Atlanta Dining

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Atlanta Dining
Atlanta boasts cuisine from all around the world and the city's restaurants and chefs have won many accolades, but the backbone of local dining is still hefty portions of tangy 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
    The James Beard Foundation has bestowed its honors upon many of Atlanta's restaurants. Chef Linton Hopkins won Best Chef Southeast in 2012 for his work at Restaurant Eugene. Steven Satterfield, chef of Miller Union, was nominated in the Best Chef Southeast category; Chef Hugh Acheson, of Empire State South, has also been nominated. Chefs Anne Quatrano and Clifford Harrison own Bacchanalia, Atlanta's most celebrated restaurant and highly rated in the Zagat guide since the 1990s. Richard Blais, winner of Top Chef: All Stars, is creative director of the ultra-modern Flip Burger Boutique.
    Photo courtesy of Heidi Geldhauser/Miller Union
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    World Cuisine
    A recent influx of residents from all over the world means that Atlanta has a wide variety of cuisines. Start at Buford Highway and continue along that corridor for the best Korean, Chinese, Vietnamese, Cambodian, Mexican, and Bangladeshi spots. Nuevo Laredo Cantina on the Westside is a local favorite and is almost always packed. Nick's To Go in Grant Park is a simple Greek takeaway joint with delicious and authentic gyros and hummus. For a taste of Persia, try the Sandy Springs restaurant Rumi's Kitchen. And for a Bangkok street food experience in a fine dining setting, check out the rooftop location of Tuk Tuk Thai Food Loft.
    Photo by Caroline Eubanks
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    A Multitude of Markets
    To get the full local food experience, stop by one of Atlanta's numerous farmers' markets, many of which operate on different days of the week. The Atlanta State Farmers Market in Forest Park has more than 150 acres of wholesale and retail food vendors. The Peachtree Road Farmers Market in Buckhead has some of the city's most beloved vendors, including H&F Bread Company, Souper Jenny, and King of Pops. Looking for more international foods? Stop by the Buford Highway Farmers Market. For unusual ingredients and prepared foods, try the Sweet Auburn Curb Market.
    Photo by Caroline Eubanks
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    Every Day Is Brunch Day
    Even with so many beloved restaurants to choose from, everyone has their own favorite brunch spot. You may have to wait until 12:30 p.m. for that Bloody Mary or mimosa because of local laws, but it will be worth it. West Egg Café on the Westside is one of the best in town, but expect to wait for their boozy milkshakes and fluffy biscuits. The Flying Biscuit, a café opened by a member of the Indigo Girls, is another favorite, particularly the Candler Park location. Cafe Jonah in Buckhead offers a "pay what you think it's worth" option that benefits local charities. Highland Bakery has monstrous French toast and Ria's Bluebird puts a vegetarian spin on Southern fried favorites; both are in the Old Fourth Ward.
    Photo courtesy of West Egg Café
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    Get Your Caffeine Fix
    If you think Atlantans only drink sweet tea, think again—they love their coffee as much as anyone else. Octane Coffee is a popular choice, and their Grant Park location offers delicious sandwiches and pastries from Little Tart Bake Shop to accompany your organic specialty coffee. Dancing Goats, next to the Ponce City Market, is another great spot known for its outdoor space and Batdorf & Bronson roasts. Drink coffee for good at Roswell's Land of a Thousand Hills, which benefits farmers in Rwanda. And for the European coffee shop experience, Café Intermezzo is a chain that offers Viennese coffee and cakes.
    Photo courtesy of Elizabeth Chai/Octane Coffee and Little Tart Bakeshop
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    Best of Barbecue
    Each region in the South has its own style of barbecue. Atlanta's barbecue joints typically use a tomato-based sauce to cover their pulled pork or ribs. Fox Bros Bar-B-Q is one of the most popular in town, serving up beef brisket, pulled pork, and dinosaur-sized ribs. Fat Matt’s Rib Shack is an Atlanta institution, serving up live blues nightly alongside its quality eats. Heirloom Market BBQ is an unassuming former gas station that puts a South Korean twist on the Southern classic. Sam's BBQ-1 and Dave Poe's BBQ are two more spots that are well worth visiting.
    Photo by Robert Gubbins/age fotostock
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    Queen of Soul Food
    Gladys Knight's Chicken & Waffles Concepts was established by the queen of soul herself in 1997 and offers—what else?—chicken and waffles, as well as fried catfish, braised oxtail, and all the fixings like collard greens and black eyed peas. Mary Mac’s Tea Room is another well-known restaurant, and offers much more than tea. For the last 70 or so years, Mary Mac's has been feeding locals and visitors Southern staples like Brunswick stew, okra, and chicken and dumplings, and has even been named "Atlanta's Dining Room." The Busy Bee Café, opened in 1947, features daily specials like chicken giblets alongside regular menu items like fried chicken.
    Photo by age fotostock
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    Sweet Treats
    Atlanta offers a delectable dessert for every palate. If ice cream is your treat of choice, Morelli's is one of the best in town. The shop is famous for the salted caramel—but be sure to taste the more unusual flavors like sweet corn and rosewater. Paolo's Gelato is as close as you'll get to Italy in the South. Pie Shop in Buckhead offers the flavor of homemade pie but without your having to dirty a pan. Go for one of their happy hours and get as many samples as you want for $20. Alon’s Bakery provides another taste of Europe with a classic selection of eclairs, soufflés, and buttery croissants.
    Photo by age fotostock
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    Creative Cocktails and Craft Brews
    Cocktails are their own art form and none are more impressive than those made by the staff at the James Beard award–winning Holeman & Finch Public House. They sell their own ingredients at their bottle shop and the menu is constantly changing, so ask the staff what you should be ordering. The Mercury is a mid-century inspired lounge upstairs at Ponce City Market serving classic and funky cocktails. Beer lovers will enjoy Ormsby’s extensive selection and indoor bocce court. Brick Store Pub has the best selection of Belgian beers in the city and was named one of the top beer bars in the world. For a classic craft brew, try SweetWater Brewing Company.
    Photo by Caroline Eubanks