No matter how many exotic countries I visit; delectable, international, dishes I devour; or incredible people I meet along the way, there is no place like home. For me, home is none other than the sweet Peach State of Georgia. The place where everybody is referred to as honey, sugar, sweetheart, and baby; where southern charmers will leave you feeling like you’ve just made a new BFF in the span of a 20 second elevator ride; and where iced tea is unmitigated blasphemy. It’s sweet diabetic coma inducing tea, or nothing at all (this is not up for debate).
Ahhh yes, Georgia…there is no place on Earth like it. Though born and raised in the small town of Rome, I have called Atlanta home for the last 8 years, and if it’s one thing that Atlanta does well, it’s FOOD!
Being dubbed as “The Melting Pot of the South”, Atlanta’s diverse population, undoubtedly, spills over onto its cuisine scene, making this city a concoction of palatable perfection.
Here you’ll find everything from “down home” diners serving up hefty helpings of Southern staples like collard greens, mac and cheese, and of course fried chicken, to upscale eateries that are certain to satiate your fine foodie tastes.
A recent trip home inspired me to compile and share a list of some of my favorite Atlanta Restaurants. Here are my Top 9 (yes, 9…not the typical 10) Must-Try Restaurants, in no particular order:
Pure Taqueria (lunch/dinner): There’s nothing I love more than a great taco…besides a great taco accompanied by an even better margarita. Pure nails them both. There are 6 locations in Atlanta, but I frequent the Inman Park location the most. The service never disappoints and I love the outdoor seating area in the warmer months. My faves are the Pescado (grilled) taco and Camarón (grilled) taco, both on flour tortillas. The Carne Asada taco is pretty darn good too! You can’t go wrong with any of the margaritas, but the Peach margarita and Coconut 1800 margarita (not on the menu) are AMAZEBALLS!
Address: 300 North Highland Avenue Northeast, Atlanta, GA 30307
Highland Bakery (breakfast/brunch/lunch): Serving up an array of decadent pastries, desserts, and breads, along with a full breakfast, brunch, and lunch menu, this is my breakfast/brunch go to spot. Before moving to Korea it was an every weekend ritual. There are several locations, but again, I’d have to say my favorite is the Old 4th Ward/Highland location (on the same street as Pure). This place gets packed FAST! So, be sure to get there early, or be prepared to wait. My go to meal are the Sweet Potato Pancakes, served with warm caramelized brown sugar butter and toasted pecans, and a side of bacon.
Address: 655 Highland Ave NE, Atlanta, GA 30312
Leon’s Full Service (lunch/dinner): As once an old gas station, this Decatur eatery offers great food and atmosphere. Admittedly, I frequent here mostly in the warmer months so that I can take advantage of the amazing patio area, but the inside area is just as nice and atmospheric. This restaurant pairs American cuisine with a great beer and, not your average, cocktail selection. My favorite dish is the Pork Shank. Cocktail? I try different ones each time I go, so I can’t say that I have a favorite.
Address: 131 E Ponce de Leon Ave, Decatur, GA 30030
Busy Bee Café (lunch/dinner): Looking for a no-frills, “down home”, soul food experience…this is your place! You honestly can’t go wrong with anything on the menu. My suggestions, fried chicken (of course) or pork chops (smothered or fried). And don’t forget the dessert! Take your pick from a number of sweet treats. My favorite, peach cobbler!
Address: 810 Martin Luther King Drive
Ria’s Bluebird (breakfast/brunch): Sitting across from the Historic Oakland Cemetery, this quirky little Grant Park restaurant is both vegan and gluten-free friendly. If tempeh and tofu isn’t your thing, no worries, you can still enjoy an order of the “World’s Best Pancakes”, as described by The New York Times. I mean doesn’t the sound of fluffy, buttery pancakes topped with caramelized bananas, hot maple syrup, toasted pecans, and chocolate chips just make you salivate profusely?
Or is it that just me?
