Some of the best restaurants in Atlanta, Georgia, just so happen to be tucked inside hotels
By Hope S. Philbrick
When traveling, it’s often advisable to venture beyond the hotel for a meal if you crave local culture alongside nourishment. But some of Atlanta’s best restaurants just so happen to be tucked inside hotels, which makes it easy for visitors to savor local flavors and also lures locals through their doors. Whether you stop by for a meal or also book an overnight stay so you can follow up a calorie splurge with a quick elevator commute to a guestroom or suite, these destinations offer the makings for a delicious memory.
The Ritz-Carlton Atlanta (Downtown)
Attention to detail is the running theme at this warm and stylish Southern steakhouse. From the swanky décor to the spectacular service to the garnishes adorning each glass and plate, nothing escapes notice at Atlanta Grill. Dine indoors in a club-like setting or opt for seasonal outdoor dining on the veranda overlooking Peachtree Street. Start with a gorgeous cocktail that was inspired by the framed artwork. Then peruse the scrumptious menu of grilled steaks, chops and seafood with Southern-inspired accompaniments. Chef Brian Jones grew up cooking alongside his grandmother and aunts, appreciating authentic Southern dishes made from daily harvests of the family gardens. He brings that heritage to his menus that brim with varieties of local and regional produce. “I took Georgia Organics’ agricultural program to get closer to food,” he says. “The more we understand our land, indigenous foods and the growing seasons, the important it becomes to eat locally and in season.”
W Hotel – Downtown
BLT does not, as you might first think, stand for bacon lettuce and tomato; it’s an abbreviation of “Bistro Laurent Tourondel”—named for the French- born and trained chef who refined his culinary expertise cooking around the world. This is primarily a steakhouse—arguably the city’s best—and meats are cooked to perfection. But the side dishes really make a lasting impression. You don’t get mere bread here, you get popovers hot from the oven. In addition to butter, you get marvelous liver pâté. Chef Tourondel told me that he wanted this Atlanta location of his BLT concept to reflect its place so he created sides that use traditional Southern ingredients like grits, corn and jalapeños. The jalapeño mashed potatoes are beyond amazing. Pale green and with the perfect amount of heat, they are the not-to-miss item on the menu. Tourondel travels extensively so helming the kitchen day-to-day is Chef Cyrille Holota, who brings refinement to the menu. Holota is most able to showcase his talents on the daily specials menu, so listen to your server’s descriptions before making a decision about what to order.
The Renaissance Atlanta Midtown Hotel
She may have been born and raised in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, but each bite of Chef Janine Falvo’s preparations offer proof that she understands Southern cuisine. Her menu at Briza showcases farm-fresh, top-quality, seasonal, local ingredients. Recognized as Restaurant Hospitality’s Rising Star Chef in 2007, Falvo helped open Briza in the spring of 2011. Menus change often, but look for local favorites such as such as crab hushpuppies, fried green tomatoes, mac & cheese and shrimp & grits. Both Falvo and Pastry Chef Kelly Lovett take a scientific approach to cooking that yields fun surprises and impressive results.
Glenn’s Kitchen and SkyLounge
The Glenn Hotel
Glenn’s Kitchen, the restaurant inside Glenn Hotel, offers a menu of Southern comfort foods. The kitchen delivers competent preparations of dishes like short rib ravioli, pimento cheese, shrimp-n-grits, North Georgia trout, fish tacos or an Angus burger. One exceptional dish is the grilled artichoke appetizer. Save room for dessert. The restaurant has an extensive menu of hand-crafted cocktails and a great wine selection. The restaurant has a casual sophisticated ambiance, but headup to SkyLounge for the best rooftop bar views in the city.
@21plusTravel Tip: SkyLounge has the better view, but a less extensive bar menu. So order your cocktail at Glenn’s Kitchen or at the lobby bar and then head up to SkyLounge to enjoy it.
