For our Decade in Review Issue, we decided to look back at the decade in restaurant reviews. Here are some snippets from what we've had to say about Atlanta's dining scene over the decade.
At dusk, with the autumn sun setting over our own Emerald City, there may be no more agreeable outdoor dining spot than the patio of Fritti, in Inman Park. The baby sister and next-door neighbor to Sotto Sotto, Atlanta's bellissima darling, and presided over by owner Riccardo Ullio and manager Rob Jackson, Fritti is worth a visit even if you don't eat a bite.
Ambience may not be everything in a glamour-puss restaurant. But at Bluepointe, the Karatassos chain's newest Buckhead be-seen scene, theatrical lighting is at least as important as chef Ian Winslade's contemporary fusion cooking.
When I pull into Woodfire's small, circular driveway, there's a line of vehicles waiting to be parked. Once inside, I'm told the wait time for a table (with no reservation) is 45 minutes. My backup plan – eating at the bar – is thwarted when I notice that not only are there no free seats, but the bar is encircled with thirsty folks flagging down bartenders for a glass of wine while they mill about, mingling and killing time.
I wait anyway. The food is worth it.
Remember East Atlanta, the almost 'hood-of-the-moment during Clinton's last days in office when dot-comers had to beat investors off with mouse pads? Well, after several years of fading from esteem, the area finally has the snazzy restaurant it's been waiting for, and we, the converging crowds, get to feel like pioneers all over again.
There's electricity in the air at Iris, that tickly flush everyone senses when a new place hits the elusive mark. You feel it in the space, a former filling station sleekly redone with verve and sex appeal. You feel it in the customers, who strike languid poses at the bar while waiting for their tables, then linger over their meals, reticent to budge. And you certainly feel it in the affordable bistro fare, comforting yet clever and served with panache.
Two servers emerge from [chef Richard] Blais' kitchen, their frames briefly silhouetted against a glowing wall of mustard-colored panels. They stride ceremoniously toward our table and set before each of us a plate upon which sits a small, fluted bowl and a rectangular tin box. Wasting no time, the servers lift the lids of the tin boxes to reveal their contents: steamy pouches of golden rice in Ziploc bags. Our eyebrows arch with curiosity. And what, pray tell, might this be?
"Our take on boil-in-bag rice," announces a pony-tailed woman with a twinkle in her eye. "It's paella with shrimp and chorizo." She and the other server empty the contents of the plastic bags into the bowls and dash off.
I take a departing dodge through the glamorous digs and among the festive patrons to remind myself why we're all here. It's not really for the food, which I do hope improves as the kitchen refines its output in the face of such imposing crowds. No, we're here for the escape – for the chance to elude our lives and brush against gorgeous people, seductive scenery and titillating drama.
Creating and shattering illusion is really what an experience at Seeger's is all about – whether it is intended or not. Of course, the intricate dishes, with their myriad startling components, invoke a feeling of fantasy. But the semblance of perfection [chef Gunter] Seeger and his staff strive to project sometimes crumbles under the gravity of their seriousness. I wish more humor ran through this place.
Will the subtle changes at Seeger's at last ingratiate the chef and his restaurant to Atlanta? Probably not. But those who can see past or even appreciate the formality of the service and hone in primarily on the food will find Seeger closer than ever to expressing his essential values as a chef.
Adam has a wiry frame and scruffy hair, red T-shirt, skinny jeans. You can tell he's been doing this for a long time; the bar seems like an extension of his person. But there's something proprietary in his movements and tone of voice. Top Flr is what happens when the kids who used to wait tables and bartend in other people's restaurants grow up and become their own bosses. Spelling goes out the window and hipster conviviality comes in. (Why no "oo" in the word "floor"? We have no idea.) These guys have made a restaurant for their friends, and the rest of us are lucky we get to eat there, too.
At Holeman and Finch, the self-described Public House that acts as a low-key younger sibling to Restaurant Eugene, the menu makes no sense, is wholly unbalanced and would scare the bejesus out of most fiscal-minded restaurateurs. Pig's ears, raw steak, bone marrow and anchovy spread are exactly the types of dishes chefs have been trying to talk worried owners into serving for years. It's practically impossible to cobble together something resembling a balanced meal at Holeman and Finch, but it barely matters. To hell with balance and logic – this place is awesome.
I'll never forget that first time we met. I didn't know what to expect, what with your name – so violent, so evocative! But when I walked into your dining room and saw the way you'd managed to take your ugliness and turn it into something beautiful, I was floored. Elements of slaughter – meat hooks adorning bar lights – wrapped into the comfort of farmhouse chic ... there's humor in that combination, as well as a deft intelligence that your family of restaurants alone possesses in this city.
People were shocked when they first heard your name. "Abattoir? What kind of a sick joke of a restaurant name is that?" they asked. But I always loved it, the boldness, the honesty.