Atlanta’s Best Restaurant Groups
The Atlanta restaurant scene has been on the rise for years, but now more than ever, it finally feels like the South has something to brag about. With more chef-driven restaurants popping up and local ingredients becoming more accessible, the Atlanta food world is fostering a community honoring good food and the people who make it.
Here are some of the city's top restaurant groups that are serving up restaurants and dishes taking Atlanta dining to the next level.
Story by Lizzie Powell.
Ford Fry Restaurant Group
If you’re familiar with the Atlanta restaurant scene, chances are you’ve heard about chef/restaurateur Ford Fry and his eleven (and counting!) restaurants. With concepts in neighborhoods ranging from the Westside and Inman Park to Buckhead and Alpharetta, there’s almost always a Ford Fry restaurant nearby when you’re eating in Atlanta.
Whether you’re looking to celebrate an occasion with the city’s priciest steak options at Marcel, cozy up with a bowl of pasta at neighborhood restaurant No. 246, scope out the scene at seafood-centric The Optimist or sit back and have a margarita at Superica (at Krog Street Market in in Inman Park or Roswell Road in Buckhead) or The El Felix (at the Avalon in Alpharetta and the Battery by SunTrust Park), Ford Fry has you covered. But despite the sheer number of concepts, each of Ford Fry’s restaurants bring a unique personality to the table and no detail is left undone. From the design of each space to the service and food, Fry has made sure his restaurants run like well-oiled machines. Don't miss the the Sunday Supper at JCT Kitchen, a $29 prix fixe "fancy meat plus three" with a choice of meats like fried chicken and blackened catfish, three sides like braised local greens and macaroni and cheese, plus dessert, or the donut brunch Saturdays and Sundays in the downstairs "den" at BeetleCat.
Star Provisions Restaurant Group
Anne Quatrano, co-owner and chef of Star Provisions Restaurants, has been called Atlanta’s restaurant godmother, as she was a pioneer not only in Atlanta’s fine dining scene, but also in the farm-to-table, chef-driven restaurant movement. Most well-known for the acclaimed Bacchanalia, the restaurant group also includes Floataway Café, Star Provisions Market and Cafe, Little Star Provisions plus W.H. Stiles Fish Camp – Dubs along with the forthcoming Pancake Social at Ponce City Market. Her restaurant group, which sources ingredients from Quatrano’s family farm, Summerland, has been serving Atlanta topnotch dishes before food was even a “thing” here, and there’s no stopping them now.
Known for having one of the best cheese cases in town, Star Provisions, a rustic yet elegant market full of gift and cookware items, also offers meat, coffee and a lunch counter, which serves gourmet salads, sandwiches, pizzas and a selection of specials daily. We can’t say no to grabbing a sweet treat from the bakery after washing down a muffaleta sandwich with ginger ale in the stunning new Ellsworth Industrial Boulevard location. A scaled down menu is offered at Little Star in the old Star Provisions space in Westside Provisions District.
On a budget, but have your eye on Bacchanalia’s 5-course pre-fixe menu ($95 per person)? Take a seat at the bar where you can order the day’s menu items a la carte. If you’re lucky, your server might send you home with a complimentary specialty baked item. Or check out Floataway Café, which offers a new menu each day full of French-Italian seasonal fare. With entrees ranging from $18 to $29, guests can choose from grain and pasta dishes or meat and fish options that are all locally sourced.
W.H. Stiles Fish Camp - Dubs, which opened in September 2015 at Ponce City Market, is Star Provisions’ take on a New England clam shack, serving up raw oysters, po boys and crab beignets in a casual, yet bustling atmosphere (choose to toss back a few oysters at the bar or on the back patio). Also at Ponce City Market, Pancake Social will serve up all day breakfast and eight different types of savory and sweet flapjacks.
Little Italia Restaurant Group
Growing up in an Italian immigrant family in New York City, Giovani Di Palma dreamt of creating a "Little Italia," much like New York’s and Chicago’s, when he moved to Atlanta. After training in restaurants in Naples, Italy, Gio (as his friends and family call him), brought his Italian skills back home to open his flagship restaurant, Antico Pizza, where fans line up outside the door just to get their hands on the pizza. While Gio is now a certified maestro of pizza napoletana, deemed by the commune of Napoli, Italy's Associazione Pizzaioli of Naples, his pizza has been recognized nationally and internationally. In fact, he and his son are the only Americans to ever be recognized in Naples’ local paper, Il Mattino, for pizza, and Fox News has named his pepperoni pizza one of the top three in the U.S.
