The Old Fourth Ward (O4W), a neighborhood just east of downtown Atlanta, has become a hotbed of development over the last decade, thanks in no small part to the Beltline pedestrian trail. The O4W portion of the Beltline, often referred to as the Eastside Trail, divides Old Fourth Ward to the west from the Poncey-Highland and Inman Park neighborhoods to the east.
But beyond the Beltline, Old Fourth Ward is filled with Craftsman-style bungalows and shotgun houses and historic attractions such as the home of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Ebenezer Baptist Church and the King Memorial in the nearby Sweet Auburn District.
As more people seek out places to live within this historic in-town neighborhood and weekend tourists flock here to meander down the Eastside Trail, the Old Fourth Ward is now one of the most pedestrian-friendly and restaurant-heavy areas in Atlanta. Here’s how one could spend 24 hours eating, drinking, and exploring the Old Fourth Ward.
9:00 a.m. Breakfast at Highland Bakery
One of the original restaurants still in business along Highland Avenue just off of the Freedom Park Trail (a Beltline spur), Highland Bakery serves up all-day Southern breakfast and brunch fare as well as fresh pastries. This Old Fourth Ward staple is typically packed on the weekends, but worth the wait for a piping hot Southern-style breakfast and a solid cup of coffee.
BREAKFAST ALTERNATIVES: Pancake Social at Ponce City Market for stacks of lemon ricotta, banana oat, or apple-spiced pancakes, a BEC, or a savory grits bowl. Mrs. P’s Bar and Kitchen at the Wylie Hotel on Ponce de Leon Avenue for an avocado tartine with prosciutto, poached eggs, and arugula, almond croissant French toast, and breakfast tacos.
10 a.m. Stroll along the Eastside Beltline Trail
Before heading down the Eastside Trail for a leisurely stroll, pop inside the central food hall at Ponce City Market to Spiller Park Coffee for a coffee or latte to go. The shop also offers toasts and muffins in the morning. Vegan market LaRayia’s Bodega serves cold-pressed juices and organic tea drinks starting at 10 a.m., with vegan dishes like Jamaican jerk jackfruit tacos, vegan nachos, and hearty superfood salads. Most restaurants and food stalls at the market typically open for lunch around 11 a.m.
Follow the signs inside the food hall to the Beltline. This pedestrian trail will eventually form an inner loop around Atlanta, linking dozens of neighborhoods together. Make sure to keep an eye out for local art installations, plantings from garden and nature conservation groups like Trees Atlanta, and street art created by Atlanta artists and muralists. There are plenty of restaurants and businesses to check out along the trail, too, as well as Historic Fourth Ward Park and its skate park.
12 p.m. Lunch at Glide Pizza
Owned by Rob Birdsong, Glide Pizza serves giant slices and 20-inch Brooklyn-style pies from its shops behind bicycle store the Spindle on Auburn Avenue. Order a slice or two and a beer from the takeout window out front. Then, find a seat outside along the railing or take your food to-go to enjoy in a nearby park. Friday and weekends are busy at Glide Pizza, so plan accordingly.
LUNCH ALTERNATIVE: Grab a pressed sandwich and a fresh fruit cup or smoothie from neighboring LottaFrutta. A number of restaurants are open for lunch along the Eastside Trail at SPX Alley, including Nina and Rafi Italian restaurant and Bell Street Burritos. Closer to Ponce City Market on the Eastside Trail, there’s Rina serving mezze, hummus, pita sandwiches, and frozen cocktails and Lady Ha nearby offering a mix of classic Vietnamese dishes and street eats.
1:00 p.m. Wander around the Krog Street Market complex
Just east of the Irwin Street Beltline entrance on the border between Old Fourth Ward and Inman Park, Krog Street Market and its food hall offer plenty of dining and drinking choices, including beer at Hop City’s bar, margaritas and tacos at Superica, and fresh-pressed juices, smoothies, and light snacks from Recess. Make sure to get a pastry from Little Tart Bakeshop. The burgers at Fred’s Meat and Bread are some of the best in the city and the hot catfish sandwiches at Soul: Food and Culture are not to be missed. Ticonderoga Club is the spot for cocktails later in the evening paired with dishes like the Ipswich clam roll, vegan noodle bowl, veal sweetbreads, or chuckwagon steak platter. The restaurant is currently closed for repairs, but should reopen in early May 2023. Krog Street Market does include a few retail shops.
