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Pan-seared salmon on a bed of callaloo and pureed scotch bonnet gnocchi from Continent.

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An Eater’s Guide to Atlanta

Where to eat, drink, and experience the dining scene around Georgia’s capital city

Pan-seared salmon on a bed of callaloo and pureed scotch bonnet gnocchi from Continent.
| Ryan Fleisher

Despite having the largest metropolitan area in the Southeast at just over 6 million people and the world’s busiest airport (Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International), Atlanta is mostly overlooked by outsiders obsessed with Southern food and culture. Charleston has Lowcountry cooking and scads of storied historic buildings along its streets. Nashville has hot chicken and its famed music row. And New Orleans gave birth to the American cocktail scene.

Atlanta doesn’t feature the same culinary buzz associated with those aforementioned destinations, but residents of the city and its sprawling metropolitan area know the secrets behind the dining scene here lie within the sheer diversity of restaurants and the fostering of ATL’s fierce entrepreneurial spirit. There’s more to Atlanta food than Southern fare.

Welcome to ATL

As Delta Air Lines in Atlanta blossomed in the 1960s, and more businesses set up shop in ATL, the populations of the city and its burgeoning metropolitan region have boomed. This flood of people from elsewhere has led to the unfair reputation of Atlanta being a “transplant city” without any culinary culture of its own. It’s true that there isn’t one ancient, unique dish locals point to as a mascot of sorts. Instead, Atlanta offers myriad examples of foodways. The global pantry influences all sorts of restaurants in Atlanta, as people from all over the world move here to take advantage of job opportunities in the tech and creative fields and north Georgia’s temperate climate. The latter also means Atlanta offers a robust outdoor dining scene and a patio season that often begins in March and stretches into early December.

As for food, expect to find restaurants around Atlanta serving everything from Filipino, Indian, Ethiopian, and Sichuan dishes to heaping plates of soul, Southern, and Colombian food and plenty of great barbecue and wings. With that, welcome to ATL or the A. Just please don’t call it “Hotlanta”.

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Lobster with creamy Thai chili lime, fondant potatoes, pearl onions, edible flowers, and roasted Brussels sprouts from Snap Thai Fish House in Buckhead, Atlanta
Lobster with creamy Thai chili lime, fondant potatoes, pearl onions, and edible flowers.
Snap Thai Fish House

Hot Restaurants: These are the hottest restaurant’s right now around Atlanta. The list includes Thai seafood dishes featuring sustainably raised and wild-caught fish, cold water lobster, and oysters at Snap Thai Fish House; Cuban and Mexican dishes rooted in veganism and family recipes from La Semilla; platters of Patak sausages and sauerkraut, giant Bavarian pretzels served with brown ale mustard, and entrees of currywurst paired with German, Belgium, and Austrian beers at the Wurst Beer Hall; and fresh takes on traditional Jamaican dishes and other Caribbean fare at Mobay Spice.

Essential Restaurants: Updated quarterly, the Eater 38 is chock full of excellent dining recommendations. The list includes longtime Atlanta staples, restaurants with loyal followings, and cult favorites locals love. The Eater 38 reflects the impressive diversity of Atlanta’s dining scene. This includes restaurants like Gullah- and Lowcountry fare from Virgil’s; takes on classic Italian-American dishes at Gigi’s; traditional French and Alsatian cuisine from Cafe Alsace; dishes inspired by the diaspora of African cuisine at Continent; the epic tasting menu from fine dining stalwart Bacchanalia; some of Atlanta’s best fried chicken at Busy Bee Cafe; and a cornerstone of Atlanta’s Brazilian community in market and buffet Minas Grill and Emporium.

Barbecue: Barbecue is a very big deal in Atlanta and, deservedly, requires its very own essentials list. While there are smokehouses all over the metro area, Atlanta’s best-of barbecue lists have been dominated by two names: Fox Bros., featuring Texas-style brisket at beef ribs, and Heirloom Market, which mixes Southern-American and Korean flavors. But this list is filled with tons of really great barbecue joints and is updated often with additional restaurants and pop-ups to check out. Sadly, a fire claimed the Riverside location of beloved B’s Cracklin’ Barbeque. However, owner Bryan Furman plans to open a brand new restaurant around the corner.

Classic Restaurants: While Atlanta’s newer restaurants tend to capture most of the spotlight, these longtime, classic dining institutions continue to stand the test of time.