Gio has since opened an Italian dry goods store (Bottega Luisa), an Amalfi-inspired BYOB chicken restaurant (Gio’s Chicken), a classic coastal-style bar (Bar Amalfi) serving traditional Italian drinks like limoncello and bellinis and a coffee and gelato shop (Caffe Antico) to round out a true Italian experience, all on a humble block near Georgia Tech. On one side of Hemphill Avenue, you see the Amalfi Coast’s traditional blue and white umbrellas giving Bar Amalfi a relaxed coastal feel, while across the street customers eagerly wait to get their hands on Antico’s famed pizza made with top-quality, fresh ingredients imported from Italy (nearly every ingredient is imported from Italy, including Mozzarella di Buffala, which Gio picks up from the Atlanta airport twice a week). If you’re a first-timer, make sure to try the San Gennaro, which Food Network considers the “Best. Pizza. Ever.”
After Gio successfully turned Hemphill Ave. into Atlanta’s bustling and charming Little Italy, he expanded it beyond he original Westside location, with Antico Pizza and Caffe Antico locations at the Avalon in Alpharetta and an Antico Pizza location at SunTrust Park.
Buckhead Life Restaurant Group
Since 1979, Buckhead Life has been ruling Buckhead with hotspots like Kyma, Chops Lobster Bar and the Atlanta Fish Market. Many modern restauranteurs have shied away from white-table-cloth concepts, but the father-son duo Pano and Pano II Karatassos have proven that fine dining is still alive and swell in Atlanta. Though the group’s eight restaurants are known for their upscale dining rooms, their menus are anything but stuffy. While Buckhead Life covers a variety of cuisines – traditional French at Bistro Niko, Italian at Pricci and Mediterranean at Kyma – the chefs at each restaurant use old-school techniques to produce fresh, new takes on classic dishes. Local favorites include the flash fried lobster tail from Chops Lobster Bar, grilled octopus from Kyma and steak au poivre from Bistro Niko. Want something more casual? Try the Atlanta Fish Market, where you’ll fit in wearing a pair of jeans and receive the same quality food and service. Or head to Corner Café, which serves breakfast and lunch options daily, or Buckhead Diner, an Atlanta classic that serves elevated diner classics like veal and wild mushroom meatloaf.
Castellucci Hospitality Group
Being in the restaurant business has been in the Castellucci family’s blood since day one. When an Italian and a Greek married in 1948, a hybrid immigrant family was born that would go on to open their doors to a little restaurant in Rhode Island called Archie’s Tavern. Their only son, Federicco II, would then take his inherited entrepreneurial spirit down to Atlanta where he and his wife opened Sugo. Known for their unique family-style dishes, today, the menu is sprinkled with items that blend Italian and Greek ingredients and flavors, like their crispy risotto balls with feta and truffle and their four-cheese ravioli with lamb bolognese.
Castellucci Hospitality Group is now in the hands of Stephanie and Fred Castelucci, who have been credited for growing the restaurant group to include five more restaurants: the Iberian Pig in Decatur, Cooks & Soldiers on the Westside, Double Zero in Emory Village and Bar Mercado and Recess at Krog Street Market.
The Iberian Pig is best known for being the first of its kind in Atlanta and helped put Decatur on the map as one of the city’s best dining neighborhoods. Serving traditional Spanish tapas, cured meats and cheeses, the restaurant focuses on combining Spanish flavor profiles with modern, creative culinary techniques. Make sure to try the pan-seared scallops with braised pork belly, orange geleé and persimmon salsa, alongside a few more dishes to share and a wine from Spain, Chile or Argentina.
While the Iberian Pig has been serving up Spanish cuisine for years, CHG opened Cooks & Soliders in 2014 to highlight the regional dishes of Spain’s Basque Country. Known for small, shareable dishes called pintxos, the restaurant is also famous for larger-portion dishes prepared on their wood fired grill. Try the whole market fish, head-on prawns or 1-kg, bone-in rib eye, which are all grilled to perfection.
