Five new Atlanta restaurants to try

Silog, pancit, and lumpia from Filipino brunch pop-up Carmenderia in West End. (Provided by Beth McKibben)

The year began slower than expected with new restaurant openings. But the pace has picked up as we head into spring and summer, with several highly anticipated restaurants scheduled to open over the coming months. 

Senior Editor of food and dining, Beth McKibben, spent January, February and March dining at new restaurants around Atlanta. These are her top five choices for the quarter. Look for the next guide to the best new Atlanta restaurants to drop in June. 

Opened January 2024
519 Memorial Drive, Grant Park

Chefs Leslie Cohen and Shaun Whitmer opened Birdcage in January, adjacent to their other Larkin on Memorial restaurant Firepit Pizza Tavern. Cohen and Whitmer dabble in Latin-inspired dishes at Birdcage, including chicken tinga tacos, sweet potato bravas, a deconstructed take on street corn and black bean croquettes. Birdcage pays homage to the 1996 comedy starring Nathan Lane and Robin Williams in its design (think tropical wallpaper and pink flamingo feathers draping chandeliers). The movie and 1980s music videos continuously stream on televisions above the bar. 

What to Eat: While I enjoyed the croquettes, tacos and street corn, grilled dishes are the stars of the show at Birdcage, like the citrus adobo chicken. A half chicken comes lightly marinated in lime juice and spices with a nicely charred skin. Grilled dishes are served with two tortillas and two sauces (ask for more tortillas. Two tortillas weren’t enough). The avocado-tomatillo and salsa roja sauces bring out the subtle heat and citrus notes in the chicken marinade. Add a side of red rice.

What to Drink:  Hat tips to “The Birdcage” can also be found on the tropical-leaning cocktail list, like the “Pirin tablet” (aspirin with the “a” and “s” scratched off) and the Shining Starina. You’ll get the name references if you’ve seen the movie. The Pirin Tablet made with navy-proof rum, pineapple juice, orange juice and cream of coconut was nicely balanced and not overly sweet. 

Service and Vibe: Service is friendly and attentive. The atmosphere is lively if not a bit noisy due to the high ceilings with exposed ductwork. Birdcage is a solid option for small groups and families with young children or for a drink and snack at the bar during happy hour. 

Citrus adobo chicken with red rice from Birdcage. (Provided by Beth McKibben)

Opened January 2024
Signia by Hilton, 159 Northside Drive, Atlanta

It’s all about the view at Capolinea, which overlooks Mercedes-Benz Stadium with peeks of the downtown Atlanta skyline. Views come with nearly every seat in the dining room (some better than others). Located on the fourth floor of the new Signia Hilton hotel, this Italian restaurant is meant to impress with its views, food, drinks, vibe and design. Keep an eye out for the martini cart rolling through the dining room, offering four variations on the classic cocktail served table-side. Expect a menu of fresh pasta and red sauce dishes along with prime cuts of steak. 

What to Eat: Standout dishes are the limon ricotta gnudi with Georgia shrimp, 30-day aged parmesan and dill, as well as the duck ravioli. The braised duck comes folded into foie gras with pickled Fresno chilis and kumquat gremolata. Order the bistecca short rib in red wine sauce for something meatier. For dessert, opt for the sfogiatelle pastry filled with ricotta served with bergamot citrus sorbet. The icy Inverno Toscano with Vermentino, granita and rosemary semifreddo, a dollop of olive oil ice cream, and chocolate hazelnut gianduja cake is another solid choice.

What to Drink: The martini is king at Capolinea. While the bar can make the martini any way you want, don’t skip ordering one of the martini riffs from the cocktail cart. It’s a show complete with liquid nitrogen and a choice of garnish accouterments. I lean classic with gin and a twist when it comes to martinis and enjoyed the restaurant’s namesake cocktail. The Capolinea mixes olive-oil-washed vodka and gin with Italicus vermouth and a lemon twist. The Sicilian made with gin, Marsala wine, vermouth and amaretto complemented with almond-stuffed olives offers drinkers a more complex take on the martini.

Service and Vibe: Service is congenial yet professional, including napkin folding when you leave your seat, fresh cutlery between courses, and solid wine pairing suggestions. Music is low enough for quiet conversations but not so low you feel like you’re eating in silence. Be sure to hop over to the bar for an after-dinner drink. Valet is available and the Vine City MARTA station is just a couple of blocks away. Have your Uber or Lyft driver drop you off at the main entrance to the hotel and not the access road to the Home Depot Backyard beside Signia. 

Sfogiatelle. (Provided by Beth McKibben)

Carmenderia Brunch
Opened February 2024
Lean Draft House, 600 Hopkins Street, West End

Carmen Burch serves a Filipino brunch five days a week from the former Lean Draft House in West End. Burch, who hails from the Philippines and worked at Lean Draft House for years, offers everything from crispy pork lumpia and dinamita (Filipino jalapeno poppers) to bowls of pancit and silog topped with pork and a sunny egg. Order at the counter and grab a seat inside or on the patio. Prepare to dig into the generous portions served up at this brunch pop-up.  

