Celebrities’ favorite Atlanta restaurants

As Atlanta celebrates Downtown Restaurant Week going on through Sunday, gets ready for the annual Taste of Atlanta festival this fall and continues devouring John Kessler's "30 Restaurants in 30 Days" series, we wanted to focus on what's really important when it comes to dining. Where do famous people eat? Georgia's ever-booming filming industry means a steady stream of television and movie projects. So, where do hungry stars head once the cameras quit rolling?

Antico Pizza and Gio's Chicken Amalfitano, 1093 and 1099 Hemphill Ave. N.W.

Giovanni Di Palma’s adjacent restaurants have summoned celebrities including Drew Barrymore, Owen Wilson, Will Ferrell, Paul Rudd, Steve Carell, Dave Koechner, Chris Rock, Jason Bateman, Ryan Reynolds, Gabrielle Union, Kirsten Dunst and Conan O’Brien. Wilson and Barrymore both loved Antico so much they scribbled impromptu restaurant reviews on pizza peels, while Union posed for a picture with Di Palma when she visited Gio’s Chicken.

Watershed, 1820 Peachtree Road

Reese Witherspoon, Colin Firth, Jennifer Lawrence, Jane Fonda, Woody Harrelson, Jake Gyllenhaal and Robert Duvall are among the notables who have taken a shine to this upscale Southern comfort food mecca. (Having Indigo Girls member Emily Saliers as an owner certainly helps draw a notable crowd.) Gyllenhaal was spotted there more than once while in town filming the movie “Prisoners,” and reportedly sampled the oysters, steak tartare, jambalaya, lamb ragout, coconut cake, sweet potato creme brulee and hot milk cake. It may explain why he also showed up repeatedly at the Flywheel indoor cycling studio during his Atlanta stay.

Sushi House Hayakawa, 5979 Buford Highway

When Harrison Ford was in town working on the Jackie Robinson biopic “42,” he visited Sushi House Hayakawa and posed for some nice photos.

South City Kitchen Midtown, 1144 Crescent Ave.

Stop by South City for some buttermilk fried chicken or shrimp and grits and you can tell everyone what you have in common with Jon Hamm, Judd Apatow, Chris Rock, Cameron Diaz, Charles Barkley, Usher, Ben Affleck, Jennifer Garner, Jason Bateman, Paul Rudd, Clint Eastwood, Bethenny Frankel, Warrick Dunn, Jazze Pha, Tom Hanks, Jane Lynch and Wanda Sykes.

The restaurant is right around the corner from the celeb-friendly Four Seasons, which may account for its frequently famous clientele, and the torrent of A-listers makes for lots of fun stories. Former first lady Laura Bush dined there when she was in town for a 2010 book tour stop. Her Secret Service team arrived hours ahead of time to case the place and determine the most secure seating arrangements, but she evidently told the heat to back off. “She was posing for pictures with people walking by,” South City general manager Paul Hymel said. The Secret Service dudes were not amused. (Are they ever?)

South City hosted another presidential visit when one “Teddy Roosevelt” called for a reservation. At the appointed hour in walked Robin Williams, who played the Rough Rider in the “Night at the Museum” movies.

The Optimist, 914 Howell Mill Road

When “Anchorman 2” wrapped filming after months in Atlanta, we talked to director Adam McKay on his way to the airport. “You guys have good food,” he said, naming The Optimist among the cast’s favorite finds. Indeed, Ron Burgundy himself, Will Ferrell, has been among its well-known diners. Others have included Owen Wilson and Jon Hamm.

STK, 1075 Peachtree St.

The sleek Midtown steakhouse is an absolute celeb magnet. Jon Hamm, Bill Paxton, Suraj Sharma, Madhur Mittal and Pitobash Tripathy, who have been in Atlanta filming “Million Dollar Arm,” had dinner there just the other night. Kim Kardashian and NeNe Leakes had a GNO there last year when Kardashian was in town to film a guest role on “Drop Dead Diva,” the Lifetime series that films here. Arnold Schwarzenegger dined there when he was here filming “Sabotage,” and Denzel Washington had dinner there with friends while in town filming “Flight.” He earned an Oscar nod for his role as a troubled pilot in that movie but didn’t win. STK was friendlier than the Academy: The night Washington was there, a neighboring table sent over a bottle of Dom Perignon.

Davio's Northern Italian Steakhouse, 3500 Peachtree Road (in Phipps Plaza)

Michael Douglas and Morgan Freeman were spotted at Davio’s a number of times when they were here last year filming “Last Vegas.” (Fun trivia: Freeman is a Brussels sprouts man.) Other famous fans have included John Travolta, Ryan Reynolds, Atlanta Falcons player Tony Gonzalez and MLB player-turned-analyst Orel Hershiser. Our favorite star sighting was from February 2011, when Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan and his then-fiancee Sarah celebrated Valentine’s by dining at Davio’s with her parents. We’re guessing they sealed the deal over a plate of the restaurant’s famous spring rolls.

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