Every year, the prestigious culinary magazine Bon Appétit compiles a list of the 50 Best New Restaurants in America. The ten that make the final Hot List are considered the crème de la crème of rising stars in the food world.
On September 10, the magazine released their picks and two Atlanta restaurants made the cut: Nina & Rafi and Root Baking Co.
Root Baking Co. (675 Ponce de Leon Ave. NE, 470-639-8046, rootbaking.com)
Root Baking Co. traces its roots to 2015 in Charleston, where husband and wife team Chris Wilkins and Nicole Lewis began their baking business. After moving to Atlanta in September 2018, they set up shop in Ponce City Market.
Bon Appétit writes, “Because if you’re milling your own heirloom grains, you should definitely be turning them into lamb schawarma pizza and morning buns.” The space on PCM’s second floor includes a handmade mill behind glass windows for viewing the milling, fermenting, shaping and baking process. Heirloom grains are sourced from Anson Mills, Geechie Boy Mill, and other prestigious heritage growers.
Fresh baked breads are served for breakfast, lunch and dinner from an ever-changing menu and a grab and go counter. Executive Chef Matthew Palmerlee (Farm 255, Branded Butcher, Last Word) curates the hyper seasonal menu with unexpected spice combinations and layers of texture and flavor. A roasted chicken sandwich wrapped in waxed paper includes harissa pickled carrots and a plethora of herbs. Ham and cheese comes on toasted sourdough, with country ham, Comte cheese, fig mustard, and half-sour pickles. Soups are magical and destination worthy.
Nina & Rafi (661 Auburn Ave. NE. 404-549-8997, ninaandrafi.com)
Bon Appétit says of Nina & Rafi: “Chef from Jersey makes Detroit-style pizza in Atlanta- and it couldn’t be more natural.” Anthony Spina grew up in New Jersey making and eating grandma style pizza. He moved to Atlanta and opened O4W Pizza in 2015. In 2016, to the dismay of city dwellers, he moved the shop to downtown Duluth. This January, with partner Billy Streck (Hampton + Hudson, Cypress St. Pint + Plate), he opened Nina & Rafi along the Eastside Beltline.
Streck grew up in New York, eating grandma pizza as well. They named the joint for their grandmothers and serve that thin, square style along with square, thick-crust Detroit style. Diners can watch the handcrafted action as the giant slabs are pulled from Pizza Master ovens.
The space was beautifully designed by local Smith Hanes Studio with different seating options and offers great people watching from the Beltline adjacent patio. Beverage director Cory Phillips created a menu rich with Italian wines, a large selection of Amara, and Italian spirits.
Start with a Pizzeria Salad (perfect for sharing among a few) and a couple of meatballs while waiting for a pizza to be built and fired. For your first time, go with the Super Margherita with house made mozzarella and fresh basil or the Tony Pepperoni, chock full (we mean really chock full) of crisp wheels of pepperoni.
In 2018 Talat Market made the prestigious 50 Best. In 2017 Spring made it to the top ten. In 2016 Staplehouse claimed the coveted #1 spot. Bon Appétit culls the list down to its top ten on September 17.