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Atlanta Dining

Award-Winning Restaurants
Atlanta Dining
While Atlanta boasts award-winning restaurants and cuisines from all over the world, the backbone of local dining is still hefty portions of barbecue and soul food like chicken and waffles.
By Caroline Eubanks, AFAR Local Expert
Photo courtesy of Heidi Geldhauser/Miller Union
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    Award-Winning Restaurants
    Award-Winning Restaurants
    The James Beard Foundation has bestowed its honors upon many of Atlanta’s best chefs and restaurants. In 2017, Steven Satterfield (Miller Union), Kevin Gillespie (Gunshow), and Ryan Smith (Staplehouse) were all nominated for “Best Chef: Southeast,” with Satterfield ultimately winning the category. In previous years, Hugh Acheson (Empire State South) and Ford Fry (The Optimist) also received nominations in various categories, as did restaurant Holeman & Finch Public House. Beyond the James Beards, Bon Appetit named Staplehouse the best restaurant in America in 2016, and Bacchanalia has remained one of Atlanta’s most notable restaurants since the 1990s.
    Photo courtesy of Heidi Geldhauser/Miller Union
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    World Cuisine
    World Cuisine
    Thanks to a recent influx of residents from all over the world, Atlanta is home to a wide variety of international cuisines. Start at Buford Highway and continue along the corridor for Korean, Chinese, Vietnamese, Cambodian, Mexican, and Bangladeshi food. Food Terminal in Chamblee serves Malaysian street food, while The Stone Grill, located in the heavily Korean neighborhood of Duluth, offers traditional Korean barbecue alongside fusion fare. For a taste of Persia, try Rumi’s Kitchen in Sandy Springs.
    Photo by Caroline Eubanks
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    A Multitude of Markets
    A Multitude of Markets
    For a true taste of Atlanta, stop by one of the city’s numerous farmers’ markets. The Atlanta State market in Forest Park boasts more than 150 acres of wholesale and retail sellers, while Peachtree Road in Buckhead features some of the city’s favorite vendors, including H&F Bread Company, Souper Jenny, and King of Pops. The Buford Highway and Dekalb markets have a more international selection, while Sweet Auburn Curb, Ponce City, and Krog Street showcase unusual ingredients and prepared foods.
    Photo by Caroline Eubanks
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    Every Day Is Brunch Day
    Every Day Is Brunch Day
    Everyone in Atlanta has his or her favorite brunch spot. Thanks to local laws, you’ll have to wait until 12:30 for that mimosa or Bloody Mary but, here, boozy brunch is more than worth the wait. Line up with the locals for milkshakes and fluffy biscuits at West Egg Café on the Westside, or try the Candler Park location of The Flying Biscuit, opened by a member of the Indigo Girls. Highland Bakery is beloved for its monstrous French toast, while Bread & Butterfly is a favorite for its flaky croissants.
    Photo courtesy of West Egg Café
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    Get Your Caffeine Fix
    Get Your Caffeine Fix
    While Atlanta will be forever associated with sweet tea, people here love their coffee just as much as anyone else. At Octane Coffee’s Grant Park location, you can pair specialty organic coffee with delicious pastries and sandwiches from Little Tart Bake Shop. Dancing Goats, next to the Ponce City Market, is another favorite, particularly for its Batdorf & Bronson roasts and charming outdoor space. Drink coffee for a cause at Land of a Thousand Hills, which supports farmers in Rwanda, or enjoy a touch of Europe at Café Intermezzo, a chain offering Viennese coffee and cakes.
    Photo courtesy of Elizabeth Chai/Octane Coffee and Little Tart Bakeshop
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    Best of Barbecue
    Best of Barbecue
    Every Southern region has its own style of barbecue but, in Atlanta, smoked meat typically comes slathered in tomato-based sauce. Try it at local institutions like Fox Bros. Bar-B-Q (beloved for its beef brisket, pulled pork, and dinosaur-sized ribs) and Fat Matt’s Rib Shack (which offers live blues alongside quality eats). Located in an unassuming former gas station, Heirloom Market BBQ is another favorite for its South Korean twist on Southern classics. Also well worth a visit are Sam’s BBQ-1 and Dave Poe’s BBQ.
    Photo by Robert Gubbins/age fotostock
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    Queen of Soul Food
    Queen of Soul Food
    Established in 1997 by the queen of soul herself, Gladys Knight’s Signature Chicken and Waffles is a favorite for, well, chicken and waffles, as well as fried catfish, braised oxtail, and fixings like collard greens and black-eyed peas. Another popular soul food spot is Mary Mac’s Tea Room, where, for the past 70 years, locals have been chowing down on Southern staples like okra, chicken and dumplings, and Brunswick stew. At some point, the restaurant even earned the nickname “Atlanta’s Dining Room.” For a real taste of the south, however, try The Busy Bee Café, which opened in 1947 and still serves daily specials like chicken giblets.
    Photo by age fotostock
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    Sweet Treats
    Sweet Treats
    In Atlanta, there’s a delectable dessert for every palate. One of the best ice cream shops in town, Morelli’s is famous for its salted caramel but also serves unusual flavors like sweet corn and rosewater. If you’re more of a gelato person, head to Paolo’s, especially during happy hour when, for $20, you can get as many samples as you want. Mac Lab in Gwinnet is home to the Instagram-famous unicorn macaron, while Revolution Donuts has earned a cult following for its decadent treats.
    Photo by age fotostock
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    Creative Cocktails and Craft Brews
    Creative Cocktails and Craft Brews
    For some of the best cocktails in town, head to Holeman & Finch Public House, owned by James Beard Award-winning chef Linton Hopkins. The spot features so many rare liquors, wines, and beers that it even owns a bottle shop, where you can buy some of its most obscure selections. Other top bars include The Mercury (a mid-century-inspired lounge upstairs from Ponce City Market), Kimball House (which boasts an award-winning beverage program), and Brick Store Pub (named one of the top beer bars in the world for its extensive selection of Belgian brews). If all you want is a classic craft breer, try SweetWater Brewing Company, which is known for its heady brews.
    Photo by Caroline Eubanks