Unofficial, highly opinionated information about Georgia’s capital city
Despite boasting the largest metro area in the region, Atlanta is somewhat overlooked by outsiders who have recently become obsessed with Southern food and culture. Charleston has the Lowcountry, historic buildings, and celebrity chef Sean Brock. Nashville has hot chicken, music row, and, also, celebrity chef Sean Brock.
Atlanta doesn’t have the buzz associated with those aforementioned cities. But, with chefs interpreting Southern recipes and ingredients in both traditional and modern ways, a thriving beer scene, and a few of the best restaurants in the South, it’s one of the more underrated locales in the national food conversation. Although, Atlanta is getting its own international sushi and celebrity hot spot Nobu in 2020. Oh, and Nashville’s Hattie B’s Hot Chicken is now open in the ATL, too.
Welcome to the Capital of the New South
Since Delta Air Lines arrived in the 1960s, Atlanta’s population has seen an endless boom. This flood of people from elsewhere has led to the unfair reputation of Atlanta being a “transplant city” without any culture of its own. It’s true that there isn’t one ancient, unique dish that locals point to as a mascot of sorts. Instead, Atlanta offers myriad examples of foodways from around the world. The global pantry influences all sorts of restaurants in this city.
Where to Start on Eater Atlanta’s Best of Maps
Hot Restaurants: These are the hottest of the hot restaurant’s right now around Atlanta. The list includes Japanese fast-casual restaurant Momonoki in Midtown offering ramen and katsu sando sandwiches and more traditional, full-service restaurants such as Tiny Lou’s at Hotel Clermont, serving nouveau French cuisine and decadent desserts. Atlanta’s diverse culinary scene is really shining right now with new restaurants like Snackboxe Bistro, serving Laotian street food in Doraville or neighborhood Korean tavern Son of a Bear in Oakhurst.
Essential Restaurants: Updated quarterly, the Eater 38 is chock full of excellent recommendations for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Staplehouse in the Old Fourth Ward and Springon Marietta Square are the best restaurants in the metro area. Miller Union and Kimball Housewith their Southern and French-inspired menus and top-notch wine and cocktails lists, are Atlanta staples and must-visits. For a more casual meal, head to Chai Pani in Decatur for Indian street food and thalis, Smyrna’s Porch Light Latin Kitchen for smoked and roasted meats, or Buford Highway’s Mamak serving some of Atlanta’s best Malaysian food. Breakfast at Home Grown and barbecue at B’s Cracklin’ are both necessary. East Atlanta’s We Suki Suki’s banh mis are fantastic, not to mention their lemongrass-infused pho. Try Jang Su Jang for Korean dishes with traditional touches like kalbi (barbecue beef short rib), bibimbap, and soondubu-jjigae (tofu stew) paired with some of Atlanta’s best banchan. For a true taste of the soul of the South, Twisted Soul Cookhouse & Pours in Westside strikes a balance between casual and fine dining with food like black eyed pea salsa fresca served with fresh-made tortilla chips and graciously plated entrees such Cajun-spiced roast chicken atop a bed of red beans and rice.
Most Anticipated Openings: Want to know the restaurants to get excited about opening this season? Check out this list of the most anticipated restaurants opening soon in Atlanta.
Dessert: Dessert may be the last course of the meal, but it’s certainly not the least important. Atlanta is chock-full of delicious sweet treat options that are anything but boring. Here’s a list of the best desserts in Atlanta right now.
Wings: Atlanta knows wings, and there are plenty of great places around town offering flats, drums, and even that tiny extra part that some people eat as if it actually held meat. From smoked to fried, sweet and sour to extra-sauced, including the quintessential Atlanta wing flavor, lemon pepper, these 19 restaurants are leading the wing pack.
Bars: “Craft cocktails” is such an overused and meaningless label at this point. Cocktails have grown up and out of that moniker, and nowhere is that maturity more apparent than in Atlanta. Try a cocktail at one of Atlanta’s best new cocktail bars or consider a drink at one of the city’s cocktail staples like Kimball House, Ticonderoga Club (Esquire’s friendliest bar in America,) The SOS Tiki Bar, Bon Ton, and 8 Arm — they are all winners. There’s also the simple pleasure of grabbing cheap beers with friends at the neighborhood dive bar.
