(Travel + Leisure) -- Whether they're in Atlantic Station or Inman Park, Atlanta restaurants have hit their stride. T+L heads south to get a taste of some of Georgia's best homegrown talent.
Lamb tenderloin with broccoli rabe and red pepper jus at Table 1280.
THE PLACE Clifford Harrison and Anne Quatrano, who preach the Alice Waters gospel, opened 36-seat Quinones (1198 Howell Mill Rd., Westside; 404/365-0410; dinner for two $144) below their main restaurant, Bacchanalia. Here, they dream up refined -- but not fussy -- 10-course tasting menus composed of heirloom produce from their farm. New Southern Cooking doesn't get any tastier.
THE SCENE Moguls who own private jets and romantic couples who can't decide whether to dote on each other or on their buttercream-frosted tea cakes (cupcakes for grown-ups).
HITS We loved every single dish on the prix fixe menu, from the Virginia wild striped bass highlighted with slivers of Meyer lemon to the pheasant galantine with a smear of foie gras mousse and cherry jus.
T+L TIP Raid Quatrano's adjacent shop, Star Provisions, stocked with interesting edibles -- grab the Fossier rose biscuits -- and whimsical tableware.
THE PLACE Part of the new $124 million Renzo Piano extension to the Woodruff Arts Center, Table 1280 (1280 Peachtree St.; 404/897-1280; lunch for two $45) is a showcase of elegant minimalism: two soaring, light-drenched white rooms with little in the way of embellishment but a pair of striking art installations. Though chef Todd Immel, who trained under the great Gunther Seeger, one of the top toques in the United States, plays it safe here, the setting alone is worth the price of a meal.
THE SCENE By day, cashmere-draped ladies who lunch; culture vultures at dinner, when the menu gets more ambitious and the space resembles a fantastical glowing aquarium.
HITS Soulful braised short ribs enlivened with horseradish and salsa verde; an imaginative white-chocolate cake with exotic hints of fennel.
THE PLACE Everything is just right about Krogbar (112 Krog St.; 404/524-1618; dinner for two $40), a pocket-size wine bar from the owners of Rathbun's next door: the amber lighting and the chic log-cabin feel; the careful sourcing behind the anchovies, salumi and cheeses; and the infectious enthusiasm of sommelier Jon Allen (he'll pour you a taste of any of his 50 wines by the glass).
THE SCENE Preppy Inman Park loft owners cozy up under patio heaters while sharing plates of bresaola and Valdeon blue and trading notes on this Rueda versus that Viognier.
HITS Lemony roasted artichokes; braised pork with caramelized onions; dainty almond butter, goat cheese, and apple tramezzini.
THE PLACE Housed in a converted Art Deco gas station, Rolling Bones (377 Edgewood Ave.; 404/222-2324; lunch for two $25) is a cheery blue and white box of a barbecue joint with a cool retro sign. On the menu: awesome dry-rubbed, pit-smoked, Texas-style 'cue that's developed a cult following even among Atlantans who insist barbecue should be Southern.
THE SCENE Ravenous nurses from the nearby hospital, politicians and tourists fresh from a visit to the Martin Luther King Center a few blocks away. Everyone is squeezed behind shiny aluminum tables, devouring mesquite-suffused hunks of animal protein.
HITS The succulent brisket, and the chicken -- simultaneously grilled and smoked -- with moist flesh beneath crackling skin. And a side of mustard greens, please.
T+L TIP After lunch, drop by Sweet Auburn Curb Market (209 Edgewood Ave.; 404/659-1665) to admire the display of chitterlings and taste fantastic sweet-potato pie and strawberry cake from Red's Bakery.
THE PLACE In 2005, Bob Amick, a local restaurant czar, retooled a nifty mid-century circular bank building into Piebar (2160 Monroe Dr.; 404/ 815-1605; dinner for two $50), a mod pizza restaurant with an atomic-age design (there's even a drive-through window). The desolate location -- above a busy interstate --only adds to the general grooviness. From the vast pizza oven come rectangular pies with cracker-thin crust and toppings such as prosciutto and pastrami.
THE SCENE Twentysomethings flirting furiously over acrylic glasses of zentini and nakatini.
HITS Simpler pies such as cherry tomato and mozzarella, or fontina and barbecued rabbit.
Lobby at Twelve
THE PLACE Atlantic Station -- a new work-live-play complex touted as the largest brownfield reclamation in the country -- might seem a prefab vision of Pleasantville, but among its redeeming features is Twelve, a chic all-suites hotel with a throbbing bar and a smart restaurant, Lobby at Twelve (361 17th St.; 404/961-7370; dinner for two $68), with a loft-like look showcasing chef Nick Oltarsh's confident New American cooking.
THE SCENE Singles who migrate from the bar and two-Lexus couples who are just here for pulled lamb with crème fraîche.
HITS Truffled matzoh-ball soup with watercress and shredded chicken; Georgia trout with red cabbage and Smithfield ham.
Three more not to miss
Atlanta's most anticipated newcomer, Trois (1180 Peachtree St.; 404/815-3337; dinner for two $110), serves up such haute-brasserie standouts as monkfish osso buco and meltingly tender braised beef oxtail.
Sensational wood-fired pizzas, rugged chitarra spaghetti laced with guanciale and clams, and compulsively edible goat cheese fritters with honey draw a cool crowd to Ecco (40 Seventh St.; 404/347-9555; dinner for two $70).
Chef Shaun Doty, known for his clever riffs at One Midtown Kitchen, now has a home of his own at Shaun's (1029 Edgewood Ave. NE; 404/577-4358; dinner for two $70) in Inman Park. The updated comfort food menu (shrimp and grits with Berkshire pork and poached egg) is a runaway hit. E-mail to a friend
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