Outdoor Terraces, Soul Food, and a Whiskey Bar: AmEx Opens Its Largest Airport Lounge Yet in Atlanta

AFAR got a first look inside the new Centurion Lounge at Hartsfield–Jackson Atlanta International Airport.

Outdoor Airside Terrace at the new Centurion Lounge at Atlanta International Airport, with small green plants and empty white chairs

On both sides of the new Atlanta Centurion Lounge are outdoor terraces equipped with integrated heaters and fans for use year-round.

Photo by Paul Rubio

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On February 14, American Express opened its largest Centurion Lounge to date inside Hartsfield–Jackson Atlanta International Airport (ATL) with 26,000 square feet for passengers to relax, eat, drink, and roam. It’s also the most design-forward Centurion Lounge yet, indicating a move by AmEx to keep up with the times as competitors like Capital One and Chase continue to roll out their own airport lounges.

The Centurion Lounge at ATL—open from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. daily—occupies a slice of coveted airport real estate within Concourse E of the International Terminal, spanning both indoors and outdoors. Next to gate E11, it is a delightfully styled modern-yet-residential space, teeming with spacious seating and dining areas, outdoor terraces, and prime opportunities for plane spotting through floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the airfield. Hearty menus from Atlanta-based chef Deborah VanTrece feature soul food while the Reserve by American Express marks the first dedicated whiskey bar in a Centurion Lounge.

Because Concourse E is connected airside to all other terminals via the Plane Train (ATL’s automated people mover), you can access the Centurion Lounge at ATL regardless of your assigned gate.

This week, I got a sneak peek—and found myself enthralled with AmEx’s latest lounge. Here’s everything you need to know about the new Centurion Lounge in Atlanta, including why it’s worth an ATL layover and how to get in.

The largest—and most design-forward—Centurion Lounge yet

There’s a palpable feeling of escapism upon entering the Centurion Lounge in Atlanta. Suddenly, the frenzy of the world’s busiest airport disappears, as soothing expanses of comfy seating, high ceilings, natural light, and thriving plant life come into view. Intentionally designed as a series of distinct yet cohesive areas offering the luxury of space, this lounge marks a dramatic size increase from others in the Centurion network. (The Dallas Centurion Lounge is half the size at 13,000 square feet and the second largest Centurion lounge, at JFK, is just 15,000 square feet.)

An olive tree surrounded by armchairs and couches at the Atlanta Centurion Lounge, with high ceiling

A 50-year-old olive tree is the centerpiece of Atlanta’s brand-new Centurion Lounge.

Courtesy of American Express

Anchoring the first half of the principal seating area is a tall, live olive tree, a half-century young, cast in an elevated rock garden, surrounded by 19 low-rise bar stools. A mix of wooden chairs, emerald couches, olive-green booths, and gold and wood lattice partitions add to a contemporary, enchanted forest aesthetic. Above, a sprawling lighting fixture, comprising 2,400 abstract glass leaves and intended to represent a forest canopy, extends into the second half of the main area. On this opposite side is a grand dining space with a full-service bar, hot and cold buffet stations, plus high- and low-top seating options aplenty as the color theme shifts to royal blue.

On both sides of the lounge are outdoor terraces, a first for the Centurion Lounge network. Trimmed in foliage and featuring stylish cozy couches, they are every bit the alfresco respite the designers intended. They’re also equipped with integrated heaters and fans for use year-round and rife with in-seat outlets for charging electronics (yep, even outside).

Back inside, there are additional zones for working, relaxing, and imbibing. There’s a collection of living room–style setups, bar-style seating overlooking the airfield, phone rooms for Zoom calls, a dedicated whiskey lounge, and a private room exclusive to Centurion cardholders.

Art gives the lounge a sense of place. My favorite is a new interpretation of the watchdog, one of AmEx’s first brand symbols circa the 19th century: Local artist Lucha Rodríguez, who creates multi-dimensional pieces by intricately cutting and folding paper, was commissioned to create a textural interpretation of the watchdog for the lounge entrance. (She also completed three abstract cloud conceptions, Vistas Tranquilas I, II, and III, which all reside beyond the main entrance.)

Global soul food from a local chef

“I spent so many nights awake, trying to decide how to curate the menu for the Centurion Lounge Atlanta,” said chef Deborah VanTrece, James Beard Award semifinalist and owner of popular Atlanta restaurants Twisted Soul Cookhouse & Pours, Oreatha’s at the Point, and La Panarda. “I wanted to demonstrate the hospitality of Atlanta, the different cultures we represent, and put a Southern twist on everything,” she said at the lounge’s preview.

