You can argue the true ethnicity of the collard green spring rolls at Negril Village (30 North Ave. NE, Atlanta. 404-464-7159, negrilvillageatl.com). Are they Chinese? Or Chinese-Jamaican? Or American-Chinese on vacation in Jamaica with a Southern accent? No matter, these spring rolls are delightfully deep-fried. The tender greens play nicely with the crunchy exterior, and all it takes is a touch of the sweet soy chili sauce served on the side to amp up the flavor.
For many, the pot liquor from a batch of collards simmering on the stove steals the show from the greens themselves. At Richards' Southern Fried (Krog Street Market, 99 Krog St. NE, Atlanta. 678-732-9594, richardssouthernfried.com), chef Todd Richards seizes on that idea by making a bowl of "collard pho" that is all about that broth. At first, the dish may come across as fairly traditional greens swimming in pot liquor, but a chicken bone broth, discs of pickled jalapeno, plentiful sliced scallion and half a hard-boiled egg provide a vaguely Vietnamese sensibility. (No, there are no noodles to be found here, but check out BoccaLupo's ramen with collard-pork brodo in our ramen roundup.)
Moving on to the Mediterranean, at Scout (321 W. Hill St., Oakhurst. 404-496-6863, scoutoakhurst.com), the collard greens get a decidedly and wonderfully Italian spin in the form of ricotta and collard fritters over a smoked tomato marinara. The greens here are finely chopped, whipped with ricotta, rolled into golf ball-sized rounds, then lightly fried for a pleasant crunch and a remarkably fluffy interior. If you didn't know better, you might guess that these fritters were made from chard or even kale; clearly, collards adapt easily to an Italian ambiance.
At Twisted Soul, (1133 Huff Road NW, Atlanta. 404-350-5500, twistedsoulcookhouseandpours.com), chef Deborah VanTrece prepares collards that arrive like neatly wrapped little packages of green, each a gift for your taste buds. It's tempting to point to Greek dolmas or Lebanese warak arish as the closest culinary parallels, if only those stuffed grape leaves were grape leaves all the way through. VanTrece was simply looking for a more elegant way to present her collard greens, and, by delicately wrapping up layers of collard leaves into pretty bundles, she achieves something perfectly familiar yet intriguingly exotic at the same time. These collard rolls come as a standard side with VanTrece's fried chicken, but, if you ask nicely, they'll bring you a plate of the collard rolls with a shot glass of warm pot liquor for dipping. It's Southern heaven.
<<Take a tour of Atlanta's new fusion revolution:
Listen to AJC dining editor Ligaya Figueras on Apple Podcasts
Listen to AJC dining editor Ligaya Figueras on Google Play or Stitcher