The 11 Best Restaurants Around Virginia-Highland

A walkable neighborhood of lovely homes and leafy streets proves that it knows its way around the kitchen, too.
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This affluent Virginia-Highland community just east of Midtown and neighboring Poncey-Highland is like the backdrop in one of Melissa Joan Hart’s Lifetime movies. Think tree-lined streets, '20s-built homes you fantasize about on real estate apps, and the kind of shopping that relies on the impulse purchases of cashmere-scented candles. But the main reason to love this neighborhood is its diverse mix of good places to eat. A number of VaHi restaurants have been around for decades (a century even). Others are part of a more recent influx of venues in the area, which have had to consistently bring it to survive on this strip with real big, small-town energy.

photo credit: Sarah Newman



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Fontaine’s has been a seafood fixture in the neighborhood for more than two decades, so the bright red neon sign with an arrow pointing you toward the door is, for lack of better terms, pointless. This is a dive bar that happens to serve respectable seafood, so it fills a void for Atlantans who want to eat lobster mac and oysters in an uber-casual environment. There are no elaborate shellfish displays sitting on a bed of ice here. Just low lighting, dark wood paneling, and creaky booths that’ve seen better days. Their menu is a mix of a few typical bar food offerings (burgers and hot dogs) and a tidal wave of credible seafood like crab cakes and blackened salmon.

If we’re talking about one business to represent the Virginia-Highland spirit, this 100-year-old-plus operation makes the short list. Thanks to muted lighting, slightly-elevated booths, and just the right amount of tomfoolery, Atkins Park is where locals come for a good time almost any time. But where the tavern stands out from the pitcher-pouring fray is with its full-service kitchen. Yeah, you can order wings elsewhere, but the duck fat-fried, sweet-chili-dripped baddies here are different. And sure, the pub three doors over has nachos, too, but we can almost guarantee you that the chicken, salsa, and black beans piled on them won’t taste nearly as fresh.

This Thai staple is one of our favorite dining destinations in the whole city. Though the look (gold walls, an active bar near the front door) hasn’t changed much since the Bush administration, neighborhood regulars are cool with that because their subtly sweet Thai barbecued chicken has remained one of Atlanta’s most consistent dishes for just as long. If you’re in the mood for something a tad lighter, mix the basil- and napa cabbage-filled shrimp curry with the sticky rice for a meal that’s just shy of sublime.

photo credit: Amy Sinclair



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As crazy as it sounds, there once was a time when ATL brunch had nothing to do with hookah or hot honey. Murphy’s, a modern American mainstay in Virginia-Highland, has been around for just that long. A restaurant that looks like your way-too-neat aunt’s house, Murphy’s brick-accented atrium is perfect for brunch, a business lunch, or a Saturday dinner where you’re trying to score meet-the-parents points. Ordering the flash-fried calamari for the table is a good start. But every order is worth it here, from evenly-seared Carolina trout to the Murphy’s Mule cocktail. Just end with the gooey Tollhouse Pie, which is a neighborhood legend on its own.

Walk into this Highland favorite and you see all the familiar comforts—wood planks on the wall, bourbon bottles on the shelves, and the game on the TV. It feels like home. And while you’ll spot traditional terms such as “pulled pork” and “smoked brisket” on the menu, know that these dishes will be presented in fun, untypical ways. (See: brisket egg rolls.) That’s because Sweet Auburn BBQ owners do their barbecue with an Asian spin. That those items, as well as other standouts like the spicy Szechuan lemon pepper wings, taste as good as they sound is a delicious bonus.

After you order at the counter of this North Highland youngblood, hunt for a seat, musical-chairs style, during prime lunch and dinner hours. The small space only has a few seats indoors along with a few small patio tables on the sidewalk outside, which are always filled with dog parents on social catchups. The menu may change a bit based upon the day’s catch, but anytime ceviche and seafood chowder are available, consider them must-orders. There’s another ceviche-based place right across the street, but Fishmonger is our winner in the (imaginary) street battle, because you see ingredients like rock shrimp, mango, avocado, and chili prepared right in front of you.

Since the menu at this pop-up-turned-colorful-Virginia-Highland-space is inspired by the chef’s childhood in coastal Peru, you’ll tear into full-flavor seafood-based dishes like Tiradito, Pulpo Anticuchero, and ceviche. But seafood isn’t the only standout here. The Lomo Saltado is our favorite thing on the menu since it combines favorites like fries with tender beef chunks and gravy. We often come on a date night to sip piscos or with a multigen crew, where we can order a bunch of things to pass around the table.

La Tavola is a cozy trattoria in Virginia-Highland that serves up amazing takes on traditional Italian dishes. On any given night, the space will be crowded with families celebrating a no-dishes night and couples cuddled up for their anniversary. Things get so snug inside the restaurant you can almost feel the heat coming off the next table’s plate of tagliolini as you walk by. That’s why we love eating on the spacious rear balcony. And after a few bites of the basil-speckled spaghetti and veal meatballs or black pepper-rubbed roasted chicken, you won’t mind the cramped digs nor the views from the neighboring shopping center’s parking lot.

If you walk into this North Highland pizzeria and there’s a sweet 16 birthday dinner going on, don’t worry about it. Families love pushing tables together for group gatherings at Osteria 832. And with its lineup of quality pies, pastas, and salads for reasonable prices, you can’t really blame ’em for wanting to eat here. But even if the only thing you’re celebrating is making it through another workday, consider the tender fried calamari a small present you unwrap with every bite. Still, the best gift is a charred, thin-crusted pizza that’s sturdy enough to hold the generous amounts of mozzarella, mushrooms, and other toppings.

Walk into a massive wine vault accentuated by burgundy-colored walls, dimmed wall sconces, and REO Speedwagon tunes, and you’ll know you're at Highland Tap, a self-proclaimed “steak cellar” that has operated in VaHi since 1989. To make it this long, though, you've gotta have more than a speakeasy shtick and a solid martini. Lunch-breakers and kinda-casual-night-out couples continue to dine here for dishes like their center cuts and slow-roasted French Dip with its kick-ass au jus. But, if for some reason you’re thinking less ribeye and more seafood, try the thick crab cakes that pair wonderfully with the green beans and fluffy mashed potatoes.

Doughnut Dollies takes its name from American Red Cross’ Donut Dollies who delivered coffee and donuts to soldiers during WWII. Luckily the only battle you'll have to endure to get these sweets is finding a parking spot on Virginia Ave. When you head into the tiny interior—covered with black and white subway tiles and a mural of a Rosie the Riveter-esque woman flexing with a donut—whether you get the yeast donuts made with 24-hour brioche dough or a cake donut, prepare yourself because they are massive. The hot cocoa donut is one of our faves, with gooey homemade marshmallows on top and a chocolate filling. Sometimes bigger really is better.

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