The Iberian Pig on Decatur Square, from outside looking in. Photo: MaiBri Photography
The Iberian Pig on Decatur Square, from outside looking in. Photo: MaiBri Photography

ALL WORK and no play makes for a dull love life, right?

Whether you want a fancy night out, a great burger or an out-of-the-way vibe, we have a suggestion or two for you. They come courtesy of some of Atlanta’s more successful taste-makers — people who work hard to keep their small businesses afloat but know the importance of an occasional romantic meal. Here, then, are our Six in the City.

1. Burger time

Bill Kaelin (right) with his partner, Shawn.
Bill Kaelin (right) with his partner, Shawn.

When Bill Kaelin, an event marketing specialist and Georgia Voice columnist, wants to unwind over food and drinks with his partner, Shawn, they let nature take its course. ”We love walking from our home near Piedmont Park to the Park Tavern (404.249.0001) to watch the sun set over the skyline,” Kaelin says. “It’s epic.”

They also try to hit one or two new hot spots each month. A recent late-night favorite: Little Trouble in West Midtown (404.500.4737) is for hipsters who crave craft cocktails and light bites ($5-$15) of Asian fusion cuisine.

Park Tavern, a pet-friendly cafe/bar, has expansive views of Piedmont Park. It’s good for drinks, burgers, salads and appetizers at about $10 each. “You can always enjoy great conversations and amazing new music there,” Kaelin says.

2. Your share of tapas

To ease the pangs of competing with the best little dress boutiques in town, Squash Blossom owner Lisa Bailey Bobb strolls hand-in-hand with husband Kamau to nearby Decatur Square for adventurous wine and tapas tastings.

Nibbles at the Iberian Pig.
Nibbles at the Iberian Pig.

“We love our quick little getaways to the Iberian Pig (404.371.8800) after work,” Bobb says. “There’s something soothing about the sharing menu. The atmosphere is cozy, and the wine list is incredible. It just makes you want to cuddle up with someone special.”

Go for the towering front windows and low-hanging chandeliers plus al fresco dining on sidewalk tables in season. The emphasis is on Spanish cuisine, wines and cocktails. Small plates ($4-$15) are house specialties.

3. Mmm, steak

Dan Mullis, who makes and markets his Southern Haberdasher brand of small-batch pepper sauces by night and does custom clothing consultations by day, dines out out with his wife, Deb, regularly and close to home.

At Capers on Main: the juicy chicken breast with cheese and herbs.
At Capers on Main: the juicy chicken breast with cheese and herbs.

The further away from the urban “see-and-be-seen” scene the better, Mullis says. “I prefer a quiet table for two. Tonight, for example, we’re going to Capers, right near our house in Kennesaw.”

Capers “elevates a meal to an event. When I suggest something Indian or Ethiopian, I notice that look of concern on my wife’s face at first. But I know she’s going to proclaim it one of her favorites by the night’s end.”

Cobb County’s upper-crust folk huddle here for premium steak, pasta, seafood and specialty desserts ($12-$25). The space (678.594.7735) is as broad, bright and casual as white-linen service gets.

4. It’s French to you

1 Anis Sign (Drakeats)Lisa Rene LeClair, the Sassy Pie-Hole blogger and co-author of the postpartum book It’s Actually 10 Months, coaxes husband Ricky out of their West Midtown home offices to the low-key northern edge of Buckhead for dinner on the porch at Anis (404.233.9889).

“It’s perfect for anyone who enjoys an exquisite meal, with exceptional wine, but doesn’t have the time or budget to fly off to Europe,” LeClair says. “My friends are incredible and fun to be around, but whenever we have an opportunity to go out by ourselves, my first choice is the same: an intimate dinner as far away from everyone as we can get.”

Anis is set in an old cottage near Buckhead’s pricey shopping and old-money neighborhoods. The food and wine are a nod to southern France. Plates ($9-$22) range from mussels and escargot to veal chops and duck confit.

5. Cocktails, sushi, sushi, cocktails

Farshad Arshid — owner of the upscale sportswear emporium Ponce Denim at Midtown’s Ponce City Market — embraces schmoozing as an occupational necessity.

Sushi, anyone? Preparations are made at Umi.
Sushi, anyone? Preparations are made at Umi.

“Being seen out isn’t so bad every once in a while,” he says. Especially when he and his bride, Sandy, enjoy their date nights. He suggests Umi (404.841.0040) for dinner, with drinks at Himitsu next door beforehand.

“A mix of French and Japanese delicacies,” he says, “is the perfect choice to set the mood.”

The elite meet here to sip sake and sample new twists on sushi. The menu doesn’t bother to list prices. Try the monkfish liver pate, seaweed salad and kobe beef rolls in a room that’s adorned floor to ceiling with contrasting shades of polished wood. Himitsu is an exclusive cocktail lounge that requires reservations, a key code for entry and an appetite for caviar. Both are co-owned by Arshid’s brother, the maverick music and fashion impresario Farshid.

6. Primo pasta

Pick a bottle to accompany your pasta at Sotto Sotto. Photo: Chris Low
Pick a bottle to accompany your pasta at Sotto Sotto. Photo: Chris Low

To relieve the stress of curating her new lifestyle website Patch of Earth, Travis Neighbor Ward treats husband Brian to sentimental dinners at the Inman Park bistro where they first dated 15 years ago.

“I lived in Florence, Italy, for five years when I was in my 20s,” Ward says, “and Sotto Sotto (404.523.6678) reminds me of that time. We love it so much that we had our big family dinner there after our wedding rehearsal.

“The dining room glows at night,” she says. “I really love hearing the subtle details of the meal playing out … the silverware clinking against the plates, and the murmured voices. It’s cozy, but you feel like you’re part of a collective experience.”

This indoor/outdoor venue crackles at night with conversation and the busy flow of traffic from one trendy live-work-play enclave to another on the edge of downtown. Good for pasta dishes ($17-$19) and herb-infused filets of beef, fish and chicken ($19-$38).

About A. Scott Walton

A.  Scott Walton has for decades immersed himself in the sports, entertainment, travel, lifestyle and fashion worlds. Besides writing for Encore Atlanta, he writes extensively for major print and digital publications nationwide. Scott was born in South Bend, Ind., educated at Vanderbilt University and, for 15 years, covered every aspect of life for readers of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

View all posts by A. Scott Walton