Southern: Which foods fall under the “Southern” umbrella varies by region in the South. However, many people associate Southern food with down-home comfort dishes like fried chicken, cornbread, fried green tomatoes, grits, biscuits and gravy, and pimento cheese paired with sweet tea and banana pudding or pecan pie for dessert. Check out this list of Southern restaurants throughout Atlanta. There’s also Southern restaurant staples like the meat and three and Atlanta diners.

Soul Food: What’s the difference between soul food and Southern food? The phrase “soul food” was first coined in the 1960s, seemingly meant to describe the honest-to-goodness, comforting foods often prepared at home by African-American Southerners, with many dishes rooted in survival and the African diaspora. Atlanta has no shortage of great restaurants that identify cuisine served on the menu as soul food. Here are a few restaurants to try.

Restaurants Near the Airport: Whether you are an Atlanta local looking to grab a bite in the area or a weary traveler heading off the highway or staying in a nearby hotel, there is plenty of great food to be found at restaurants in cities and neighborhoods around Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport.

Lunch sees the counter at Southern diner Home Grown in Reynoldstown packed with people.
Matt Wong
Folks come in early for Home Grown’s signature comfy chicken biscuit.
Matt Wong

Vegetarian and Vegan Restaurants: Despite its reputation for wings and barbecue, Atlanta also features a thriving vegetarian and vegan dining scene. This list of Atlanta vegetarian and vegan restaurants includes menus offering everything from Chinese and Indian fare to raw food kitchens, and even a vegan pizzeria.

Wings: Atlanta knows wings, and there are plenty of great places around town offering flats, drums, and even that tiny extra part that some people eat as if it actually held meat. From smoked to fried, sweet and sour to extra-sauced, including the quintessential Atlanta wing flavor, lemon pepper, these restaurants are leading the wing pack.

Beer: Now that Georgia’s beer laws have been brought into the 21st century, drinkers can actually buy beers directly from breweries, by the glass in taprooms or up to a case to go. The updated laws also mean a new crop of breweries have opened around Atlanta, and more are yet to come. Here’s a list of the best breweries to check out around the metro right now.

Cocktails: Despite numerous hurdles caused by the pandemic, bars are slowly coming back online in Atlanta. Now, in addition to grabbing a seat at the bar for cocktails, many establishments are also putting greater emphasis on outdoor seating on spacious patios, offering drink kits to compile at home, or serving to-go cocktails to enjoy outdoors. Here are a few of Atlanta’s newest drinking destinations and libation pop-ups.

Hotel Bars: As more Atlanta hotels focus attention on upping the drinks game, greater emphasis is being placed on well-curated cocktail and wine lists meant to attract both locals and ATL tourists. Grab drinks at one of these hotel bars around Atlanta.

Burgers: Atlantans love a good burger, and there are plenty to choose from here. When one is choosing their favorite from the list of Atlanta’s best burgers, one must consider whether they prefer the double-stack or single, thick patty cooked to temperature.

Breakfast: Atlanta isn’t lacking in restaurants serving up a variety of takes on the morning meal. Eater’s breakfast map is filled with some of metro Atlanta’s best bets for biscuits, pancakes, bacon, eggs, and, most importantly, coffee to kick the day off right.

Brunch: In a city like Atlanta, where folks like to have a variety of dining options on the table, there’s one surefire way to remind people that ATL is indeed a Southern city — all-day brunch restaurants. Check out these restaurants serving brunch all day and Atlanta restaurants with fresh new versions of brunch.

Coffee: This city’s love for coffee means there are plenty of quality independent shops to seek out around Atlanta. Check out Eater’s lengthy list of essential Atlanta coffee shops, coffee pop-ups, and roasteries.

Fried Chicken: There’s plenty of great fried chicken to be had in and around Atlanta, from platters served at southern and soul food restaurants that have been in business for decades, to original takes by relative newcomers on ATL’s fried chicken scene.

Expect jerk chicken atop sweet potato waffles, grits with fried catfish and shrimp, and coffee-rubbed steak and eggs at the Breakfast Boys in College Park, GA. The Breakfast Boys

LGBTQ Bars: Atlanta is the capital of the queer South, and the city’s got the gay bars to prove it. Whether looking for a night of dancing, enough televisions to watch every game imaginable with a beer, or simply to satisfy the kinky side, there’s a bar for all that in Atlanta. Here are just a few of the great gay bars and restaurants to check out around Atlanta.

