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Information on Host City and Meeting Highlights
Culinary Trends Haven't Left Old South Behind
Psychiatric News
Volume 40 Number 4 page 21-56

These days, my hometown of Atlanta is as famous for its epic traffic jams as its antebellum past. But if you want to sample our oral traditions at dinner, you'll can still find some genuine Old South touchstones, as well as intriguing New South twists—including vibrant and varied ethnic choices.

If you're one of those tourists who insist on visiting Tara, even though this Gone With the Wind plantation never existed, you can join your out-of-town brethren for the faux-Old South fare at Pittypat's Porch, named for a character in Margaret Mitchell's book. (Ironically, she's the one who exclaims, "Yankees! In Georgia? How did they ever get in?") But if you wanted a real taste of what Atlanta is all about today, I'd take you to Nam.

Brothers Alex and Chris Kinjo own and operate this small, hip restaurant with the best Vietnamese food in town. That's Alex at the host station, in his Armani suit and sunglasses, looking like a figure in a Japanese anime novel. They also operate MF Sushibar, my vote for the best, freshest traditional Japanese sushi, in a similarly hip environment. (Be sure to ask for some of the fresh wasabi horseradish, grated at your table.)

Next on our New South tour is Atlanta's upscale dining—only New York has more four-star restaurants. First on my list is Seeger's, a small house in Buckhead with creative, seasonal cuisine. Classically trained chef Guenter Seeger offers a mindexpanding wine list, and his "think globally, eat locally" approach can be a heady, intellectual experience.

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"Special Crunchy Rolls," containing tempura, crab, and mayo topped with smoked salmon, are served up at MF Sushi.  © MF Sushi

If you prefer the kind of dinner that your grandmother might have made—that is, had she been a Culinary Institute prodigy—go to Bacchanalia, in a rehabbed warehouse space that feels like a sumptuous harem's lounge. Impeccably sourced seafood and organic produce, treasurehunt wines, and the city's best cheese plate are sold in Bacchanalia's own market, Star Provisions.

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South City Kitchen is a good choice when you're in the mood for traditional Southern food, such as fried green tomatoes and collard greens.  © The Fifth Group Restaurant

The Asian counterpart to these high-end, sky's-the-limit creative endeavors is Soto, with chef Soto-hiro Kosugi's unforgettable signature sushi dishes, incorporating truffle oil and uni (sea urchin) mousse, lobster, and lotus root. Be prepared to wait, however: on busy nights, the chef's legendary perfectionism slows service to a crawl.

Finally, Joël with a dining room that looks like a page ripped from Italian Vogue, blends old-school service with French-twist ingredients, such as foie gras in an iron pot.

Atlanta is a city of neighborhoods, and in them you'll find some more straightforward expressions of the Southern vernacular. Inman Park's beautiful old Victorian homes are occupied by artists and academicians, and its edgiest edge, the Stove-works, houses one of the best new restaurants in town—or according to Esquire magazine, in the country. Rathbun's has earned raves from the national press for its Southern-tinged New American specialties, including pork loin with creamed cabbage and steak with grits.

Not far from there, urban pioneers are seeking out Two Urban Licks, the ambitious new venture from seasoned restaurateur Bob Amick. The menu (lamb lollipops, fried frog legs) is almost as fun as the slightly Vegas-esque environment—the former warehouse's truck bays open to reveal a glittering skyline, and a huge painting by Atlanta artist Todd Murphy covers an entire wall.

In midtown, get your fix for Dixie standards like fried green tomatoes, greens, even beets, at South City Kitchen, in a renovated house with hardwood floors that can make a joyful occasion raucous. In Decatur, a charming small town that Atlanta completely engulfed decades ago, seek out Watershed (co-owned by Indigo Girl Emily Saliers). Award-winning chef Scott Peacock somehow makes old-fashioned Southern favorites—pimiento-cheese-stuffed celery, heirloom tomatoes, cathead biscuits—thoroughly modern.

Also in midtown, Shaun Doty's new digs, MidCity Cuisine, is a youthful, playful spot overlooking Peachtree Street. It's one of my favorite sorts of restaurants—the kind that seems to be masquerading as a bar, because the crowd is so convivial. The food—fava beans with mild pecorino cheese, Niman Ranch pork schnitzel with Vidalia onion salad—is seriously amusing.

If you want to eat well for a few dollars, it's hard to beat Baraonda, in midtown near one of Atlanta's treasures, the Fox Theatre, an art deco masterpiece from the 1920s. Go after 8 p.m. to avoid the theater rush, and listen to the Italian waiters when they tell you to order the pizza garnished with arugula and bresaola or Parma ham and baked in the wood-burning oven; the clams in white wine are to die for. Or try some true South barbecue, which here means hickory-smoked chopped pork: locals swear by Harold's, in a rundown neighborhood near the Federal Pen, but I believe its best dish is the thick-as-the-Okefenokee Brunswick stew, with pork, chicken, tomatoes, and corn, served with cracklin' cornbread. (The New South barbecue choice: Fogo de Chao, where handsome Brazilian gauchos feed you tender grilled beef, chicken, and pork until you beg them to stop.)

The last stop on our Old South tour is perhaps the best: Son's Place is heir to Atlanta's beloved Deacon Burton's throne, with the best fried chicken in town—maybe the universe. Deacon Burton was once the obligatory stop for every campaigning politician and power broker. Today, his son and family serve up crisp chicken, hoecakes, and heavenly pies and cakes in a humble, low-key environment. Go fast, before this vestige of the disappearing South is also gone with the wind. ▪

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"Special Crunchy Rolls," containing tempura, crab, and mayo topped with smoked salmon, are served up at MF Sushi.  © MF Sushi

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South City Kitchen is a good choice when you're in the mood for traditional Southern food, such as fried green tomatoes and collard greens.  © The Fifth Group Restaurant

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