Steve Masri is a busy man. If you followed him around for a day, you might find the chef and owner of Olive Bistro hand picking fresh salad greens and high-quality olive oil, lamb, and imported tahini to incorporate into his Old-World family recipes. Masri—who, according to a 2010 review by Meridith Ford Goldman of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, was born in Sardinia and raised in Israel—works hard to honor his heritage with dishes such as from-scratch hummus and fragrant rosemary chicken. But he also adds his own signature twists, including the daily ravioli special and a tomato-basil sauce that replaces traditional marinara in his moussaka and lasagna.
And Masri's dedication has paid off. His pair of intimate bistros were on CBS Atlanta's 2012 list of the Best Mediterranean Cuisine in Atlanta, and Cliff Bostock of Creative Loafing Atlanta was one of several reviewers to recommend the falafel, saying that it has "no equal in the city." The Midtown location earned three Best of Citysearch awards in 2008 for its salads, sandwiches, and small plates. The bistros' outdoor patios make ideal spots to chat with friends over shared meze and a bottle of wine, or construct a replica of the Parthenon out of sliced eggplant.
Painted with numbers and flanked by windows with blue shutters, the doors that line the interior of Mykonos Taverna resemble a charming view that one might stumble upon while visiting the restaurant’s eponymous Greek island. Owner and chef Christos Poulias wanted to give his guests an authentic experience, so he designed the interior of his restaurant to resemble an actual street in Mykonos. The effort to re-create the atmosphere of the island was so earnest that most of the decorations were packed up and, with Poseidon’s consent, shipped over from Mykonos itself.
The decor is not the only thing imported from Greece; a trunk of ancient family recipes made its way into Mykonos Taverna’s kitchen, and the chefs promptly revamped each dish to suit the restaurant’s modern, upscale feel. Among these are chicken souvlaki, gyros, spanakopita, and a recipe for lamb shanks directly from Athens. On Friday and Saturday nights, professional belly dancers complete the experience as they swivel their torsos, pop their hips left and right, and flash their legs through skirts made of warm pita.
Robert Gayle, the executive chef at and owner of Chef Rob's Caribbean Cafe & Upscale Lounge, combines his Caribbean background with a Culinary Institute of America education, gathering flavors from around the world to refine a menu of island comfort fare. After spending his childhood in Jamaica and the West Indies, Chef Rob relocated to the United States and began to develop his culinary lobe at age 13 by working as a steward in Brooklyn. His skills and prestige steadily increased over time, allowing him to eventually open P. Diddy's Atlanta venture, Justin's Restaurant, in 1997 and prepare meals for such celebrities as Jennifer Lopez and Akon. Chef Rob's mental rolodex includes recipes for curried goat, dry-rubbed spare ribs, and his signature spicy jerk seasoning, which he massages into mesquite-grilled chicken. For lighter nighttime fare, diners can convene in the newly opened Chef Rob's Upscale Lounge for hookah, top-shelf cocktails, satisfying tapas, and signature wines. The contemporary furniture completes the swanky atmosphere.
Long after dinner hours, guests at Taverna Plaka may feel as though they've stumbled into a Greek wedding party. Ouzo and wine flow as belly dancers swivel to Mediterranean techno spun by a DJ on the outdoor patio. Meanwhile, staffers lead revelers in throwing napkins, breaking plates, and cheering Greek chants. These festivities align with the restaurant's name, which pays homage to the ancient Plaka neighborhood in Athens, which, according to mythology, was the earthly place where gods once drank, danced, and exchanged balloon animals with mortals.
Proprietor Stelios Kyriacou's menus are equally authentic, anchored in old family recipes. Tzatziki, hummus, and eggplant spreads complement orders of horiatiki salad, lamb kabobs, and grilled salmon with lemon potatoes and spinach, as do specialty beverages such as the Greek Crush—a blend of Level vodka, blue curacao, and pineapple juice. Servers ferry flavors across stone-tiled floors between exposed brick walls and a bar backed by rows of Mediterranean spirits and neoclassical columns.
Even though they had found success in Midtown with Gilbert's Cafe & Bar, the Yeremyan brothers are not one to get set in their ways. At the end of 2013 they relaunched their formerly Mediterranean spot as G's Midtown, a gastropub devoted to new American cuisine. The menu is comfort food with a gourmet twist—there's pork ribs glazed in plum-bourbon sauce, crostini with forest mushrooms and herb butter, and mac and cheese served next to sirloin steak. Inventive uses of ingredients is also apparent on the drink list, which includes cocktails such as a spiced pear cosmo, milkshakes, and a superfruit peach tea. Flat-screen TVs reflect off corrugated-steel walls, and vintage tin signs hang upon exposed brick. On one side of the dining room, a garage door opens up to the street, which is great for letting breezes in but a little confusing to the cars driving by.
La Fourchette has earned plaudits as one of the most romantic restaurants in the city by Gayot, and the eatery received a nod from critic John Kessler for elegant profiteroles. Its intimate interior is home to a menu melded from traditional French, Italian, and Spanish cuisines. Behind the scenes, French-trained chef Jeffrey Wall helms the kitchen to produce plates of foie gras, fig-balsamic hangar steak with frites, and tender, briny steamed mussels. He also oversees the preparation of dynamic Sunday brunches from a rotating weekly menu. This culinary syllabus presents sweets and savories such as brioche french toast and duck confit joined by soft scrambled eggs. A wine list, thoughtfully curated by sommelier Perrine Prieur, features sip-worthy complements to meals and spill-worthy complements to boring white shirts in need of a festive blot or a corporate logo.