Top 5 Atlanta restaurants to visit before you die and the top 5 that should DIE before you visit

By on December 31, 2010

yummy yucky ~ what now, atlanta?

Our humble list of the top 5 and the bottom 5

Atlanta’s restaurant scene in 2010? Blown to smithereens.

And those that survived? Well, they’re picking up the pots and pans.

Reflecting on the blood bath of restaurant closures in Atlanta had us thinking: What restaurants would we want to stay and which ones would we want to close. So, we put together the best and the worst of 2010, old and new.

Restaurants that made our top five had to be an everyday eatery located in Metro Atlanta and meet this criteria: affordable, consistent, and delicious. Subjective? Sure. That’s the idea.

And look, we get it, Bacchanalia is the nectar of the Gods. But we’re looking for places you can go to without taking out a second mortgage.

With out further adieu, here’s our top 5, in no particular order:

Urban PL8 | 1082 Huff Road Atlanta, GA 30318

Bargain basement prices for  sophisticated palettes.  Note worthy: The Elledge– a grilled Krispy Kreme doughnut, cut in half with vanilla ice cream in between.  It will re-affirm your belief in God.

Antico-Pizza Napoletana | 1093 Hemphill Avenue Atlanta, GA 30318

Dining in is like sitting on the counter of your Italian aunt’s kitchen, waiting for homemade pizza from the oven.  Everything, including the brick stone ovens, are straight from Italy. It’s like visiting Europe without TSA being able to cop a feel.

Lottafrutta | 590 Auburn Avenue Northeast Atlanta, GA 30312

This quirky restaurant (it seats like, seven) has fruit so fresh and so big James Cameron wanted to use it in Avatar but didn’t think anyone would believe it. Our favorite combo: The Cremolatta fruit cup and the Pavo del Ocho panini polished off with a Mexican Coca-cola.

Lunacy Black Market | 231 Mitchell St SW Atlanta, GA 30303

If you don’t like eating in your living room, this ain’t your place. It’s like they didn’t have enough space in the dining room so they shunted you off onto the couch where you end up having a relaxed conversation over homemade tapas. It’s like eating in somebody’s home with out clearing the dishes afterward.

Top FLR | 674 Myrtle Street Northeast Atlanta, GA 30308

The closest thing to a NYC style restaurant that this city has to offer. It’s too small. It’s too cramped. It’s too loud. And you can’t wait to get there. It almost feels like you’ve discovered something nobody else knows about. Except of course, the people you’re ass to elbows with.

Before we get to the top five restaurants that should die before you visit, let’s qualify it a bit. Atlanta has so many terrible restaurants we can’t simply select them on the basis of bad food. We’d be here forever.

So here’s our criteria: The restaurant must have a “must-go” element (it’s a beautiful space, has a fun atmosphere or is filled with terrific people) but gets f*cked up by serving food your starving dog would offer your overweight cat or service so bad, you’d never actually make it to the food.

Here’s the top five that should die before you visit:

Parish | 240 N Highland Avenue Northeast Atlanta, GA 30307

Parish needs to be spelled with an “e.”  It’s undeniably beautiful, but all of Bob Amick’s restaurants are.  What they can’t get right is the food.  And Parish is Exhibit A in “HE CAN’T GET THE FOOD RIGHT.”

Ra Sushi | 1080 Peachtree St NE Atlanta, Georgia 30309

Cream cheese smothered fish fresh from the freezer and labeled sushi is the first problem, but expected for a chain like Ra. They’ve got a great bar and outdoor seating area but good luck getting your order in over the blaring music. This sushi restaurant is a fish out of water.

Hobnob | 1551 Piedmont Avenue Atlanta, GA 30324

Awesome patio and great energy. But canned gravy over fries and frozen flounder fillet’s served from a hungover wait staff is a deal breaker.

Bakeshop | 903 Peachtree St NE Atlanta, GA 30309

0.25$ for a glass of tap water?  REALLY? And to add confusion to the ripoff they make you guess which food items are self-service and which are full.  The employees are as confused as the customers and as short tempered. The baked goods look yummy but they might as well have an electric fence around them, given all the obstacles stated.

