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Dining out: Intown eats and Northside nosh

Story by H.M. Cauley, Lane Edmondson and Adrianne Murchison

Some people dine out only occasionally, while others tirelessly seek out new restaurants and unfamiliar flavors. Given the area’s ever-changing culinary landscape, either kind of diner can find themselves in need of direction. Here’s a rundown of excellent dishes in 10 categories, with matching examples both in Atlanta and on the Northside.

APPETIZER

Intown: Seafood tartine, Bistro Niko

Don’t be confused by the “toasted French bread” element of this multi-flavored appetizer in Buckhead. While the seafood tartine at this outpost of French culinary bliss is built on crispy bread slices, it makes an evolutionary leap beyond an open-faced sandwich. Atop that base of buttered goodness is a mélange of scallops, shrimp, calamari, andouille sausage and the mild zing of Fresno chilis. The toppings are nothing short of extraordinary, in both individual flavors and combinations they create. C’est magnifique! (H.M. Cauley)

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3344 Peachtree Road. 404-261-6456. buckheadrestaurants.com/restaurant/bistro-niko

Northside: Tuna tower, Kona Grill

Chefs at the Kona Grill in Avalon have created a delightful seafood starter that appeals even to those who may think they’re not crazy about tuna. The $15 tuna tower is a multi-tiered concoction with a base of sushi rice, a layer of crab mix, another of tuna, and a topping of more tuna drizzled with a spicy sesame sauce. Cucumber salad and taro chips on the side add a bit of extra crunch. (HC)

5100 Avalon Blvd., Alpharetta. 470-226-1540. konagrill.com

BURGER

Intown: White Oak Pastures Burger, H&F Burger

Many patrons consider this Ponce City Market location a burger paradise. The popular Ave’s Turkey Burger, topped with organic turkey pepperjack cheese, avocado and yellow mustard, has been known to sell out. The White Oak Pastures burger is just as satisfying a delight. The grass-fed beef patty sandwich is served with hoop cheese, a pickled pepper, romaine lettuce and chow-chow relish. (Adrianne Murchison)

675 Ponce de Leon Ave., Atlanta. 404-355-3762. hfburger.com

Northside: Down South Burger, Bocado Burger

This burger haven located at Alpharetta’s Avalon shopping center serves double-stacked burgers, chicken club sandwiches and more. The delectable Down South burger has two grass-fed Angus beef patties topped with pimento cheese, spicy chipotle mayo, a fried green roasted Poblano pepper and bacon. (AM)

2820 Old Milton Parkway, Alpharetta. 678-248-5223. bocadoburger.com

SALAD

Intown: Chopped seafood salad, The Oceanaire

You might not think of this Midtown seafood restaurant as a salad destination, but this starter at both lunch and dinner (and to go) is tasty enough to be a meal on its own. The base is a bed of chopped iceberg lettuce enhanced by big bites of shrimp, crab and feta cheese. The mix is then blended with a Greek vinaigrette dressing for a zesty finish. (HC)

1100 Peachtree St. 404-475-2277. theoceanaire.com

Northside: Autumn salad, Loving Hut

This vegan restaurant in Norcross offers several salads to sate the craving for a refreshing crunch. The Autumn salad is a flavorful platter packed with fresh tomatoes, bell peppers, sun-dried tomatoes, cucumbers, tomato tofu and chickpeas atop of bed of lettuce and drizzled with an artisanal dressing. (HC)

6385 Spalding Drive, Norcross. 678-421-9191.lovinghut.us/norcross

PIZZA

Intown: Vegetarian Pizza, Varuni Napoli

Eating healthy can be a conundrum when pizza is your favorite food, but Varuni Napoli’s sumptuous Neapolitan pies contain no preservatives, additives or artificial flavoring. The vegetarian Spacca Napoli is prepared with mozzarella and Taleggio cheese, as well as Pecorino Romano cheese, basil, black truffle oil and black pepper. (If you need to slake your carnivorous cravings, consider the Bastardo’s pepperoni and Nduja sausage with fresh mozzarella, San Marzano tomatoes, Pecorino Romano and basil.) (AM)

1540 Monroe St., Atlanta. 404-709-2690; Krog Market, 99 Krog St., Atlanta. 404-500-5550. varuni.us

Northside: Build your own, Hearth Pizza Tavern

This neighborhood pizza tavern offers 10 specialty pizza pies made with 100 percent organic flour and wheat germ. Create your own pie with nearly 10 meats, 25 vegetables and six cheeses to choose from. For inspiration to build your pie, “Mom Says ‘Eat Your Veggies!’” pie includes a cheese blend, roasted cremini mushrooms, sundried tomatoes, parmesan and pesto. One of its richest options, the Chorizo Sunrise Pizza, includes chorizo sausage, broken yolk egg, Mexican crema, salsa picante and chopped cilantro. (AM)

5992 Roswell Road, Sandy Springs. 404-252-5378. hearthpizzatavern.com

STEAK

Intown: 30-ounce bone-in ribeye, Parker’s on Ponce

The 30-ounce, bone-in porterhouse steak at Parker’s on Ponce in Decatur, priced around $120, is just the thing for serious meat lovers. Aged 60 days, this hearty portion can be further enhanced with shrimp, scallops, lobster tail or crab and topped with a selection of eight sauces and butters. (HC)

116 E. Ponce de Leon Ave., Decatur. 404-924-2230. parkersonponce.com

Northside: Center-cut filet, Little Alley Steak

This Roswell eatery offers a broad selection of wet- and dry-aged Chicago steaks, but for pure melt-in-your-mouth decadence, it’s hard to pass up the center-cut filet. Aged 28 days, this 8- or 12-ounce cut can be paired with shrimp, scallops, lobster tails or crab and topped with a selection of eight sauces and butters. Even without a dollop of foie gras butter or horseradish cream, this treat easily makes the grade for meat lovers. (HC)

