’s lobster roll is the best in town. Plump lobster meat is stuffed between a buttery bun and served with some greasy chips that pair surprisingly well.
Fried Catfish Plate ($14)
Watershed on Peachtree
1820 Peachtree Road Northwest
This landmark Atlanta restaurant closed last year in Decatur only to reopen this year in Buckhead. Joe Truex has replaced Scott Peacock as head chef, and the former kitschy interior now boasts a sleek, woodsy feel. The North Carolina fried catfish is notable for its robust texture. The firecracker green beans prepared with fish sauce make for a fascinating side. To drink, order a glass of Wind Gap from Russian River Valley.
Pan-fried Sole Fillets ($25)
1106 Crescent Ave NE
The Fifth Group Restaurant (Ecco, La Tavola) also opened a seafood-centric restaurant over the summer. Lure’s meaty, pan-fried sole fillets are topped with breadcrumbs and come in a brown-butter caper sauce. For dessert, check out the bread pudding, which is encased in coconut and hides a layer of guava inside.
– By Evan Mah