Metrotainment Cafes, Inc.* | Everywhere, unfortunately.

This restaurant group provides a truly fun environment and then completely wrecks it with food that birds would refuse to regurgitate to their young. Adding insult to injurious food, their third world service  makes you wish you would have stayed home and opened a can of Chef Boyardee.

*And yes. We mean the whole damned brand (Einsteins, Joe’s on Juniper, Hudson Grille, etc, etc).

About Caleb J. Spivak

CJS is the Founder of What Now Atlanta. He was recently featured in The New York Times, Creative Loafing's "20 People to Watch in 2012," named "Lifestyle Blogger You Need To Know" by Rolling Out Magazine and highlighted as Atlanta's Metropolitan Male in fashion magazine, 944. WNA was named "Best of Atlanta" by Creative Loafing and Atlanta Magazine.

41 Comments

  1. WTF

    December 31, 2010 at 11:03 pm

    You should just stick to telling us when a new Banana Republic opens, because your taste in food obviously sucks. Good thing you aren’t trying to branch out into food blogging.

  2. Chris

    December 31, 2010 at 11:49 pm

    I stop in Bakeshop once a week. While staff isn’t super polished, they’ve always been friendly and helpful. It’s pretty clear what’s self-service (tongs) vs. not (fridge case). They’ve always offered to box up whatever confused parties need though, so I’m not sure why you’ve struggled so mightily. Charging for water is not great, but I can understand why a small business would need to do so. Next time, get some coffee…it’s brewed using Batdorf & Bronson beans. Honestly, I like your site, but you seem to be harshly bagging on a place producing good food because they want a quarter for a cup of water. I can assure you there are much worse places in Atlanta and their crimes are far greater.

  3. Me

    January 1, 2011 at 5:55 am

    Where did it mention a charge for water in the original article?

  4. Pete

    January 1, 2011 at 10:09 am

    Thank you. I thought I was the only one in Atlanta that thought Einsteins was the pits. It made me long for Burger King or Krystals.

  5. JK

    January 1, 2011 at 10:29 am

    I can’t disagree with you more on Parish’s food being awful…at least the take-out. We regularly eat breakfast and dinner items off the takeout menu and the food is mostly very good. The shrimp po-boy is one of the best sandwiches I’ve ever had. I’d like to know why you think the food is so terrible.

  6. David A.

    January 1, 2011 at 10:35 am

    I love this website for alerting me to what’s new, but a little editorial content is fine. So the fact I disagree about Top Flr, and appreciated your frustration with BakeShop (I still like it), I laughed my a@@ off when I read about the Metrotainment chain…it’s funny because it’s TRUE! Because I agree with your premise: good locations and excellent potential totally and utterly wrecked…how they stay in business is a miracle, Joe’s is their biggest money maker because it does have a good vibe and location, but I think they share a kitchen with Einstein’s because it takes 45 minutes to get Sysco chicken fingers and fries…I too always leave going “why did I come here” and yet, like Whitney I can’t quit the crack pipe

  7. AC

    January 1, 2011 at 10:54 am

    I agree that Top FLR’s food is good, but I hate the car wash/car protection fee demanded by the bum that loiters around the tiny parking lot.

    Also, I really wanted to like Bakeshop, but the food tastes so-so, prices are too high, it’s too hot inside, and the service is rude. Come in it 10:59, and they won’t sell you a sandwich. To h*ll with them!

  8. Chris

    January 1, 2011 at 10:56 am

    Whomever asked about the water charge: it’s the main focus of the Bakeshop blurb in the original article.

  9. Hollis

    January 1, 2011 at 11:19 am

    “Birds wouldn’t regurgitate to their young.” Hilarious.

  10. AJ

    January 1, 2011 at 11:41 am

    Enjoy the news aspect of your site, but I guess a New Year’s Resolution was not to stop the negativity, huh?

