With such a wealth of knowledge, we couldn’t think of anyone better to give us the lowdown on where to eat, drink and be merry in Atlanta. Here are some of his favourite foodie haunts:
For a good cup of coffee: Ito enjoys Dancing Goats Coffee Bar, where the earth-friendly Batdorf & Bronson coffee keeps java-lovers coming back for more. “They use a high quality of coffee with different selections and techniques of brewing,” Ito says. Stop by the Ponce City Market location to enjoy your cup of Joe on the covered outdoor space, complete with a porch swing and water feature.
A late night bite: When the restaurant closes, Ito heads to Marcel. The throwback American steakhouse on the West Side offers a late night menu from 11 p.m. to 2 a.m. with items such as oysters, steak frites and a juicy cheeseburger with thick cut bacon. Not to mention sweets such as a bananas foster sundae and strawberry mascarpone crepe cake. “Ford Fry (link to Chef Ford Fry: A Local’s Guide to Atlanta) does a great late night menu in an amazing atmosphere,” Ito says of the eatery named after French fighter Marcel Cerdan.
Hotel bar scene: See and be seen at Ito’s favourite hotel bar, The St. Regis Bar in Buckhead, where an original mural behind the bar depicts a Phoenix rising from the ashes. Order the St. Regis Special Selection 3.0 bourbon, handcrafted exclusively for the hotel by Woodford Reserve Distillery, or the famous Bloody Mary that’s given a Southern twist of Tomolives. “The staff are extremely friendly and provide incredible service,” Ito says. “It’s always very energetic.”
Craft cocktails: It’s no surprise that a craving for cocktails takes Ito to sister spot Himitsu, where award-winning bartender and creative director Shingo Gokan executes a “by reservation only” ambiance reminiscent of a Tokyo-style cocktail lounge. “Shingo Gokan creates some of the most precise and interesting cocktails in Atlanta,” Ito says.
Date night: Chef Gerry Klaskala’s signature restaurant, Aria, is Ito’s selection for a romantic meal with his wife. The Buckhead fine dining establishment serves modern American cuisine, with dishes such as slow braised Kurobuta pork shoulder turning first time diners into regulars. “Aria provides a quaint setting with a wonderful food and wine list,” Ito says.