AFTERNOON ACTIVITY: Head west along Auburn Avenue to explore the sites encompassing the Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historic Park, including his Atlanta home, the museum and eternal flame at the King Memorial, and Ebenezer Baptist Church.
3:00 p.m. Tea and snacks at Just Add Honey
Hop back onto the Eastside trail heading north toward Ponce City Market to Just Add Honey, a tea shop and market located behind Ladybird Grove and Mess Hall. Order a pot of tea and nibble on a pastry or cookie. Just Add Honey offers 40 tea blends, ranging from Chinese pu’erh to green and chamomile teas.
AFTERNOON SNACK ALTERNATIVES: Check out Biggerstaff Brewing Company’s patio on Edgewood Avenue for beer and/or a cup of coffee in the afternoon. Food is served starting at 4 p.m. Located at Irwin Street Market, order beignets with praline sauce and a cold brew from Yay Beignet.
5:00 p.m. Happy hour at Staplehouse Market
The award-winning restaurant on Edgewood Avenue transformed into a neighborhood market and counter-service restaurant in 2020. Order from the daily menu, which includes seasonal salads, grain bowls, unbelievable delicious sandwiches, and even pizza. Or create a charcuterie and cheese spread paired with fresh focaccia to share with friends over a bottle of wine. Cocktails are also available. Seating is located behind the building on the covered patio or in the garden.
HAPPY HOUR ALTERNATIVE: Ranger Station, located above Ladybird Mess Hall, for snacks and national park-themed cocktails like the El Capitan made with sage and cardamon-infused gin. Buena Vida Tapas for charcuterie, patatas bravas, croquetas, and cocktails on the patio overlooking the Eastside Trail.
7:00 p.m. Pasta and wine at A Mano
Located on Glen Iris Drive, this cozy neighborhood Italian bistro serves a tight menu of pastas with a bit of Southern flare. Order the classic cacio e pepe or try the fusilli with diver scallops, chard, and mushrooms tossed in a light cream sauce. Wine at A Mano is a must and the martinis here are the sleeper hit from the bar.
DINNER ALTERNATIVES: Ruby Chow’s for Peking duck buns, shoyu tamago, sake butter mussels, and pork belly and grits. Two Urban Licks on the Eastside Trail for salmon chips, salt and pepper calamari, crab cakes, and rotisserie chicken dinners. Kevin Rathbun Steak to indulge in a steak dinner with all the accoutrements. One Flew South near SPX Alley for bourbon miso cod over creamy stone grits, Szechuan-style short ribs, and a deviled egg flight.
10:30 p.m. Catch an improv comedy show at Dad’s Garage
Located in an old church on Ezzard Street near Staplehouse, Dad’s Garage is a non-profit theatre company featuring original plays and improv comedy shows from local actors, comedians, and playwrights. Late night shows usually begin around 10:30 p.m.
Post-11 p.m. Late-night pizza and beer or cocktails and ping-pong
After a show at Dad’s on the weekends (or a later evening alternative), turn left onto Edgewood Avenue and stroll down to Edgewood Pizza for a “King slice” and a beer or cross Boulevard and pop into quirky dive bar Sister Louisa’s Church for beer or a boozy slushie and a late-night game of ping-pong upstairs. Look for pop-up chefs in the kitchen here.
LATE-NIGHT ALTERNATIVE: Jack’s Pizza and Wings on Highland serves up jumbo slices, wings, and beer-and-shot combos into the wee hours of the morning.
9:00 a.m. Breakfast at Bomb Biscuit Co.
Located across from Highland Bakery, baker Erika Council opened this restaurant dedicated to the Southern buttermilk biscuit in 2022. During breakfast and lunch, folks line up to order her signature Glori-Fried chicken biscuit and other breakfast standards like the BEC biscuit topped with American cheese, maple butter chicken and waffles, or stack of buttermilk pancakes. Make sure to order one of the gooey cinnamon rolls if offered on the menu. Lines can be long on the weekends, so prepare for a wait that’s totally worth it. Open Wednesday through Sunday.