City & State or ZIP Tonight, this weekend, May 5th...
City & State or ZIP
City & State or ZIP Tonight, this weekend, May 5th...
City & State or ZIP

Michelin stars for Atlanta?

Michael Ellis, the newest director of the Michelin Restaurant Guide, recently mentioned in an interview with Eater National that the revered guide to international dining excellence has Atlanta on its list of American cities they are looking to expand into.

While the Michelin star system gets its fair share of criticism, it remains a consistent measuring stick for fine dining. And, to date, no grading of the Atlanta dining scene has been conducted by Michelin.

This past week, I spent a few days in San Francisco, one of a handful of American cities currently rated by the Michelin guide. Unfortunately, a trip to Napa wasn’t in the cards for me, so visiting either of the two 3-star restaurants in the Bay Area (The French Laundry or Restaurant at Meadowood) was out of the question. As if I’ve ever planned anything far enough in advance to get a reservation at either of them anyway.

But, I did visit Saison in the Mission district of San Fran, one of the restaurants that has earned two stars (and could well be on their way to their third in years to come). It was a fantastic experience, roughly 18 courses of refined and imaginative seasonal cuisine. There was no doubt in my mind, from the food to the service, that Saison had earned each of those two stars.

So, Ellis’ statements that Atlanta could soon be graded on the same scale obviously had me thinking, and I’m interested to hear what you think: What restaurants do you think would be most deserving of Michelin stars in Atlanta, and why? Who would you like to see high up on that list?

PLEASE NOTE: This question is framed in terms of the positive. Please refrain from using this as a platform to slam the Atlanta dining scene or to slam specific restaurants, lest you be swiftly moderated.

- By Jon Watson, Food and More blog

48 comments Add your comment


October 17th, 2012
7:37 am

in before “The Varisty”


October 17th, 2012
8:03 am

Kyma for sure. Their octopus alone should get them some stars. Restaurant Eugene. Miller Union is another one too.


October 17th, 2012
8:33 am

maybe 1 or 2 restaurants may get 2 stars at the most: Eugene or Bacchanalia.


October 17th, 2012
8:40 am

Not trying to “slam” Atlanta, but I don’t believe there are any two star restaurants here, based on 2* experiences in other cities. I’m jealous of your meal to Saison, that is very high on my list and I’ve seen their menus. There is nothing comparable here. Michelin is also heavy handed to those with certain amenities, while casual dining has been on the rise here. Even with excellent food, it is very hard to get to 2* without white table clothes, very formal service, tasting menus, or marble strewn bathrooms. (There are exceptions)

Seeger’s, Soto, Dining Room at the Ritz, Joel, Quinones – these were all possible 2* contenders, but also have something else in common now…


October 17th, 2012
9:04 am

Mr. Watson, with your experience, I hope you and your staff share your thinking on this subject.


October 17th, 2012
9:09 am

@jimmy – exactly my biggest gripe about a lot of ratings. I’ve dined at the Dining Room at the Ritz several times for very special occasions and frankly, I’ve had better food at Babette’s. Without any of the fuss – and about 1/4 of the cost.

Fine Dining – Most people think it’s white tablecloths and Sunday clothes – I, on the other hand, consider the food first. And would rather eat at any of our casual dining restos than The Dining Room (naturally, not possible now but I use it as an example).

BTW – Joel … I still shed a tear when I think about the sweetbreads ;)


October 17th, 2012
9:10 am

Nice that Michelin wants to expand into Atlanta, but the AJC needs to focus its attentions on restaurants that MOST Atlantans can afford. Wanting to focus on any restuarant here possibly worthy of a Michelin Star is elitist of a newspaper with such a wide readership and will never have an income capable of affording to eat at such a place, even for once-in-a-lifetime occasions.


October 17th, 2012
9:15 am

For a great Cobb County dining experience, I heartily recommend the following:

- Sal Grosso Churrascaria on Powers Ferry RD

- Ted’s Montana Grill on Johnson Ferry RD

(Not Necessarily Advocating the Entire TED’S Chain, Just This Specific Location as a “Bright Star” Atlanta)

That is all.


October 17th, 2012
9:17 am

I love me some THE VARSITY.

However, as far as THE VARSITY as a must-do Atlanta eatery, they really only have the following 2 locations, no more:

- Downtown Atlanta

- Athens

What’ll Ya Have, Haters?


