Take a bite out of ATL
Check out some of the city's best dishes.
at Xelapan Cafeteria
At Xelapan, what Guatemalans call a chuchito is served in corn husks tied on both ends, the way you might wrap a bonbon. Inside, you’ll find a big ball of corn masa that’s much more firm than a Mexican tamale. Break into it with your fork and you’ll find another curiosity: the bone-in flat of a chicken wing. Take a big spoonful of Xelapan’s green salsa, a bracing but not overwhelming sauce of cilantro and jalapeno, and splash it on top. Your first bite will be full of juicy chicken meat, chewy corn and bright heat. I’ll bet you the cost of a tamale that you’ll nearly inhale the rest. — Wyatt Williams
5268 Buford Highway, Doraville. 770-452-8880, facebook.com/xelarestaurante.
Spicy Fried Chicken Sandwich
It’s hard not to love Southbound; a pioneer in Chamblee fine dining with its gorgeously neo-rustic space, glowing copper-lined kettles hung above the bar for lighting, and of course, their farm-to-table aesthetic and super-duper cocktails. Their Spicy Fried Chicken sandwich may well be what gets served in heaven.
A sturdy brioche bun slathered with zingy Szechuan mayo holds the tender, boneless fried chicken thigh. A dusting of spices, then a hefty slice of fried green tomato goes atop the chicken, along with a devilishly sweet-hot, house-made habanero-pineapple jam and a healthy blob of tangy, soft goat cheese.
The overall effect is at once wild and comforting; angels and devils fighting it out on your plate, and you’re the winner. — Lane Holman
5393 Peachtree Road, Chamblee. 678-580-5579, www.southboundatl.com.
Dessert here is a delight. The signature Tollhouse Pie of dark and white chocolate, walnuts and vanilla ice cream was enough to make me swoon. More so when ordering it with the recommended Dow’s 20-year tawny port. My table fought over that pie and the other sweet endings that comprised the Dessert Trio — a vanilla bean panna cotta and the Bonzo, a layered dessert of fudge brownie, cheesecake, dark chocolate mousse and whipped cream — a steal at $8. — Ligaya Figueras
997 Virginia Ave. N.E., Atlanta. 404-872-0904, murphys-atlanta-restaurant.com
at Sun in My Belly
Sun in My Belly’s stuffed French toast starts with a springy slice of challah so thick it really can’t be called a slice. The bread is egged up, then fried into French toast. After that, it’s slit down the middle and clamshelled around a cloud of ricotta and a tumble of berries.
That aromatic sweetness you detect in the fluffy cheese? That’s honey. There’s also a pot of maple syrup and the whole plate is liberally dusted with powdered sugar. In short, this is confection-as-breakfast.
Eating this assemblage is deliciously slow business. It’s worth it to make sure every forkful is triple-loaded with custardy challah, tart juicy fruit and creamy cheese. — Elizabeth Lenhard
2161 College Ave. N.E., Atlanta. 404-370-1088, suninmybelly.com.
Specials are Emidio’s wheelhouse, and that’s how I got to know his Cataplana, when it was offered as a special one night. presented in a gigantic lidded copper pot, This seafood stew was teeming with clams, mussels, scallops, shrimp and hunks of tuna (that, some days, might get replaced with salmon or tilapia, depending on what chef Emidio has freshest at his disposal). For this, you also need to place an order of bolo de caco — flatbread that looks like an oversized English muffin, halved, swiped with garlic oil and cut into wedges. You need it for wiping up your plate of maritime goodness. — LF
8610 Roswell Road, Sandy Springs. 770-837-3373, emidios.net
at Bread and Butterfly
Omelet, ooh la la! Bread & Butterfly serves it at almost any time of the day or night. It is the genuine article, a French omelet, and classic in every way. The smooth, buttery exterior is delicate and light, the interior runny and rich. The roll is just tight enough to hold the whole thing together. Sometimes, the plate is dressed with a smear of green pistou, other days a little cheese is added, but nothing complicated or heavy. The omelet here is, as it should be, pure and simple. — WW
290 Elizabeth St., Atlanta. 678-515-4536, bread-and-butterfly.com
Puerto Rican pork chop
at Porch Light
Chef Andre Gomez’ pork chop is a massive thing, stretching from the bone-in side of the loin through the ribs and into the fatty, skin-on belly (photo by Mia Yakel; styling by Andre Gomez). This cut is called a “can can” in Puerto Rico because the long curve of meat resembles the flamboyant wave of a woman’s dress mid-dance.
Gomez uses heritage pork (Cheshire White hogs from North Carolina, if you’re curious) and so the loin meat is a little tougher than average, a fact that is more than made up for by a depth of flavor and juicy fattiness that blows away your average chop. We crunched through the crisp skin, luxuriated in the fatty bites, gnawed every morsel off the bone. No bite was left behind. — WW
300 Village Green Circle, Smyrna. 678-309-9858, porchlightlatinkitchen.com
at Mezza Luna
My first night at Mezza Luna, I fell a little bit in love. I’d found an open seat at the bar. Over in the corner, an accordion player filled the air with a charming tune. And, when I ordered a glass of Montepulciano, the pour was so generous I thought I might have stumbled into someone’s Italian home.
When the mussels alla tarantina arrived, I understood why a few people have told me they love this place, too. It was a simple, homey dish of mussels doused in a buttery white wine sauce flecked with hunks of cherry tomato and a mellow garlic finish. With the fire in my eyes and the accordion in my ears, I could’ve drunk it right out of the bowl. — WW
1669 Spring Road, Smyrna. 770-319-0333, mezza-luna.net
at Common Quarter
The Frogmore stew, which seems a must in a rustic dining room dominated by a map of the Georgia coast, is an elegant rendition. Shrimp, mussels, kielbasa and fingerlings each shine simply within a light, fruity tomato broth. The dish feels like it has been cooked long and low to evoke as many flavors as possible without being overworked. — EL
1205 Johnson Ferry Road, Marietta. 678-809-4040, commonquarter.com
at Las Brasas Peruvian Roasters
Fans of Decatur favorite Las Brasas’ flock to its new location, an oversized storefront a half-mile from its first home. They come for amazing rotisserie chicken, frothy pisco sours and hearty lomo saltado, the Chinese-influenced stir-fry of beef, onions and peppers piled onto a starchilicious bed of french fries with white rice on the side. With this dish, a few extra seconds in the skillet can turn the beef to sawdust, but Las Brasas’ lomo was perfectly prepared — juicy, saucy and super flavorful. — EL
614 Church St., Decatur. 404-377-9121, lasbrasasdecatur.com