Double Zero – named for the flour used the make their homemade pasta – honors the family’s Italian heritage by serving traditional southern Italian dishes and Neopolitan pizza alongside a cozy ambiance. You can’t go wrong with their carbonara, which includes lamb smoked on a Big Green Egg and their homemade tagliatelle.
Bar Mercado focuses on Spanish style small plates like Catalan spinach, gambas al ajillo (head-on shrimp with garlic, sherry and ciabatta) and potato and beef coquettes. On warm days, sit on the airy patio inspired by Madrid’s central market.
For lighter fare, hit the Recess stall right around the corner from Bar Mercado, which focuses on grain bowls, salads, toasts and vegetables. Try the vegan-friendly "My Farro Lady," with farro, kale pesto, charred broccoli, chilled spaghetti squash salad, arugula, radish and golden raisins.
Concentrics Restaurant Group
At Concentrics Restaurants’ five Atlanta restaurants, no detail is left undone, and you can see and feel that when you walk into each location with their “wow factor” design work.
At two Urban Licks, grab a seat at the focal-point bar or sit on the Beltline-adjacent bar for their popular weekend brunch with $40 mimosa pitchers to accompany classics like fish and grits and Eggs Benedict. Sister restaurant Bully Boy also offers views of the Beltline, all while dining on shareable seafood like Florida snapper tartare, blue crab mango salad and Maine lobster frittes.
In the heart of Inman Park, Parish offers upscale dining in its upstairs French-American Brasserie serving up small plates and mains ranging from Georgia Trout with broccolini, tomato concase and beurre blanc to seared scallops with French lentils and orange glaze. For a more casual experience, visit the downstairs cafe for pastries, fresh-baked bread, croissants, bowls and sandwiches, perfect for grab and go for the outdoor patio or a picnic in one of the nearby parks.
Catching at game at Mercedes-Benz Stadium? Try Molly B's, a Southern-style, members-only chophouse that offers excellent views of the field and a first class pre-game experience. Named for Atlanta United and Atlanta Falcons owner Arthur Blank's mother, the restaurant offers a rotating menu of seasonal salads, sandwiches and soups as well as heartier fare like fried chicken with mac and cheese and collard greens.
Fifth Group Restaurant Group
A recipient of the Distinguished Service Award by the Georgia Restaurant Association, Fifth Group Restaurants is perhaps most admired for their eye towards sustainability and for pioneering green efforts in the Atlanta restaurant world. Each restaurant, along with Bold Catering & Design, is committed to a zero-waste policy, recycles grease to biofuel and is working towards the Green Foodservice Alliance certification. They’ve also converted half of their locations’ water heaters to on-demand systems and dish machines to low-use, water efficient models.
Between focusing on sustainability initiatives, the management team has ensured that while South City Kitchen, La Tavola, Lure, Ecco, El Taco and Alma Cocina are all under Fifth Group Restaurants’ umbrella, each restaurant carries its own identity. Midtown customers are wowed by the elevated Southern cuisine served in a homey environment at the original South City Kitchen, while just down the block, Lure serves contemporary fish house dishes in a modern farmhouse setting. Likewise, the original Ecco impresses customers with traditional European dishes and wine list, which offers both old world and new world-style glasses and bottles.
Over in Virginia Highland, you can cozy up in a booth at La Tavola and feast on traditional Italian fare, like homemade pasta paired with delicious sauces, cured meats and fresh seafood. Or if you’re in the mood for casual Mexican, head down the street to the friendly, more casual environment at El Taco. Serving Mexican street market specialties, this place is sure to satisfy both kid and adult tastebuds.
Downtown, try Alma Cocina, with Tex-Mex that's a bit more upscale than El Taco. Locals rave about the guacamole and salsa sampler, so make sure to start off with it before moving onto the selection of ceviches, tacos and large plates.
South City Kitchen fans can also dine at outposts in Buckhead, Vinings and Alpahretta (at Avalon), while Ecco (International Terminal Concourse F) and El Taco (Concourses C and F) also have a presence at the Atlanta airport. You can visit Ecco in Buckhead as well.