Tired of having to read lips during dinner? Book a table at Vidalia. Need a place to take a visitor or toast an anniversary? Owner Jeff Buben’s salute to Southern cooking should be at the top of your list.
No restaurant in the city does a more convincing shrimp and grits or pecan pie than this place, a series of dining rooms that, with the help of frosted glass and a sunny palette, erase the reality that you’re eating below ground. As hard as it is to pull yourself away from the tried and true on this menu, be sure to check out the specials or whatever chef de cuisine Hamilton Johnson has recently added to the roster. The rewards might be barbecue braised pork cheeks embellished with cheddar grits, pickled jalapeno, spiced peanuts and (we’re almost there!) a topping of crisp oysters, and bison short ribs, glossy from a glaze of root beer and butter and poised on creamy potatoes.
Lesser dishes make occasional appearances, but I can forgive Vidalia onions forced on a dry pineapple upside-down cake when the service is pampering and so much else is so right. Vidalia is 21 years old and aging gracefully.