The Lovely Bone's

Art of the Meal

Bone's


3130 Piedmont Road (near Peachtree), Atlanta


404-237-2663


Hours: Lunch Monday-Friday; dinner nightly.


Credit cards: All major.


Parking: Complimentary valet. (Prominent spots for Bentleys and Lamborghinis)


Dress code: Southern Living resortwear to Brooks Brothers and Burberry.







Once upon a time, the town square was a business barometer. You could just about judge the area's prosperity by the opulence of the courthouse, and what kind of commerce was going on in and around it.





These days, I'd argue, a town's leading economic indicator is its best steakhouse. You're always going to find the top businesspeople eating there - for some reason, nothing goes with capitalism like charred red meat.





Whether the fare is thin chopped steak and iced tea, or thick prime slabs and gin, the local steakhouse says a lot about a city's trade and customs. If the place looks like a glorified diner, you can bet the businesspeople are just getting by. If it's a sensuous, over-the-top palace (like, say, Jean-Georges Vongerichten's Prime, in Las Vegas), you're talking serious New Money coin. Dark, dusty hideaways with worn Persian carpets? Stodgy and regressive.





So what does Atlanta's best steakhouse, Bone's, say about the city's business realm? That it's been booming for more than a quarter-century - and perhaps has only improved. The dark, masculine dining room and cigar-smoke-scented bar have just enough wear around the edges to remind you that Old Money still has influence, but the chatty, smoothly professional wait staff and "Dog Room" portraits (not playing poker, but wearing uniforms and other dignified gear) show it's not hidebound.





While the clientele sports a diverse complexion and equitable gender ratio, this is still a preppy, Southern place, with dress code (some suits, but also golf shirts, and even shorts) and, in the main dining room, volume level on a par with a fraternity hangout in Athens. With service levels bettering many hotels and a wall of local celebrity photos, you'd think the food might be an afterthought - but you'd be wrong. It's all gorgeous stuff, but unfussy and virile in presentation.





Take, for example, the shrimp cocktail, a deconstructed version, laid out on the plate: Fat white shrimp circle the cocktail sauce and lemon slices - no prissy parfait glasses here, just a sweet, user-friendly crustacean delivery system. Bone's salad is crisp butter lettuce, pistachios, blue cheese and cinnamon-dusted Granny Smith apple slices, with a drizzle of creamy dressing. The Caesar is sharp and crisp and available with extra anchovies.





The only thing wimpy here is the wine-by-the-glass selection - not the wines themselves, just the slender column of choices. Oh, you'll do fine with your flute of Mumm's or balloon of BearBoat pinot, but it's nothing like the 600 selections available by the bottle. (The restaurant has a 10,000 bottle inventory.) Go ahead - trust your waiter and invest - commit to a Whitehall Lane cab ($78).





Of course the main event is steak, and the prime, aged New York strip is incomparable - thick as Schwarzenegger's biceps, carbon-crusted, cooked perfectly to order ($35 for 16 ounces). If Bone's has minor faults (like the "Well, Little Lady!" attitude), all will be forgiven with the first bite. Bone's does well with seafood, too - the grouper was excellent, but why on earth would you order it? If you must order a sea creature, go for lobster - which your waiter will show you, cooked, then whisk away to remove from its shell.





Signature sides are old-fashioned as the steakhouse concept - but still, if it were possible, I'd arrange for weekly home delivery of these crisp-edged grits fritters. For dessert? What else - a cheesecake slice as simple, dense and thrilling as the steak.





As long as business is good in Atlanta, Bone's will be too.







Krista Reese is Georgia Trend's restaurant critic. Contact hergtcritic@mindspring.com.







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