Ryan Smith of Staplehouse in Atlanta, nominated for Best Chef Southeast Mashama Bailey of The Grey in Savannah, nominated for Best Chef Southeast Kimball House, nominated for Outstanding Bar Program Ticonderoga Club, nominated for Outstanding Bar Program Hugh Acheson, nominated for Outstanding Restauranteur The Giving Kitchen, won Humanitarian of the Year

Where to eat at James Beard Award-recognized restaurants in Atlanta

The 2019 James Beard Award finalists were announced yesterday, and Atlanta and Savannah represented well.

In the Ryan Smith of Staplehouse in Atlanta and Mashama Bailey of The Grey in Savannah were both nominated in the Best Chef: Southeast category; Ticonderoga Club in Atlanta and Kimball House in Decatur were nominated for Outstanding Bar Program; Miller Union in Atlanta was nominated for Outstanding Wine Program; and Hugh Acheson, who owns Empire State South and Spiller Park Coffee in Atlanta and Five & Ten and The National in Athens was nominated for Best Restaurateur. 

Want to try a local restaurant recognized by the James Beard Award? Read on to get more details on this year’s finalists, plus other restaurants, beverage programs and chefs that have been nominated and won in past years.

140123-ATLANTA- GA-Wings and Things at Empire State South in midtown Atlanta on Thursday January 23, 2014. Grass Roots Braised Hot Wings - Carolina Gold Rice, Sea Island red peas, ESS hot sauce, cilantro. (BECKY STEIN)
Photo: Becky Stein/Becky Stein

Empire State South. Celebrity chef Hugh Acheson is no stranger to love from the James Beard Foundation -- he won an award for Best Cookbook in American Cooking and tied with Atlanta chef Linton Hopkins in the Best Chef: Southeast category in 2010 after having been nominated several times before. Acheson started out in Athens with the acclaimed Five & Ten and The National before expanding to Atlanta with Empire State South in 2010. The AJC gave it four stars, and the restaurant has become a mainstay in Midtown fine dining with dishes such as tilefish with farro grano arso, dashi, kohlrabi and charred cabbage and pork with turkey craw beans, artichoke, leek and kale. The restaurant’s beverage manager Kellie Thorn has also been recognized nationally. Acheson is also a co-owner of Spiller Park Coffee, which has locations in Ponce City Market and Toco Hill, and serves up an elevated coffeehouse menu.  

999 Peachtree St. NE, Atlanta. 404-541-1105, empirestatesouth.com/

The Grey. Take a road trip to Savannah to try food from Mashama Bailey, who is in the running again for Best Chef: Southeast. Bailey, a disciple of famed southern chef and cookbook author Edna Lewis, serves up a menu that draws from dishes in categories including Pantry, Water, Dirt, and Pasture such as beef tartar with pickled turmeric, quail egg and sourdough tuile and whole-grilled fish with salsa verde and charred lemon.

109 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., Savannah. 912-662-5999, thegreyrestaurant.com/

Sorrel Daiquiri at Kimball House/courtesy Kimball House
Photo: angela hansberger/Atlanta Restaurant Scene

Kimball House. Decatur’s Kimball House has been popular with both critics and diners since opening in 2013. The restaurant was the lone Atlanta Beard finalist in 2018, also for Outstanding Beverage Program, and the team behind the eatery opened another successful concept, Watchman’s Seafood & Spirits in Krog Street Market last year. In addition to its stunning drinks including the Afternoon Delight made with absinthe, lime, pineapple, passionfruit, fines herbs and cava, Kimball House is known for its oyster happy hour, its private dining space Bonanza and a menu that serves up dishes such as pork belly with melted leek, ginger, chile, fennel and little gem and trout with fermented child grits, coppa, leek, fennel, turnip and kale. 

