Atlanta teems with restaurants suited for every special occasion. But zoning in on the right spot in this gracious, charming city can be overwhelming.
Mark an extra special anniversary at a James Beard Award-winning, white-tablecloth classic in Blandtown. Toast a promotion at a sleek, Midtown sushi bar, nested in the city’s oldest Japanese restaurant. Ring in a birthday at a vintage steakhouse in Buckhead where the staff breaks out actual confetti. Tell an acclaimed farm-to-table spot in Vinings that you’re celebrating, and your final course will come with a message crafted from chocolate.
Representing the best of Southern hospitality, these are a dozen Atlanta faithfuls to book for unforgettable meals and experiences, worthy of your banner cause.
There’s always a group celebrating something at this iconic Japanese staple. For the ultimate wow factor, book the private tatami rooms (dining areas that channel traditional Japanese homes)—the only ones in Atlanta. Semi-private hibachi rooms with sunken seats are suited for parties of up to 15. The multi-course omakase menu, with fish flown in from Japan, is sumptuous. If your party consists of just you and someone special, grab a perch at the sushi bar, ideal for quiet, private moments.
This fine-dining icon, which opened in 1979, was made for special occasions. Steaks and chops, such as a 34-ounce, bone-in ribeye and a mixed grill with beef filet, lamb, and pheasant sausage add pomp to the table. But Bones is anything but stuffy. The staff is known to celebrate alongside diners, sprinkling confetti at celebrating tables. Anniversaries mean gratis Champagne toasts. On birthdays, Bones offers diners a complimentary slice of mile-high pie, an ultra decadent dessert made of slabs of vanilla, chocolate chip, and rum raisin ice cream, encased in meringue. If you’re lucky, go home with a box of buttery, bone-shaped shortbread cookies.
Under the Cork Tree (Sandy Springs)
At this enchanting tapas spot, customized meat and cheese plates and craft cocktails fuel memorable gatherings. The paella is perfect for large parties; chef Branden Holte uses Calasparra rice from Murcia, Spain, in his exquisite take on the Iberian classic. The chicken and chorizo version is a flavor explosion while the seafood option is also well loved. Meat eaters shouldn’t sleep on the parrillada mixed grill, an extra festive barbecue platter, piled with grilled hanger steak, garlic sausage, lamb merguez, and more.
Nan Thai Fine Dining (Midtown)
The fact that this restaurant earned honors from the Thai government speaks volumes about its commitment to elegant presentation and stellar service. Elevate any occasion to special by starting with Nan Thai’s tasting tree, an assortment of six signature appetizers; add on the rose-shaped sweet dumplings for the prettiest Instagram shot. The whole-fried red snapper, curled around Brussels sprouts, is another celebration-worthy stunner. For the grand finale, opt for the Thai tea crème brûlée.
Tiny Lou’s – Hotel Clermont (Virginia Highland)
The Clermont Motor Lodge wasn’t always the place to go for a special occasion, but things sure have changed. Today, Atlantans flock to the basement of this hotel, which emerged from a dramatic overhaul in 2018. On the menu, expect elegant French classics such as crispy boar terrine, house-made tagliatelle with black truffle conserva, and duck confit with heirloom lentils and grilled Pearson peaches. Finish your meal with slices of crêpe cake, prepared by pastry chef Claudia Martinez, whose beautiful, celebration-worthy desserts earned her the distinction of being one of Eater’s 12 Young Guns of 2019.
At this peaceful, lodge-like space, date night becomes extra romantic with a stroll along the Chattahoochee River. And the food never fails to impress. Upmarket ingredients such as crab, kangaroo, and rabbit feature on the menu, as do heritage pork, wood-grilled beef, and chicken. Don’t skip the last course, featuring favorites such as Southern-style pistachio pie with blackberry ice cream. Mention that you’re celebrating an occasion when you reserve and Canoe will commemorate your last course with a message in chocolate.
