Despite our sputtering economy, the past year brought with it several new restaurants, and out of those new kitchens arrived some truly crave-worthy dishes. Below are some of my favorites of 2009.
Community Q (1361 Clairmont Road, Decatur, Tel: 404.633.2080)
Dish: Beef Rib
This Emory barbecue joint opened its doors only a few weeks ago—just in time to squeak its way into this article. The cue here has local barbecue aficionados as giddy about the cow as they are the hog, and deservedly so. While I can speak highly of the entire menu, the real standout is a gorgeously smoky, fatty, crusty beef rib with signature purple ring. Drag it through the vinegar-based sauce—and don’t let its size intimidate you. Easily the best beef rib I’ve eaten outside of Texas.
Varasaono’s Pizzeria (2171 Peachtree Road, Buckhead, Tel: 404.352.8216)
Dish: Nucci Pizza
Never before have I encountered a restaurant that so many want to hate. But that seems to be the case with this pizza palace, whose opening was so highly anticipated the NY Times felt it worthy of a mention. Most people claim owner Jeff Varasano’s smug website remarks and his cocky demeanor leaves a bad taste in their mouths, while others bitch about flighty service and the restaurant’s cold corporate feel. Drama aside, pies here are universally delicious with the best of the bunch being the Nucci, a garlicky non-sauce pie with olives, Emmentaler cheese, arugula and thinly sliced gabagool.
Café Antalya (8920 Roswell Road, Sandy Springs, Tel: 678.527.0900)
Dish: Turkish-Style Falafel
The sign hanging over the kitchen door reads, “I kiss better than I cook.” Judging from the food, chef must be some lover boy. This new Turkish arrival spits out a menu worthy of a drive from anywhere. I’ve yet to encounter a miss on the menu. Falafels aren’t the usual, and quite possibly the best in town—certainly the most interesting. Think thick gooey patties with crispy outer shell and soft mushy center. I ate six in a single sitting—and nearly blew a pant button.
Bocado (887 Howell Mill Road, Westside, Tel: 404.815.1399)
Burgers seem to be the trend du jour these days. Everybody’s doing one, but few do it as well as newly opened Bocado. A rich mixture of house ground beef—two juicy patties are griddled then stacked on a bun with cheese, pickles and mayo. There’s absolutely nothing fancy about it, just a good old-fashioned burger of high quality ingredients, cooked the old fashioned way. Bliss.
Waroeng Corner (5495 Jimmy Carter Blvd Suite F-109, Norcross Hong Kong Market Food Court, Tel: 770.354.4643)
Dish: Nasi Padang
The Indonesian term Waroeng literally translates to “stall” in English. And at this tiny Indonesian and Malaysian food stall you’ll find a short, humble woman stirring a giant pan of spicy beef rendang and robust, fiery curries. The beef rending is the standout at this stop, and probably the best dish in the whole food court. It’s a hearty, soul-soothing helping that’s a tad spicier than most versions you’ll find elsewhere in the city. Order the Nasi Padang ($7.99) curry platter. Think Indonesian soul food—coriander-rife beef rendang, killer chicken curry, one deep-fried egg, tofu and collard greens all stuffed into a Styrofoam box until the lid barely locks shut with food parts dangling out from all sides.