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Oxtail; habanero peppers, all spice, scallion from the Grey in Savannah, GA.
Oxtail with habanero peppers, all spice, and scallions.
The Grey

Where Atlanta’s Food Industry Pros Like to Eat and Drink Around the South

From Little Rock to New Orleans to Wake Forest

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Oxtail with habanero peppers, all spice, and scallions.
| The Grey

When traveling around the South, it’s easy to gravitate toward online dining lists and local print guides to scout a particular city’s most popular destinations for eating and drinking. But there’s nothing like a recommendation from a restaurant industry insider, such as a chef, bartender, or sommelier. Here are 19 restaurants, coffee shops, and bars to check out while traveling throughout the South recommended by Atlanta chefs, bartenders, and coffee and wine shop owners.

Have other favorite restaurants in the South to share? Send Eater Atlanta the details via the tipline.

Disclaimer: Health experts consider dining out to be a high-risk activity for the unvaccinated; the latest data about the delta variant indicates that it may pose a low-to-moderate risk for the vaccinated, especially in areas with substantial transmission. The latest CDC guidance is here; find a COVID-19 vaccination site here. It is highly advised people wear masks indoors or when in crowded situations, regardless of vaccination status, to help mitigate the spread of COVID-19.

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Note: Restaurants on this map are listed geographically.
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The Root Cafe

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When Stephanie Bender, chef and owner of Korean street food pop-up Seoul Chikin, is in Little Rock, she stops by this quaint spot serving ingredients sourced from Arkansas farms. While her favorite dish is the curry chicken salad, Bender is confident nothing on the menu will disappoint, from the house-made biscuits and burgers to the salads with seasonal produce and dressings. “Sit in one of their quirky container patios for the full charm,” she adds. Patio and garden dining available. Order online for takeout or delivery.

The curry chicken salad with a mixed green salad on the patio at The Root Cafe in Little Rock, Arkansas. The Root Cafe

Turkey and the Wolf

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Though po’boys may be the classic sandwich of New Orleans, Parnass Savang, chef and co-owner of Talat Market, hits up this quirky sandwich shop for “textures and unique flavors that you wouldn’t usually find in a sandwich.” The fried bologna sandwich, served with potato chips inside, as well as the wedge salad, sprinkled with everything bagel seasoning, is one of his favorites. Patio dining only. Order online for takeout.

The fried bologna sandwich at Turkey and the Wolf in New Orleans. Turkey and the Wolf

Jewel of the South

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Miles Macquarrie, beverage director and partner at Kimball House and Watchman’s Seafood and Spirits, can list an array of cocktail spots he enjoys in New Orleans, but finds that Jewel of the South in the French Quarter packs “tons of well-executed history in the glass.” He cites the popular New Orleans cocktail, the brandy crusta, as the muse of the bar, which is co-owned by renowned bartender Chris Hannah. Outdoor seating available.

Jewel of the South

Pilcrow Cocktail Cellar

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This hidden cocktail bar specializes in agave spirits, something Helio Bernal of D Boca N Boca and The Real Mexican Vittles gravitates toward as a tequila and mezcal aficionado. “They made a very good Oaxacan old fashioned — they nailed it,” he says. Aside from the cocktails, Bernal goes for the atmosphere. “[The lighting] ​​was red, and it kind of reminded me of the red-light district in Amsterdam,” he adds. “I just felt like, wow, this is different.” 

Fresh2Death with London dry gin, arugula, cucumber, chartreuse, and lime at Pilcrow Cocktail Cellar in Birmingham, AL. Pilcrow Cocktail Cellar

The Catbird Seat

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This more upscale spot serves a seasonal tasting menu and earns the stamp of approval from Claudia Martinez, executive pastry chef at Miller Union. “I really love the hospitality there,” she says. “It kind of feels like you’re outside of Nashville.” Plus, she says the meal isn’t too heavy despite the number of courses — 10 to 12 — served.