Patios: Atlanta’s lengthy warm season sees the city enjoying outdoor living and al fresco dining nearly ten months out of the year. That also means Atlanta is full of great patios like these. Consider these rooftop patios with serious views, a covered patio for when Atlanta’s weather is less than pleasant, or these patios offering outdoor fireplaces and fire pits.

Wine Shops: Many people have turned to their local wine shop for guidance on bottles to purchase for meals at home or to pair with takeout from restaurants for picnics in the park. Here are a few Atlanta shops and markets to check out offering outstanding wine selections on the shelves, ranging from natural and biodynamic to Old World reds and whites. Check out these wine bars and tastings rooms around Atlanta.

Anticipated Restaurant Openings: Want to know the restaurants to get excited about opening around Atlanta over the next year? Check out this continually updated list of anticipated restaurant openings broken down by neighborhood.

Neighborhoods to Know

Blandtown/Underwood Hills/Westside Provisions

This burgeoning area of town includes a slew of great restaurants found at spots like Westside Provisions District, such as West Egg Cafe, Cooks and Soldiers, Taqueria Del Sol, Forza Storico, Marcel, and Aziza, and emerging complexes like the Interlock and Star Metals on Howell Mill Road. But get beyond this dense dining district in northwest Atlanta to check out other award-winning restaurants like Miller Union, Star Provisions and Bacchanalia, and Twisted Soul Cookhouse and Pours, and the area’s bustling brewery scene in Blandtown and Underwood Hills. Drop by the new food hall, Chattahoochee Food Works, backed by celebrity chef Andrew Zimmern. Maybe consider ending an evening out at the iconic Northside Tavern, which is still playing the blues and slinging shots of Wild Turkey well into the wee hours after decades on Howell Mill.

Mission + Market in Buckhead
Mission and Market in Buckhead
Ryan Fleisher


This neighborhood isn’t as trendy as it once was, but Buckhead is still home to some of the best high-end restaurants in Atlanta. Atlas, located in the St. Regis hotel, is high-priced, but the exquisite menu and beautifully adorned walls make it a refuge for those who miss traditional fine dining. After receiving a fresh coat of paint, Gerry Klaskala’s Aria feels updated while continuing to serve well-executed European cuisine mixed with Southern ingredients. For those seeking different takes on Italian, try chef Ford Fry’s stunner St. Cecilia across from Phipps Plaza. Then there’s the newer additions to the Buckhead dining scene like Mission & Market and Little Alley Steak. Consider Storico Fresco for classic pasta dishes and plenty of Italian wine.

The charola platter with crab legs, langoustines, shrimp, clams, and fried fish at Mariscos La Riviera Nayarit
The charola platter with crab legs, langoustines, shrimp, clams, and fried fish at Mariscos La Riviera Nayarit in Norcross
Ryan Fleisher

Buford Highway

Buford Highway isn’t a single neighborhood or its own municipality. It’s a four-lane highway stretching from the tip of Brookhaven just north of the city of Atlanta to Duluth in the northern suburban county of Gwinnett filled with restaurants and markets representing nearly two dozen countries from around the globe. In other words, Buford Highway is a gourmand’s paradise featuring foods from nations like Vietnam and Korea to Mexico and Colombia. Deciding where and what to eat along Buford Highway can be overwhelming so, Eater compiled this list of essential restaurants to try. It’s just the tip of the culinary iceberg along this road. There are also upward of 20 marisquerias (Mexican seafood restaurants) around metro Atlanta to explore, too. Make sure to explore the restaurants found on streets adjacent to Buford Highway, including the food court at Atlanta Chinatown.

Match Bamboo Lounge at the corner of Stonewall and Walker streets in the Castleberry Hill 
Match Bamboo Lounge at the corner of Stonewall and Walker streets in the Castleberry Hill
Curbed Atlanta

Castleberry Hill

The historic neighborhood of Castleberry Hill lies west of downtown Atlanta and directly in the shadows of the Mercedes-Benz Stadium and State Farm Arena. The neighborhood turned its many industrial warehouses and buildings into art galleries, loft spaces, restaurants, and music venues. This hip and trendy neighborhood is home to an eclectic mix of musicians and creatives, and often sees its restaurants and bars hosting celebrities and Falcons, Hawks, and Atlanta United soccer fans on game days. Dining options here include neighborhood hangouts like Bottle Rocket, serving an interesting mix of fresh sushi, fried rice bowls, burgers, and even a steak and sushi combo. There’s also Dat Fire Jerk Chicken three blocks from the Benz on Northside Drive, which dubbed itself “Atlanta’s best jerk chicken”. In nearby Vine City, try BJT Wings for the quintessential Atlanta wing flavor, lemon pepper, and the iconic Busy Bee Cafe, which serves some of Atlanta’s best fried chicken. For cocktails and light bites, be sure to check out cocktail bar Parlor in the heart of Castleberry Hill. Members of Southern rap quartet Nappy Roots also opened their brewery Atlantucky Brewing in the neighborhood.