What to Eat: Don’t skip ordering the lumpia – crispy spring rolls stuffed with ground pork, onions, and carrots served with a sweet and sour sauce. Also order the pancit, a mix of thin bihon and canton noodles topped with crispy pork. The silog Filipino breakfast bowl is another winner with garlic-infused fried rice, pickled papaya and a fried egg. Top it with sisig (crispy pork) or bangus (milkfish). For something sweet, try the spongy, flower-shaped pulvoron (Filipino shortbread) flavored with fruits like strawberries.

What to Drink: Water, instant coffee, calamansi juice (lemon/lime) and tea are available. 

Service and Vibe: This is a friendly, no-frills spot with a 1980s pop soundtrack and bright green banana leaves gracing the tables. Order at the counter and take a seat. Food comes out within minutes of ordering. Open Tuesday – Sunday, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Pop-up should run through June.

Silog with crispy pork from Carmenderia. (Provided by Beth McKibben)

Opened March 2024
4600 Roswell Road, Sandy Springs

If a full dining room on random weeknights is any indication, Chef Kevin Maxey may have a bonafide hit on his hands with Pendolino at Chastain Market Place in southern Sandy Springs. But don’t come to this Italian restaurant expecting heaping bowls of pasta or classic red sauce dishes. Here, Maxey plays with flavors and ingredients, wood-fired options, and keeps things light, fresh and seasonal with his take on Italian fare. While portion sizes may seem small to some people used to being served big entrees at other Italian restaurants, I found portions appropriate for what Maxey wants to achieve with the food at Pendolino. Easily shared family-style dishes can be mixed and matched, keeping the price tag on the entire meal within reason. I was able to try a number of dishes on the menu by sharing with my tablemates and never went away feeling as if I didn’t get enough to eat.

What to Eat: I love calamari, so ordering the fried calamari with its spicy lemon-basil vinaigrette was a no-brainer. Try the pink snapper crudo garnished with sea fennel and pine nuts and the chicory salad “carbonara” tossed with bacon, eggs and parmesan cheese. Wood-fired pizzettes (personal-sized pizzas) come quartered. The fennel sausage pizzette is topped with savory ground sausage, spring onions and green olives. For pastas, try the Gulf shrimp “scampi” served with spaghetti tossed in garlic and white wine sauce. The Alaskan halibut comes accompanied by crispy artichokes and butter beans garnished with purple basil.

What to Drink: Try the classic Negroni or the Roman Holiday made with gin, vermouth Italicus, lime and mint garnish. The bar also makes a great martini, both gin with a twist and dirty with vodka and olives. 

Service and Vibe: The space is light and bright. Pendolino’s high ceilings add to the airiness of the space but also allow for the noise level to rise as the dining room fills with people throughout the night. Service is attentive and pleasant, with only a couple of missteps that will be worked out as the flow of service continues to stablize. Remember, Pendolino has only been open for a month. The patio will be the place to sit during the warmer months, with its lounge-like, coastal vibe. It may even make you forget you’re in a busy shopping complex on Roswell Road. 

Alaskan halibut. (Provided by Beth McKibben)

Lazy Betty
Opened March 2024
900 Peachtree Street, Midtown

Chefs Ron Hsu and Aaron Phillips had a banner year in 2023. They received a Michelin star for their tasting menu restaurant and announced its relocation from Candler Park to the former Empire State South space in Midtown. Now, Lazy Betty features a prime Peachtree Street address and a bigger stage to showcase the deft culinary skills Hsu and Phillips earned working in the kitchen at renowned New York City restaurant Le Bernardin. Expect between seven and eight courses, starting with an amuse-bouche, with interludes of palate cleansers, and finishing with dessert and petit fours. A new a la carte bar menu also offers a selection of dishes from the tasting menu. Despite opening in 2019, Lazy Betty feels fresh in Midtown. It’s finally in the right space and the right neighborhood. 

What to Eat: Standout dishes on the tasting menu are the perfectly poached Icelandic cod in a country ham broth with spring succotash topped with green tomato caviar and the truffle-stuffed agnolotti with a truffle vierge, roasted morels and garlic brioche crisps shaped into delicate leaves. The bar menu sees the popular shrimp causa return from the original menu in Candler Park, which features an airy potato mousseline and pepper relish. The brioche doughnut comes topped with a ring of foie gras and the verrine (coffee mousse, caramel, Amarula ice cream, brownie bits) is a must for dessert. Reservations in the dining room require ordering the tasting menu at $225 per person. Walk-ins are welcome at the bar, which serves both the a la carte and tasting menus, including supplement courses of wagyu, truffle risotto, and warmed diver scallops. Lazy Betty is a pricey dinner option in Midtown, but that hefty price tag includes the service, presentation, and drama of a tasting menu.

What to Drink: Lazy Betty is BYOB while the restaurant awaits its liquor license. Bring a bottle or two of wine. There’s no corkage fee for now. Nonalcoholic cocktails are available. Optional wine pairings will eventually be available for the tasting menu.

Service and Vibe: Service is professional and gracious, especially given Lazy Betty’s newly minted Michelin status. However, service still leans into the neighborhood-driven vibe of the former Candler Park location. The design is sleek and sophisticated but with an emphasis on the natural world, with live plants, earth tones and muted blues, and heart of pine floors refinished and stained in a lighter color. A much moodier space, the bar and lounge offer the option for a more intimate dinner experience.  

Poached Icelandic cod. (Provided by Beth McKibben)

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