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Ocean's seven

A selection of Atlanta's satisfying seafood options

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I once heard someone say that if Atlanta were on the water, it would be a perfect city and even more people would live here. I'm not sure about that, but I am sure we'd have more seafood restaurants in every price range. I grew up on the Gulf Coast, where mullet, grouper, shrimp and triggerfish were plentiful and cheap. I yearn for good seafood.

The topic of seafood -- challenged perhaps only by barbecue -- always inspires heated debate. Landlocked as we are, there are still perennial go-tos (Atlanta Fish Company, the Lobster Bar, McCormick & Schmick's) and some great sushi spots (MF Sushibar, Aqua Blue, Soto).

The restaurants featured here have either stood the test of time or are interesting upstarts, though the list is by no means exhaustive. What's your favorite seafood spot, landlubber? I welcome your thoughts.

Kyma

Being half Greek, I rejoiced when Pano Karatassos opened this paean to his homeland. The place is a Santorini-inspired knockout, all white and Mediterranean blue. And classy, too: No one yells "Opa!" Just past the hostess stand, your oceanic entree choices -- fish, crustaceans and mollusks flown in from Greece -- are displayed on ice. The best preparations are the whole fish (sold by the pound) slicked with olive oil and lemon and simply grilled. For starters, try the tender, wood-grilled octopus: vinegary blackened rings (complete with suckers) over a bed of grilled red onions. Make sure you've got the greenbacks for this sublime but pricey meal.

3085 Piedmont Road. 404-262-0702. www.buckheadrestaurants.com/kyma.

Six Feet Under

No, it's not named after the Emmy-winning HBO show, but rather as a nod to its location opposite Oakland Cemetery. This cheery Grant Park eatery has become a fixture in the neighborhood after only two years. My favorites are the baskets, featuring fried shrimp, catfish, oysters, cod or scallops dusted in spiced cornmeal, fried to perfection and served with gorgeous hushpuppies and homemade potato chips. The po' boys are enlivened with remoulade sauce, and the buttery lump crab cakes over sauteed spinach are another good choice. I vow to try the catfish tacos and little neck clams steamed in white wine sauce next time.

415 Memorial Drive. 404-523-6664.

Fishmonger

My server boasted that all the seafood is fresh at this casual seafood eatery -- and after my gluttonous feeding, I'm inclined to agree. The lobster fettuccine in spicy vodka cream sauce is a carb-dense treat. Better still is the fish fry of oysters, calamari, shrimp and cod in a light, greaseless, peppery batter. But best of all is the fish in parchment. On a recent night, covina (a cousin to grouper) was baked Mediterranean-style with capers, onions and calamata olives; a briny and healthy entree. Although the Roswell Road outpost is the most popular, I hope the new Midtown branch has broken the curse of the space formerly occupied by Big Red Tomato and Balance.

4969 Roswell Road, 404-459-9003; 980 Piedmont Ave., 404-881-8889; 609 Holcomb Bridge Road, Roswell, 770-993-1600.

Pappadeux Seafood Kitchen

I feel about Pappadauex, the Houston-based chain, like I do about New Orleans: Everything looks good and I can't seem to eat as much as I want in a given trip. The massive restaurant features an equally enormous menu that attracts hoards that happily queue for the seafood. At first blush, dishes seem pricey; but the servings are gargantuan, so you (and everyone else) will be taking home a doggie bag. Trust me, the leftovers rock. The crawfish platter features knuckle-sized fried crawfish, and rich, just-thick-enough crawfish etouffee and dirty rice, made with ground chicken and pork. The succulent blackened catfish must be a foot long. Eating like this may take years off your life, but it's worth it.

10795 Davis Drive, Alpharetta, 770-992-5566; 2830 Windy Hill Road, Marietta, 770-984-8899; 5635 Jimmy Carter Blvd., Norcross, 770-849-0600. www.pappadeaux.com.

Spondivits

In the shadow of the airport is this boisterous, no-frills, 25-year-old seafood shack with a wraparound bar and outdoor seating that attracts one of the city's more socially, racially and economically diverse crowds. The fried seafood is competent, but the real draw is steamed shrimp and lobster served in an aluminum bucket with tangy beer butter. Steamed oysters topped with garlic butter and cheese are a good starter, and the burger-sized lump crab cakes are all sweet meat with no filler. Incongruously, there's valet parking. Northsiders, there's a second outpost in Cumming.

1219 Virginia Ave., East Point, 404-767-1569; 599 Atlanta Road, Cumming, 770-844-9060.

Goldfish

Mall dining is usually a depressing choice between one mediocre chain or another. That's why Goldfish at Perimeter Mall is so successful. The attractive room is shockingly loud when full, but if seafood vs. conversation is your goal, you'll leave happy. The menu bounces from Asian to Mediterranean to Southern accents, with something to please everyone. The cheese grits with shrimp and andouille sausage is a satisfying indulgence. A crispy trout stuffed with feta, spinach and artichoke hearts is an unexpected preparation that succeeds beautifully.

4400 Ashford Dunwoody Road. 770-671-0100.

Stringers

The slightly dilapidated Stringers would be at home in Key West. As it is, it's a longtime city favorite located a stone's throw from Buford Highway, with specials scrawled on the windows and a roll of paper towels at each table. The fist-sized hushpuppies and peppery corn salad are good sides, but it's the slightly sweet, slightly spicy gumbo, swimming with seafood, that is truly memorable. The fried seafood is greaseless (the catfish still has its tail) and the grilled grouper (or shrimp or oyster) hoagie basted with spices and served with grilled onions makes you long for a piñna colada.

3384 Shallowford Road. 770-458-7145.

suzanne.wright@creativeloafing.com

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