Ms. Quatrano, chairwoman of the James Beard Foundation’s awards committee, remains a levelheaded fan of the city’s food. Like Mr. Gillespie, she says some of the best food is found in modest, neighborhood restaurants.
“There’s a lot of young talent here,” she said. “Some of it’s raw, but it’s still good. That makes for really good dining at lot of the smaller places.”
One is Banshee, a boisterous restaurant inside a former lesbian bar in the charmingly scruffy East Atlanta neighborhood. Tables are packed with diners who swipe fry bread through smears of pepperoni butter, and debate whether the Sichuan-spiced pork osso buco is better than the braised onion caramelle with braised beef cheeks.
At Tiny Lou’s, inside the newly refurbished Hotel Clermont, not far from Ponce City Market, Jeb Aldrich delivers a smart take on French classics, and the pastry chef Claudia Martinez makes a crêpes suzette cake that customers can’t seem to stop talking about.
Atlanta also is a big breakfast town, which is why in a few weeks Ms. Quatrano will open Pancake Social, a 120-seat, all-day breakfast place in Ponce City Market. Until then, Java Jive, Highland Bakery and Home Grown, whose pancakes and chili cheese grits are worth enduring the inevitable line, all make for a fine breakfast field trip.
And don’t forget Waffle House. The original restaurant in nearby Avondale Estates has been turned into the company’s museum, but there are plenty of others in full operation. (Pro tip: Order your hash browns scattered, smothered and covered, with country ham and a pecan waffle cooked dark on the side.)