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2000s Archive

Restaurants Worth the Money: Southeast

Originally Published October 2009
Eleven great places to spend your hard-earned cash in Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, South Carolina, North Carolina and Virginia.
cochon butcher
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Komi
Every chef dreams of having a restaurant like Komi, a spare and elegant town house where each night just 38 lucky diners put themselves in the chef’s hands. Although there are appetizers (spaghetti with crab and sea urchin, say) and main courses (suckling pig, roasted goat), it’s chef Johnny Monis’s almost endless parade of mesmerizing mezzethakia—a little fried cromesquis of Caesar salad, a perfect slice of raw fish, slivers of radish topped with trout roe—that makes this meal so exciting and, even at $125, a very good deal. 1509 17th St., N.W., Washington, D.C. (202-332-9200; Komi)

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Central Michel Richard
He long ago established himself as one of America’s top chefs, but at Central, Michel Richard shows that he can lower the check average and up the fun without flattening the flavors. From “faux gras” (made of chicken livers) to spot-on versions of hearty classics like lamb shank, braised rabbit, fish and chips, and bread-and-butter pudding, this is food that’s very easy to love, served in an atmosphere that’s casual but never sloppy. 1001 Pennsylvania Ave., N.W., Washington, D.C. (202-626-0015; Central Michel Richard)

Poole’s Diner
Poole’s was once a true diner. Formica counters. Fried chicken. Meringue pie. When chef Ashley Christensen, formerly of Enoteca Vin, bought it, she kept the bones of the rectangular space but not the rubric. Rashers of bacon gave way to a jelly roll of pork belly. Chess pie begot a chocolate hazelnut chess riff. And Raleigh’s foodies did backflips. 426 S. McDowell St., Raleigh, NC (919-832-4477; Poole’s Diner)

Bacchanalia
A mature restaurant, but never a dowdy one, Bacchanalia remains Atlanta’s flagship fine-dining destination. For more than 15 years, founders Anne Quatrano and Clifford Harrison have mentored young talent, and chef Andy Carson, currently at the helm, has hewn an aesthetic that is southern but by no means antiquarian. That means country-fried sweetbreads with artichokes, as well as quail stuffed with mortadella. 1198 Howell Mill Rd., Atlanta (404-365-0410; Bacchanalia)

Hominy Grill
Robert Stehling doesn’t mess around. His modest charleston storefront is the place for straight-up southern food made with local ingredients: Lowcountry purloo, pimento cheese sandwiches, and a nasty old biscuit. 207 Rutledge Ave., Charleston, SC (843-937-0930; Hominy Grill)

La Petite Grocery
Uptown regulars keep most of the red leather banquettes warm in this handsomely recast corner grocery store. More than half the menu changes regularly, taking advantage of abundant local produce, seafood, and game, but you’ll likely find dishes such as roasted quail stuffed with boudin and black drum topped with a blue crab beignet, as well as tangy goat cheese desserts, served with whatever fruits are in season. 4238 Magazine St., New Orleans (504-891-3377; La Petite Grocery)

Hermes Bar at Antoine’s restaurant
In contrast to its warren of dining rooms, Antoine’s new bar opens out onto the street, and its menu democratizes the main restaurant’s own haute French Creole classics. Here, soufflé potatoes, puffed-up crisps served with rich béarnaise sauce, are crowned the world’s most elegant bar food. And don’t mistake cocktails like the French 75, the Sazerac, and the Pimm’s Cup for a nod to current trends; they’re just what the restaurant has always served. 725 Saint Louis St., New Orleans (504-581-4422; Hermes Bar at Antoine’s restaurant)

Cochon Butcher
You’ll go for the sandwiches, stuffed with house-cured meats. But you’ll return for the bar snacks, a menu of great plates for just $6. 930 Tchoupitoulas St., New Orleans (504-588-7675; Cochon Butcher)

Boucherie
A spin-off of the que crawl truck that fuels the city’s late-night music scene, boucherie offers smartened-up versions of down-home louisiana cooking (blackened shrimp with grit cakes, anyone?). They might be out of krispy kreme bread pudding by the time dessert rolls around, but with all menu items costing $15 or less, you’ll be too full to mind. 8115 Jeannette St., New Orleans (504-862-5514; Boucherie)

Cvi.Che 105
Peruvian food is the ultimate fusion cuisine, and this inexpensive downtown spot is the place to go for sweet purple corn chicha, cool ceviche, maki-nikkei rolls with a mash of yellow potato topped with sushi, and stunning potato cakes layered with shrimp, avocado, and a to-die-for sunflower-tinted chile sauce. The sleek space gets packed, but service always sparkles. 105 N.E. 3rd Ave., Miami (305-577-3454; Cvi.Che 105)

DiLido Beach Club
At this hip haven, grab a seat under a palm tree with an ocean view, sip a glass of homemade peach sangria, and dive into chef Jeff McInnis’s light but vibrant Mediterranean food with Moroccan and Indian spicing (cuttlefish tagine with couscous and orange saffron broth; tuna encrusted with cumin and za’atar). Monthly full-moon parties with telescopes and music are magical—admission is free, but it would be a crying shame not to order a round (or two) of lamb gyro flatbread or seared Haloumi cheese. The Ritz-Carlton, 1 Lincoln Rd., Miami Beach (786-276-4033; DiLido Beach Club)

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