Floating island: frozen coconut meringue, dried figs, and an anglaise infused with local eucalyptus and fig leaves from the Catbird Seat in Nashville, TN. The Catbird Seat

Ferus Artisan Ales

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“While it might be a few minutes off the beaten path, their beer is top-notch,” says Jonathan Baker, co-founder of Monday Night Brewing. Baker isn’t just a fan of Ferus’ lagers and sours. He also recommends the food here: “Get those chicken tenders.” Outdoor seating available. Order food online for takeout or delivery.

Inside Ferus Artisan Ales in Trussville, AL, people dine and drink beers.  Ferus Artisan Ales

Boshamps Seafood and Oyster House

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This is where Lazy Betty’s executive chef and partner Aaron Phillips makes sure to swing by when he and his family are on a road trip. “It’s right on the water with beautiful views of the harbor, and you get to see the fishing boats come in with their daily catch,” he says. “There’s an open view of the room where they butcher all the fish, so you get to see your fresh catch being prepared. My kids love watching all of the action, and the food is always spot on.” Outdoor seating available.

Large white cruisers line the dock at Boshamps Seafood and Oyster House in Destin, FL. Boshamps Seafood and Oyster House

The Nachbar

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This bar serves crisp, classic German-focused beer out of a house and feels like “drinking in your cool neighbor’s garage,” according to Ticonderoga Club co-owner Paul Calvert. “I’ve been on a road trip, stuck in a town halfway from here to somewhere, and wished for a bar like this one to materialize,” he adds. “Every suburb needs a Nachbar.” Outdoor seating available.

An orange glow peeks from behind gray clouds at sunset over the outdoor seating area of The Natchbar in Louisville, KY. The Natchbar

Good Golly Tamale

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Serving tamales with organic non-GMO corn masa, locally sourced free-range meats and produce from farms in the area, Good Golly Tamale is a stop-worthy destination for Seoul Chikin’s Stephanie Bender. “They make delicious tamales from scratch with limited-edition fillings like Thai chicken and butternut squash,” she says. “Bring a cooler to take some frozen ones to go.” Order online for takeout.

Good Golly Tamale

Buxton Hall Barbecue

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While there’s no shortage of barbecue in the South, Talat Market’s Parnass Savang always enjoys the pulled pork and atmosphere at Buxton Hall Barbecue, which operates out of a historic Asheville building. “I would say a lot of the fixings really helped make the food experience complete there,” he adds.

A silver travel is piled high full of brisket, smoked pork, ribs, smoked sausage, Brunswick stew, and smoked chicken from Buxton Hall BBQ in Asheville, NC. Buxton Hall Barbecue

Benne On Eagle

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Cleophus Hethington, former Atlanta chef of pop-up Ębí Chop Bar, first gravitated toward Benne on Eagle because of the menu’s similarity to his own dishes, which feature food unique to the African diaspora. “It was bold and full of flavor,” he says. “It’s aromatic, and it was colorful and bright.” Hethington recently joined the kitchen at Benne on Eagle but plans to continue visiting Atlanta for pop-ups. Hethington is now the restaurant’s chef de cuisine. Outdoor seating available. Order online for pickup.

Àkàrà or Acarajé with sweet chili garlic, green mangoes, fish bacon, and radishes from Benne On Eagle in Asheville, NC. Benne On Eagle

Junto Coffee

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Kayla Bellman, owner of Finca to Filter coffee shop, recommends grabbing a cup of coffee at this Latinx-owned and -operated cafe and roastery. The shop’s owner, Alex Medina, “has had a long history in specialty coffee and has brought the best of his experiences to craft Junto,” she says. Outdoor seating available.

Como La Flor—a refreshing rose water syrup, lemon, and espresso beverage shaken together with ice from Junto Coffee in Taylors, SC.
Como La Flor—a refreshing rose water syrup, lemon, and espresso beverage shaken together with ice and best enjoyed while listening to its namesake song by Selena
Junto Coffee

Grady's Truck Stop

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This truck stop and grill is a favorite for Glide Pizza owner Rob Birdsong when he’s en route to coastal Georgia. He makes the stop for “home-cooked Southern food, pastries and assorted treats made by nice people” and recommends the potato salad.

