The Chile Relleno at Agave. (Photos by Isadora Pennington)

I’m not sure when it was that I first discovered my love for peppers. Historically speaking, I am a fairly picky eater. And yet, throughout the years, I’ve developed quite a fondness for hot peppers, both in my sauces, salsas, as a garnish, and when the pepper IS the dish. Sides like jalapeño poppers, which are traditionally a halved and gutted pepper which is then stuffed with cheese and deep fried, are among the more prolific pepper-based dishes found at pubs and bowling alleys.

On the other end of the spectrum, there are dishes such as chile relleno, which elevate the mild, wide poblano pepper into a full blown dinner. Often filled with meats and cheese, they are then roasted, which breaks down the cell walls of the pepper, releasing juices and softening the structure, infusing the dish with flavor.

It’s also important, in my opinion, to add some cheese to any pepper dish. Whether cojita cheese sprinkled on top as a garnish, or cream cheese infused into the pepper, or cheddar mixed in with the meat, adding some creamy, melty cheese seems to always please my palate.

For this month’s feature, I went out in search of my favorite pepper-based dishes in the city. From deep fried to upscale, these local restaurants each pay an homage to the humble and versatile pepper with their own unique flair. If you, like me, love some spice in your life, check out these delicious options.

Leon’s Full Service
131 E Ponce de Leon Ave., Decatur or (404) 687-0500
Peppadews: goat cheese stuffed peppadews, $5

242 Boulevard SE or (404) 588-0006
Huevos Poblanos:
fire roasted poblano pepper topped with charred tomato serrano stone ground grits, a fried egg, lime crema, & cilantro, $7 (pictured above)
Beef & Pepper Poblano Chile Relleno: large roasted poblano chile stuffed with strip steak, mixed peppers & white Mexican cheese, pan seared and baked over a fire roasted tomato & serrano pepper puree, $9

Fox Bros Bar-B-Q
1238 DeKalb Ave. NE or (404) 577-4030
Stuffed Jalapeño Poppers: fresh jalapeños stuffed with our BBQ Pork and cream cheese and deep fried. Served with ranch, $9

Whiskey Bird
1409 North Highland Ave. NE or (404) 600-5797
Stuffed Peppers: skewers of grilled sweet peppers stuffed with smoky chorizo and topped with cojita cheese, served with house-made pickles and slaw, $3.50

Isadora Pennington is a freelance writer and photographer based in Atlanta. She is the editor of Sketchbook by Rough Draft, a weekly Arts newsletter.

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