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The Best Restaurants in Atlanta for Every Budget

If you consider yourself a serious foodie, you have to check out these top restaurants, from classic to cutting-edge, on Atlanta's trendy restaurant scene. This booming — and sophisticated — Southern city should be on your must-visit list for these great food options from affordable to pricey.

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Photo: Chris Tsambis/Abstract Pictures

A Southern City Built on Great Food

Atlanta is home to a powerhouse contingent of James Beard-nominated (and prize-winning) chefs and has become a foodie destination for fans of chef TV and local stars like Kevin Gillespie, Linton Hopkins, Steven Satterfield and many more. And from the diverse eats on the internationally focused Buford Highway to the elevated dining at Bacchanalia, Atlanta has a lot to offer for fans of great affordable cuisine and also a high-end, chef-driven dining experience. So don't think shrimp and grits and meat and three are the only game in town. Atlanta has amazing pho, Korean BBQ and sushi if you know the right place to look.

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Photo: Nobu

Nobu Atlanta

Some of the best sushi in Atlanta is served at the Buckhead iteration of Japanese star chef Nobu Matsuhisa's eponymous restaurant. Nobu opened his first world-class sushi restaurant in New York City in 1994 alongside partner and actor Robert De Niro. The restaurants are celeb favorites with the likes of Madonna, Bill Clinton and Cindy Crawford. The Atlanta location, in the tony Buckhead neighborhood, is conveniently attached to the city's designer-centric Phipps Plaza shopping center (featuring Alexander McQueen, Balenciaga, Celine, Gucci and Balmain among other high-end boutiques) and the Citizens Market food hall.

The bustling Nobu Atlanta dining room is warm and inviting with a golden backlit white onyx bar and a glamorous, moody vibe. The scene is classic Atlanta: diverse and with a vibrant bar scene. (Reservations can be very hard to come by, so dining at the bar is a good option.) Fish is sourced from Tokyo's Toyusu fish market and some domestic purveyors and showcases Nobu's time spent cooking in Peru with an inventive mix of the freshest fish and complex flavors. Catering to a local preference for shellfish, the Nobu Atlanta features ATL exclusives including Lobster "Dynamite" and Hawaiian Prawns in Garlic Soy Butter and an exceedingly Southern dish, Crispy Okra with Spicy Tozasu. Menu highlights include a smooth-as-silk Nobu Old-Fashioned with Torres Magdala orange liqueur, the perfect twist-on-a-classic to start the meal. Standouts include the yellowtail jalapeño combining delicate fish and the balancing spiciness of the pepper and Nobu's signature rich black cod miso, a decadent rock shrimp tempura in a creamy homemade mayo sauce and the outrageously fresh sushi and nigiri rolls.

Nobu Atlanta is tucked inside the glamorous Nobu Hotel defined by elegant, understated Asian aesthetics. A beautifully designed lobby and inviting guest rooms feature idiosyncratic touches like wooden floors, black-and-white slippers and a traditional Japanese robe to make the experience feel elevated and bespoke. Currently in the works: a mini bar highlighting local shops and Atlanta breweries including a Japanese lager. The property is part of the 56-location restaurant (and 16-hotel) Nobu empire.

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Photo: Mood Theory

Citizens Market Food Hall

The latest entry in Atlanta's booming food hall scene, Citizens Market food hall is a casual option close to Atlanta's high-end shopping destination, Phipps Plaza. The diversity of options at the eight staills include a cocktail bar and every cuisine you might summon up to satisfy a craving: Italian (Cicci Di Carne from chef Dario Cecchini), which serves up a delicious spin on the tuna melt; sushi (Krispy Rice); Mediterranean (Soom Soom Fresh Mediterranean and Michelin-starred chef Dani Garcia's El Pollo Verde); burgers (Umami Burger); and even a classic chicken sandwich joint (Sam's Crispy Chicken) with a long line of fans.

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Photo: Palo Santo

Palo Santo Brings Glam to the Cuisine of Mexico

Housed in a former warehouse, Palo Santo's setting is as striking and as memorable as the cuisine. Already building a reputation for its see-and-be-seen rooftop lounge with stunning city views and a very attractive clientele, this restaurant is from Mexico City native Santiago Gomez who rose to prominence on the Miami restaurant scene. The space is defined by spectacular oversized light fixtures made from plant material and vessels and tableware sourced from Mexico, to give your meal an earthy authenticity. In one of the magical, theatrical touches that defines this gravitas-filled space, staff burn a stick of palo santo and walk through the restaurant as if offering on olfactory blessing to your night. The food defies any preconceptions about Mexican food, though you can order a delicious guacamole to start your meal. There are many memorable options for vegetarians on the menu including an unforgettable caramelized cauliflower dish that recalibrates your brain about that vegetable's potential. The branzino is a deconstructed take on a street food classic with the surpising and delicious addition of basil. And the las bravas dish is another reimagining of the classic Spanish patatas bravas, but far more luscious and decadent. Don't miss a chance to sample from the diverse artisanal tequilas and mezcals offered from the drink cart that makes its way through the dining room at regular intervals, with the option of adding a little protein (aka bug) sidecar to your shot.

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