Livingston Restaurant + Bar
The Georgian Terrace
The swanky ambiance of this historic space is matched by the stylish menu. This is a place where you can dress up—really dress up, even a tux and ball gown would not overwhelm this architecture (though less formal attire is perfectly acceptable). Designed by Puccini Group, the space integrates historical elegance with contemporary elements like white leather, sleek marble and a warm textured palette. The dramatic two-story dining room offers views of famed Peachtree Street and the iconic Fox Theatre through floor-to-ceiling windows. The kitchen consistently impresses and offers a menu flexible enough to satisfy whether you seek cocktails and nibbles or a multi-course meal.
The atmosphere and food are fancy: Waiters wear white gloves, address guests by title (Mr., Mrs., Miss, Your Majesty, etc.) and attend to dining details like no one else. Odds are some guests in the dining room will be celebrating a birthday or anniversary, getting engaged, toasting a recent promotion or recognizing some such notable life event. This restaurant is a special occasion destination to be sure, but it’s equally suited to honoring life’s simple pleasures (like the fact that it’s Tuesday.) The view of the city skyline is spectacular, though the place settings of Russian gold plates are equally impressive. The menu is built on Russian and French classics, but Chef de Cuisine Olivier De Busschere brings Belgian influences to the dishes. Diners may choose an eight-course meal, a four-course meal or order items a la carte. Nikolai’s Roof is known for its flavored vodkas and for its piroshkis. Nikolai’s Roof has received the AAA Four Diamond award for 20 consecutive years and is the longest-standing restaurant in Atlanta to do so. It’s where to go for a top-notch dining experience.
@21plusTravel Tip: Note that Nikolai’s Roof is closed each August.
Astor Court and Paces 88 American Bistro
The St. Regis Atlanta
Chef Joseph Trevino oversees culinary operations throughout the hotel and its two on-site restaurants, Paces 88 American Bistro and Astor Court. Astor Court fills the second floor public spaces and has a homey vibe that’s ideally suited to business breakfasts and formal afternoon teas. At Paces 88, which has a more formal dining room tucked into a back corner of the second floor, the prices, attentive service and general ambiance put it in an upscale realm. The menu changes seasonally, but the French onion soup with Gruyère cheese and baguette crostini is a year-round standard. It’s fantastic–you may find yourself craving it the next day (and routinely thereafter). Another menu standard is the goat cheese tart with roasted tomatoes, caramelized onions, arugula, truffle and lemon vinaigrette. One bite is all you’ll need to understand why this dish has many fans.
Four Seasons Hotel Atlanta
On the fifth-floor terrace of Four Seasons Hotel Atlanta, Chef Robert Gerstenecker maintains six planters of edible flowers, herbs and heirloom vegetables including potatoes and rare peppers for pickled relishes and chutneys. Lettuces and radishes grow hydroponically (without soil). More than 100,000 bees produce abundant honey. That’s just the tip of his local-commitment iceberg. And his innovative, seasonally inspired menu is convincing proof the effort pays off. Fantastic without fuss, Park 75 is fine dining without formality. The menu is flexible: Choose any number of hot or cold dishes (starting at $5) to build your own small or multi-course meal. Opt for casual comforts like short rib grilled cheese or BLT sliders, house-made presentations like charcuterie or citrus-grilled tuna steaks, or inspired innovations like red velvet pancakes or red pea succotash. Every bite impresses. Servers are well-educated about wine and can suggest pairings from the list that is primarily American with an emphasis on red varietals and boutique labels.
Loews Atlanta Hotel
Classic Mediterranean dishes get a contemporary Southern twist at Eleven—so, for example, the porcini mushroom risotto has some smoked tomato cream, the butternut squash veloute boasts crumbled spice pralines, and the “Farmer Dan” apple salad features some crumbled Blue Mountain smoked trout. Chef Olivier Gaupin finds inspiration in local, seasonal ingredients and sources top-quality meats, fish and produce. A native of Orleans, France, Gaupin is a culinary graduate of France’s CFA Charles Peguy School who first visited the United States for what was planned to be a three-week vacation. One bite of his creations and you’ll be glad he instead has stayed for more than 16 years, sharing his culinary talents as well as a passion for wine. Sit back, relax and enjoy the friendly, efficient service while surrounded by sleek décor that’s warmed with natural woods.
