by Jonathan Baker - 319 Reviews - 185 List
Junk food already tastes damn good, but when it's served up by folks typically associated with James Beard nominations, the usual accompanying addiction skyrockets. We aren't sure if anything good has resulted from the economy tanking, but this provides one redeeming aspect. From fried-chicken nights at Watershed to burgers at H&F (pictured), our calls for the best junk food, fine-dining style.
Updated: January 05, 2010
French American Brasserie won't actually call their baskets of golden-fried potato goodness ?fries,? but arriving in a metal basket, these slender, always-crispy ?frites? are exactly what good fries are supposed to be. Thin, crispy and crunchy (but not so much as to lose the entire potato identity) and dusted with just the right amount of salt, FAB edges out Shaun's and JCT Kitchen for our gourmet fry of choice.
The hamburger was the obsession of fine-dining spots in 2008. Hell, even the now-closed Ritz Carlton did a gourmet burger. This madness was 100 percent due to Holeman and Finch. Like an In `n? Out burger sent from heaven, it's simple (double cheeseburger with American cheese and house-made pickles) but perfect in the all the right spots and is only served after 10pm. This might seem like a headache to the common bar-goer, but the fact that it sells out every night just adds to the allure.
Pretty much everyone loves bacon. So we commend Leon's for having the smarts to just put it on the menu flying solo. ?Bacon in a Glass? is what it's deemed in print, and that's exactly what it is. While you can upgrade with a peanut butter supplement for an extra 50 cents, we're pretty sure straight out of the glass will please most.
Pizza just might be the ultimate in junk food. Leave it to the man behind our best Italian restaurant (Sotto Sotto) to deliver Naples-style pies in an elegant neighborhood setting. Sure ?pepperoni and hamburger? get replaced with names like 'speck e rucola? but once the pizza is delivered, it won't matter what it's called.
While we are huge fans of the fried birds at both JCT Kitchen and Restaurant Eugene, there is a reason why Scott Peacock's Tuesday fried-chicken dinner sells out every week. (And there's a reason why he's won a James Beard award.) The chicken is pan fried (our favorite style) for a super-crispy outside and juicy inside, and it's served with asparagus, mashed potatoes and biscuits.
We're not sure what's cooler, getting to sit around a campfire because it's primal, or getting to sit around a campfire because we know s?mores are in order. Thankfully, fire-happy Craft and Craftbar deliver this childhood favorite in gourmand form. Arriving in pairs, the chocolate is already melted over the pillow-y marshmallow and the graham cracker is smartly salted. It's an unexpected sweet-and-salty take on the original.
Whoever thought to drizzle melt-y Maytag blue cheese over homemade chips is a genius. Whoever thought to put them on the menu of an Atlanta institution deserves equal credit. One of the most well-known menu items in our entire city, the famous chips with warm blue should be shared as an appetizer. If you get it for yourself, it will be nearly impossible not to eat the entire plate and spoil the rest of the meal.
While we love the Varsity for their greasy-thin rings, when craving an upscale version, a steak place seems the most appropriate. Enter: Chops. Its appetizer rings are thick in size and are caked with batter that's magically light and grease-less. (How do they do it?) And, don't expect to find any onion ends in the massive tower. Chops rolls out big, thick slices only.
"Iron Chef" slayer Kevin Rathbun loves to disguise chicken fingers on the menu with titles like 'red curry chicken tenderloins? but, in all honesty, they're chicken fingers. And they're awesome. Lightly battered and arriving with some kind of sauce or accompaniment (anticipate things like chipotle dip or crisp tofu), the fast-food gourmand will feel like they just cheated on Southern favorite, Chick-Fil-A, which is OK ... on occasion.
We aren't sure when tacos got to be surrounded by such hysteria in our town, but leave it to fine-dining empire, Buckhead Life Group, to fancify the trend. Nava offers three tacos on their appetizer menu, and the hickory-smoked chicken taco with green chili grits is an immediate eye-catcher. Two tacos come per order and, while we're all about sharing, what you do with the second taco is up to you.