- In the past five years, Atlanta chefs have garnered 60 semifinalist nominations for James Beard Awards.
- James Beard Award semifinalists for 2017 include Sarah O’Brien for Outstanding Baker; Ford Fry, Eddie Hernandez and Mike Klank for Outstanding Restaurateur; Billy Allin, Kevin Gillespie, Steve Satterfield and Ryan Smith for Best Chef Southeast.
- Staplehouse in Atlanta’s Old Fourth Ward neighborhood was a James Beard Award semifinalist for Best New Restaurant and was also named the No. 1 Best New Restaurant on Bon Appetit’s Hot 10 List for 2016.
- The Optimist and Holeman & Finch made The Daily Meal’s 101 Best Restaurants in America 2016 list, while UMI and Gypsy Kitchen were included on OpenTable’s Top 100 Restaurants for 2016.
- Atlanta hosts more than 20 food festivals annually including Atlanta Food & Wine Festival, Cabbagetown Chomp & Stomp, Attack of the Killer Tomato Festival and Atlanta Street Food Festival.
- WalletHub included Atlanta on its 2016 Best Foodie Cities list, scoring high for the diversity, accessibility and quality of the city’s dining scene.
Atlanta’s Dining Scene Brings High-End Down-Home
Atlanta boasts everything from upscale gourmet cuisine to progressive variations of Southern staples and local, chef-driven restaurants. What makes Atlanta’s dining scene special is its variety. Atlanta restaurants are relaxed and welcome diners with open arms. Eateries in Atlanta cater to each unique neighborhood and invoke the feeling of dining at a friend’s house, rather than a restaurant. Even the city’s most high-end restaurants dish out a down-home feel.
Atlanta’s chefs incorporate fresh, local ingredients to serve up the best in New South cuisine with creative twists on Grandma’s traditional Southern meals. One of Atlanta’s finest examples of the farm-to-table experience is One Eared Stag where chef Robert Phalen dishes out freshly picked and prepared food. James Beard Award-winner Hugh Acheson’s Empire State South boasts traditional Southern cuisine with a twist, including its signature chow chow, while Steven Satterfield’s Miller Union features a farmstead-inspired menu with pickled vegetables and fresh seafood options. JCT. Kitchen & Bar, created by chef Ford Fry, offers its own take on Southern favorites with chicken and dumplings, shrimp and grits and short ribs. Chef Bruce Logue created a menu at BoccaLupo that features home-style Italian dishes that twist the traditional pasta and meat dishes into new, fresh plates.
Food Halls Highlight Atlanta’s Array of Flavors
Atlanta’s markets have a history of launching careers of local restauranteurs. Sweet Auburn Curb Market, Atlanta’s oldest public market, gave a home to businesses like Grindhouse Killer Burgers and Bell Street Burritos before they grew to occupy their own storefronts.
Prominently located along the Atlanta BeltLine Eastside Trail, Ponce City Market is a culinary hub connecting Atlanta’s most popular intown neighborhoods. Its Central Food Hall includes stalls from some of Atlanta’s popular James Beard Award-winning chefs including Anne Quatrano and Linton Hopkins, as well as sit-down eateries for a full-service meal. Krog Street Market is housed in a 1920s warehouse in Inman Park with Southern-grown restaurants and retailers nestled between a variety of food stalls. Foodies will find everything from fried chicken to Szechuan-style dumplings and noodles. Across the street, Irwin Street Market is a community of artisan food-based businesses all located under one roof.
Old-School Southern Favorites
Guests to Atlanta often ask where to go for the best traditional down-home Southern cuisine. Established favorites among tourists and locals include institutions like Mary Mac’s Tea Room, serving classic Southern food in the heart of Atlanta since 1945; and Pittypat’s Porch, a downtown landmark named after Aunt Pittypat Hamilton from Gone with the Wind. Paschal’s has all the makings for upscale Southern fare, including the Paschal brothers’ secret fried chicken recipe. The Varsity, the world’s largest drive-in, offers “naked dogs walking" and will forever remain an Atlanta staple.
Atlanta’s Ale Trail
The entrepreneurial spirit of Atlantans led to a recent surge in craft breweries. Atlanta’s craft beer history dates back to 1993 when Red Brick Brewing Co., originally named Atlanta Brewing Company, opened its doors. In 1997, Freddy Bensch and Kevin McNerny opened a West Coast-style brewery, SweetWater Brewing Company. Sweetwater is Atlanta’s largest brewery and celebrates 20 years of brewing in 2017.
Atlanta’s breweries form an unofficial “ale trail” starting on the Westside at Red Brick Brewing Co. The hip Westside neighborhood is also home to Monday Night Brewing, born from a Monday night Bible study turned weeknight brewing club, while SweetWater Brewing Company’s signature 420 was born on Atlanta’s Eastside. The trail continues to the city’s newest brewing contender, Torched Hop Brewing Company, located on Ponce de Leon Avenue. Overlooking Piedmont Park, Orpheus Brewing serves up beers influenced by Greek mythology. Ten minutes south in Little Five Points is Wrecking Bar Brewpub, owned by a couple who gave up the corporate grind to pursue their dream of brewing. Nearby Decatur is home to three breweries of its own – Three Taverns Brewery, BlueTarp Brewing Co. and Wild Heaven Craft Brew.
Cocktails and Competition
Atlanta’s nightlife scene provides more than just a place to have a drink with friends. Increasingly, establishments are popping up around the city offering games like backgammon, arcade classics and even table tennis. Ormsby’s, located on the Westside, has everything you need to test your bocce ball, darts, pool and shuffleboard skills. Board games or classic video games can be played with friends at Joystick Gamebar on Edgewood Avenue. Down the street from Joystick, Sister Louisa’s Church of the Living Room and Ping Pong (known simply by locals as “Church”) showcases the faux-religious pop art of Grant Henry and has quickly become a favorite stop for celebrities in town for filming. Here, patrons can play a round of ping pong or don a choir robe for Church Organ karaoke. Game-X, located in downtown Atlanta’s Centennial Park District, offers a high-tech, modern game-bar experience.