At any rate, if you want to go with a slightly healthier option, you can try one of my favorites, the Bionic Breakfast. It is a mountain of skillet potatoes with sautéed mushrooms, zucchini, red & poblano peppers, topped with spicy tofu sauce. Sounds delish, right?! That’s because it is! There is usually a wait at Ria’s and parking is a bee sting, so be prepared. But, it is worth the wait and, possible, 3-block walk. Trust me on this.
Address: 421 Memorial Dr. SE, Atlanta, GA 30312, United States
Serpas True Food (dinner): Ahhh Serpas. I love every single thing about this place. The industrial chic aesthetic of Serpas leads way to a classy yet laid back ambiance that is perfect for any occasion…birthday dinners, dates, or simply for your own self-indulgence. Owner, Scott Serpas, definitely brings his Louisiana flare to this Old 4th Ward eatery. As I recently discovered, some of my all time favorites are no longer on the menu, but I wasn’t too surprised as the menu changes based on seasonal availability. Despite that, there are some items that remain constant and are must try’s; my faves being the Flash Fried Oysters and the Berkshire Pork Chop. The oysters are hands down the best I’ve ever had.
Serpas is on the pricier side, compared to the other restaurants on my list, but it is worth every penny.
Tin Lizzy’s Cantina (lunch/dinner): Ok, I know earlier I said “There’s nothing I love more than a great taco…besides a great taco accompanied by an even better margarita.” Well, I left out one part. There’s nothing I love more than a great taco, besides a great taco accompanied by an even better margarita…AND live music! Tin Lizzy’s has it all! And that is why when my friends and I can’t decide where to go, it is ALWAYS our go to. Sometimes it’s the first stop of many, and sometimes it’s an event all on its own. It has great atmosphere, great food, and great margaritas…it is our old faithful. It never disappoints. There are several locations around Atlanta. I love and frequent them all. But just a head’s up, the midtown location you will likely have to pay for parking in a public parking lot across the street. Some of my faves, the Southern Comfort taco and the Buffalo Shrimp taco. I also love building my own nachos. And to wash it all down, you have a myriad of options to choose from…Watermelon Basil margarita, anyone?
Location Information: http://www.tinlizzyscantina.com/locations.html
Jack’s Pizza (lunch/dinner): Admittedly, I have only eaten at the actual restaurant once. BUT, I have ordered delivery from here a shameful amount of countless times. So, if you’re in the Midtown/Highland area and craving pizza and wings this is your place.
Jack’s eclectic menu includes pizzas such as the Chili Cheese Dog pizza, topped with homemade chili, hot dogs, bacon, red onions, ketchup and mustard. And if that doesn’t tickle your fancy, perhaps you can go for the Soul Food pizza that is topped with fried chicken, mashed potatoes, collard greens, and covered with gravy. And if you were wondering, the fall off the bone, baked wings are just as flavorful with the likes of Strawberry, Cinnamon, and Wasabi.
If you make your way to the restaurant you’ll see it definitely has a hipster, dive bar feel. If you opt for delivery be prepared to wait at least an hour. It’s worth it.
Folk Art (All day): I heart Folk Art. This is one of those places that simply makes my heart smile. It’s actually located on the same street as Highland Bakery, Jack’s, and Pure. Can you tell I have a slight obsession with this area? I can’t help myself. It’s my old neighborhood, and my absolute favorite. Maybe this post should have been called My Favorite Restaurants on Highland Ave…hmmm. Ok, back to the subject at hand. This place is a gem. It has a laid back vibe with a vintage, rustic, almost diner feel. I can’t speak for the dinner options, but I love their brunch menu. My fave is the Fried Chicken and Waffle with whiskey peach compote (listed on the menu as Foul Play).
Address: 465 North Highland Avenue Northeast, Atlanta, GA 30307
Phone: +1 404-537-4493
So, there you have it. 9 must-try Atlanta Restaurants. Have you dined at any of these restaurants? What was your experience? What are some of your favorite ATL Restaurants?