Shula’s 347 Grill
Marriott Buckhead Hotel & Conference Center
Other than the career of the man who launched this chain and for whom it is named, there is little to distinguish Shula’s 347 Grill from any other standard American steakhouse. If you love steakhouses, then odds are that you’ll love this place. If you don’t, this version won’t likely change your mind. (If you’re not a football fan, then perhaps you don’t realize that Shula’s 347 is named in honor of Hall of Fame Coach Don Shula, the winningest coach in NFL history with 347 career victories. Now you know.) Portions are large, so it’s difficult to imagine that you’d leave hungry. The servers are what most make dining here an enjoyable experience. The hostess and servers are typically friendly and pleasant conversationalists who you’d like to invite to join you at your table.
Southern Art and Bourbon Bar
InterContinental Buckhead Atlanta
For ten years, Chef Art Smith was the personal chef to Oprah Winfrey and he continues to coordinate and cook for the headline-grabbing special events that she hosts around the world. In October 2011, he opened Southern Art, where Chef Anthony Gray helms the kitchen on a daily basis. With mouth-watering temptations like chicken and dumplings, shrimp & grits, Carolina gold rice risotto, bourbon-glazed pork shank, 12-layer red velvet cake and more, the menu showcases Southern classics that Smith, a native Georgian, grew up eating and has since perfected. Next door, Bourbon Bar is a stylish meeting place for after-work and pre- or post-dinner gatherings that serves up more than 70 distinct bourbons plus an array of cocktails. The drink menu changes every season, tailoring libations to suit the weather and featuring cocktail styles from every era including pre-Prohibition classics. Dining at Southern Art and Bourbon Bar is a quality experience, where the staffers display passion and dedication with true Southern hospitality.
W Atlanta – Midtown
Created by one of the world’s most famous chefs, Jean-Georges Vongerichten, the menu at Spice Market is inspired by the vibrant street life of Southeast Asia—where the French chef traveled, trained and fell in love with the cuisine. On a daily basis, Chef Shean Suter executes bold preparations of dishes that display complex blends of spices and layers of flavor. Exotic curries and seasonings are uniquely blended to create tantalizing dishes such as steamed mussels in saffron crème fraiche, fragrant mushroom egg rolls, tuna tartare with soy yuzo dressing, sambal-rubbed flounder, sautéed snapper with sesame vinaigrette, soy glazed short rib and more. While your taste buds delight with discovery, sit back, relax and enjoy the sleek, adventurous environment sizzling with expert service. And don’t skip the cocktails or dessert, as each concoction delivers its own unique, satisfying adventure.
The Sun Dial Restaurant, Bar & View
The Westin Peachtree Plaza
See all of Atlanta from the comfort of one seat inside Atlanta’s only revolving tri-level dining complex and cocktail lounge, which is housed in the city’s fifth tallest building. Ride the elevator 73 stories up for unbeatable 360-degree views in the site of the 1981 movie Sharkey’s Machine, starring Burt Reynolds. Whether sipping a cool cocktail or biting into a delicious dish, live jazz performances convey a sense of Southern place—sit long enough and odds are you’ll be treated to the familiar chords of Georgia’s state song, Georgia On My Mind. Chef Russell Sleight’s menu features upscale classics such as vanilla butter poached prawns, sautéed duck, confit pork belly, herb-roasted lamb chops, bone-in ribeye and more. Save room for dessert since Pastry Chef Khoi Nguyen presents delicious options like fried apple pie, creamy vanilla cheesecake, vanilla bean crème brulée and more.
The Ellis Hotel
This restaurant, located on the second floor of The Ellis hotel in downtown Atlanta, has a contemporary Southern vibe. The menu offers upscale sustainable fare showcasing foodstuffs from 27 local farms. The whole “farm to table” thing is so common these days that you’ll wish the server would skip the definition, but once you get through that memorized script just settle back and enjoy. The Ellis is located on Peachtree Street in a building that once housed the 1913 landmark Winecoff Hotel. The hotel’s eco-friendly practices have earned the property National Green Seal certification at the silver level. With that sort of environmental commitment, of course the on-site restaurant showcases sustainable, local ingredients. Enjoy delicious fare in a beautifully renovated historic building.
-Photos courtesy Sun Dial Restaurant Bar & View, Eleven and Terrace