Best New Restaurant (2002)
Yet there's something just a bit extra special about Atlas Bistro, a tiny cafe with a big-city mood. It's BYOB, always a nice touch to lower the dinner tab, but it's connected to the terrific AZ Wine Co., meaning it's almost as good as having a personal sommelier (just let the proprietors know what you're thinking of eating for dinner, and they'll help you choose the perfect wine. Plus, if you buy your grapes from AZ Wine, there's no corkage fee).
We love the sleek, elegant ambiance of white cloth capped with white butcher paper. But we love the menu even more, celebrating seasonal selections in simple but sophisticated dishes. The bruschetta are brilliant, six dainty crostini individually capped with things like chopped tomato and olive oil, white beans with hummus, and briny mushrooms over goat cheese and mascarpone. A quesadilla is special, a sun-dried tomato tortilla encasing white cheese and nubs of smoked salmon atop a peanuty-charactered bay scallop and crayfish sauce studded with corn and pearl onions. And it's hard to improve on an enormous Niman Ranch pork chop, exquisitely thick and moist, sided with an earthy wet heap of roasted corn, plump barley and black beans. What a beauty of a bistro.