Cajun Seafood Kitchen
Opening in October in the same Buford Highway plaza as the estimable Lee’s Bakery, this Viet-Cajun restaurant serves generous, artfully arranged platters of shellfish, fried fish, and wings—with various Southeast Asian elements sprinkled here and there, such as shrimp egg rolls on the appetizer menu and Thai iced tea to drink. Chef Le Lee, an amiable fellow who may pop out of the kitchen to see how things are going, claims to make the best crawfish in town, in case you need a suggestion for where to start. You probably won’t be disappointed: The crustaceans are a rich, savory, bright pink mess (bibs and gloves are available), served with potatoes, corn, and fatty kielbasa. If crawfish isn’t your jam, there’s plenty of other Louisiana-style seafood, including po’boys and a beautiful swamp-colored gumbo packed with shrimp, sausage, and rice; it has just the right amount of heat, profound but not aggressive. There are also Lowcountry boil and seafood plates whose options (fried or grilled) include shrimp, oysters, and a few different kinds of fish. The dish billed on the menu as “Southwest salad” was, to my mind, not particularly Southwestern, and also more of a slaw, with various shredded veggies and sunflower seeds in a sweet-tart “Cajun ranch” dressing—meaning it was the perfect vehicle for taking the edge off some of the heavier foods. 4005 Buford Highway, Chamblee
“Amazingly good!” said the habitual carnivore with whom I was sharing my table, after he’d taken his first bite of Papi Ali’s MBLTA sandwich: mushroom bacon, lettuce, tomato, and avocado, slathered with chipotle crema. Between relative newcomer Ford’s BBQ and venerable fave Matthews Cafeteria (a literal meat-and-three), diners seeking the pleasures of the flesh will find much to sup on in downtown Tucker, but less by way of meatless fare. Now, however, comes this “plant-based Latin kitchen” from chef Mikail Ali, who used to work at Bar Mercado. Everything we tried was excellent. Ali eschews weird-tasting fake meats in favor of less complicated vegan products—tofu, jackfruit, “chorizo” and “bacon” made with mushrooms—and embraces simple preparations and bright flavors, such as in grain bowls piled with roasted veggies, avocado, slaw, and beans. Those bowls, plus various wraps and sandwiches (the mushroom chorizo, for instance, stars in a torta with other vegetables and red pepper crema), hit that elusive sweet spot: unfussy enough to impart the comfort of a home-cooked meal, but tasty enough to justify leaving the house. To drink, there are cold-pressed juices (like ginger-mango-pineapple) and smoothies. 2323 Main Street, Tucker
Le Bon Nosh
In Buckhead, a new destination for the ladies who lunch: this high-ceilinged, sumptuously appointed cafe from chef Forough Vakili. Trained as a chemical engineer at Georgia Tech, Vakili ended up turning to food, studying at Le Cordon Bleu in Paris before returning to Atlanta as a culinary consultant at Porsche’s headquarters. Traces of her time in France are evident everywhere at Le Bon Nosh, an all-day eatery that combines elements of a coffee shop, a bakery, a deli, a restaurant, and a wine bar. With two separate counters and a small bar, it can be confusing to navigate—it’s not immediately clear what you’re supposed to order from where—but any effort you invest will be rewarded by Vakili’s fresh, herby salads; beautiful galettes and tartines, with toppings like wood-roasted mushrooms and squash caponata; and sandwiches such as jambon-beurre. French lentils with feta, walnuts, and herbs felt homey and sophisticated at once, while a farro salad contained little salty explosions in the form of cubes of salami and pecorino; both were the sorts of hearty-ish, healthy-ish dishes I would eat for lunch every day, given the chance. Salads are made ahead and displayed in a glass case, so even when the dining room is full and clamorous, food comes out fast. The dinner menu is similarly French (ditto the wines that accompany it, available by the glass) and leans a little fancier: chicken liver pâté, comté and truffle grilled cheese, beef tartare with fries and aioli. 65 Irby Avenue, Buckhead
Remote as it is, the little area bounded by Cheshire Bridge Road, Piedmont Avenue, and I-85 has emerged as a destination for a specific kind of food experience: takeout. (A rich tapestry indeed, this part of town was already a destination for another kind of specific experience: strip clubs and sex shops.) Linton Hopkins’s Buttery is a gourmet grocery with nightly hot meals, fabulous pastries, and a refrigerator case full of low-key but expertly prepared entrees and sides; across the street, you can pick up some of the city’s best Indian food from Archna Malhotra Becker’s Bhojanic. And now a new gladiator enters the arena: this little window from Julia Kesler Imerman, who founded the popular meal-kit and private-chef business Stop Think Chew in 2017. Daily Chew is an extension of it, offering carryout breakfast, lunch, and dinner options five days a week that revolve around local produce, sustainable meat and seafood, and lots of fresh, generally Mediterranean flavors. Representative example: Imerman’s combination of smoked salmon and a zingy preserved-lemon labneh, available, with dill and sumac onions, in a bowl (over a bed of quinoa) or a pita. Larger plates—rotisserie chicken or rotisserie cabbage—are served with hummus, pickled veg, green tahini, and Calabrian aioli. At $32, the half chicken will serve two people, but the juicy meat and flawless sides make such a wonderful meal that you’d be forgiven for keeping it all to yourself: The ingredients are pretty virtuous, but you needn’t be. 2127 Liddell Drive, Piedmont/Morningside
On the one hand, this long-popular restaurant is not at all new. After an extended pandemic-related closure, it reopened in November serving the sorts of dishes it has since 2010—when you’ve got a name like Yeah! Burger, you can’t really wander too far afield. On the other hand, its menu couldn’t be more different now, as Yeah! has gone 100 percent plant-based. The burgers: Impossible. The shakes: oat milk. And on and on—it’s also GMO-free, with all-organic produce and gluten-free options galore. The current menu has a pleasing eclecticism: You can get your basic burger here, but you can also get a “Korean-ish” chicken sandwich (sweet-spicy glaze, gochujang mayo) and a Carolina dog (with slaw and barbecue sauce)—everything as sloppy as you want it to be, and as good. (Among the creative bounty is a truly revolting-sounding “PB&J” burger topped with peanut butter, strawberry jelly, smoked gouda—well, “gouda”—and red onions. Something for everyone!) Sides include flash-fried cauliflower and brussels sprouts, and for dessert: soft-serve and thick milkshakes in varieties like cold-brew coffee and matcha. Fans of the uncanny-valley burgers—the Impossible and Beyond brands, engineered to resemble real beef as closely as possible—will find them here, but skeptics have plenty of other options: A walnut-based patty provides real flavor and a welcome crunch. At press time, breakfast options, big salads, and nonburger sandwiches were all in the offing, though not available just yet. 1168 Howell Mill Road, Westside
Sections of this article appear in our January and February 2022 issues.