Visit Atlanta: My favorite restaurants to bring out-of-town guests

I give a lot of thought to where I bring friends and family when they visit me. I want my guests to experience the great food Atlanta has to offer, as well as feel jealous that I get to live here and eat at these fabulous places on the regular (is that wrong?).

Unfortunately there are so many choices, you can't possibly hit them all. Trust me, I've tried. Each of our neighborhoods has it's own selection of great spots, both casual and upscale. At any given time I have an alternate list populating my brain space.

For now though I've narrowed it down to 11 spots you can't go wrong taking a visitor. 

Here they are, in no particular order:

The dining room of Two Urban Licks (Photo from go.rollingout.com)

The dining room of Two Urban Licks (Photo from go.rollingout.com)

Two Urban Licks, Old Fourth Ward.

Two Urban is one of my - and everyone else's - favorite restaurants in Atlanta. And for good reason. The space is beautiful, the food is fantastic and the atmosphere is always electric. Plus as an added bonus, it sits squarely on the BeltLine. A great representation of Atlanta dining.

The exterior of The Iberian Pig (Photo from theiberianpigatl.com)

The exterior of The Iberian Pig (Photo from theiberianpigatl.com)

The Iberian Pig, Decatur.

Best Spanish food in the metro Atlanta area, hands down. 

Kevin Gillespie of Gunshow (Photo from hlntv.com)

Kevin Gillespie of Gunshow (Photo from hlntv.com)

Gunshow, Glenwood Park.

You can't come to Atlanta without visiting Gunshow, Kevin Gillespie's already iconic eatery with dim-sum-style roving carts and long communal tables. Make sure you plan early though; this place is so popular you need some heavy duty lead time to get a reservation.

The always hopping bar at Ecco (Photo from ecco-atlanta.com)

The always hopping bar at Ecco (Photo from ecco-atlanta.com)

Ecco, Midtown.

Another of Atlanta's favorites. Mediterranean small plates, pastas and pizzas and a huge wine list. Best place in the city to spot celebs too.

Fat Matt's (Photo from tripadvisor.com)

Fat Matt's (Photo from tripadvisor.com)

Fat Matt's Rib Shack, Morningside

George Clooney was right - this place is a can't miss. I don't know if it's the best BBQ in town (I'm not an expert by any means) but I do know this cozy joint has live blues nightly, great ribs and local beers. Great scene all around.

The dining room at BoccaLupo (Photo from clatl.com)

The dining room at BoccaLupo (Photo from clatl.com)

BoccaLupo, Inman Park.

BoccaLupo is relatively new to Inman Park but it's not chef Bruce Logue's first rodeo. This place is rocking updated classics and contemporary Italian food. My worship of the black spaghetti is well known.

Inside view of Superica (photo from supericaatl.com)

Inside view of Superica (photo from supericaatl.com)

Superica, Inman Park.

This was a tough one. Atlanta actually has a lot of great Mexican and Tex-Mex options. I picked Superica because of Chef Ford Fry, Atlanta's current super chef; because they gave me the best smoked chicken taco I've ever had; and because it's located in Krog Street Market - the newest addition to Inman Park's dining and shopping scene. A must visit.

The Bar at The Optimist (PHoto from theoptimistrestaurant.com)

The Bar at The Optimist (PHoto from theoptimistrestaurant.com)

The Optimist, West Midtown. 

Hands down one of the best restaurants in Atlanta. I'm not even worried that my northeast friends would be disappointed with a Southern seafood place, because, well, they won't be disappointed. I think they'll be impressed. Another of the prettiest spaces in the ATL too. 

Varuni Napoli, Ansley Park and Ammazza, Edgewood

Can't forget the pizza! Atlanta is lucky to have some of the best pizza I've ever had. I picked Varuni Napoli and Ammazza for this list because they both have fabulous Neapolitan style pizza cooked in wood ovens shipped right from Italy and they are both fun communal spaces with full bars (priorities). 

The bar at King + Duke (PHoto from kinganddukeatl.com)

The bar at King + Duke (PHoto from kinganddukeatl.com)

King + Duke, Buckhead

King + Duke is such a cool spot. I definitely wanted to include Buckhead on this list and King + Duke's location is perfect - across the street from Buckhead Atlanta (Buckhead's newest shopping and dining destination) and around the corner from the beautiful St. Regis Hotel. Sip a cocktail on their gorgeous patio then grab a table and enjoy seasonable local ingredients cooked over an open flame. 

Cafe 640 from North Highland Ave (Photo from clatl.com)

Cafe 640 from North Highland Ave (Photo from clatl.com)

Cafe 640, Poncey Highlands

Last but not least is my favorite neighborhood spot, Cafe 640. This place just makes me happy. I like to take visitors here to enjoy the laid back, cozy atmosphere (or the bustling patio) to wolf down delish sandwiches and salads or fantastic brunch options. You can't go wrong with any of it. Insert your own favorite neighborhood spot here that means something to you.

Did this do the trick, friends from afar?? Get your butts down here!