0

Year in review

A look back at notable restaurant newcomers in 2005

New restaurants come and go faster than we can profile them in this spot. This week, we're taking a look back at some of our favorites that opened this year. We hope they stick around.

•Bistro Solterra

The owners have transformed a former ice cream shop into an intimate, warm Mediterranean bistro. With the most visible spot in downtown Lawrenceville, this restaurant is sure to become a lunch and dinner favorite. The highlights are Greek favorites, such as spanikopita, a puff pastry stuffed with spinach and feta cheese; and moussaka, a savory casserole of tomatoes, eggplant and cheese. Bistro Solterra is actually one of several new eateries to open on Lawrenceville's square this year. After lunch, check out the new Scoops Filling Station ice cream shop right across the street.

197 W. Crogan St., Lawrenceville. 770-277-8477.

- Shelley Mann

•Blue Barracuda Grille & Raw Bar

Although this seafood restaurant seems like it's in the middle of nowhere, the owners know they're just one step ahead of the rush. From the outside, it's just another strip-mall location, but inside, it's a near-replica of a Key West seafood shack. Favorites include the cedar plank salmon and 35-cent raw oysters on Tuesdays.

3413 Diversified Drive, Loganville. 678-639-1595.

- SM

•Cherry Pepper Grille

This Sugarloaf-area restaurant serves everything from pasta to crab cakes, and each item is a blend of the owner's mother's Italian cooking and traditional American dishes. A chicken pasta dish featuring cherry peppers and cherry tomatoes, developed especially for the restaurant, is a favorite.

6555 Sugarloaf Parkway, Duluth. 678-474-0072.

- SM

•The Fieldhouse

This sports bar and restaurant stands out among the many new eateries in the growing Hamilton Mill area. Its simple menu features American cuisine, including steaks, chicken, seafood, sandwiches and pasta. The restaurant, with exposed brick walls and concrete floors, has the feel of a modern city loft. Plasma screen televisions can be found on all four walls in the bar area.

3519 Braselton Highway, Dacula. 770-271-4449.

- Rachael Mason

•The Grape

This wine bar, which opened at The Forum in Norcross in January, is one of several in the Atlanta area. The Grape concept, which includes a wine bar and a retail store, was designed to help customers develop a greater appreciation for wine. Even the menu complements the wine at this upscale restaurant. More than 120 wines are available by the glass.

The Forum, 5145 Peachtree Parkway, Norcross. 770-447-1605. www.yourgrape.com.

- RM

•Hambones Soul Food

This down-home restaurant, which opened in April, keeps customers coming back with dishes just like grandma used to make. Plates are served with a meat and choice of vegetables. Meats include fried or baked chicken, fried pork chops, meatloaf, oxtails, barbecue chopped pork and catfish. The vegetable dishes, from the macaroni and cheese and candied yams to the black-eyes peas and fried okra, are house specialties.

675 Buford Drive, Lawrenceville. 678-407-2578.

- RM

•Las Tortas Locas

It's one of the many signs of a growing Hispanic center in Lawrenceville, and it offers something a little different than your average enchilada. This authentic Mexican sandwich shop piles a choice of meats, cheeses, eggs and vegetables - plus refried beans, tomatoes, avocados and jalapenos - onto a thick, crusty yet soft bun. Another popular choice are the huaraches, long, thin fried tortillas topped with refried beans, meat, lettuce, tomato, avocado and crumbled cheese.

102 Stanley Court, Lawrenceville. 678-209-0905.

- SM

•Lil' River Grill

This Lawrenceville restaurant has actually been around for years, but it was reborn this May with a fancy new home on Lawrenceville's historic downtown square and an updated menu to match. These days, it's one of the county's most hopping dinner spots. The grilled pork chops, salmon and strip steak are popular at dinner, but don't miss the lunch sandwiches, including chicken ciabatta, beer-battered tilapia and Cuban sandwich with pork tenderloin.

179 E. Crogan St., Lawrenceville. 770-995-1183.

- SM

•The Loafing Leprechaun Restaurant and Irish Pub

Opening just in time for St. Patrick's Day, this restaurant brought a taste of Ireland to Gwinnett. Everything inside the restaurant was imported from Ireland, from the antique sewing machines and lanterns to the furniture. Menu items include Irish Stew, Guinness Shepard's Pie and Irish Bangers and Mash, while Irish beer is always on tap. Located within walking distance of the Arena at Gwinnett Center, this restaurant also offers those attending concerts another dining option.

6320 Sugarloaf Parkway, Duluth. 678-218-0800. www.loafingleprechaun.com.

- RM

•Sugo Restaurant

This upscale restaurant offers Mediterranean cuisine inspired by Italian and Greek dishes. The softly lit dining room is a cozy getaway. Enthusiastic servers can recommend wine and food pairings. The menu includes antipasto plates, pizza, pasta, seafood, chicken and lamb. Customers often order the chicken cacciatore entree, as well as the pork tenderloin plate and a marinated lamb dish. This location, which began serving in September, is the third Sugo to open in metro Atlanta.

The Shops at St. Ives, 10305 Medlock Bridge Road, Duluth. 770-476-2272. www.sugorestaurant.com.

- RM