  11. RF

    January 1, 2011 at 11:49 am

    Thank goodness someone has the guts to put Metrotainment in the catagory it deserves….just really bad on all levels! Have boycotted this establishments for years!

  12. Cale

    January 1, 2011 at 12:12 pm

    Charging for tap water is like charging customers to use your toilet paper! Does Bakeshop charge for sugar packets and salt & pepper too? Napkins?

    If they need the money for tap water so bad then build it into your food prices so that atleast it is covered up and customers don’t feel like they are getting nickeled and dimed.

  13. Franco

    January 1, 2011 at 12:20 pm

    This (your website) should die before more people visit it. Truly lame content here.

  14. Yes

    January 1, 2011 at 3:05 pm

    Hobnob – so agree. We were there for the first time the other night, and ordered the Beer-B-Q chicken with collard greens. Out came this plate with a brick on it, smothered under a thick blanket of plain old BBQ sauce. At first, I thought the forgot the collards.

    The chicken, a half piece, was clearly a very old piece of meat, and they were trying to hide that with the extra sauce.

    Service was great, and they’re clearly selling atmosphere, and the dude from Gilbert’s was there running around checking on tables…but I’ll never go back. Their food needs work.

  15. Mark

    January 1, 2011 at 3:13 pm

    I’m surprised about your take on Hobnob. I was very pleasantly surprised by how much I liked their food. And our server was outstanding as well. But it was just one visit, so maybe it’s inconsistent.

  16. Skreet

    January 1, 2011 at 3:47 pm

    Urban pl8 was very yummy but they seemed to get in the weeds pretty quickly. Our waiter was fulfilling the job of bartender and server…maybe it was just for that evening.
    I have eaten at Hobnob twice and neither time was particularly good. I’m glad that Gilbert’s (the other restaurant they own) has remained a nice place to eat.
    Einstein’s seems like it has seen better days. Even with the remodel they seem like they are still stuck in the mid 1990′s.

  17. TE

    January 1, 2011 at 4:53 pm

    As with the rest of your writing….your taste in food is pathetic. Your bad choices aren,t far off but I can’t help but wonder who is blowing whom for you to rate these as your top five places to eat in Atlanta. Sad!

  18. Johnnh

    January 1, 2011 at 7:05 pm

    Hobnob is great! The gravy fries are actually really good. So is the lamb burger, pizza and pot pie. Cozy atmosphere, nice waiters and great beer selection. The food at other restaurant, Gilbert, I find to bland and boring. Totally agree on the rest of the list…

    I would add fritti to the tops list too.that place rocks!

  19. frankly

    January 2, 2011 at 12:13 am

    I agree with those that say stick to Banana Republic openings. Your food critique is on par with Metrotainment’s food.

  20. Really?

    January 2, 2011 at 6:24 pm

    I’m also confused by the restaurants on both lists but Parish also jumped out at me. What did you have that was so awful? If you’re going to be critical of a restaurant that’s fine, but you have to give us more than “they can’t get the food right.” I’ve eaten there on several occasions (dinner, brunch and enjoy the take-out from the market) and have never had a bad experience. Seriously, I think the market meals don’t get the attention they deserve- meat/three veggies + dessert for $13!?! What a deal especially with an additional 10% discount for living in the zip code.

    I think I’ll stick to Creative Loafings reviews from here out.

  21. AdiMD

    January 3, 2011 at 12:11 am

    Super cool site and article. Is it beneficial for whoever knows how to use the info.
    Great idea to judge top 5/ bottom 5 restaurants on current happenings (and sum up at the end of the week). Whatever is bottom this week, may improve their service. Atlanta is going down way too fast within the last 5 years. Great job!

  22. JoeATL

    January 3, 2011 at 9:50 am

    Disagree with you on Bakeshop. I’ve seen lots of improvement in the service and layout since the change in ownership. Have you tried their french toast?

