I’ve spent a lot of time in Atlanta over the last 10 years (best friend, godson). I used to pretty much refuse to go out to eat unless it was for Busy Bee's fried chicken, or a place that had Anne Quatrano/Clifford Harrison’s name on it. So I’m hugely thrilled at just how good the local restaurant scene has gotten.
It would take too long to list list all the great new places; here's just a few. For one: La Pietra Cucina, which is camping out in a small room while they wait for the larger space to be renovated. The chef, Bruce Logue, used to cook at Manhattan’s Babbo; now he’s making homemade calabrese sausage dip and risotto with porcini and hazelnuts. And at another point, I might talk more about how insanely happy I was at Holeman & Finch—especially at 10 p.m., when they ring a cowbell and burger service starts. Besides the food (that awesome burger; farm-egg-and-pancetta carbonara), they have one of the country’s elite bartenders, Greg Best, mixing drinks. If I lived in Atlanta, I’d go there every day and end up on TV’s The Biggest Loser, or in rehab, or both.
But the highlight of my most recent Atlanta visit was dinner at Strait’s, the almost year-old Singaporean restaurant from Grammy-winning rapper/actor Chris “Ludacris” Bridges and chef Chris Yeo. I know, I know, that concept doesn’t sound promising. The food, though, is honestly terrific—Yeo has a bunch of restaurants in California and they all deliver excellent food. I would have been perfectly happy eating the delectable Kung Pao chicken lollipops, honey-glazed barbecued spare ribs and tamarind-sauced filet mignon. But the truth is that I got to eat all those things with Ludacris. And he’s an awesome dinner companion (as is his adorable seven-year-old daughter, Karma). When Luda’s not shooting videos for his new Theater of the Mind CD, he’s usually at Straits, where he works the room, discussing everything from the peach cobbler to Jay-Z’s new collaboration with Young Jeezy. I could say more, but we actually get to do a story about it in the May issue of F&W. So stay tuned.