For many years Atlanta played second fiddle to the culinary powerhouses of the South – including New Orleans and Charleston. But today Atlanta is staking its claim to being a genuine rival to these two destinations. Rather than being an ‘also ran’ today those interested in fine dining and experiencing uniquely Southern dishes are putting Atlanta on their culinary bucket list.

It’s still a city where chicken and waffles will have diners coming back for more. But it today boasts some exceptional fine dining opportunities and international cuisine produced under the supervision of some of the best chefs in the United States.

Here are only some of the highlights which should be enjoyed by those who are visiting Atlanta and want to really get under the skin of the dining scene in this vibrant and friendly city.

1. The Optimist.

This has been named as one of the best dining experiences in Atlanta. The seafood will transport you to the edge of the ocean, it’s fresh and prepared with a flair that keeps the menu evergreen. The unpretentious decor and great service make it perfect or anything from a business lunch to an evening out with the family. The must go to item on the menu is the Lobster roll. The great cocktail menu doesn’t hurt either.

2. Staplehouse.

If you want to enjoy one of chef Ryan Smith’s creations then you had better be very patient. They open for reservations once a month and you can bet every table will be gone in about the time an Olympic athlete finishes crosses the line for a 100 meter sprint. The ten course tasting menu is a must. Items change almost every night – but the quality remains simply exceptional. Price may seem a bit on the high side for a tasting menu at $105 – but a taste of the Chicken Liver tart will change your mind quickly. Great wine list and a relaxed atmosphere contribute to an incredible dining experience.

3. Umi.

If you enjoy seafood or sushi / sashimi / nigiri made with loving care and using ingredients that are sourced from the best purveyors across the world then a trip to Umi is an absolute requirements when you are in Atlanta. Co-owner and chef Fuyuhiko Ito makes sure that what lands up on your plate is simply the best the world has to offer. Flown in specifically to meet his exacting standards this is seafood taken to a whole new level. The Tuna Carpaccio is excellent and for meat eaters the Kobe Beef Nigiri is a delight. For those in search of a decadent treat the Otoro Caviar should not be missed.

Atlanta has exploded onto the culinary scene and the sheer quality and choice of dining establishments mean that it doesn’t look set to give up its position as one of the premier dining destinations in the South. Expertly prepared dishes and levels of service that will make the most discerning of diners mean that the Atlanta dining scene is set to go from strength to strength.