Sure your budget’s tight. But you’ve gotta eat, right? Here are five of my favorite spots where you can grab substantial nibbles (you know – a meal) for $30 per person. Some you’ll recognize as former favorites; others are new. And some are far less than $30. So grab a buddy, a date, your mom – your kids. It’s time to eat.
PIZZA ANTICO NAPOLETANA not rated
1093 Hemphill Ave., Atlanta, 404-724-2333
Prego! When the blogosphere (I heard it first from Blissful Glutton) lit up with news that former Fritti pizzaiolo Enrico Liberato was baking pies at this absolutely adorable spot on the Westside, the world (okay, maybe just the foodie crowd) rushed to stuff pizza fra diavolo with spicy peppers, sopressata, pepperoni and mozzarella di bufala in its face. From bianca to the house specialty of San Gennaro, with salsiccia, peppers and onions, this pizza is, once and for all, the best in Atlanta. The small shop (a former French bakery) is basically just “solo d’asporto,” or take-away only, but a big communal table makes for lots of fun. Look for a full review in November. Best bet: Share a San Gennaro for $21 with a couple of sodas and your belly and wallet will still have room for cannoli.
SOCIAL not rated
12 W. Peachtree Place, Atlanta, 404-525-2246
The owners of this sweet bistro, brothers Rheda and Jalil Chikhaoui, have the best of two worlds: born in Lyon, France, and raised by Tunisian parents. What a culinary collision. Small, with communal tables and an upstairs dining room, Social offers North African specialties such as lamb shank tajine with cous cous alongside French-inspired mussels in white wine. Best bet: Share the braised meat balls, then order grilled marquez, a spicy sausage over lentils. Add a glass of wine and share the bread pudding for dessert.
CELIA’S CARNICERIA Y SUPERMERCADO not rated
4664 Jimmy Carter Boulevard, Norcross, 770-806-0108
You wanna eat good and cheap? Inside this butcher shop and grocery store there’s a hidden jewel: Celia’s. Tacos and gorditas abound, filled with barbecued goat and topped with lettuce, tomatoes, avocados and crema Mexicana, then blanketed generously with sprinklings of queso anejo. But the real reason to venture beyond the checkout counter of this pristine market is for a sincronizada. Think quesadilla, only better – two corn tortillas are filled with the likes of carne, cheese, lettuce, tomatoes and avocado, then grilled. Best bet: You can stuff your face with a few of these, add a Jarritos soda and walk out with change for a $10.
4300 Buford Highway N.E., Suite 218, Atlanta, 404-929-0034
Kitschy name aside, it’s easy to get all wrapped up in what makes this restaurant stand out from any other Vietnamese spot in the area: rice paper wraps, or banh trang cuon. The grilled sampler is perfect for sharing, and fun too – rice papers, a shallow bowl of water and an assortment of grilled marinated pork, minced shrimp grilled around a baton of sugar cane (called chao tom) and la lot – minced beef flavored brightly with lemon grass then wrapped in pungent betel leaves. Add fresh lettuce leaves, green apple, slices of carambola, vermicelli noodles, long-leaved Vietnamese cilantro and mint, and it’s a food fest. Best bet: Start with a Vietnamese salad with beef jerky and papaya, then share some wraps. You’ll have enough cash left over for a movie.
475 Bill Kennedy Way, Atlanta. 404-835-4363, www.theshedatglenwood.com
Chef Lance Gummere’s menu is a farm-to-table marvel, and he and owner Cindy Shera really know how to strike a bargain, with specials almost every night of the week. Head over on Wednesdays, when sliders are $3 a piece, and you can fill up on a platter of them, from pork belly and baked beans to super hot-and-tasty fried cod and tartar sauce, all on the kind of soft white buns that stick to your teeth. Best bet: Start with a smooth torchon of foie gras smeared over toast with apple jam and an iceberg wedge salad with bacon and blue cheese, then end by sharing some sliders. Add a glass of wine and an order of the blissful profiteroles and chocolate sauce and you and your wallet will leave very happy.