Grady’s Truck Stop

Boat Drinks

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This nautical, “super fun and kitschy” raw bar in historic downtown St. Augustine gets the stamp of approval from Miles Macquarrie, beverage director for Kimball House and Watchman’s Seafood and Spirits. “They have all sorts of like frozen mojitos, Miami vices, and [it’s] just a super fun kind of Florida cocktail bar,” he says.

A frozen Piña Colada with a slice of pineapple as garnish from Boat Drink in St. Augustine, FL. Boat Drinks

The Grey

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To get excited about a wine list is a pretty big deal for Sarah Pierre, owner of 3 Parks Wine Shop, since she’s constantly tasting wine as a retailer and sommelier. And she found herself eager to try multiple wines from this award-winning Savannah restaurant during her last visit to the city. “The Grey 100% has a thoughtfully curated list, but that’s not geared towards tourism,” Pierre says. Order online for takeout.

Cucumber Gazpacho; blue crab, basil vinegar, scallion from the Grey in Savannah, GA. The Grey

Breakfast Club

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Whenever Juan Cortes, beverage manager of the Chastain, is traveling close to Savannah, he always plans a visit to this famous Tybee Island spot, whose chef helped cater John F. Kennedy Jr.’s wedding. “Imagine Waffle House food cooked by a world-renowned chef,” Cortes says. “Last time I was there, the chef was working the line with his son. His wife was running the door. I remember talking to her, and she told me a story about how she met the queen of England once.”

The outside of the Breakfast Club restaurant, which includes white benches for waiting when the spot gets full on weekends and during breakfast on Tybee Island, GA. Google

Bachour

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Working with tropical flavors, Antonio Bachour is one of the best bakers in the U.S., says Claudia Martinez of Miller Union. “You can get a great croissant or a Danish, or if you want to go more elegant, he has really beautiful petite fours or glazed desserts that are great,” she adds. Order online for takeout or delivery from this location.

Bachour

Graft Wine Shop & Wine Bar

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This shop and bar pairs good music with good wine, and Sarah Pierre of 3 Parks Wine Shop dubs it “the perfect wine place.” Grab a bottle off the shelves to open at the shop bar or peruse the by-the-glass menu. “It is literally what any wine shop or wine bar should be in the 2020s,” Pierre says. 

Graft Wine Shop & Wine Bar

Black and White Coffee Roasters

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Owned by U.S. barista champions Lem Butler and Kyle Ramage, this roaster and coffee shop has “great balance in regards to coffees that are very experimental and others that are very approachable,” says Daniel Brown, owner of Gilly Brew Bar, who has featured the roaster’s beans at his own coffee bar in Stone Mountain. “I was very encouraged and hopeful seeing someone who looked like me — male, black, locks — who was a leader in this industry.” Outdoor seating available. Order beans online for shipping.

Brown Sugar Cinnamon Latte from Black and White Coffee Roasters in Wake Forest, NC. Black and White Coffee Roasters

The Root Cafe

The curry chicken salad with a mixed green salad on the patio at The Root Cafe in Little Rock, Arkansas. The Root Cafe

When Stephanie Bender, chef and owner of Korean street food pop-up Seoul Chikin, is in Little Rock, she stops by this quaint spot serving ingredients sourced from Arkansas farms. While her favorite dish is the curry chicken salad, Bender is confident nothing on the menu will disappoint, from the house-made biscuits and burgers to the salads with seasonal produce and dressings. “Sit in one of their quirky container patios for the full charm,” she adds. Patio and garden dining available. Order online for takeout or delivery.

The curry chicken salad with a mixed green salad on the patio at The Root Cafe in Little Rock, Arkansas. The Root Cafe

Turkey and the Wolf

The fried bologna sandwich at Turkey and the Wolf in New Orleans. Turkey and the Wolf

Though po’boys may be the classic sandwich of New Orleans, Parnass Savang, chef and co-owner of Talat Market, hits up this quirky sandwich shop for “textures and unique flavors that you wouldn’t usually find in a sandwich.” The fried bologna sandwich, served with potato chips inside, as well as the wedge salad, sprinkled with everything bagel seasoning, is one of his favorites. Patio dining only. Order online for takeout.

