Take A Walk on Atlanta's Westside

Take a walk on Atlanta's Westside – and stop for a meal.
  • You can't beat a Miller Union ice cream sandwich.
    You can't beat a Miller Union ice cream sandwich.
  • Get a PB&J burger at Public School 404.
    Get a PB&J burger at Public School 404.
  • Try seafood at The Optimist.
    Try seafood at The Optimist.

Atlanta’s Westside neighborhood is a destination for design, shopping and dining in hip, industrial spaces. Here are a few restaurants that you simply must hit whether you live here or are visiting.

Miller Union
Miller Union first appeared on the scene in 2009 before many other restaurants had opened in this area, but long after the 1881 Miller Union Stockyards was shuttered. Now, executive chef Steven Satterfield and General Manager Neal McCarthy have formulated Miller Union on this site serving refined, Southern-slanted cuisine. During dinner, start with the feta snack or signature farm egg baked in celery cream with grilled bread. Menu items could change but typically feature dishes such as braised rabbit with herb gnocchi, ramps, radish and rabbit bacon, and grilled pork loin with tangy burnt onion cream, carrots, turnip and mustard greens. Lunchtime offerings include a local favorite that’s always voted one of the top burgers in Atlanta: Miller Union’s grass-fed burger with cheddar cheese, traditional fixings and fries. Finish that off with a house-made ice cream sandwich, only offered during lunch. If that’s not enough to tempt, note that Satterfield won the 2017 James Beard Foundation’s “Best Chef: Southeast” award and General Manager McCarthy was also nominated for “Outstanding Wine Program” that highlights many small producers. You’ll be in good hands here.

Bacchanalia
Experience the essence of farm living within the city with this locally loved dining spot by chef/owners and James Beard Award winners Anne Quatrano and Clifford Harrison. Bacchanalia recently moved to a new location along with its sister shop Star Provisions Market & Cafe. Now on Ellsworth Industrial Boulevard, one of Atlanta’s most acclaimed restaurants embarks on a new chapter. This unique space was inspired by Quatrano’s family farm, Summerland in Cartersville, Ga. Expect a refreshed approach to the daily, four-course prix fixe menu with a nod to locally sourced ingredients, many of which are gathered from Summerland. The courses vary by night and season, but have been known to feature crab fritter with Thai essence and citrus avocado, or Kobe tartare accompanied by peanut and horseradish. Second course delves deeper with maple leaf duck, halibut or Summerland Farm vegetables and the third highlights a selection of Southern cheeses (Red Cow Parmigianno, anyone?). A sweet finish to a fantastic evening leads us to the last course of Georgia peach souffle or perhaps chocolate cake and olive oil ice cream. 

The Optimist
Restaurateur extraordinaire Ford Fry has created a string of restaurants in the Atlanta area where he provides seasonal cooking, high quality ingredients and carefully themed menus to his devoted following. When The Optimist arrived on the scene in 2012 as a seaside fishing camp created from an old ham aging house, the restaurant won Esquire magazine’s Best New Restaurant in America title and has been going strong since. From whole roasted Georgia trout to fresh oysters from the East Coast, guests enjoy seafood from the country’s best suppliers. To start, try a handcrafted cocktail and a plate of whole Georgia white shrimp a la plancha. Complete with arbol chile, lime and “sopping” toast, the messy effort of eating this dish is worthwhile. Raw delights might include scallop crudo touched with buttermilk, orange and tarragon. Peruse the wood hearth roasted fish menu, which varies daily, and you might find duck fat-poached swordfish with short rib marmalade, and whole crispy haddock donned with pickled peppers and ponzu, arugula and crispy shallots. Pair your entrees with corn milk hush puppies and cane syrup butter, or basmati fried rice with peanuts and smoked fish. A smart selection of dessert wines awaits the end of your meal, as does pineapple upside down cake and hot buttered rum sauce. 

Public School 404
Get ready for an education in the art of food and beer at this new gastropub. This Atlanta location of Public School on Tap, which originated in Southern California, refers to Atlanta’s 404 area code. Find high quality craft beer and approachable, fun food. Located inside The Brady: Luxury Apartments on Howell Mill Road, the education-themed decor displays textbooks, microscopes and even a few encyclopedias. You’ll find 16 custom chrome beer taps and steel common tables, Pullman booths and tables. Open the composition book menu and order savory updated lunchroom fare for the table including bacon cheddar tots and chorizo mac & cheese. Try a BBQ bison burger with whiskey barbecue sauce, and consider the PB&J Burger, topped with crunchy peanut butter, blackberry habanero jam and applewood smoked bacon. Fried chicken and green chili waffles with bacon red eye gravy make you rethink the cafeteria version of mystery chicken. Save room for the Nutella cookie sandwich, stuffed with bacon brittle. 

Marcel
Another Ford Fry dazzler is Marcel. Tucked back into the Westside Provisions District and named after Marcel Cerdan, considered by some to be France’s greatest boxer, this place remembers a time when people lingered over the best meals and the best steaks money could buy. Dig into the throwback American steak house menu and find oysters bienville for the table or a plate of escargot. Order a sidecar cocktail or daiquiri and settle into the leather banquette booth for juicy, sizzling steaks from Linz Heritage Angus Ranch. With options like the 8-ounce New York Strip Marcel reserve cut or the 14-ounce filet monsieur, your meal is guaranteed to be memorable. Even more decadent options include beef Wellington for two: chateaubriand, mushroom duxelles and puff pastry (requires a 24 hour notice) and the sprawling Porterhouse for three or more. Add more layers of savory flavor and top your steak with roasted mushrooms in wine, Bearnaise sauce or Alaskan king crab. For those not in the mood for a steak, other items include chicken paillard with artichokes and lemon butter and Border Springs lamb saddle with minted salsa verde. Accompany your main dish with a bit of green: peas with cream and bacon or roasted asparagus, and don’t miss the creamed corn gratin and pommes Dauphinoise. Baked Alaska, of course, is what you need for dessert. 

King of Pops
Live like royalty every day and treat yourself to a local favorite -- a Popsicle from King of Pops. This small business started by brothers in 2010 has grown to be a loved and reliable find with favorite flavors like the Arnold Palmer, chocolate sea salt, raspberry lime and cookies ‘n cream. The beloved business has started its own farm called King of Crops, and this year’s blackberry honey summer flavor is the first pop to be made with produce from the farm. Hop off the Atlanta BeltLine to visit the Ponce City Market location where you can even order a poptail -- a Popsicle cocktail from the King of Pops Bar. Other locations include a walk-up window further down the Eastside Trail of the BeltLine, many stores around town and at just about any festival in Atlanta. Even furry friends can get in on the action with a cool King of Pups treat. 

Liesl Merkel is contributing editor of Atlanta Now magazine.

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