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Atlanta’s Best Restaurant Groups
November 23, 2015
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. We’re so fortunate to live in a city that’s steering away from corporate, chain restaurants and moving toward locally-owned, independently-operated eateries. But sometimes the distinction can be confusing, especially when it comes to restaurant groups. “I’ve been dying to try Superica—it’s the same owners as JCT Kitchen,” is something you’ve likely heard before. So just how do these restaurant groups really work? We’ve created the Sparknotes for Atlanta restaurant groups to help. Click through the slideshow for a guide to Atlanta’s top restaurant groups, each of which are serving up dishes taking our dining scene to the next level:
Story by Lizzie Powell.
02 of 08
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 nine (and counting!) restaurants that have popped up across town in a matter of eight years. With restaurants 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 or The El Felix, 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. Some of our favorite things to try include the seasonally crafted pre-fixe menu at St. Cecilia’s Sunday Supper for $35 a person, a Southern American brunch at King and Duke (don’t miss the salmon cakes benedict and homemade cinnamon rolls) or shrimp and grits for dinner at JCT Kitchen. We can’t pass up Bar Margot’s cocktail list at Four Seasons Atlanta either. With a drink menu curated by Atlanta’s cocktail legends, Greg Best and Paul Calvert, guests can sip on innovative craft cocktails in a plush, unpretentious atmosphere.
As if opening two restaurants in 2015 hasn’t been enough of an accomplishment, Ford Fry is set to open Beetlecat later this fall and will serve bolder, more innovative seafood small plates in Inman Park. The group is also expanding to Fry’s hometown, Houston, TX, and has its eyes on Charleston and the new Braves stadium, where they plan to open additional locations for their Tex-Mex concept, Superica.
03 of 08
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, Star Provisions Restaurants also includes Floataway Café, Star Provisions, Little Bacch and W.H. Stiles Fish Camp – Dubs. 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, hosts a monthly wine and cheese class for those looking to explore artisan cheeses and wine pairings, and offers meat, coffee and a lunch counter, which serves gourmet salads, sandwiches 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.
If you’re a foodie on a budget, but have your eye on Bacchanalia’s 5-course pre-fixe menu ($85 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.
By choosing to close Abattoir, Quatrano has been able to focus on opening two new concepts this year: Little Bacch–just downstairs from Bacchanalia–takes inspiration from its big sister, but serves a la carte continental dishes (think cheese soufflé and their notorious whole roasted chicken with feet and head intact). 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).
04 of 08
Little Italia Restaurant Group
Growing up in an Italian immigrant family in New York City, Giovani Di Palma dreamt of creating a Little Italy 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 opened Antico Pizza and Gio’s Chicken locations at the Avalon in Alpharetta and will be opening another Antico Pizza location at the new Braves stadium in 2017.Continue to 5 of 8 below.
05 of 08
Buckhead Life Restaurant Group
Since 1979, Buckhead Life has been ruling Buckhead with hotspots like Kyma, Chops and the Atlanta Fish Market. Many modern restauranteurs have shied away from white-table-cloth concepts, but 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 full of stuffy, old-school dishes. 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, 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.
While Buckhead Life Restaurant Group can’t announce any plans for new concepts in Atlanta just yet, they do have events happening throughout the year that give guests a new take on what they have to offer. Check out their Thanksgiving dinner at 103 West, their private event space, or have breakfast with Santa at Buckhead Diner this holiday season. If holiday events aren’t your thing, from October through May, the third-generation Italian executive chef at Pricci prepares a monthly menu to highlight signature dishes from a particular region in Italy. It’s the best way to taste travel through Italy right here at home.
06 of 08
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, or 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 three more restaurants: the Iberian Pig in Decatur, Cooks and Soldiers on the Westside and Double Zero in Sandy Springs.
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 and 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.
07 of 08
Concentrics Restaurant Group
At Concentrics Restaurants’ eight 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. From dramatic lighting and central structures, like Two Urban Lick’s focal-point bar, to wine and beer walls, you’ll definitely have something to look at while eating some of Atlanta’s best dishes.
Known for being a visionary, CEO Bob Amick looks ahead of market trends and turns rundown buildings in up-and-coming neighborhoods into masterpieces, like the former warehouse ONE once was and the pipe factory Parish used to be. Aside from the group’s forward thinking, they prove that there’s much more variety to American cuisine than one would expect at ONE Midtown Kitchen, Two Urban Licks and The Spence. From the fiery dishes at Two Urban Licks to the artfully ingredient-driven menu items at ONE Midtown Kitchen and the Spence, the group offers variety while still staying true to American flavor profiles and ingredients. We love the lamb lollipops at Two Urban Licks, the wood fired whole branzino at The Spence and their confit duck leg at ONE Midtown Kitchen.
While munching away on their delicious bites, wash everything down with their fantastic wine and beer programs. At Two Urban Licks, 72 stainless barrels of wine line their wine wall, while Mason Tavern is an inviting neighborhood pub that boasts a great beer list. Likewise, at Tap, beer drinkers feast on beer mac n’ cheese and lamb burger after choosing from 35 of their beers on tap. Join the TAP Taster’s Society to taste 60 beers from around the world and to get in on their beer events happening regularly.
Concentrics has also tapped into hotel dining concepts, and they’ve proven that hotel dining is more than a bland burger and fries. Both ROOM at Twelve and Lobby Bar and Bistro serve modern American cuisine and have been recognized as some of the best hotel dining spots in Atlanta. Concentrics hasn’t announced plans to open new concepts in Atlanta at the moment, but they are planning a relaunch ONE Midtown Kitchen with a new beverage program alongside a new menu, which is set to offer more out-of-the-box modern cooking.
08 of 08
Fifth Group Restaurant Group
Recently awarded 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 American Catering, 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 South City Kitchen, while just down the block, Lure serves contemporary fish house dishes in a modern farmhouse setting. Likewise, Ecco impresses customers with their traditional European dishes and wine list, which offers both old world and new world-style glasses and bottles.
Over in Virginia Highlands, 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.
Alma Cocina is the group’s latest restaurant, and it’s known its Tex-Mex dishes in downtown Atlanta. 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 their selection of ceviches, tacos and large plates.
Fifth Group is set to open a third South City Kitchen in Buckhead this Spring.