955 Canton St., Roswell. 770-998-0440. littlealleysteak.com/Roswell

BREAKFAST

Intown: Pancakes, Ria’s Bluebird

Although this reliable, friendly joint serves a range of great breakfast and lunch offerings, they do pancakes so well it’s a mystery why diners would order anything else. The plain buttermilk pancakes are a daily feature of Ria’s menu (with the option of adding pecans, caramelized bananas or chocolate chips), but a special “Fancy Sweet” version is often available. Variations can include peach, blueberry, roasted apple or Butterfinger pancakes. (Lane Edmondson)

421 Memorial Drive. 404-521-3737. riasbluebird.com

Northside: Cold salmon plate, Hen Mother Cookhouse

This Johns Creek newcomer makes a bialy worth driving for, served with a fabulous house-cured gravlax and chive cream cheese. A fresh, well-executed version of this baked Jewish staple, HMC’s bialy is light yet dense enough to make it slightly chewy and satisfyingly toothsome, with a lovely crust. Load on a schmear of the lemony chive cream cheese, a hunk of gravlax and maybe a bit of pickled red onion, take a bite, and your palate will be thrilled. (LE)

11705 Jones Bridge Road. 770-417-8404. henmothercookhouse.com

SOUTHERN SIDE

Intown: Mac and cheese, Community Q BBQ

Some diners visit this shrine to perfectly smoked meats just to order the standout mac and cheese. This dairy-focused production elevates the Southern staple, with rigatoni pasta standing in for the typical elbow macaroni. Three kinds of cheese, along with nearly as much heavy cream, make for a richly intense, slightly chewy delight that would alarm any cardiologist. (LE)

1361 Clairmont Road. 404-633-2080. communityqbbq.com

Northside: Creamed corn, The Crafty Hog

Concord Road’s cavernous, kid-and-dog-friendly barbecue joint delivers good barbecue and some top-notch sides, most notably the creamed corn. Sliced from roasted ears of corn, the kernels are then cooked up with cream and a dash of hot paprika. The overall effect is a tad soupy and nicely accents the smoky meat. The corn’s sweetness, along with the rich cream, offsets the small, spicy kick, creating flavors that linger long in the memory. (LE)

652 Concord Road, 770-801-8815. thecraftyhog.com

COCKTAIL

Intown: Cheshire Cat, Paper Crane Lounge

Paper Crane Lounge above Staplehouse restaurant on Edgewood Avenue has a dimly lit, cozy living room setting ideal for date night. The drink menu offers very little description for each libation, but the inside scoop on the Cheshire Cat is that it’s a citrus, sherry-based shaken cocktail made with rye whiskey, served on the rocks with a little ginger, honey and blueberry tincture. (AM)

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

Northside: Louisville Smash, The Whiskey Project

Displaying an impressive wall of more than 1,000 spirits, The Whiskey Project crafts such drinks as The Louisville Smash, a colorful cocktail made with Richter’s Unblended American Whiskey. A hit with patrons, it’s made with blackberry syrup created through a process of blending macerated blackberries, raw unbleached sugar and water, and then boiling it. (AM)

45 Oak St., Roswell. 678-373-1981. twpatl.com

DESSERT

Intown: Mango sticky rice ice cream, ICE NY

Atlanta’s sole outpost of the popular chain offers a user-friendly intro to the rolled ice cream trend. Watch servers pour a liquid ice cream base onto a frigid steel plate and scrape it up into rolls. Then they put it in a cup with slices of mango and a hunk of coconut-infused sticky rice, and top it off with coconut sauce. The ice cream’s sweet tang is complemented perfectly by the nutty. slightly decadent, nutty companion. Mango slices offer a palate-cleansing, slightly chewy texture in contrast, and can convince you that you’re just eating fruit for dessert. (LE)

Pinetree Plaza, 5177-B Buford Hwy. 470-275-3762. icenyicecream.com

Northside: Blueberry fontaine, Collet French Pastry and Café

The airy, calm space by the intersection of Old Milton Parkway and Haynes Bridge Road crafts savory pastries, soups and salads, but the real show here is the desserts. Their blueberry fontaine, for example, with its buttery pâté feuilletée (puff pastry), lush vanilla pastry cream and sweet, shining blueberries, could well make a driver make an illegal left turn to get one. (LE)

2225 Old Milton Pkwy. 678-770-6066. facebook.com/Collet-French-Pastry

TACO

Intown: Taco Veloz

The Buford Highway location — little more than a drive-thru stand and covered dining area —- of this three-restaurant local chain has reliably crafted mouth-watering, authentic tacos for years. The juicy carne asada and succulent barbacoa tacos are standouts, but most impressive is the moist, savory shredded pork in the carnitas taco. They’re all usually served in two corn tortillas, mixed with chopped onion and cilantro, and go well with a little lime squeezed over the top. (LE)

3245 Chamblee Dunwoody Road. 770-936-9094. tacoveloz.com

Northside: Alebrije Mexican Cuisine

This recent and happy addition to Gwinnett’s dining scene is full of color, flavor and a welcoming atmosphere. The brisket taco stands out, with tender, savory meat that melts on your palate with subtle notes of cinnamon and oregano. Owner Mark Soriano wraps the brisket in cactus leaves and slow-cooks it overnight, making for a nearly velvety texture. Tacos here come with the usual chopped onion and cilantro plus your choice of coleslaw. (LE)

1611 Satellite Blvd. 770-676-6093. instagram.com/alebrijecuisine

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