Centrally located in Atlanta, Virginia Highland
is a charming neighborhood known for historic homes, unique architecture, lively arts, fun nightlife, and an ever-expanding culinary scene. It’s the ideal location for a well-balanced live-work-play lifestyle. Just head to the intersection it’s named after, and you’ll find chic cafes, trendy bars, and amazing eateries. Here are the five best restaurants to try in Virginia Highland.
1040 North Highland Avenue Northeast, Atlanta, GA
Named after Vietnam’s national flower, the yellow Mai, Mai Kitchen is the long-awaited rebirth of Chef Alex Kinjo’s celebrated cuisine. Although he owns 13 other restaurants in the city, he’s personally curated a special menu for Mai Cuisine after traveling the world to sample native dishes and to educate himself on traditional Vietnamese cooking techniques. Partly inspired by his mother’s cooking, Mai Kitchen adds innovative touches to create elevated Vietnamese fare that’s attracting back his loyal diners as well as newcomers unfamiliar with the cuisine.
Mai Kitchen offers a variety of inventive dishes with vegetarian and gluten-free options. Their starters alone take up half the menu. The Vietnamese chicken wings, crispy pork belly, and crispy shrimp rolls are great choices for authentic flavors. The green mussels and lobster tempura are the runaway favorites. Both are topped with special Japanese mayo. Gluten-free options include the green papaya and mango salad and the crispy imperial rolls.
Entree highlights include the shaken beef, which is made with cubed filet mignon, and the seafood version, which is with yellowfin tuna. The Ha Long Bay noodle dish is a great vegetarian and gluten-free option. It’s made with shrimp, bok choy, broccoli, wood ear mushroom, green onion, and bean sprouts. For vegans, lemongrass tofu is wok-tossed with bell pepper, shallots, carrots, scallions, and pepper.
La Tavola Trattoria
992 Virginia Ave NE, Atlanta, GA
For Italian fare, La Tavola Trattoria serves traditional, creative, and elegant dishes. The cuisine features pasta served with unique items like bone marrow and rabbit sausage, classic sauces made with the finest Italian ingredients, and gluten-free options, such as roasted beets, lamb loin, and zuppa de pesce (seafood stew). Diner favorites include veal meatballs and gnocchi, which are prepared differently depending on in-season. True to its roots, the olive oil cake is served with compote and gelato. Pair the meal with a bottle from their expertly-curated wine list with choices from Italy's Tuscan, Sardinian, and Piedmont regions.
“La tavola” translates to “the table," encompassing the warm and welcoming atmosphere. The restaurant is usually filled to capacity with locals and visitors alike, especially in the evenings and on weekends. The exposed brick walls, dark wood floors, open kitchen, and soft lighting all contribute to the rustic and cozy setting that’s as perfect for large gatherings as romantic dates.
Osteria 832 Pasta & Pizza
832 North Highland Avenue Northeast, Atlanta, GA
For a more casual setting, Osteria 832 Pasta and Pizza serves thin-crust pizzas and other Italian favorites. The setting is laid-back and rustic, with dark brown wood and copper accents. Their come-as-you-are atmosphere is perfect for last-minute get-togethers, special occasions, large family gatherings, leisurely lunches, pre-bar crawls, and even date nights.
Their hand-tossed pizzas are customer favorites. Inventive choices include the banderia, which is made of tomato sauce, pepperoni, fresh basil, ricotta, and mozzarella, and the lombarda, which is made of tomato sauce, fresh Italian sausage, gorgonzola, mozzarella. Classics like the Margherita and caprese are available as well, both of which are vegetarian. You can also customize your own pizza and make the crusts gluten-free upon request.
The pasta is just as fantastic. The slow-cooked rigatoni bolognese and homemade spaghetti and meatballs are traditional and tasty. The gnocchi can be served with pomodoro, pesto, or bolognese. The gorgonzola alfredo and spaghetti pomodoro are your vegetarian options. Other menu highlights include chicken piccata, eggplant parmigiana, and fried ravioli. On the weekends, the place can get packed for brunch. The highlights include bloody marys, bellinis, and osteria spritzes complementing their specialty benedicts and build-your-own-omelettes.
997 Virginia Ave NE, Atlanta, GA
For American fare, Murphy’s Restaurant has been a mainstay for over 30 years, and locals love pretty much everything on the menu. It’s contemporary comfort food made with the freshest ingredients. Their most famous plate is the Guinness-braised beef brisket. The melt-in-your-mouth beef is served with horseradish mashed potatoes and green beans. You can also get it as a sandwich with Swiss cheese, horseradish, and balsamic onions.
They offer numerous vegetarian dishes with seasonal produce. For starters, there’s the beet salad tossed with toasted walnuts, arugula, goat cheese, and a walnut vinaigrette. The grilled artichoke with lemon aioli and the ricotta fritter served with ricotta, spinach, and a roasted red pepper sauce are also standouts. Entree salads include Caesar, kale, and tucker farm greens, which are all served vegetarian but can be customized with chicken, salmon, or shrimp. For something heartier, they have a vegetarian bowl with rice pilaf and a truffle mac and cheese side.
It wouldn’t be a proper American institution without brunch. Customer favorites include pancakes, french toast, and brisket hash. For Southern flavors, the Virginia Highland eggs, crab cake benedict, and cheddar grits are must-tries. The avocado toast and quiche Lorraine are vegetarian, but they are so delicious everyone orders them without missing the meat. Muryphy’s is a restaurant, bakery, and wine shop in one, so don’t forget to grab some goodies and vino on your way out.
1026 North Highland Avenue Northeast, Atlanta, GA
Another Virginia Highland institution, Highland Tap, is a speakeasy-style steakhouse and lounge. Burgand-colored walls, stained-glass windows, dimmed lighting, and a traditional fire mantle contribute to its cozy and classy atmosphere. Established in 1989 as a “steak cellar,” their steaks are cooked over hickory for a distinct smoky wood-fired flavor. The house-cut ribeye, slow-roasted prime rib, and Highland Tap filet mignon are customer favorites. If you have a big appetite, you can go for the 32-ounce Tomahawk bone-in ribeye, which is the largest cut on the menu.
Since they are also a popular spot for lunch, they serve a variety of lighter options, including salads and steakburgers. The spinach salad and pearl-glazed chicken salad are tasty and unique, and the Ceasar salad can be customized with chicken, shrimp, salmon, or asparagus. The original burger is wood-fired to get that classic hickory flavor. If you want to skip the red meat altogether, seafood offerings include the grilled mahi mahi, crab cakes, pecan-crusted Georgia trout, wood-fired salmon, and tuna patty melt.
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