Strings of hot-pepper-shaped lights hang over the bar at Mezcalitos Cocina & Tequila Bar's main location, where they're accented by colorful toy parrots and bullfighting posters. This lively decor helps distract from the lurking menace behind the bar: a housemade 10-pepper tequila known as Devil's Water. Adventurous sorts can gulp it straight as a shot, and more timid diners can take its spicy edge off by blending it with one of the restaurant's other signature tequilas. It's a tradition so popular that Mezcalitos has carried it over to their newly opened Grant Park location, too.
When it comes to the food, everything on the menu is made from scratch, from the hand-rolled tamales to the cilantro-infused rice and mole sauces. Chipotle-cheese grits complement grilled ribeye steak, and oranges and cinnamon add an unexpected sweetness to the slow-cooked red pork mole. Vegetarians and vegans can fill up on tofu tacos or salads piled high with pumpkin seeds, grilled zucchini, and roasted red peppers.
At Blu Canitna, chefs play with the traditional flavors of the Caribbean and Latin America to create inventive fusion dishes. They toss wings in spicy peach-bourbon sauce, and they put an upscale twist on beef brisket tacos by adding a dollop of creme fraiche infused with cilantro. They also turn plates of nachos and quesadillas into hearty meals by topping them with proteins such as brisket, tilapia, and smoked chicken. These all pair with aromatic hookahs and an extensive drink menu that showcases margaritas in unique flavors such as Sassy Strawberry Sriracha, which tastes like a combination of spicy chilies and alliteration.
The Chocolate Bar's menu contains a veritable cornucopia of house-made chocolates, dessert plates, small bites, specialty cocktails, and expertly chosen wines. If you opt for the prix-fixe wine flight, you'll get three wines ($12) and your choice of three truffles ($5), three assorted popcorns ($12), or three cheeses ($13) to sample this chocolate cabin's wares. Otherwise, you can branch outward like a curious and hungry poltergeist tree with $25 worth of treats. Turn your palate to a culinary cocktail such as a summery beer float ($6), Leinenkugel's sunset wheat poured over a scoop of orange sherbet. Offset a liquid treat with some solid comestibles, such as smoked sockeye salmon ($10) in truffle and shallot vinaigrette. If you stopped by with a gaggle of friends, sweet-feast on a large dessert plate of peach melba ($8), a treasure trove of almond-vanilla sponge cake, peach sorbet, and raspberry mousse.
Part tapas restaurant and part upscale lounge, bar ONE offers a sultry retreat from Atlanta's daily bustle and peach-avalanches. The lounge's ivory sofas, artful semi-nude photos, and mirror-polished surfaces create a chic background, no matter where or how guests choose to situate themselves. The best foreground, however, is a spread of small plates that blend the classic flavors of southern food with the spices and fruits of the Caribbean. Coconut curry shrimp, for instance, shares the spotlight with sweet potato waffles, and jerk chicken is folded into quesadillas. That combination of tastes is personal for Chef Natasha Wong, who draws on culinary know-how gleaned from both her years of cooking professionally in the states and her childhood spent in the Virgin Islands helping out in her parents' kitchen.
Cartoon skulls color the ragged wooden sign outside Matador's, creating a rustic, yet playful, atmosphere where cuisine from the Michoacán region treats taste buds to an authentic taste of Mexico. Pulled pork, tilapia, and tofu are just a sample of what's stuffed into the tortillas of 14 types of tacos, which sate south-of-the-border cravings quicker than a deep-fried bolo tie. Combination plates and vegetarian options round out the menu at the restaurant's two locations, both of which offer spacious patio seating. At the newer Glenwood Park location, patrons can relax in a separate bar area as flat-screen TVs glimmer across intoxicating bottles of top-shelf spirits.
When Wine Shoe owners Nora and Shannon Wiley started planning the shop's design, they wanted something that would blend their worldly travels with the historic culture of the surrounding Castleberry Hill neighborhood. The result was promptly recognized by Atlanta magazine, which compared Wine Shoe to a "private wine cellar in France stocked with wines from all over the world."
Today, the facility's floor-to-ceiling wine wall stands as a new challenge to rock climbers and as a stunning backdrop to an assortment of wine-related activities, including classes that drew more than 3,000 total students during 2011. Many of those students gathered around Wine Shoe's 12-foot rustic table, where, sitting beneath a glistening bronze and crystal chandelier, they paired sips with scrumptious hunks of education.
The shop carries more than 150 different wines, the majority of which come from small producers. It also keeps its door open to pooches, as Nora and Shannon's security dog, Beeren, is always looking for new buddies with whom to discuss the nuanced flavors of rawhide bones.