The verdict on 3 new Atlanta dining spots: Ela, Mikata, and The Reading Room


Photograph by Martha Williams

On a brisk spring evening, I warmed right up upon stepping into Ela’s high-energy dining room amid upbeat dance music. The latest Fifth Group Restaurants venture, Ela resides in the former Original El Taco spot, bringing a more grown-up vibe, with low lighting and minimalist decor, to the once-kitschy dining room. The design skews almost too neutral—the dining room doesn’t scream “Mediterranean restaurant”—but all the better to help you focus on the colorful dishes before you.

Ela means “come now” in Greek, but the menu spans the Mediterranean region and incorporates such American twists as Moroccan “hot chicken” with ras el hanout wing sauce. My meal kicked off with the Spice Road cocktail, a tangy blend of tequila, mezcal, blood orange, and sumac, which played nicely alongside the crispy yet fluffy cauliflower falafel and charred baby eggplant topped with pomegranate seeds and walnuts. The true standouts of the evening were the skewers. We ordered the mushroom shawarma served with pistachio dukkah (a crunchy condiment of herbs, spices, and nuts), and the tamarind-date pork with green tomato kosho (a chili condiment), which packed a nice heat. The sweet-tart frozen Greek yogurt with a baklava crumble offered a cooling reprieve at the end of the meal. While Atlanta has its fair share of Mediterranean restaurants, Ela certainly earns its place in the landscape with its creative offerings and lively atmosphere. When I go back, however, it’ll be for a bite on the covered patio, where the sun-filled room and wicker baskets create more of a Mediterranean vibe. Virginia-Highland

Mikata in Dunwoody opened in March, bringing a modern take on hibachi. Here, there is no tableside grilling; the food is all prepared in the kitchen, but you’ll still find classic offerings like chicken, steak, and seafood served with housemade sauces. The sleek decor and clubby music may make you think you found Miami in a Perimeter development, but Mikata lacks pretension, offering instead warm, friendly service. The sushi is the real draw here: Decadent rolls are presented with flair, like the Mikata Tower, which isn’t a roll but a mound of sushi rice topped with spicy tuna, snow crab, avocado, and special sauce. Dunwoody

The Reading Room
From the ashes of what was once Java Monkey in downtown Decatur rose The Reading Room. The brainchild of Mary Tveit and Kristin Radcliffe, the tastefully appointed spot shines with rattan lighting fixtures, a book-lined archway, a soft pink banquette, and plenty of plants. During the day, sun streams through the skylights, making it a great destination for hanging out with your laptop (or, as the name suggests, a book). Don’t come expecting to find a full-service restaurant, but there’s an excellent coffee program, with beverages made with beans from Little Waves, a women-owned roaster out of Durham, North Carolina, and cocktails in the evening. Food-wise, it’s limited to small bites, like pastries made by St. Germain Bakery, sandwiches, and charcuterie boards—but you’re in Decatur, with plenty of dining options nearby. Decatur

This article appears in our June 2024 issue.

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A vibrant newcomer spices up the Mediterranean mix in Virginia-Highland, a modern take on hibachi opens in Dunwoody, and a new (but familiar) coffee shop comes to Decatur.
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