  23. Johnny

    January 3, 2011 at 2:36 pm

    I just wonder how many people here eat out on a nightly or weekly basis? I have eaten at over 700 restaurants here and I have seen the culinary scene in Atlanta for the last 11 years try to inch their way up in the early 2000s but then just started crashing in the last 5-6 years. Sadly, Atlanta will never be the culinary destination compared to the other top cities. You can count the best restaurants here on two hands. Most people just don’t care here. They’re happy with the franchises, concept and theme restaurants with gimmicks. The whole Chow Baby debate is a prime example, we all know it’s mall food court quality at best but since it’s locally owned everyone must support it. You never hear any of the great chefs that left Atlanta talk about Atlanta, it’s a past they like to forget and move on (ie: Joel, Soto, Seeger, Tuohy, Peacock, etc etc). And the good chefs in Atlanta are selling out for fast food type places just to make a buck. People are so accustomed to mediocre food that it has become the new standard. I don’t like it but a lot of chefs with any skills/creativity see there’s no future to make an impact here. It’s sad but true.

  24. Rusty

    January 3, 2011 at 3:24 pm

    I’ll submit the Spaghetti Factory to the “die before you visit” list. Great location, a “must-visit” place according to some, but very disappointing food. Also, and I may get some flak for this one, but Gladys Knight’s Chicken and Waffles is on that list for me too. It’s been on TV and visited by a ton of people, but the only time I went, the chicken was awful, and the waffle was average.

    A must-visit Atlanta restaurant on my list is Mary Mac’s.

  25. Steverino

    January 3, 2011 at 4:05 pm

    Johnny, you are right on the money. I have over 25 years of experience in the hospitality industry and have worked in and around the Atlanta restaurant scene since 1999, and I too am packing up and moving out. The caliber of Atlanta restaurants has taken a serious nose-dive (with a few exceptions), and it is very discouraging to anyone trying to make a living in this industry, especially with 2 or 3 restaurant closing every week! Good luck Atlanta, you’re gonna need it.

  26. Brian

    January 3, 2011 at 8:36 pm

    sure, sure, the city is going to hell, it’s all a bunch of hill-billys, etc, etc. I find that kind of funny – and that with relatively recent openings of places like Abattoir, Bocado, JCT (well maybe been awhile but you get the idea), Miller Union (see a pattern in locations??). Oh and Holeman & Finch (best hamburger in the country), their sister restaurant Restaurant Eugene pushing out the best food in the city, La Pietra Cucina, and on. Antico Pizza, Pure Taqueria, and everything Buford highway has to offer. Yep, food scene sucks in Atlanta. Let’s all move to Birmingham.

    Have we lost a handful of high end, amazing places? Sure. But we have picked up more than our fair share of mid-to-upper great replacements.

    Restaurants open, restaurants close. People move onto ‘the big city’ and others move back. C’est la vie.

  27. JohnnyH

    January 3, 2011 at 9:48 pm

    Totally agrees with Brian!

  28. Chris

    January 4, 2011 at 2:59 am

    Brian totally nailed it. I’ve been really pleased with the quality and range of options in ATL in the quick-serve to mid-price range.

    And Chow Baby is what it is. It’s not really fair to act like it’s mall food or an Applebee’s. Sure, it’s maybe one step above that fare.

    Is the pace of restaurant closure in ATL really all that different from any other major city the past year? We are still in recession recovery pretty much everywhere.

  29. Steverino

    January 4, 2011 at 3:32 pm

    Okay defensive people, I was referring to those of us trying to make a living in the hospitality industry, not where we like to dine. Also, I said nothing about “hill-billys”, and for the record, I am from Alabama.

  30. Kevin

    January 4, 2011 at 9:49 pm

    How can someone so right (most of the time) be so wrong? Parrish…no…no …no. Take them off your no-go list. The Bake Shop has surely earned 2 spots on the nasty no-go notice.

  31. Abner Hammond

    January 5, 2011 at 8:32 pm

    I am quite surprised by the Bad list you all have choosen. I think that you have to evaluate what is really happening in town. We are loosing everything that we have come to know for some time and any establishment in this town that has maded this far must be commended. But here is my thoughts….