October 17th, 2012
9:25 am


October 17th, 2012
9:32 am

No offense, but Atlanta has nothing on American cities like NY, LA, Chicago, and SF when it comes to restaurants. Quinones may be the only one star worthy restaurant here, and that is a bit of a stretch.


October 17th, 2012
9:46 am

Didn’t the dining room at the Buckhead Ritz-Carlton have some Michelin stars? And promptly went out of business because this city can’t sustain that level of restaurant cuisine.

da Man

October 17th, 2012
9:48 am

Sorry man, Kyma is total crap.. overcooked seafood & a lack of true Greek cuisine.. if you want REAL cuisine go to Buford hwy & avoid the pretentious Buckhead / Midtown scene .. Sushi House Hayakawa is a good place to start..


October 17th, 2012
9:55 am

Top Spice – not super fancy but WONDERFUL Thai food!


October 17th, 2012
9:57 am

I think there are some great restaurants here, but Atlanta has definitely become more casual. Probably the only two that come to mind that could come close are Bacchanalia and Eugene.

Foodie K

October 17th, 2012
10:05 am

Unfortunately, I have to echo the sentiments of Jimmy and Greg. The only place I can think of that would come close to a star would be Table & Main in Roswell. The cuisine is simple and regional, but it’s consistently excellent, and the service is outstanding. It’s a shining example of how this region’s favorites can be re-imagined to fit present times. I personally wouldn’t recommend Restaurant Eugene just because of the shockingly terrible experience I had there, but I suppose I can concede it could be a contender.

Meli – I respectfully disagree. The AJC is read by a wide variety of readers with varying incomes, hence it should cover the gamut when it comes to dining. As a foodie, when it comes to the Atlanta dining scene, I want to know everything about everything, no matter if it’s a hole in the wall in a bad part of town, or a Michelin star rated budget-buster in a pretentious area. I am fortunate enough to be able to afford to eat an expensive meal every now and then, but even if it were a stretch to save for a once-in-a-blue-moon meal, I’d certainly want a place in town to visit when my special meal piggy bank was ready. I think most foodies, no matter what size their bank account, feel the same way.

Merle Dixon

October 17th, 2012
10:34 am

For Atlanta-area barbecue connoisseurs following Michelin, I would submit Dave Poe’s BBQ in Marietta.

How’s about a hug for your ol’ pal Merle?

Anton Chigurh

October 17th, 2012
10:49 am

Well, Jon, despite your plea the Atlanta dining scene is getting the captured bolt treatment.


October 17th, 2012
1:25 pm

Foodie K–I don’t think the AJC should ignore high-end restaurants, that’s not what I’m saying. But the purpose of covering restaurants is to help generate business for those restaurants, and considering that the overwhelming majority of Atlantans cannot afford to eat at most restaurants in the area that could be in the running for a Michelin Star, I don’t think the AJC needs to make this their cause celebre. Give it the space it deserves in the context of the other restaurants in the area, but understand the high-end is a niche market and only deserves niche space.

Sophie's Choice

October 17th, 2012
1:31 pm

Cakes and Ale, for sure–Bacchanalia, too.


October 17th, 2012
1:44 pm

I don’t want to eat somewhere with tiny plates of food, foam, de-constructed crap and miniture spears of rhubarb. No thanks. O stars for me!


October 17th, 2012
2:09 pm

The Spence is excellent!


October 17th, 2012
4:12 pm

I’m sure the Olver McMillan boys can bring one online at Buckhead Atlanta a.k.a Streets of Buckhead!
Bring it!!!


October 17th, 2012
4:14 pm

ARIA! Best fine dining in the city. Consistently good and Gerry Klaskala is a stud in the kitchen.


October 17th, 2012
4:41 pm

The purpose of dining reviews is not to help restaurants — it is to offer an unbiased review of their cooking. This is a newspaper, after all, not a marketing firm.


October 17th, 2012
5:09 pm

Maybe one or two places will earn a single star. Sorry Atlanta, you’re a decent and inexpensive place to live but the restaurants don’t compete with the big boys like NYC and London.


October 17th, 2012
5:20 pm

Can you tell us how much that meal at Saison cost? Maybe you can share pictures. It sounds incredible.


October 17th, 2012
5:21 pm

JRS… are right but us Old South folks don’t live in NYC or London. We find pleasure in the many fine resurants that are minus ’stars’. “This is good mop sauce, did you make it yourself?


