By Jennifer Bradley Franklin

For a city with so much history, Atlanta is decidedly intrigued by what’s new, and its litany of new restaurants is no exception. Here are some of the latest additions to our fair city’s dining scene.

Alma Cocina
When Fifth Group opens a restaurant, foodies in town take notice. In this case, Alma Cocina is the company's first new restaurant since El Taco opened in Virginia-Highland in October of 2008 and is located in the 191 Peachtree building, adjacent to the downtown Ritz-Carlton. While the parking situation is a little irritating (bring your patience and sense of direction!), the experience inside the restaurant is worth the hassle of getting there.

Executive Chef Chad Clevenger boasts an impressive resume of authentic, playful Latin restaurants, and his commitment to both authenticity and to having fun is evident on the menu. A few must-try items include the guacamole with butternut squash, chipotle and queso fresco (the butternut squash sounds odd, but trust us, it’s delicious!), the fried avocado taquitos with salty cotija cheese and slightly herbal poblano pesto (the texture of the perfectly ripe avocado works surprisingly well fried) and a main plate of pork tenderloin on the grill with bacony brussels and mashed sweet potatoes with a hint of tequila, served with a balanced, perfect mole. The beverages really shine here; ask your server for a recommendation and they won’t steer you wrong. On first brush, the cocktail list reads like something you would find on a beach-side menu in Mexico, but once you dive in, it’s far more interesting and thoughtful.

Fifth Group enthusiasts might draw parallels to the now defunct Sala (which used to occupy the El Taco space), and the comparisons are warranted. Fans loved Sala for it’s authentic, but upscale, approach to Mexican favorites. Director of Operations Steve Simon told us that the vision for Alma is that it will be the flagship location of the company and we think it’s well on its way to hitting that stride.

191 Peachtree St. N.E.
Atlanta 30303

It’s always exciting to watch when a chef breaks off from a steady job at the helm of an established kitchen and strikes out on his / her own. Such is the journey of Micah Willix, formerly Executive Chef of Ecco in Midtown (incidentally, also a Fifth Group restaurant), who opened Latitude this fall in the Phipps Plaza space formerly occupied by The Grape.

The menu, like the physical space of the restaurant, is small. But, Willix’s talent shines in the dishes he puts forth, with an obvious focus on both simplicity and intense flavors. If you’re willing to brave raw meat, do yourself a favor and sample the beef tartare appetizer. It has an almost caviar-like texture and is finished with creamy aioli and salty fried capers and then served with crispy toast (so thin you can see right through it). It’s worth the walk on the wild side, even if it’s a bit outside of your comfort zone. On the mains, the duck breast (served with oyster mushrooms, bacon and shallots) and the grilled bone-in pork chop (with thyme-roasted brussel sprouts and an apple-scented agro-dolce or “sweet and sour” sauce) are both quite special. The wine list is well-thought out and the staff is well-trained enough to advise you. Latitude is certainly a worth addition to the mall (for a post-shopping nosh) or as a destination on its own.

3500 Peachtree Road
Atlanta 30324

Five Napkin Burger
In all truthfulness, this post is a bit late, but we’re including it because we suspect that you might not have yet discovered this addition to Atlanta’s burgeoning burger scene. Five Napkin Burger opened quietly in Midtown during the summer, having completely renovated the space at 10th and Piedmont that used to be Nickiemoto’s. While residents bemoaned the loss “sushi on the corner,” Five Napkin Burger is a fun addition the neighborhood and actually (surprisingly) offers sushi as well as beef.

The parent company owns several Five Napkins in Manhattan, so guests will notice decidedly NYC items, such as chicken, noodle and matzo ball soup and “Hell’s Kitchen” spicy wings. Some favorite burgers (which can be served with your choice of a beef, veggie, lamb or turkey patty) include the Italian with spicy tomato sauce, mozzarella and balsamic peppers and the Piedmont (created exclusively for the Atlanta location) with pimento cheese, griddled onions and pickled jalapenos. Whatever you do: make room for one of their hand-spun milkshakes. You’ll regret it if you don’t try the s’mores shake, made up of a chocolate milkshake with graham crackers spun in and topped with a giant torched marshmallow. We promise: it’s worth the calories.

990 Piedmont Ave NE
Atlanta, GA 30309

Happy eating! 

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