    Parish = mussells and Brunch
    Einstiens = patio- brunch
    Hudson = burgers/beer
    joes = well its joes DRINKS
    Bakeshop = i need a cup cake after the gym
    Raw Sh**t = bad sushi is done!
    Hob Nob = good bar food, its still a great addition

    So there Missy! lets talk about eats/nook/park tavern if you want bad about town.

  32. Samantha

    January 7, 2011 at 5:57 am

    I see good and bad things about every single restaurant mentioned in this list. Well…Metrotainment. The food is awful no matter where you go. The atmosphere is good? Ok I can see that…but so is any place that’s pumping out 5 buck martinis on a patio. I do agree that Atlanta isn’t the best city for dining. But for boozing it up? Yeah it’s pretty damn good for that.

    Personally, I have found South City Kitchen to be the best restaurant around other than being very pricey. I wish there was more space there but the food is consistently good and amazing, the staff is very friendly and the location is cute as well.

  33. Tami

    January 11, 2011 at 1:03 pm

    You have me dying at how you write up these restaurants, great job! We need people like you! lol

  34. Olivia B.

    January 21, 2011 at 12:37 pm

    I agree! I did like the fish taco’s at Hudson Grille though. Thanks

  35. Nicole

    February 2, 2011 at 10:09 pm

    The fact that Bacchanalia is not in the top 5 to visit is ridiculous to say the very least.

  36. JW

    February 9, 2011 at 3:48 pm

    I couldn’t agree with you more on the restaurants that need to die. Spot on! All 5 of those suck some serious balls.

  37. Walter

    February 14, 2011 at 12:02 pm

    Hmmm. I live near Hob Nob and we frequent it about once every three or four weeks. While I have had a few less-than-stellar meals, I’ve had lots of good meals, too. Fun beer list, as well. Perhaps it’s not going on anyone’s Best of Atlanta list, but it is a welcome addition to our neighborhood.

  38. Judy

    June 12, 2011 at 8:38 pm

    I just found this article and couldn’t disagree with you more about Bakeshop! We live nearby part time and just love eating there. They do NOT charge for water – in fact they have cups and a huge pitcher of ice water that is self serve. We bring our dog with us when we dine on their patio, and always get him a couple of cups of water – FREE! The staff couldn’t be nicer and more helpful, and the pastries are to die for! You guys are all nuts!

    • caleb j. spivak

      June 12, 2011 at 9:31 pm

      hi judy, you’re quick! they did charge for water before we posted this. if you’re on twitter, ill send you a picture of it.

      –cjs

  39. Edward

    June 13, 2011 at 8:53 am

    I certainly agree with the inclusion of Parish on the bottom list. I went there for brunch with a group of friends. We had to practically beg for everything, and at one point one of our group actually got up and hunted down a waiter (any waiter because ours was nowhere to be found) so that we could get some service. The food was not even up to Applebees standards, a poached egg is not supposed to bounce. When we had eaten all of that mediocre brunch, suddenly the waiter appears with our check, didn’t even ask if we wanted dessert (I was going to order one friend something since it was his birthday) or coffee. Fine. We go downstairs to the market area, there are some lovely breads filling a basket, a friend picks up a loaf to purchase and he is loudly scolded, “Put that down, it isn’t for sale”. OhhhhKayyyyy. I couldn’t wait to get out of there.

    As for Bakeshop, I’ve found the service there to be very friendly. The prices are high, but sadly, the quality of their cakes leave a lot to be desired. The tarts and croissant are great, but the cake items, sadly, show a complete lack of a baker’s skill. They are over-beaten, over-leavened, crumbly, dry. The flavors are good, but they just can’t make up for a badly made cake. Send the baker over to Henri’s in Buckhead to learn how to make a cake.

    Hobnob I like. It is what it is, they’re not pretending to be haute cuisine, they’re a neighborhood hangout serving decent food and a great beer selection. On that they succeed.

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