Hard-core chowhounds about to go to Atlanta for a conf for a few days, searching for bold, mindblowing, deep, wonderful food. Would love some suggestions about places to go. Cost doesn't matter, and will drive over an hour or two in any direction for ecstatic stuff. Not just looking for a "nice meal," could care less about decor, and don't care about drinks/cocktails. This is all about peak food experiences. I travel a lot, all over the world, and I'm looking for what Atlanta (and the surrounding area) does so well that you want to scream it from the rooftops. Here's what we're looking for.
1) Life-changing BBQ. Been to Franklin in Austin? Lil Jake's Eat it And Beat It in Kansas City in the mid-90s? That caliber of stuff. The top 1%. So moist and smoky and deep and flavorful it'll make you weep. Went to Fox Bros a few yrs ago (client meal) and was totally unimpressed. Went up to Smok'n Pig, which was good, but still looking to top that. Bonus points for lil shacks in the middle of nowhere, but will go anywhere that does cue right. Special bonus points for happy (non-sysco, non-feedlot) meat, but not holding my breath on that one. There's a reason folks line up 4 hours for Franklin.
2) Life-changing fried chicken. With biscuits, gravy, collards, etc. This could either be classic-style (e.g. Strouds in Kansas City), or hipster style (Country Cat in Portland, Ma'ono in Seattle). Either way, it needs to be insanely juicy and flavorful, a celebration of fat and crunch. As above, happy chickens are a plus. Not looking for "yeah, this place does fried chicken." Looking for OM NOM NOM THIS IS THE BEST FRIED CHICKEN I HAD IN MY LIFE!!
3) Other awesome stuff. Only criterion is true awesomeness. What do I mean? Places like State Bird Provisions or Mission Chinese in San Fran, Xi'an's Famous Noodles in NYC, Pok Pok or Nong's Khao Man Gai or Gruner in Portland, Paseo in Seattle. Al Forno in Providence in the early-to-mid 90s. Koji in LA. I don't care whether it's a food truck or a $500 meal, uber-traditional or crazy postmodern, I'm looking for brilliant bold intensely umami-flavorful and masterful cooking that would make the staff at Lucky Peach sit up and take notice and go there right now to write a feature article.
No restrictions of any sort, except that we don't want anything less than ecstatic. Would love your suggestions!! Thanks much!!!