Brunch: Drive around any neighborhood on a Sunday morning, and the lines pouring out of restaurant doors will make one thing clear: Atlantans love to brunch. It’s true that brunch services of varying quality can be found all over the city, but The General Muir and Bread & Butterfly stand out from the crowd. Then, there’s the list of the hottest new brunch spots around town which is updated every quarter.
Eat Like a Local: Check out the five restaurants to try list compiled by Eater Atlanta editors and contributors. It’s where they’ve been eating and drinking off the clock around Atlanta. The bi-weekly list of restaurants and bars includes a mix of newer places on the dining scene, old standbys, under-the-radar finds, and the occasional can’t-miss food event.
Patios: Atlanta’s long warm season sees the city enjoying outdoor living and al fresco dining nearly nine months out of the year. That also means the ATL is full of great patios like these. For patios with a birds-eye view, dine and drink on one of these amazing rooftops. Looking for pooch-approved patios? Try this dog-friendly list.
Beer: The best brewery in Georgia is Creature Comforts over in Athens, but Atlanta has some quality representation in the state’s craft beer scene, too. Orpheus Brewing and Scofflaw Brewing Co., in particular, pump out noteworthy beverages in a crowded market. Now that Georgia’s beer laws have been brought into the 21st century, drinkers can actually buy beers directly from breweries, by the glass in taprooms or up to a case to go. The updated laws also mean a new crop of breweries are opening this year around Atlanta, including Steady Hand Beer Co. in Westside.
Burgers: When one is choosing their favorite from the list of Atlanta’s best burgers, one must consider whether they prefer the double-stack or single, thick patty cooked to temperature. For the former, Holeman & Finch, Bocado, One Eared Stag, and The General Muir are generally agreed upon to offer the best. For the latter, Miller Unionand Bread & Butterfly are at the head of the class. For something truly unique, the ghetto burger — two patties topped with bacon, cheese, and chili — is beloved at Ann’s Snack Bar.
Barbecue: While there are smokehouses all over the metro area, Atlanta’s best-of barbecue lists have always been dominated by two names: Fox Bros., featuring Texas-style brisket at beef ribs, and Heirloom Market, which mixes Southern-American and Korean flavors. There’s a new contender on the scene as of September 2016. B’s Cracklin’ Barbeque, from pitmaster Bryan Furman and his wife and business partner Nikki, specializes in South Carolina-style meats, and it’s the only whole-hog joint in town. It’s sensational.
Coffee: Atlanta’s once-great coffee empire, Octane, was purchased by Birmingham-based Revelator. Sentimentalists may be disappointed, but all of Octane’s cafes are now grinding Revelator beans and will receive only slight revamps under the Revelator name. There are plenty of quality independent shops on the essential Atlanta coffee map for anyone who is chain-averse including Downtown’s Ebrik Coffee Room, Westside’s Brash Coffee, East Pole Coffee in Piedmont Heights, and Spiller Park in Toco Hills.
Atlanta Neighborhoods to Know
Located directly east of the Atlanta city limits, this municipality boasts a charming downtown and some of the metro area’s best bars and restaurants all within a few blocks. An ideal evening starts at Kimball House for some of the best cocktails and the best oyster selection in town, or at Victory Sandwich Bar for light snacks, beers, and Jack and Coke slushies. Want traditional Southern for dinner? Head to Revival for dinner. Craving raw fish or an outstanding omakase experience? Brush Sushi Izakaya is a great choice. For Spanish tapas head to Iberian Pig on the square. Finish off the evening with a strong umbrella drink at The SOS Tiki Bar or whiskey cocktails at The Pinewood. Beyond downtown, Community Q serves quality barbecue, Las Brasas is home to a variety of Peruvian roasted meats, and Janet’s Kitchen on Clairmont Road is filled with Filipino soul food.
Much of the hype has been centralized around properties near Marietta Street and Howell Mill Road. Take a peek at the guide to great dining options found all over this expansive section of the city just west of Interstates 75 and 85. There’s plenty of stand-out restaurants to choose from, including Anne Quatrano’s lovely market, Star Provisions, and fine-dining staple, Bacchanalia. There’s also Miller Union, which celebrates the best Southern ingredients and is run by James Beard award winner Steven Satterfield. To the north, in Riverside, Bryan and Nikki Furman are smoking South Carolina-style ‘cue at B’s Cracklin’ Barbeque. Farther south, Busy Bee Cafe has been dishing out soul food — including some of the best fried chicken in town — since the ‘40s in Vine City, and the chicken gets a Jamaican jerk at Dat Fire in Castleberry Hill.
