A foodie’s guide to Atlanta

The best places to eat in Atlanta


BY GRAY CHAPMAN
Atlanta-based journalist Gray Chapman writes about her city for titles including Nylon, Vice and Atlanta Magazine.

 

 

From strip mall pho joints to James Beard award-winning fine-dining restaurants, there’s no shortage of great restaurants to be found in Atlanta. The city’s demographic diversity, access to farm-fresh produce and envelope-pushing kitchens have resulted in an exciting and ever-evolving food scene. It makes perfect sense to start within Mandarin Oriental, Atlanta, where the high-end in-house restaurant The Café & Bar is at the forefront of Atlanta's reputation as the home of the ‘New South's’ gourmet revolution. You can take one step further and book the Atlanta Foodie tour package, too. Here are some more ideas for where to dine out during your time at Mandarin Oriental, Atlanta.

For old school charm

While Atlanta has its fair share of hip restaurants and envelope-pushing cuisine, nothing beats the classic experience of dining in one of Buckhead’s stately white-tablecloth establishments. For one of Atlanta’s most beloved dining traditions, head to the 90-year-old Colonnade on Cheshire Bridge, for fried chicken, icebox pie and a colourful cast of regulars in a country club-like setting.

Nearby, you’ll also find Buckhead’s own taste of the French Quarter at McKinnon’s Louisiane, a cosy, candlelit den run by a native Louisianian who formerly worked in the kitchen at New Orleans’ famous Galatoire’s. And, while Buckhead has plenty of steakhouses, you’ll find a time-tested and swanky old Atlanta favourite in the wood-panelled dining room of Bones, which has served its famous dry-aged porterhouses and rib-eyes since 1979.

For a trend report

At the forefront of the wave of restaurants redefining the city’s culinary heritage is Staplehouse, the breakout wunderkind which was named ‘Best New Restaurant in America’ by both Bon Appetit and GQ in 2016. (The restaurant releases a month’s worth of table reservations, en masse, on the second Friday of each month, but you might get lucky with walk-in bar seating.) Just off of the city’s once down-at-heel Ponce de Leon Avenue is Bon Ton, a hot spot serving boiled seafood and tropical cocktails in an Instagram-worthy setting. Like the look of that? Try Gaja, a hip Korean bar and restaurant serving scallion pancakes, banchan and bulgogi (along with cocktails and soju) in nightlife-centric East Atlanta Village.

For international flavours

Tongue tacos sprinkled with coriander, plump and piping-hot Shanghai soup dumplings, sugar-dusted red bean doughnuts, masa-laden tamales… Atlanta’s Buford Highway is like a culinary United Nations, an international corridor lined with strip malls that boast some of the city’s best hidden (and not-so-hidden) gems. Point to a spot on the map, and you can likely find its corresponding restaurant somewhere along the stretch of State Route 13 between northeast Atlanta and suburban Duluth. While it would take ages to eat through all the restaurants that BuHi has to offer, a few spots are must-try’s for beginners: beef rendang and roti at Food Terminal (Malaysian); bánh mì on crusty French bread at Lee’s Bakery (Vietnamese); tamales at Xela Pan (Guatemalan); fresh hand-pulled noodles at Lan Zhou (Chinese); and those aforementioned tongue tacos at El Rey Del Taco (Mexican). Swing by Sweet Hut Bakery & Café on your way back into town for dessert, like a green tea roll or pillow-soft Hokkaido cupcake.

For New Southern

As the cultural capital of the Deep South, Atlanta’s chefs are at the forefront of redefining what ‘Southern cuisine’ really means – and thanks to the many farmers and purveyors in the region, kitchens have a bounty of fresh, seasonal produce at their fingertips with which to do that. The city’s many great ‘New Southern’ restaurants, such as Miller Union, Restaurant Eugene, Empire State South and The Café & Bar at Mandarin Oriental, Washington take what you might find in a Southern grandmother’s Junior League Cookbook and dress it up with unexpected culinary twists, while showing off the very best of Southern produce. At Empire State South, Hugh Acheson’s ‘In Jars’ plate of housemade spreads (think rillettes and boiled peanut hummus) is a must-try, while Miller Union is famous for their farm egg baked in celery cream. Over in downtown Decatur, Kimball House serves an ever-evolving seasonal menu (and an impressive roster of oysters), alongside one of the best cocktail programmes in the South – and all inside a stunningly handsome former train depot.

Holes-in-the-Wall

Of course, not every great restaurant comes outfitted with Edison light bulbs or tufted leather banquettes. In the charming former mill village of Cabbagetown, Little’s Food Store – an historic grocery store that opened to serve the cotton mill employees in the surrounding homes – serves some of the best cheeseburgers in the city from behind a humble griddle. Nearby, you’ll find Atlantans of all stripes lining up outside Home grown, a down-home diner in a cottage off Memorial Drive, for the kitchen’s infamous Comfy Chicken Biscuit. And over in the industrial Riverside neighbourhood, tucked inside a no-frills brick cottage, there’s B’s Cracklin’ Barbecue, home to the best barbecue in Atlanta (thanks in part to owner Bryan Furman’s own heritage-breed hogs, and his skills as a pitmaster) and winner of Eater Atlanta’s 2017 Restaurant of the Year.

Book the Atlanta Foodie package

Explore and indulge in Atlanta’s culinary scene with this special package, including an Atlanta Food Tour of Inman Park for two, and a three-course dinner for two at choice of two Ford Fry Restaurants.

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