The Iberian Pig, in a low brick building with yellow neon signs; there are people dining at tables along a fall leave-covered sidewalk.
The Iberian Pig in Decatur
Ryan Fleisher


Located directly east of the Atlanta city limits, this municipality boasts a charming downtown and some of the metro area’s finest bars and restaurants all within a few blocks. An ideal evening starts at Kimball House for some of the best cocktails and the best oyster selection in town, or at Victory Sandwich Bar for light snacks, beers, and Jack and Coke slushies. Grab a seat on the patio at the Deer and the Dove for crispy rabbit legs fried in fermented buttermilk and grilled octopus and shrimp terrine. Want traditional Southern for dinner? Head to Revival for dinner. Or dig into Italian food at the White Bull just off of Decatur Square. For Spanish tapas pop over to Iberian Pig on the square. Head to critically acclaimed restaurant Chai Pani for Indian street food or dine on pub grub paired with beer at Brick Store Pub or cocktails and bar bites at Leon’s Full Service around the corner. Beyond downtown, Las Brasas is home to a variety of Peruvian roasted meats

Fireworks at Centennial Park in Downtown Atlanta
Fireworks display at Centennial Park in downtown Atlanta
Ryan Fleisher


Downtown Atlanta is home to the city’s biggest tourist attractions like the Center for Civil and Human Rights, College Football Hall of Fame, and Georgia Aquarium, not to mention the towering transformer that is Mercedes-Benz Stadium and the revamped home of the Atlanta Hawks, State Farm Arena. While the area caters mostly to office dwellers, college students from Georgia State, and tourists, there are plenty of off-the-beaten-path dining options like Dua Vietamese, Aamar Indian Cuisine, and Mediterranean dishes from Aviva by Kameel. For those looking for dinner and a view, make a reservation at the iconic SunDial Restaurant or rotating rooftop restaurant Polaris. Trader Vic’s in the Hilton Downtown is a must-visit for those seeking stiff tiki drinks like the fogcutter or original mai tai.

A round of compact white rice topped with shrimp and crab gravy at Virgil’s in College Park, Georgia.
Shrimp and crab gravy at Virgil’s Gullah Kitchen
Ryan Fleisher

East Point/College Park/Hapeville (Tri-Cities)

Newcomers to Atlanta, as well as those who work in or travel to the city, may have heard of the towns of East Point, College Park, and Hapeville referred to as the “ATL Airport District.” But residents of the area (and old-school Atlanta natives) still call it the Tri-Cities. Its namesake high school and assortment of landmarks were made famous on albums by former East Point residents André 3000 and Big Boi, the duo behind Outkast. The Tri-Cities are filled with some of metro Atlanta’s best kept secrets, including Taco Pete, a West Coast-style taco stand in East Point serving everything from tacos to hot dogs to great wings. There’s Hattie Marie’s Texas-style barbecue, Bole Ethiopian, and Virgil’s Gullah Kitchen and Bar in College Park. Volare brings Southern-French fancy to Hapeville. Check out this neighborhood guide for more great restaurant options written by longtime East Point resident and Atlanta journalist Mike Jordan.

The empty bar with color string lights at Ticonderoga Club inside Krog Street Market
Ticonderoga Club inside Krog Street Market
Ticonderoga Club

Inman Park

Atlanta’s first streetcar suburb has been home to some quality dining options for quite some time, but the neighborhood has exploded with development in recent years. Krog Street Market, with its food stalls and craft beer bar, is almost always packed at peak hours. Krog Street Market features a few Atlanta dining scene veterans, including chef Todd Richards and his soul food stall Soul: Food and Culture and the team behind Ticonderoga Club, serving a mix of Asian, Southern, and New England fare paired with creative cocktails. Elsewhere, BoccaLupo turns out Atlanta’s best pasta, and Sotto Sotto is a go-to for multi-course Italian feasts. Bread & Butterfly has become a destination for French bistro fare and great wines by the glass. Diners will forget about Chipotle forever after one bite at Bell Street Burritos, which also has locations in Buckhead and Tucker. And, tucked away on Lake Avenue is a quaint breakfast and lunch spot named Julianna’s serving Hungarian-style crepes made from an old family recipe.