Fia Restaurant (Buckhead)
This sultry Mediterranean restaurant, set in the Burgess Hotel, is a coveted setting for intimate celebrations. Feast on wood-fired dishes such as whole branzino and tomato-rubbed ciabatta with chimichurri, courtesy of Fia’s onsite grill. For a taste of chef Burges Jokhi’s Indian heritage, order the bone-in lamb stew, nestled on a bed of saffron basmati rice, or lamb chops with coconut and mint chutney. Keep the celebrations going with a post-dinner cocktail at the lobby bar, which you can sip at the ultra-posh, cobalt-blue hotel library.
The Optimist (West Midtown)
Nothing says “special occasion” more than sumptuous seafood—especially this far inland. Celebrations at The Optimist are often met with complimentary Champagne, dessert, or a menu scrawled with wishes from the team. Chef and owner Ford Fry focuses on sustainable seafood, displayed on ice. Appetizers, such as sea crab soup and Prince Edward Island mussels swimming in lemongrass, coconut, and Thai bird chile, are easy to fill up on. But save room for the entrees, which include hearth-roasted finfish, duck-fat poached swordfish, or Georges Bank scallops with sweet peas. The Optimist is home to several semi-private dining areas, tailor-made for smaller gatherings, though the sprawling space has also been known to host weddings.
The Consulate (Midtown)
When you can’t take an actual vacation to celebrate a marquee moment, head to this stylish, globe-trotting Midtown spot instead. Every 90 days, chef and co-owner Mei Lin gives a guest the honor of spinning the globe, choosing the country that informs The Consulate’s offerings for the next three months. September will feature dishes from Cambodia, with specialty cocktails to match. But fear not—a selection of perennial favorites stays put on the menu, with plates that range from Korean duck confit to lamb chops in a red wine and blueberry reduction, inspired by Greenland. No matter where you “travel,” if the staff knows you’re here for an anniversary, expect to kick off your journey with a Champagne toast.
Lazy Betty (Candler Park)
For those milestones and nights you don’t want to end, book a table at this industrial-chic restaurant. The concept behind the trailblazing, James Beard Award-nominated spot, which turned heads for removing the traditional tipping structure, is an unhurried pleasure. And it’s precisely what chefs Ron Hsu and Aaron Phillips deliver through their innovative six- or eight-course tasting menu (both are available in vegetarian versions). Find artful plates such as Blue Ridge trout with crème fraîche potato, smoked trout cream, dill, and trout roe; Hudson Valley foie gras with black pepper sponge cake, and creations like the Victorian lambchetta, a play on porchetta, on the rotating menu. Add-ons like caviar service and additional courses, such as Chilean truffle risotto, elevate any occasion.
Gunshow (Glenwood Park)
Fans of Top Chef can often be found vying for a seat at Kevin Gillespie’s eclectic restaurant, where the interactive meals, served on rolling dining carts, are special occasions themselves. The menu includes about a dozen, globally inspired dishes (Indian-spiced fried okra, beef Wellington) that change on a weekly basis. Though a meal here almost always ends with banana pudding, courtesy of a recipe from Gillespie’s own grandmother. Find the chef and team circling the space, debriefing diners on their latest creations. It’s a creative, bustling setting lined with communal tables, especially fit for large parties.
For occasions that extend beyond “special” to “extraordinary,” there’s this revered new American restaurant. Steered by James Beard Award winners Anne Quatrano and Clifford Harrison, Bacchanalia’s prix-fixe model stands out for having diners select the seasonal items on offer for each course. For starters, choose between an egg from the chef-owners’ farm with truffle, popcorn, sherry, and parmesan—or foie gras with peach, rhubarb, and pine nut shortbread. In the main course department, pick between duck with eggplant and pole bean or Maine lobster with hominy, corn, and chorizo. The good news: there’s no wrong choice. Caviar service and top-notch wine pairings round out a luxurious and unforgettable experience.
Su-Jit Lin is an Atlanta-based writer specializing in travel, food—including groceries, cooking, and reference guides—and their impact on bringing people together in shared joy and experience.
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