With so much competition for our attention at home and work, it’s easy to overlook the things that don’t make spectacles of themselves — like new restaurants or little shops that fly under the radar.
Our Under the Radar guide aims to single out a few of Atlanta’s most underrated places.
Some are lesser known but close at hand, some take you off the beaten path, and some might be places you know already that have surprising features.
Hopefully, this will provide a shortcut to new discoveries — any of which is worthy of becoming part of your routine.
FOOD AND DRINK
Secret speakeasy: Himitsu
Don’t even think about sauntering unannounced into this hidden, Japanese-style craft cocktail bar in Buckhead. You’ll need to request a reservation by sending an email with the word “love” in the subject line, and then await the secret code that unlocks the vault-like door — like something out of a James Bond movie. (“Himitsu,” by the way, is the Japanese word for “secret.”) Once inside, order a $25 glass of Ruinart Brut Rosé champagne or an exotic, Asian-inflected cocktail served in a Baccarat glass. As a nosh, we liked the steak tartare on finger-size toasts spread with salty gorgonzola.
One Buckhead Plaza, 3050 Peachtree Road
Eating globally: We Suki Suki
A self-described “Global Grub Collective,” We Suki Suki is a skinny East Atlanta storefront packed with food stands, pop ups and a teeny-tiny counter where you’ll find the best off-BuHi bahn mi in town. The Vietnamese sandwiches, along with some phenomenal wintertime pho, are made by the ever-energetic godmother of the GGC, Q Trinh. The vibe here is scruffy, sunny and chill, but don’t delay your visit: Its stands can fly by night, leaving their devoted customers brokenhearted. Fortunately, they’re quickly replaced by others, including such current sweethearts as Cake Hag bakery, Le Metro Creperie, a Build Your Own Buttermilk Biscuit operation and late-night Turkish fare called Sevim Mutfak.
479-B Flat Shoals Ave. 404-430-7613
Catfish fare: Dish Dive and Eat Me Speak Me
While completely unrelated, these cult favorite spots have striking similarities. Both are BYOB and almost impossibly tiny. Both traffic in seasonal dishes that are beautiful and badass. And both, as it happens, regularly spin gold out of that most humble of swimmers, the catfish. Dish Dive has given its catfish an irresistible Asian spin and recently, served it with artichoke barigoule, sea bean and lemon nage. At a weekend pop-up, Eat Me Speak Me found the fish dancing with potato puree, crème fraiche, peppers and catfish bottarga. Quite a couple of catches.
Dish Dive. 2222 College Ave. 404-957-7918
Unexpected fine dining: Twain’s
When Decaturites weren’t paying attention, the venerable Twain’s — cavernous, dark and a little shabby — became more than just a pool and brew hall. Suddenly, on the menu appeared stacked, tea-brined fried wings on a bed of pickled collards and pimento cheese grits; smoked trout with green tomato relish; a vegan burger of fava beans and quinoa; and sides like smoked ramp grits and okra chimichurri. It’s still Southern pub fare, just elegant as hell.
211 East Trinity Place, Decatur. 404-373-0063.
Eat on your feet: Peachtree Food Tours
Midtown resident John Hannula shares diverse cuisine and little-known stories about his neighborhood on his Peachtree Food Tours. The 1.5-mile stroll along Peachtree stops at five eateries and features stories full of history and humor. Samples along the way can include savory burgers, shrimp and grits, and Asian pastries.
Bites from underground: Atlanta Underground Market
Modeled after San Francisco’s Underground Market, Atlanta Underground Market is a members-only event with a different theme and location each month. Home cooks present their best dishes, and those attending events pay a small fee for tastings. September’s event features a farm-to-table dinner, with multiple vendors featuring produce from local farms, and well as two chefs competing in a “culinary throwdown.”
A cup for a cause: Refuge Coffee
Refuge Coffee offers an appealing selection of rich cups of java, fragrant teas and such refreshing sodas as lime and ginger, from wherever the coffee truck goes in the Atlanta area as well as its regular Wednesday and Friday location at a former service station in Clarkston. Founder Kitti Murray uses Refuge Coffee to offer job training, employment opportunities, social networking and outreach to the local immigrant community. The love of coffee needs no translation.
4170 E. Ponce de Leon Ave, Clarkston. 929-314-4837
Sweet treat: Nectar’s Nutella smoothie
When is a chocolate milkshake not a chocolate milkshake? When it’s one of the Nutella mega smoothies at Nectar, near Emory University. A high-protein blend of Nutella and organic banana, with choice of organic soy milk or almond milk, Nectar’s smoothie offers the full-bodied coolness and chocolatey notes you crave on a hot day, while feeling like more than empty calories. Only available at Nectar’s Clairmont Road location.
1365 Clairmont Road. 404-633-4400