Atlanta features enough culinary star power to rival any other US city or for that matter, almost any city in the world. We have become a veritable melting pot of food cultures with celebrity Chefs on every corner. The diner can as easily find a great place for Indian cuisine as she can for great Q.
The competition among all this fabulousness is sharp and palpable. Throw the flat economy into the mix and you have a restaurant community facing the toughest market it has ever seen. No one is immune from worry over filling their chairs, rising costs and the new guy next door.
I know this. I have worked in Atlanta restaurants for 15 years.
So, when a friend called some months ago telling me he was coming to town with a small convention and needed dining, I jumped---literally---for joy. A group to send to a few dining favorites who were also willing to do what was required for the large group diner: fixed (higher) gratuity, no budget, limited menu, sign a contract.
What did this group want in return? Casual dress, casual dining, Very Good Food, locally owned restaurants reflecting Atlanta, specific times; they were on a tight schedule. Not too far from midtown. If I was a restaurant I'd jump at this.
First Call, Miller Union. The Atlanta Hot Spot. Lauded by everyone from local Food Critic John Kessler to Nationally recognized Bon Apetite Magazine, this place hit all the marks for my visiting group.
And, what did I hear when I called Miller Union requesting a Noon reservation for 15 diners (six weeks down the road, a guarantee to come)?
“We can not guarantee a table for your group at that time or that date. We are doing so well we do not need to reserve that far out.”
Shame on you Miller Union. Shame----on----you!
Restaurants to Applaud---A Short List:
The Group Loved Them; They Were Welcoming and Accommodating
Agave, 242 Boulevard, SE Atlanta
http://www.agaverestaurant.com/Besides the best margaritas ever, this place features wonderful Southwestern fare and a very accommodating staff. A very, very nice staff. My favorites: Southern fried chicken with mashed Yukon golds or the slow cooked short ribs marinated in ancho chilies. Or, maybe the cevice martini, all spicy and limey and overflowing with tuna and shrimp? You decide. Just go.
Tavola, Virginia Avenue, Virginia Highlands
http://www.latavolatrattoria.com/I dream about the food here. I smile the minute I walk through the door. Tavola has the nicest managers and a staff to match. The cuisine is perfect Italian straight from the Italian countryside. Have the mozzarella burrata with tomato conserve and crostini; the lemony shrimp risotto with Georgia shrimp and Thai basil. If I ever needed a last meal, this would be it.
Havana Sandwich Shop, lower Buford Highway, Atlanta
This restaurant was rebuilt after a fire at another location. I am glad the owners made the effort to come back. They would have been sorely missed. What to try? Cuban sandwiches and Cuban food and the best you’ve ever eaten. Don’t forget the Mojo sauce and a side of black bean soup.