ATLGuide

The Hit List: New Atlanta Restaurants To Try Right Now

The new spots we checked out—and loved.
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photo credit: Frankie Cole

When new restaurants open, we check them out. This means that we subject our stomachs and social lives to the good, the bad, and more often than not, the perfectly fine. And every once in a while, a new spot makes us feel like Usher at a roller rink. When that happens, we add it here, to The Hit List.

The Hit List is where you’ll find all of the best new restaurants in Atlanta. As long as it opened within the past several months and we’re still talking about it, it’s on this guide. The latest addition might be a buzzy new restaurant with a lemon pepper sommelier. Or it might be an under-the-radar lunch counter where a few dollars will get something that’ll rattle around in your brain like a loose penny in a dryer.

Keep tabs on the Hit List and you will always know just which new restaurants you should be eating at right now.

New to The Hit List (as of 04/08): Pendolio

THE SPOTS

photo credit: Nina Reeder

Italian

Sandy Springs

$$$$Perfect For:Outdoor/Patio SituationOutdoor Seating
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If you’re looking for the Italian restaurant equivalent of easy-listening radio, Pendolino near Chastain Park is it. It serves up all the usual hits in a polished, chill setting where you’d want to spend your whole evening (think plush booths inside and resort-esque sun umbrellas on the patio). For those who hate choosing between a pasta and pizza course, Pendolino’s 4-inch wood-fired pizzettes make it an easy call to do both, but the pies are so good you could be tempted to order another. There’s also chicken parmigiano and other red-sauce restaurant favorites, but just make sure the tender, fired-roasted octopus with crispy pepperoni is on your table.

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Virginia-Highland has a fabulous new option for a classy yet relaxed night out with friends. For those that remember this Va-Hi space as The Original El Taco, walking into the new dining room of Ela will feel like the big reveal at the end of an episode of Fixer Upper. What was once dim, divey, and more suited for a college campus crowd has been transformed. It’s now a trendy and sophisticated Mediterranean restaurant where groups of adults pass around very good shareable small plates. Get the crisp falafel with a moist center and the gourmet spinach and feta hot pocket with an impossibly flaky crust. Sauces move from sideshows to the main event with the “Get Sauced” tray, which includes five tasty dips like hot sauce, a green, herby oil, and a creamy yogurt-based spread that elevate everything on the menu.

Between the Georgia World Congress Center and Mercedes-Benz Stadium, the new Signia hotel looks like one of those giant Vegas properties where you have to walk a 5K just to get to your room. Thankfully, you only have to take a few steps and a trip up to the fourth floor to get to Capolinea. And that’s great news because the red sauce restaurant serves fantastic tableside martinis that you’ll want to come back for every opportunity you can. When combined with a chill scene and solid dishes like a spaghetti pomodoro and tender short rib, we’re tempted to inquire about hotel residency.

With great food , good prices, and a fun ambiance, we're happy to flock to Birdcage in Grant Park for date nights and social outings. Floor to ceiling wallpaper shows colorful birds in mid-flight. Lighting fixtures are a mix of wooden bird cages and white chandeliers with plumes of bright pink feathers on top (which, considering the tacky track record of feather plumes, somehow manage to be tasteful). But their menu isn’t for the birds—their delicious, mostly Latin dishes are simple but bursting with flavor. If you love smoky, fire roasted foods, get their sofrito squash topped with queso fresco crumbles and pepitos. For mains, the picanha steak has a tasty char on each slice of perfectly medium rare beef.

Midtowners who are actively trying to live that pedestrian life welcome Rwby as a new place to grab a few drinks. For those without a Midtown address, the headache of finding parking at this Juniper Street restaurant is rage-inducing—enough to spark a newfound love for screamo music. But once inside, a small bar framed in a large floral arrangement gives way to a handful of wooden booths in a cozy orange-tinted dining area. Perfectly balanced cocktails like the fruity Paradiso Paloma atone for the parking woes. And food items like their cheesy, juicy burger and reasonable (for Midtown, anyway) prices make the now-unnecessary apology complete.

This moody Buckhead mezcal bar and restaurant sits just off the perpetually busy Peachtree Street on the ground floor of an apartment complex. Pata Negra feels like stepping into a deprivation chamber, where all outside sounds and bright lights cease. Embrace it though, because reading the menu by candlelight is romantic. And instead of being a hindrance, the sexy, dark decor keeps the focus on the food. The Mexican menu is stuffed with phenomenal dishes like poblanas de pollo, which has a spicy crema that should really be bottled and mass produced. But the best dish is the temporada de lluvias. Three scallops sit on a bed of perfectly creamy risotto cooked with peppers and corn. Wash it all down with the orange-sweetened Negras Intenciones and marvel at how good charcoal mixes with tequila.

M by Tasuku Murakami inside Buckhead’s Umi is shaping up to be a worthy competitor to the city’s top omakase-only restaurants like Omakase Table, Hayakawa, and Mujo. A dark stairway inside the restaurant leads up to a small room so brightly lit, your eyes will need a moment to make out the eight seats around the L-shaped counter. The 21-course dinner kicks off with a few warm plates, like buttery lobster in a fantastic chimichurri that we’d love to have as a full entree. Then, 10 sushi courses are paraded out with subtle touches like spicy yuzu zest or pickled radish. The housemade yuzucello ending feels like an open invitation to come as regulars, but sadly we know we’d have to drop $295 per person again.

Fans of Yalda in Sandy Springs now have a new West Midtown location for their Iranian favorites like tender lamb kabobs and herbaceous cocktails that blend pomegranate, sumac, and other Middle Eastern flavors. Family-style platters and shareable mezze spreads make this the perfect outing for a small group (be sure to get the smoky mirza ghassemi for the table). And the beautiful, moody dining room filled with live plants, dramatic accent lighting, and Persian art make this a place to impress the group who thinks family-style can’t be posh.

Little Sparrow is the much-anticipated replacement for the popular JCT Kitchen space in West Midtown. It’s from the same owners of Marcel, so fans of the French steakhouse will find lots of similarities but with different spins. For example, Little Sparrow also has a free bread service but with unlimited freshly baked baguettes, and there’s only one steak selection, which comes in thinnish slices and served with super thick hand cut frites (we’re here for this). But what we like most is that Little Sparrow serves as a more affordable little sister to Marcel, so you can have a fancy night out with most plates coming under $40.

Brush isn’t exactly new. But it makes our Hit List because it feels ripped-out-the-plastic-new since it left its old space in Decatur, dropped “izakaya” from the name, and picked up a totally different identity in Buckhead Village. And we like their glow-up. The emerald green dining room feels exclusive—like a great place to impress a date who only wears first-year designer collections. There’s also a dedicated omakase room (we'll update this when we've had a chance to check that out) and a streamlined Japanese menu with standouts like braised hamachi collar and tender duck in a miso broth.

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