by Michael C. Lowe | April 01, 2011

Nothing beats a good meal for capping a long day of meetings. Add to that the thrill of discovering a great new eatery, and you've just given your group a night to remember. M&C asked food critics, writers and editors from around the country to suggest some hot, recently opened restaurants in their hometowns (see sidebar for a list of our esteemed sources). The eateries profiled below are their top picks for groups -- all moderately priced and featuring private dining and/or buyout options.

ATLANTAEmpire State SouthEmpire State South
(404) 541-1105
Cuisine: Southern

Empire State South combines sophisticated service with quirky flavors to create an unpretentious, yet refined experience. The restaurant opened last August, serving breakfast, lunch and dinner, and offers a delightfully varied menu. Start with the "Kind of Local" cheese plate, and follow with dishes such as crisp pork belly with creamed kimchi, rice grits, pickled daikon and peanuts; or the redfish with meyer lemon marmalade, brussels sprouts and carrot puree. For a special treat, try the Georgia sturgeon caviar.

All can be enjoyed  in a private dining room that seats up to 30 people, or as part of a buyout package that allows seating for 100 or accommodates 150 for a reception. Right outside is a boccie court ready for play.

Local Three Kitchen & Bar
(404) 968-2700
Cuisine: Seasonal American

Local Three follows a simple philosophy, as stated on its website: "People matter most. Local is priority. Seasonal makes sense. Authenticity rules. Pretense loses. Comfort feels good." Here, comfort means stomach-satisfying dishes such as duck-fat fried hush puppies with sambal aioli and braised lamb shoulder; or  pan-seared Georgia mountain trout with crispy brussels sprouts, apples, pistachios and brown butter. The bar is stocked with more than 40 types of bourbon, 100 beers and 100 varieties of wine.

Planners can choose from among several private dining options. The venue's largest such room, the Bushwood, seats 40 and comes equipped with audiovisual capabilities for meetings or presentations. The wine room seats up to 12, while the patio offers an al fresco experience for up to 60 seated or 125 standing.

Vino Rosina
(410) 528-8600
Cuisine: Modern American

The hip new wine bar in Baltimore's trendy Harbor East neighborhood, Vino Rosina brings to the table a diverse menu of tastes and styles, including duck carpaccio; salmon prepared in vacuum-sealed plastic bags and heated underwater to tenderize the meat without losing juices or texture (a molecular-gastronomy tactic known as sous-vide); and seared foie gras, accompanied by blood orange-corriander jam. True to its name, the eatery offers more than 200 kinds of wine, with 60 available by the glass.

For private dining, the restaurant's chef's table seats up to 10; for larger groups, buyouts are available and accommodate up to 50 seated or 150 for cocktails.