Atlanta's food scene is booming these days, with talented chefs turning out sophisticated urban spins on Southern classics with farm-fresh ingredients. Here, quality counts, and it's evident in shops selling everything from locally sourced seafood to fair-trade coffee.
This robust and iconic Atlanta bakery has two locations: The Intown original, which gobbled up nearly every adjacent storefront as it expanded, and the suburban sequel, which took over a massive franchise food shop. There was some considerable grumbling when owner Alon Balshan moved the bakery operation to the ’burbs and deprived his longtime customers the Sunday-morning scent of fresh bread. But the expansion did allow him to increase his ambition. Gorgeous chocolate truffles, wood-oven pizza, and all-natural house gelato have been hallmarks of the new location. Yet his business is still built on country French bread, cinnamon scones that burst with poppy chunks of candied ginger, and the definitive Midnight Chocolate Cake, which combines dark layers of devil’s food with white chocolate mousse in lieu of icing. The great chocolate chip pecan cookies are now available raw, by the tube, to cook at home.
Each of the three locations of Cacao Atlanta looks like a Paris confectionary shop: marble counters, brass fixtures, frilly signage, and glossy displays of truffles, pâtés de fruit, macaroons, and caramels. But little does this design sensibility show how much work owner Kristen Hard puts into her bean-to-bar chocolate. Working directly with small, family-owned organic farms throughout Latin America as well as co-op partners, Hard hand selects the cacao beans, which she processes at a small factory in Atlanta. To best appreciate her work, try the single-estate, single-varietal “Love Bars.” The 75% cacao Patanemo Love Bar, from a Venezuelan estate, has spice and a caramel mellowness that gives the chocolate incredible length on the palate; you want it to melt forever. Hard uses biodegradable packaging and encourages regular customers to reuse boxes when they return for their fix.