October 17th, 2012
5:45 pm

Jon, My wife and I were fortunate to dine at The French Laundry. The entire Mondavi clan was celebrating a birthday not 8 feet away (including Robert Mondavi, Sr.). Amazing! And the wine list was everything you would expect. Literally dozens of half bottles so we were able to move from white to red easily without worrying about going overboard. My wife had the tasting menu while I ordered ala carte.

The closest we’ve come to anything that (almost) measures up (locally) would be Bacchanalia.

Jon Watson

October 17th, 2012
7:22 pm

@Jimmy- that wasn’t a slam, so fret not. And you should be madly jealous of the Saison experience. Flawless service, refined dishes – the toffe foie gras dish, live scallop, and the uni/caviar were standouts – all set to the tune of a very well-honed Hall and Oats Pandora station. I got some pics, but the lighting was awful.

Chris- When I booked the reservation, I mis-read the pricing, so I got a nice surprise when we arrived. Choosing the wine pairings didn’t help, but I would elect to do the pairings again. Probably the priciest meal I’ve ever had, but certainly one of the best. I still felt it was worth it. (And before anyone makes a crack about it, the AJC didn’t fund a cent of it. It was 100% irresponsible ole’ me footing that bill.)

two cents

October 17th, 2012
8:04 pm

Haven’t had the pleasure of paying a c-note plus for a meal at Bacchanalia. In my experience (been here for thirty years now), the best meal regardless of price can be found at FAT MATT’S!!! Hands down.


October 17th, 2012
8:14 pm

I tried to get in at The French Laundry in September, but alas, I was unable to. However, we did visit their sister restaurant Bouchon, which was simply divine. The wine list was lovely and the prices were on par with what I’ve seen in Atlanta. The 1/2 bottle of an 09 Kosta Browne Pinot Nior was $125, which is about what you’d see here, especially for the #1 wine in the country last year. We also did Chef Bill Huebel’s Beyond the Kitchen dinner at Bale Grist Mill one evening. It was unbelievably good – he prepared all of the hot foods on propane grills!

Didn’t try Saison as we didn’t spend any time in San Francisco this trip. I’ll definitely add it to the list next time. Jon, sounds like it was a more than memorable experience and worth every cent from your pocket! As I’m fond of saying, life’s too short to drink cheap wine.

For Atlanta dining, you simply can not beat Bone’s. It IS a steakhouse without comparison, but with a slightly southern twist. The service is impeccable and everything is prepared exactly to your specifications. I’ve tried just about every fine establishment in town and nothing comes close to Bone’s for the total experience. Food, service and ambiance.

It’ll be interesting to see what the Michelin folks come up with when they come to town.

two cents

October 17th, 2012
9:10 pm

Hey “Oenophile,” using “but, alas” is redundant. “Alas” means “but,” yo.


October 17th, 2012
11:11 pm

Hey two cents, you use “yo” in a sentence in which you are correcting someone’s grammar!?!? I am guessing you know what “gauche” means.


October 18th, 2012
7:36 am

Expense account?

real john

October 18th, 2012
11:38 am

Scratch Eater

October 18th, 2012
11:46 am

With the exception of Saison, I have had the privilege of eating at virtually every mentioned in your column and in the comments, including the French Laundry. I have also had the privilege of dining at several three star and one four star Michelin restaurants in London and Paris. As much as I love the Atlanta restaurant scene and in spite of all of the very good restaurants that we have, sadly I must admit that we do not have one single establishment that has a prayer of garnering two stars. Aria and Eugene come the closest in terms of food quality and service, but neither offer the complete package – the setting and ambiance to rank two stars, in fact I think that if they could garner one star that they should and could be justifiably proud. To Jimmy I would remark that Seegers and Joel are out of business precisely because they were inferior in every way. Overpriced and overly impressed with their own abilities – narcisim run amok. Soto (I asume he is refering to the former sushi restaurant that is now in NYC) was great, but the setting was definetly not Michelin material. In that same vein I would ask “da Man” to please refrain from telling people about our #1 sushi jewel Hayakawa. It is getting increasingly crowded, let’s keep that secret to ourselves! And to “N Ga” I would say that if you had ever been seated at a nice table for two next to the waiter’s station at Bacchanalia you woul know that it doesn’t have a prayer of making the grade. Two and three star Michelin restaurants do not have waiter stations on the floor, much less would they charge a couple $300 to $400 to sit next to one. Bacchanalia, like Seegers, fits the old axiom, once shame on you, twice shame on me. And lastly, to Oenophile, while Bones has impeccable service, the setting is miserable – no Michelin restaurant would have you walk through that lounge lizard bar and perch awkwardly on two steps as you address the maitre’d. And the fact is that it isn’t even the best steakhouse in Atlanta. Twice I have had to return grizzly and inedible steaks, and I can name three of four places where you can get a better steak. On most occassions it is very good, but it can be very erratic and inconsistent on quality. I have friends who swear that they think the NY strip at Alfredo’s to be better than Bones. I wouldn’t know about that, when at Alfredo’s I eat Italian. So, while we are blessed with a very good and vibrant dining scene here in Atlanta, don’t count on seeing any shooting stars.

