Wood crackles in a blazing fire as the smells of dust and wild grass waft through the air. In the background, horses' hooves pound across the plains. It's the end of the day for the gauchos, rugged Brazilian cowboys infamous for stealing wandering cattle. While the horsemen top one another with tales of their day's heists, succulent meat seasoned with sea salt roasts over the open flame of the fire. The smoke makes the gauchos’ eyes water as much as their mouths as they sharpen their knives in preparation for a hard-earned feast.
This gaucho style of dining dates back to the 18th century. At Sal Grosso, the chefs continue the gauchos' culinary tradition—now known as churrasco—of slow-cooking meats over an open flame and then serving tableside, or rodizio. The servers slice and serve endless portions of beef, lamb, poultry, and pork flavored with various spices and coarse salt. They also deliver traditional Brazilian flan and other desserts along with signature caipirinhas and flavored martinis to diners who haven't zoned their stomachs as carnivore-exclusive territories.
Sal Grosso trades the wild grasses and plains of South America for Brazilian-made leather dining chairs, hardwood columns, and modern abstract art. In addition to a large bar and 70-seat banquet room, the patio gives guests a view of the modern-day gauchos cooking meat inside a glassed-in outdoor kitchen as a fountain sends water streaming into a connected pool.
Featuring an outdoor patio and lodgelike interior, Saskatoon is a specialty chophouse that tames the wild outdoors, serving both exotic wild game and traditional entrees with a Northwestern flair. Following the rustic ritual, the Buckhead location's menu begins meals with appetizers such as the wild-game sausage sampler (different sampling of meats each week, $10), wild-boar flatbread ($9), and Northwestern steamers (fresh clams and mussels, $11). Venture further into the culinary mountains with entrees such as buffalo flank steak (served with caramelized onions and house honey-barbecue sauce, $23) and a full rack of lamb with zinfandel demi-glace ($32), or swim up a clear, cool flavor stream by opting for a rainbow trout, served sizzling in the pan ($19). Don't neglect your inner oenophile—Saskatoon has a wine list large enough to tickle any entree's fancy. A glass of Sea Ridge syrah ($6.50) or a Sterling sauvignon blanc ($6.50) will complement savory sustenance, and a sweet glass of Hungarian tokaji (dessert wine, $12) can put a delicious cap on your night's sleepy head.
Master Chef Rudolph Matthews adores the cuisine from his hometown so much, he just can't stop making it. He's passed down this fever to his sons as well. At A Taste of the Island Restaurant, his sons Kevin and Dashaan assist Chef Matthews in dishing up authentic Jamaican food. They make dishes such as curry goat and brown stew chicken fresh every day, not photocopied from a photocopy. One specialty, the jerk chicken, gets soaked in traditional spices before being flame-grilled.
There is always a lively spirit of creativity at The Sound Table, but it changes throughout the night. The upstairs dining room boasts a menu that "zigzags through global influences: Belgian-style frites, Oaxacan hanger steak with salsa verde, Chinese grilled ribs redolent of soy and chile," says Atlanta magazine, which placed restaurant on its list of the area's 50 Best Restaurants. However, the menu's capricious nature doesn't stop at the recipes, it also affects the availability. The selection changes frequently as the chefs incorporate new, seasonal ingredients. On the downstairs level, the bar is a bit more consistent, although still inventive. In addition to the international assortment of wine and beer, the bartenders mix drinks that Creative Loafing Atlanta hailed as "some of the best cocktails in the city." These shaken and stirred concoctions are separated into categories that range from bright & dry to strong, rich & strange, and they occasionally feature nontraditional ingredients such as pine liqueur or garam masala. Although the food and drinks help keep spirits high, it's the live music that transforms the two stories of exposed brickwork, booths made of wooden slats, and soft industrial lighting into a lively neighborhood dwelling. Typically starting around 11 p.m., an ever-rotating lineup of DJs and bands performs throughout the week, energizing the crowds with anything from the raw, percussive fusion of African and Latin jazz-funk to globally-influenced psychedelic.
Steamhouse Lounge has long been one of Atlanta’s favorite down ‘n’ dirty seafood restaurants. Unexpectedly located on West Peachtree in Midtown, this kitschy local favorite is known as much for their annual Oyster Fest as they are for an excellent lobster bisque, both of which come with a heavy side of neon lights and beachy accents. Patrons can sit in a cozy upstairs patio or sidle into one of the downstairs booths before making their way to the bar for drinks with friends. This may not be the best place to head for a first date or late dinner with the family, but Steamhouse is a great fit for anyone in the neighborhood looking to relax and enjoy some seafood. And if they’ve saved room, maybe a touch of chocolate peanut butter mousse cake as well.