Need to find a meal before Saturday’s big SEC game? A word of advice: start walking away from the predictably thronged chain restaurants near Georgia Dome and CNN Center in any direction — to Castleberry Hill, the Luckie-Marietta District or the streets of downtown Atlanta — where far better choices await. Here are a few:
191 Peachtree St., Atlanta. 404-968-9662.
A smart, sleek modern Mexican restaurant tucked into the lobby of a downtown office tower. Great margaritas and ceviches as well as more involved entrees. The kitchen also makes a mean tamale.
231 Mitchell St., Atlanta. 404-736-6164.
Like walking into someone’s living room. This super-casual place serves wine and ridiculously inexpensive small-plates fare in a setting filled with eclectic artwork and comfy lounge furniture. Braised chicken legs and cabbage salad are highlights.
180 Walker St., Atlanta. 404-574-5678.
A Mexican furniture and handicraft store that doubles as a restaurant. The food is fine rather than great, but the atmospheric setting pulls you in. And, really, once you get your chips, cheese dip and cold beer you’re going to be happy.
53 Broad St., Atlanta. 404-589-8889.
Excellent if tiny Vietnamese restaurant on the downtown strip where office workers look for a quick meal. Only open for lunch. Try the pho, a beef noodle soup, if the temperature dips. If the dining area is packed, you can find seating in the basement.
133 Luckie St., Atlanta. 404-521-9796.
The flagship branch of the Atlanta-based burger chain owned in part by Ted Turner. If you’re looking for simple, familiar American food, this is your best option downtown. The floor staff does an excellent job of estimating wait times and getting the food to the table quickly.
300 Marietta St., Atlanta. 404-521-2728.
A hilarious second-story German restaurant that usually has a seat if the pizza place and sports bar underneath are thronged. Some of the entrees are a bit expensive, but the imported beers and sausages won’t fail to satisfy.
45 Ivan Allen Jr. Blvd., Atlanta, 404-577-7601.
A useful, albeit expensive, restaurant in a part of Atlanta that doesn’t offer much on the high end. The signature steaks and chops won’t disappoint, but there’s also a French bistro menu if you’re looking for something lighter or more interesting. The lobster Cobb salad makes for a good splurge. And if you want to try something quasi-Southern, order the buttered collard greens as a side dish.
- by John Kessler for the Food & More blog