The Atlanta 50: The Readers Have Spoken
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Good Monday to you!
I have gone through your comments thus far on my choices for the Atlanta 50 in our Spring Dining Guide, and I will try below to excerpt your opinions and answer your questions in a way that can make sense of this complex but interesting dialogue.
Major thanks to commenter Ryan who made this awesome checklist for folks who want to make the rounds.
Here’s what I’ve got:
Questions about procedures:
- “Will you publish your rankings in order?” (David): No way. The nice thing about a list of 50 is its breadth and inclusivity.
- “You’ve got 38 3-stars, and 7 4-stars — wouldn’t all 3-stars make the list, then? For example, La Fourchette would fulfill your French quota.” (RK): I chose to highlight some of the best 2-star restaurants to make the list look more like Atlanta. There are some absolutely spot-on neighborhood places that serve crowds well, put out a consistent product and create a memorable environment. Are they worth driving across town for? Maybe not, but they help define their neighborhoods.
- “I can’t understand how you can have 50 nice eating places and not one of them gets a 5 star rating. Surely there are one or two restaurants here worthy of 5 stars?” (Gerald G): Bacchanalia and Restaurant Eugene may be worthy of 5 stars. I need to rearview them both.
- “Excellent list and reviews however I think that you and other reviewers in the city do Atlanta diners a disservice when speaking about prices in a fine dining restaurant and it leads to the dearth of High end fine dining restaurants in the city. In the city with the size and growing influence on the regional dining scene to have only 3 fine dining restaurants ([Restaurant Eugene], Aria and Bachanalia) is absurd. In NY you don’t hear Frank Bruni complaining about the cost of Per Se, 11 Madison etc because that’s the expectation, they are judged on what they are and strive to be, a dining destination and an example of the highest levels of food and service in the area.” (James) Honestly, I wouldn’t feel right about sending readers to Restaurant Eugene and then having them discover that many of the à la carte entrees cost more than $40. It is not a restaurant for everyone. I would also refer you to the most recent reviews in the New York Times for Per Se and Masa. Both spend considerable time discussing price.
What’s Missing from this list:
- “Only ONE place south of I-20? You’ve got to be kidding. Your anti-south Atlanta is showing.” (Tom): I would LOVE to offer more selections on the Southside. We certainly considered Pascal’s Bistro, The Feed Store, Wines & Grinds and the Pecan and are happy to consider these restaurants as well as any others that might make the cut. All suggestions welcome.
- “Local Three It is innovative, great ingredients, and doesn’t take itself too seriously except for striving for delicious food. An excellent addition to Atlanta food scene. Looking forward to the explanation.” (Barbara) Many readers expressed dismay that this restaurant didn’t make the cut. My experiences with it are of a friendly, often delightful and often inconsistent restaurant. As there are several contemporary Southern bistros on the Westside, I decided to cut it. But it was a tough call. Certainly one to rethink.
- “Guy Wong [at Miso Izakaya] is a truly creative and one-of-a-kind chef. We’re lucky to have him, and his restaurant is a consistent delight.” (Soupy Sales): After Local Three, Miso Izakaya was most often cited as an omission. I like this spot quite a lot, but perhaps not yet as much as its ardent fans. It was one of several excellent Japanese spots that I left out to make room for more variety.
- “I have to put a plug in for Floataway [Cafe]. Agree that there has been some instability in staffing and they have had their ups and downs, but in general you’ll always get something there that is top notch, on par with anything that [Miller Union], [Empire State South] or 4th & Swift produces. Still, what has completely blown my mind is the new wine list there. It is an unbelievable value currently.” (Mark): I went recently and experienced those inconsistencies. I really love this restaurant and go frequently, but it doesn’t feel tight. I do need to pay closer attention to the wine list. I was a guest on the last visit, so I didn’t look too closely.
If you have to choose between two similar spots…
- “I would put Gu’s Bistro ahead of Tasty China, for sure. Gu’s food is more nuanced and much less salty and oily, but still brings the heat and flavor.” (Zeus) I’ve tried Gu’s a couple of times and have had the opposite reaction. But thanks to y’all, I have a shopping list of dishes to try for my next visit. Others have complained of slippage at Tasty China. I really loved everything on my last visit (and I’m sure I wasn’t recognized), but I’ll certainly keep my eye out for inconsistency.
- “No Fox Brothers? How could you possibly rate Community Q above Fox Brothers? Everyone we have ever taken to Fox Brothers is immediately addicted. We tried Community Q but were not impressed.” (SC): Barbecue restaurants are so tough to judge because barbecue is a thing that happens, it isn’t a product to keep warm to wait for customers. So they are bound to be inconsistent, which is how my last couple of visits to Fox Brothers have been. I found the meats dry and the chicken wings too aggressively seasoned. I’ve also had some amazing meat at Fox Bros. and hope to again. Community Q sometimes suffers (in my experience) from meat that is a bit mushy or not as smoky as I’d like, but it’s been more consistent for me. I also like their sides a lot better.
You picked WHAT?
- “Taqueria [del Sol]: Standing in a twenty minute line to get sneered at when I order a couple of mediore tacos — I’ll pass.” (Grasshopper) I knew this choice would divide readers. And there were scores of comments from folks whom I could imagine rolling their eyes, shaking their fists and snorting derisively. Some of us love it, some of y’all hate it. The Taqueria divide.
- “Having World Peace Cafe on this list is a joke.” (Brian): This is by no means a sophisticated restaurant, but I always feel like I mindfully here. There’s a focus on the shapes, textures and ingredients in the food that always gets me to slow down and pay attention.
- “Tantra Restaurant in south buckhead isn’t exactly authenticity Mediterranean, but has a lot of influences from the region. They also serve some pretty delicious roasted carrot soup with cumin.” (TD)
- “For a nice Middle Eastern/Persian experience, try Sufi’s in SoBuck. I’m about to try the new IstanBlue on Pharr Rd in Buckhead. I hope it measures up to its claims of authenticity. Some other places in Atlanta that claim to be Turkish are simply posers and aren’t worthy of a second look.” (Edward)
- “Veni Vedi Vici is consistently delicious, quite attractive, always crowded and has above average service. As a foodie and a frequent traveller to Italy, I believe Veni Vidi Vici is a more than worthy candidate for your top 50 list.” (Randall Williams)
- “I hope to see No. 246 on the list in the not too distant future. Menu is maybe a bit limited, but the food, space and vibe are outstanding. One test was the Margherita Pizza that I shared as an app – without doubt one of the best tasting and prepared I’ve had outside Italy (and yes, I’ve eaten at them all in Atlanta).” (Bob From Accounttemps)