Four dishes at buffet at the Atlanta Centurion Lounge: two salads, a casserole, and glass jars of dessert

From top left, clockwise: soul salad with fried goat cheese and cornbread croutons, three-cheese mac and cheese, bananas foster bread pudding, and vegan black-eyed pea biryani.

Photos by Paul Rubio

The results of her sleepless nights are dazzling spreads of modern, global soul food that will have you going back for seconds (and thirds). VanTrece’s feasts are split between two substantial food stations: one entirely cold and one (predominantly) hot. Highlights of the lounge’s hot offerings include jalapeño hotcakes (think: spicy, savory pancakes), vegan black-eyed pea biryani, za’atar grilled chicken thighs with green tomato chimichurri, and a decadent three-cheese mac and cheese with breadcrumbs. Other standouts to look for are the house-made pimento cheese with garden fresh crudité and soul salad (mixed greens with fried goat cheese and cornbread croutons, in a strawberry-peppercorn vinaigrette). The bananas foster bread pudding for dessert is not to be missed either. I’ve visited nearly all of the 14 domestic Centurion lounges and several international ones, and I’d say this is the best food in its network.

Besides the main dining area, there are a number of small food and beverage stations across the lounge with light bites and drinks, such as immunity boosting shots of apple-beet juice, jars of pimento cheese with celery sticks, sliced dragon fruit, and mascarpone-filled cannoli with chocolate chips. You’ll also find several specialty coffee machines and water refill stations with both sparkling and still options, alongside five Vivreau flavor enhancers, such as orange-tangerine and blueberry-raspberry.

The Centurion network’s first whiskey bar

As with all Centurion Lounge outposts, noted mixologist Jim Meehan has engineered cocktails specifically with Atlanta in mind. (Try the Hot One, an unlikely but awesome combination of Del Maguey Vida mezcal and local Atlanta Independent Distilling Co. white rum, grenadine, lime juice, and hot sauce.) Similarly, renowned wine authority Anthony Giglio has handpicked wines for the destination, including several varieties of sparkling, whites, reds, and one rosé. There are also two mocktails and several beers available at the main bar.

The entrance to the Reserve by American Express, with olive tree (L); the Centurion network’s first whiskey bar, with row of tall seats in front of low-lit bar (R).

The entrance to the Reserve by American Express (L) and inside the Centurion network’s first whiskey bar (R).

Courtesy of American Express

However, the Atlanta lounge goes the extra mile by introducing the Reserve by American Express, a dedicated whiskey bar and lounge with its own drink menu. At the Reserve, choose from over 20 classic and new American whiskeys—neat, on the rocks, or with mixers. Alternatively, sample five specialty whiskey cocktails by Meehan, starting with a fruity new spin on the Manhattan called Drink a Peach, a heady mix of straight rye and peach-flavored whiskeys, sweet vermouth, and peach bitters.

Due to Georgia state liquor laws, alcohol is only served from 10:30 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. Monday to Saturday (with limited-alcohol breakfast cocktails 9 a.m. to 10:30 a.m.) and from 11:00 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. on Sunday.

Other amenities

The lounge also has dedicated workstations, three all-gender shower suites, and no shortage of smart power outlets that fit 120-volts plugs, USB3 (Thunderbolt) cords and standard USB cords. High-speed Wi-Fi is complimentary. Absent from the Atlanta Centurion lounge, but sometimes found in others, is an Exhale Spa.

How to access the Atlanta Centurion Lounge

The Centurion Lounge at ATL is free to enter on the day of travel, regardless of airline or class flown, for those with The Platinum Card® from American Express or The Business Platinum Card® from American Express. Each guest will cost $50 per person (or $30 for children age 2 through 17, $0 for those under 2, with proof of age) when entering with an eligible cardholder. Those with a Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card or a Delta SkyMiles® Reserve Business American Express Card can visit Centurion lounges for free when flying on a same-day Delta-marketed or Delta-operated flight. They can bring up to two guests maximum for $50 each.

While the offers mentioned above are accurate at the time of publication, they are subject to change at any time, and may have changed or may no longer be available.

Paul Rubio is an award-winning travel journalist and photographer. His byline appears in Afar, Condé Nast Traveler, Fodor’s, LUXURY, MSN, NerdWallet, Palm Beach Illustrated, Yahoo Lifestyle, and more. He has visited 133 countries (and counting) over the past 20 years and won 27 national awards for his writing and photography. When he’s not plotting out his next trip, Paul loves to spend time at home watching reruns of Portlandia and Parks and Recreation with his husband and rescue dog, Camo.
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