Southern Exposure

Atlanta gets short shrift when it comes to its wine and culinary chops but face it, Hot-Lanta has gone gourmet.



Atlanta gets short shrift when it comes to its wine and culinary chops. Yes, it offers some of the tastiest lowbrow grub on the planet—The Varsity’s foot-long chili-cheese dog and the grits and biscuits at Ria’s Bluebird, specifically—but this Southern metropolis is where the upscale comfort-food movement was spawned (see: Chef Ford Fry at JCT), and is home to one of America’s great wine celebrations, the Atlanta Food & Wine Festival. Face it, Hot-Lanta has gone gourmet. Here for a conference? Ditch the hotel bar, leave the name tag behind and head to these three locals-only, wine-centric gastro gems.

Murphy’s

Tom Murphy’s love affair with wine is the force behind his namesake restaurant and wine shop, a Virginia-Highland institution for 30 years. Murphy’s selection of 50 wines by the glass holds its own against the hearty menu, whether it’s Seghesio’s Barolo La Villa with the brisket for dinner, or a lively Prosecco with shrimp and grits for brunch. Wine flights change frequently and highlight some of Murphy’s latest discoveries. “I’m always open to trying new things—that’s the fun of wine for me,” Murphy says. 

Cellar 56 

This unassuming Buckhead gem shares a zip code with many of the city’s luxury retailers, but not their pretensions. California dominates the by-the-glass ­choices, with a robust mix of Cabs, Chards and Russian River Pinot Noirs. Be sure to have at least one glass of Villa San-­Juliette’s rich 2009 Petite Sirah from Paso Robles, and pair it with either the blackberry-balsamic glazed lamb chops, or the addictive BBQ pork egg rolls—or both. 

Barcelona 

Spain’s savory specialties take the lead at this recent addition to Inman Park. Nearly half the tapas here are vegetarian, like spicy patatas bravas and crispy Brussels sprouts. That said, Barcelona gives carnivores plenty of reasons to rejoice, with cantimpalo (smoky chorizo) and the bacon basket (“a variety of crisp artisanal pig”) and even a pig roast every Sunday. Need a drink in hog heaven? The cellar houses an exhaustive collection that spans all of Spain’s grape varieties and winemaking regions, from the potent Tempranillos of Ribera del ­Duero to the lively Albariños of Rías Baixas.

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