In the Field

Five Classic Atlanta Restaurants

By: Jennifer Zyman

TLP contributor Jennifer Zyman, writer of our Snapshot: Atlanta newsletter, shares the latest on Atlanta restaurants, recommendations, and more about what’s happening around the city. 

In a dining culture, focusing on the newest and greatest restaurants is perfectly normal. Fresh experiences are fun, but classic restaurants that have stayed the test of time also deserve attention. Many Atlanta restaurants have been open for more than 20 years, and we’d like to pay tribute to some of these classics, which fall across the dining spectrum. As anyone knows, consistency and longevity are two of the golden goals in any restaurant. These Atlanta institutions deserve your business because they’ve got that great food.

Aria

When chef Gerry Klaskala opened Aria in 2000, it was an instant success with the moneyed Buckhead crowd filled its beautiful dining room. As a beacon of fine dining excellence, Aria has continued its run as one of Atlanta’s finest restaurants and has managed to ebb and flow with the tide. While the menu is more upscale, the restaurant has also rolled out a cheeseburger at the bar that is a must-try. 

The Busy Bee Cafe

This Atlanta institution, opened in 1947 by Lucy Jackson, still serves traditional soul food at affordable prices in the cozy storefront. Given its longevity, it is no surprise that the Bee has fed notable Atlantans including many civil rights leaders. Although the restaurant has since moved and been sold, it continues to be a destination for Atlantans looking for the best fried chicken and smothered pork chops around. It’s not open for dinner so get there for lunch and don’t forget a slice of cake when you leave.

Canoe

This Vinings restaurant, set on the banks of the Chattahoochee River, has been open since 1995 and it’s been a special occasion spot since then. This is the place for that special dinner that feels like you are somewhere far away from Atlanta. The chic dining room done in wood, brick, and ironwork opens onto views of the water. This creates a cozy serenity that’s hard to match in this town. While dinner is the best time to dine, the brunch has also achieved cult-like status.

The chef and opening crew at La Grotta, a classic Atlanta restaurant

La Grotta

The iconic La Grotta Ristorante Italiano has been serving authentic Italian cuisine since 1978. Founders Antonio Abizanda and Sergio Favalli recently stepped down, putting Favalli’s son Christian in charge of the future of this true family business. In this temple to all things Italian, pasta and veal dishes are the stars. The gorgeous patio is a great place to take someone you love for a special occasion.

Nakato

Cheshire Bridge road holds many long-term gems and Nakato is no exception. Founded in 1972 by Tetsuko Nakato, the restaurant has been a place where diners could experience everything Japan has to offer, from sushi to shabu shabu to the teppanyaki style of grilling in view of guests. Today, Sachiyo “Sachi” Nakato Takahara runs the restaurant her grandmother founded. Sachi, who has worked at the restaurant from a young age, led Nakato and its employees through the pandemic. Above all, the cooking is stronger than ever and it is a true hidden gem.

Other Atlanta Restaurants on Our Radar

Someone dancing at Trap Sushi Experience in Atlanta

Palo Santo

Renowned Mexican chef Santiago Gomez introduces Palo Santo: a supper club-style restaurant and rooftop coming to West Midtown this summer. Targeting an early August opening, Gomez—alongside partners Eduardo Rivera and Felipe Rivera—prepares to debut in Atlanta after years of shaking up Miami with his signature modern Mexican cuisine.

By Weight & Measure

By Weight & Measure has opened inside the Collective Food Hall. The cocktail bar combines a love of science, cocktails, and fresh flavors. Look out for vacuum-infused liquors, sous vide syrups, fat washing, and centrifuge clarification. Likewise, there’s boozy slushies, full-and zero-proof cocktails, and a full beer and wine list.

Trap Sushi Experience

Artist Troop Brand and Monday Night Brewing are bringing together Japanese culture, sushi, and trap music. Trap Sushi will take place on August 25 at Monday Night Garage. Are you intrigued by the concept? Get more information and tickets via their website. The event is for 18 and up. Masks/cosplay encouraged but not required.

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