Surrounding I-20 on Atlanta’s west side lie the neighborhoods of Castleberry Hill, West End, and Westview, home to Atlanta’s historic African-American colleges Clark Atlanta University, Spelman, and Morehouse. This area is generating a lot of food buzz these days as the next portion of the BeltLine has opened and restaurants, breweries, and bars are making their way westward. The neighborhoods are filled with plenty of great dining options including many of the city’s best vegan and vegetarian restaurants like Soul Vegetarian and KarbonStar Vitality as well as casual spots like D Cafe serving breakfast and lunch staples. There’s trendy bars like Match Bamboo Lounge and local hangouts like Elliott Street Pub in the shadow of the Mercedes-Benz stadium in the creative community of Castleberry Hill. The mixed-used development of Lee + White in West End will be anchored by several local food and beverage purveyors such as the forthcoming second location of ASW Distillery and Monday Night Brewing’s newly-opened Garage brewing facility. The neighborhood’s first new restaurant (and the first on this portion of the BeltLine) is brewpub Lean Draft House. Check out this guide on where to eat and drink around these neighborhoods. In town for a game, a concert, or a conference downtown? Here’s where to dine in the nearby neighborhoods of Castleberry Hill and Vine City around the Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
This neighborhood isn’t as trendy as it once was, but Buckhead is still home to some of the best high-end restaurants around. Diners should keep an eye out for celebrities while indulging in delicious Japanese bites at Umi Sushi. Head for drinks next door at Japanese cocktail bar Himitsu(reservations are necessary to get in here). Atlas, located in the St. Regis hotel, is high-priced, but chef Christopher Grossman’s exquisite menu and the fine art adorning the restaurant’s walls make it a refuge for those who miss traditional fine dining. Beard Award-winning chef and restaurateur Linton Hopkins’s Restaurant Eugene is still recommended for dressed-up Southern plates, and after receiving a fresh coat of paint, Gerry Klaskala’s Aria feels updated while continuing to serve well-executed European cuisine. For those seeking different takes on Italian, try chef Ford Fry’s stunner St. Cecilia across from Phipps Plaza. Then there’s the newest additions to the Buckhead dining scene, Mission & Market and Little Alley Steak.
This isn’t a single neighborhood or municipality, but instead is a 15-mile stretch of road that is a gourmand’s paradise. Stretching from Brookhaven to Duluth, excellent cuisines from cultures across the globe abound in developments along Buford Highway—with more restaurants and markets opening every day. For Vietnamese, give Nam Phuong, Lee’s Bakery, or Pho Dai Loi 2 a shot. Taqueria El Rey del Taco is a top-quality choice for Mexican and newcomer Tortas Factory Del DF is an excellent spot to grab tacos or tortas on-the-go. Masterpiece is the choice for Sichuan Chinese, and Good Luck Gourmet for Shaanxi. Hit up Sushi Hayakawa for a taste of Japan. For some of the best traditional Korean dishes found anywhere in America, go to Yet Tuh or Jang Su Jang. There’s so much to eat and so many new cuisines to discover along Buford Highway. Atlanta is lucky to have it all at its doorstep.
Atlanta’s first streetcar suburb has been home to some quality dining options for quite some time, but the neighborhood has exploded with development in recent years. Krog Street Market, with its food stalls and craft beer bar, is almost always packed at peak hours. With a roster of veteran Atlanta dining talent, Ticonderoga Club, serving a mix of Asian, Southern, and New England fare to go with creative cocktails and a fun atmosphere, is the best bet in the food hall. Elsewhere, BoccaLupo turns out Atlanta’s best pasta, and Sotto Sotto is a go-to for multi-course Italian feasts. Kevin Rathbun Steak offers huge cuts of beef and steakhouse sides. Bread & Butterfly has quickly become a destination for French bistro fare and great wines by the glass. More than a few Atlantans point to One Eared Stag when recommending their favorite burger in the city. Diners will forget about Chipotle forever after one bite at Bell Street Burritos, which also has locations in Buckhead and Downtown’s Sweet Auburn Curb Market. And, tucked away on Lake Avenue is a quaint breakfast and lunch spot named Julianna’s serving Hungarian-style crepes made from an old family recipe. Here’s a handy guide to dining in the neighborhood, which includes Little Five Points.