The newly opened Staplehouse market on Edgewood Avenue in Atlanta with two people ordering meats and cheese at the counter from a masked employee during the pandemic of 2020
Staplehouse Market includes a daily menu of sandwiches, bowls, light bites, and pastries, including its famed chicken liver tart
Ryan Fleisher

Old Fourth Ward

No Atlanta neighborhood has seen more change due to BeltLine-related growth than the Old Fourth Ward. O4W is home to Ponce City Market, which features restaurants and food stalls from Atlanta chefs such as Anne Quatrano, Linton Hopkins, and Hector Santiago in the market’s Central Food Hall. In the shadow of Ponce City Market is 8Arm, serving some of the best cocktails and its ever-evolving food menu. Further up the road on Ponce, the Hotel Clermont includes fine dining at Tiny Lou’s above where the ladies dance at the Clermont Lounge. Further east, check out the restaurants and bars within the Edgewood Avenue dining district, including a location of Slutty Vegan, Edgewood Pizza, Our Bar ATL, Joystick Gamebar, Noni’s, and Sister Louisa’s Church of the Living Room & Ping Pong Emporium. Pop by Staplehouse market for a bottle of wine and snacks from chef Ryan Smith and his team, and take a seat in the garden patio or head next door for beer, coffee, and a meal at Biggerstaff Brewing with its sunny front patio. There are also a slew of dining options all along the Eastside Beltline trail from Ponce City Market to Krog Street Market, and beyond. But, be sure to seek out other spots around the area, including pizzeria Glide Pizza and its walk-up window at Studioplex, sandwich shop and market LottaFrutta, and restaurants in neighboring Poncey-Highland like Southern Belle and El Ponce.

Two people walking into Little Bear on Georgia Avenue in Summerhill Atlanta to grab takeout amid COVID-19 on March 21
Little Bear on Georgia Avenue in Summerhill.
Ryan Fleisher


A neighborhood founded by former enslaved people just after the Civil War, later becoming home to the majority of the city’s Jewish population in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, Summerhill has long been a place for Atlantans to strike out on their own and open successful businesses. That entrepreneurial spirit continues today with the latest generation of restaurant and business owners here in the neighborhood and along its burgeoning Main Street: Georgia Avenue. Head to Summerhill for clever takes on Thai food paired with wine and cocktails at Talat Market or chef Jarrett Stieber tapping into his Jewish roots with hints of Sichuan spice at Little Bear, along with a variety of casual restaurants serving pizza, fried chicken sandwiches, hot dogs, and barbecue. There’s beer and bites and even a beer garden from brewery Halfway Crooks, soft serve ice cream at Big Softie, and coffee and fresh pastries form Little Tart Bakeshop. New restaurants open here every year, including Mexican restaurant D Boca N Boca and Southern National from former One Flew South chef Duane Nutter and restaurateur Reginald “Reggie” Washington.

West End/Westview

Surrounding I-20 on Atlanta’s southwest side lie the neighborhoods of West End and Westview, home to Atlanta’s historic Black colleges Clark Atlanta University, Spelman, and Morehouse. The neighborhoods are filled with plenty of great dining options, including many of the city’s best vegan and vegetarian restaurants like Soul Vegetarian as well as casual spots like D Cafe serving breakfast and lunch staples and Slutty Vegan for its line-inducing meatless burgers. Check out brewpub Lean Draft House or bar and restaurant Bogg’s Social and Supply. The Lee + White complex in West End is anchored by several local food and beverage purveyors such Best End Brewing, Hop City Craft Beer & Wine’s Boxcar gastropub, and second locations of ASW Distillery and Monday Night Brewing’s Garage brewing facility.

Reservations to Make in Advance

Popular restaurants Aria, Spring, Bacchanalia, Miller Union, Gunshow, Lazy Betty, Lucian Books and Wine, and edomae-style sushi restaurant Mujo all require advanced booking. Consider one of these restaurants when looking to splurge on a night out on the town.

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