There's no way around it; Atlanta is a restaurant town. We Southerners are a social lot and we like sharing food and drink with one another. We eat out—a lot—and the culinary offerings are as diverse and eclectic as the capitol of the Southeast's residences.
The difference Atlanta has with other big cities is that there aren't neighborhoods dedicated to one single cuisine. In other words, there's no Little Italy or Barbecue Belt, and that's what makes going out half the fun—the discovery of some gem in the middle of an unlikely neighborhood.
Most restaurants are found in Buckhead, and the largest concentration of fine dining is thanks in part to the Buckhead Life Group, which includes Atlanta Fish Market, Bistro Niko, Buckhead Diner, Chops Lobster Bar, Corner Cafe, Kyma, Pricci—all places you want to go with an expense account. Bones, Seeger's, Canoe, Prime and Del Frisco's are places where one can run up a hefty bill as well. Buckhead is definitely a place to go for a special occasion.
Midtown and Midtown West are probably where you will find the most diverse cuisine as well as a nice batch of newcomers to the scene. There's Nan for a white tablecloth Thai experience; Steel, where you'll find some of the city's best sushi; Veni Vidi Vicci, which is a popular (and expensive) Italian joint; and Pure Vida, which brings Latin cuisine to the table quite nicely. Holeman & Finch, Empire State South, The Spence, Miller Union and the Optimist round out the favorite Midtown/Westside newcomers.
In Downtown proper we cannot resist the charms of old school places like Pittypat's Porch, the Sun Dial (a revolving restaurant and bar atop the Westin Peachtree Plaza), and Trader Vic's in the Hilton. And what could be better than dinner in a tiki hut with a cocktail served in a coconut.
When you're hungry for breakfast or brunch, Atlanta is a great city; but your options are, again, not limited to one section of town. In Buckhead, the White House diner has been pleasing patrons since 1948. Down in the Old Fourth Ward, we love the laid-back atmosphere and delicious biscuits at Home Grown, which has its own thrift store attached. For something a bit more upscale, try Parish. In Grant Park, when the line gets too long at Ria's Bluebird for the city's best pancakes, folks across the street go to Octane for house-made breads, pastries and quiches.
We did save the best for last: Sun in My Belly (SIMB), in the Kirkwood section of Atlanta. It's open for lunch, brunch and dinner, but get there early before the desserts sell out. Every first Sunday from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. SIMB hosts a Jazzy Brunch with live entertainment; attendees are encouraged to bring a bottle of their own bubbly and linger as long as they like.