Old Fourth Ward
No Atlanta neighborhood has seen more change due to BeltLine-related growth. O4W is home to Ponce City Market, which boasts restaurants and food stalls from giant names such as Anne Quatrano, Linton Hopkins, and Jonathan Waxman (although, chef Hector Santiago’s Latin sandwich shop, El Super Pan, is the best option inside the market’s Central Food Hall). In the shadow of the market is 8Arm and its enclosed patio bar serving some of the best cocktails and fresh takes on contemporary American cuisine in the city. Simply follow the purple glow from Ponce de Leon. Down in the Edgewood Avenue entertainment district, Sister Louisa’s Church of the Living Room & Ping Pong Emporium is a bar that’s just as weird and fun as the name suggests. Farther west on Edgewood, the temporarily-closed Ammazza is a favorite for Neapolitan-style pizza. Ammazza is opening a new restaurant in Decatur this fall and plans to reopen on Edgewood in December. Oh, and there’s Staplehouse, which might be the best restaurant in the Southeast.
Downtown Atlanta is home to the city’s biggest tourist attractions like the Center for Civil and Human Rights, College Football Hall of Fame, and Georgia Aquarium, not to mention the new sports mecca that is the Mercedes-Benz Stadium and the revamped home of the Atlanta Hawks, State Farm Arena. While the area caters mostly to tourists and conventioneers, there are plenty of off-the-beaten-path dining options like Dua Vietamese, Just Around the Corner serving grab-and-go burgers and sandwiches, and Buenos Dias Cafe offering Cuban sandwiches and all-day breakfast tacos. For those looking for dinner and a view, make a reservation at the iconic SunDial Restaurant or Polaris high above the city skyline. Trader Vic’s in the Hilton Downtown is a must-visit for those seeking stiff tiki drinks like the fogcutter or original mai tai paired with a throwback dinner from the days when Polynesian food was all the rage in mid-century America. Consider these food options in this neighborhood dining and drinking guide to Downtown Atlanta.
The Cobb County city of Smyrna just west of Buckhead is beginning to shake its reputation as a ho-hum suburb. Smyrna (along with its ITP neighbor, Vinings) has seen a recent influx of young people moving to the area. And, with their arrival, the hip, chef-driven restaurants have followed. This includes the brand new retail and dining complex on the edge of this small city The Battery Atlanta and Braves SunTrust Park with restaurants like Top Chef judge Hugh Acheson’s latest, Achie’s, fine dining stunner C.Ellet’s Steakhouse, and chef Ford Fry’s Tex-Mex spot The El Felix. Head deeper into these neighborhoods to dine like a local which includes the Latin flavors of Porch Light Kitchen, Minato, a longtime sushi staple along Spring Road, Rev, a Mercedes-Benz repair shop turned coffee shop, and Muss & Turner’s, a deli-by-day, casual bistro-by-night with a speakeasy called Eleanor’s hidden behind a cooler door. Consider consulting this neighborhood dining guide before heading out to explore these rapidly-growing northwest Metro Atlanta communities.
East Point/College Park/Hapeville
Newcomers to Atlanta as well as those who work in or travel to the city may have heard the towns of East Point, College Park, and Hapeville referred to as the “ATL Airport District.” But residents of the area (and old-school Atlanta natives) still call it the Tri-Cities. Its namesake high school and assortment of landmarks were made famous on albums by former East Point residents André 3000 and Big Boi, the duo behind Outkast. The Tri-Cities are filled with some of metro Atlanta’s best-kept secrets, including Taco Pete, a West Coast-style taco stand in East Point serving everything from tacos to hot dogs to great wings. Slideways in Hapeville makes perfectly crisp fried fish, while Bole Ethiopian is a popular favorite among College Park residents. Check out this neighborhood guide for more restaurant options written by longtime East Point resident and Atlanta writer Mike Jordan.