McRib Sandwich

October 18th, 2012
11:51 am

McDonald’s in Adamsville


October 18th, 2012
11:58 am

Restaurant Eugene is consistently rated among the top 40 restaurants in the United States, and Bacchanalia, despite the comment of “Scratch Eater” above, is as well. I’ve never understood why local residents don’t appreciate what Atlanta offers.


October 18th, 2012
1:02 pm

Nearly everything Scratch Eater claims to help earn a star have nothing to do with the food. Ambiance is nice. Service is great. At the end of the day they mean far less to me than if I enjoyed what I ate.

I’ve said it before and I’m sure I’ll say it many times more in this life – I don’t care if you dragged it through a sewer to get it to me, as long as it tastes good.

Times are changing and people aren’t nearly as fussy about the “fine dining” label as they once were. Personally, if I never have to wear a coat or tie to a meal again I’ll be happy.


October 18th, 2012
1:22 pm

Hey Scratch Eater, your eminence, there is no such thing as a 4 star Michelin restaurant.


October 19th, 2012
12:09 am

Wait… did somebody really say London? I’ve spent a lot of time in London, and I’m sorry, but Atlanta blows it out of the water when it comes to food. I love London, but to include it in a list of cities with great food says you haven’t spent much time there, if any. They may have a few Michelin rated restaurants, but on the whole, London sucks as a food town.


October 19th, 2012
8:29 am

I’ve been fortunate to eat at 9 of the 10 three-star Michelins in the U.S. That being said, I love Atlanta’s dining scene and that’s because of the wide variance of eats; from holes in the wall and ethnic eats, to the excellent modern American and Southern greats. As much as I love Bacchanalia and Restaurant Eugene, they at best would be two-star Michelins and at least deserving of one star. In NYC, a few one stars that come to mind are Brushstroke, which was highly disappointing and easily bested by Atlanta’s best, and Peter Luger, which I wouldn’t necessarily call fine dining. Bottom line, I think Michelin’s consideration of Atlanta speaks volumes of Atlanta’s dining scene, which has always been underrated.

Yoga Chick

October 19th, 2012
8:44 am

Sotto Sotto is consistently good. So are Reataurant Eugene and Miller Union. My last two meals at Bacchanalia have been marginal at best. Not convinced any are star worthy compared to SF or NYC restaurants. I’ve noted a couple of places I haven’t heard of based on this thread, though. Thanks for that.

[...] Michelin stars for Atlanta? [...]


October 19th, 2012
11:30 am

I too agree with @Jimmy with regard to Soto (still see him when in NYC) and The Dining Room – at least while Chef Bruno was there. These guys deserve Michelin stars. If we are talking the last chef at the Ritz – after Bruno left, then I can see where Rodney is coming from.

I think Bacchanalia is very good but over rated. I actually think the same thing of French Laundry which I dined at last year. The first dish (oysters and pearls) was shockingly divine… but then every dish after that while terrific, was not consistently as amazing. The meal I had earlier this year at Diverxo in Madrid was a fraction of the cost and every single dish was nothing less than a euphoric experience.

Back to Atlanta… we do have some really great restaurants. My list for Michelin worthy.. I say Nan, Rathbuns, and Eugene.



October 19th, 2012
5:22 pm

I really do enjoy reading comments from those trying to “out-pretentious” each other. Very entertaining.


October 20th, 2012
11:06 am

Aria certainly deserves serious consideration for a star or two – the intimacy of the space is one of the appeals and Gerry has been sourcing local ingredients far before the cachet of locavorism gained appeal and notoriety -