303 E. Howard Ave., Decatur. 404-378-3502, kimball-house.com/

Photo: Courtesy of Sean Spalding

Miller Union. The West Midtown restaurant has been a finalist in the Outstanding Wine Program before, and chef and owner Steven Satterfield received the Best Chef: Southeast award in 2017 (after having been a finalist in the category multiple times). General manager and co-owner Neal McCarthy, a certified sommelier, can take credit for the restaurant’s expansive wine list, which boasts offerings from small producers that focus on organic practices. Highlights from the restaurant’s menu include the farm egg baked in celery cream and served with grilled bread, the rotating season veggie plate and the chicken served with Carolina Gold rice coconut, peanut and house chutney. And while its the wine list that gets recognition, Miller Union’s cocktail list is nothing to turn your glass away from. 

999 Brady Ave. NW, Atlanta. 678-733-8550, millerunion.com

Interior of Staplehouse / AJC file photo
Photo: Yvonne Zusel/Atlanta Restaurant Scene

Staplehouse. The Giving Kitchen, the non-profit arm of Staplehouse, is already a big winner this year with a James Beard Humanitarian of the Year Award. Smith, who was a finalist for Best Chef: Southeast in 2017, makes an appearance in the category again this year, while the restaurant was a finalist in the Best New Restaurant category in 2016. Check out the eatery’s tasting menu, which changes often but usually features items including the popular Grandma Lillian’s potato bread and the chicken liver tart. After you’re finished with your meal, head upstairs to the restaurant’s Paper Crane Lounge for a swanky cocktail.  

541 Edgewood Ave. SE, Atlanta. 404-524-5005, staplehouse.com/

Greg Best mixes cider, brandy, bitters and tops the cocktail with sherry to create an Old Brick Wall at Ticonderoga Club in Krog Street Market. (Jenni Girtman / Atlanta Event Photography)
Photo: For the AJC

Ticonderoga Club. This Colonial Era-inspired bar is a Beard nominee for the first time this year, but has gotten buzz for its cocktails from Greg Best and Paul Calvert and food since it opened in Krog Street Market in 2015. Look for dishes including the Ipswich clam roll and Burgundy-braised short rib, and the julep-inspired Ticonderoga Cup, which is considered the punchlike "cup of the house." There’s also a selection of booze-free cocktails including the Sho-Nuff made with Citurs Cordial, lime, tonic and grenadine float. 

99 Krog St. NE Atlanta. 404-458-4534, ticonderogaclub.com

This year’s finalists join a list of longtime Atlanta restaurants and chefs that have been recognized as James Beard Award finalists and winners:

Design firm Meyer Davis won an award in 2017 in the Outstanding Restaurant Design category for its work on St. Cecilia. 

Linton Hopkins, who owns Holeman & Finch, H&F Burger, Hop’s Chicken, C.Ellet’s and Restaurant Eugene, tied Hugh Acheson to win Best Chef: Southeast in 2010 and was recognized as a finalist in the category before that. Holeman & Finch was also named a finalist for Outstanding Bar Program in 2013. 

Anne Quatrano and Clifford Harrison, who own Bacchanalia, Star Provisions, Floataway Cafe and W.H. Stiles Fish Camp won Best Chef: Southeast in 2003 and both were nominated in the category before that. 

Weaver D’s in Athens was recognized in the American Classics category in 2007, while Mrs. Wilkes Dining Room in Savannah was recognized in 2000.

Kevin Gillespie, chef and owner at Revival and Gunshow, was named a finalist in the Best Chef: Southeast category in 2016. 

Scott Peacock, formerly of Watershed, won Best Chef: Southeast in 2007 and was nominated in the category before that.

Guenter Seeger won Best Chef: Southeast in 1996 while he was at The Dining Room in the Ritz-Carlton Buckhead, and was a finalist before that. Arnaud Berthelier was named a finalist in the same category in 2007 and 2008. The Dining Room was also nominated for Outstanding Service in 2002. 

Canoe was a finalist for Best New Restaurant in 1996. 

In 2005, chef Joel Antunes won Best Chef: Southeast for his now-shuttered restaurant Joel and was nominated in the category before that.

Elizabeth Terry won Best Chef: Southeast for her Savannah restaurant Elizabeth's on 37th in 1995.

Read the 2018 AJC Fall Dining Guide: Dining on Buford Highway 

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