The fried bologna sandwich at Turkey and the Wolf in New Orleans. Turkey and the Wolf

Jewel of the South

Jewel of the South

Miles Macquarrie, beverage director and partner at Kimball House and Watchman’s Seafood and Spirits, can list an array of cocktail spots he enjoys in New Orleans, but finds that Jewel of the South in the French Quarter packs “tons of well-executed history in the glass.” He cites the popular New Orleans cocktail, the brandy crusta, as the muse of the bar, which is co-owned by renowned bartender Chris Hannah. Outdoor seating available.

Jewel of the South

Pilcrow Cocktail Cellar

Fresh2Death with London dry gin, arugula, cucumber, chartreuse, and lime at Pilcrow Cocktail Cellar in Birmingham, AL. Pilcrow Cocktail Cellar

This hidden cocktail bar specializes in agave spirits, something Helio Bernal of D Boca N Boca and The Real Mexican Vittles gravitates toward as a tequila and mezcal aficionado. “They made a very good Oaxacan old fashioned — they nailed it,” he says. Aside from the cocktails, Bernal goes for the atmosphere. “[The lighting] ​​was red, and it kind of reminded me of the red-light district in Amsterdam,” he adds. “I just felt like, wow, this is different.” 

Fresh2Death with London dry gin, arugula, cucumber, chartreuse, and lime at Pilcrow Cocktail Cellar in Birmingham, AL. Pilcrow Cocktail Cellar

The Catbird Seat

Floating island: frozen coconut meringue, dried figs, and an anglaise infused with local eucalyptus and fig leaves from the Catbird Seat in Nashville, TN. The Catbird Seat

This more upscale spot serves a seasonal tasting menu and earns the stamp of approval from Claudia Martinez, executive pastry chef at Miller Union. “I really love the hospitality there,” she says. “It kind of feels like you’re outside of Nashville.” Plus, she says the meal isn’t too heavy despite the number of courses — 10 to 12 — served.

Floating island: frozen coconut meringue, dried figs, and an anglaise infused with local eucalyptus and fig leaves from the Catbird Seat in Nashville, TN. The Catbird Seat

Ferus Artisan Ales

Inside Ferus Artisan Ales in Trussville, AL, people dine and drink beers.  Ferus Artisan Ales

“While it might be a few minutes off the beaten path, their beer is top-notch,” says Jonathan Baker, co-founder of Monday Night Brewing. Baker isn’t just a fan of Ferus’ lagers and sours. He also recommends the food here: “Get those chicken tenders.” Outdoor seating available. Order food online for takeout or delivery.

Inside Ferus Artisan Ales in Trussville, AL, people dine and drink beers.  Ferus Artisan Ales

Boshamps Seafood and Oyster House

Large white cruisers line the dock at Boshamps Seafood and Oyster House in Destin, FL. Boshamps Seafood and Oyster House

This is where Lazy Betty’s executive chef and partner Aaron Phillips makes sure to swing by when he and his family are on a road trip. “It’s right on the water with beautiful views of the harbor, and you get to see the fishing boats come in with their daily catch,” he says. “There’s an open view of the room where they butcher all the fish, so you get to see your fresh catch being prepared. My kids love watching all of the action, and the food is always spot on.” Outdoor seating available.

Large white cruisers line the dock at Boshamps Seafood and Oyster House in Destin, FL. Boshamps Seafood and Oyster House

The Nachbar

An orange glow peeks from behind gray clouds at sunset over the outdoor seating area of The Natchbar in Louisville, KY. The Natchbar

This bar serves crisp, classic German-focused beer out of a house and feels like “drinking in your cool neighbor’s garage,” according to Ticonderoga Club co-owner Paul Calvert. “I’ve been on a road trip, stuck in a town halfway from here to somewhere, and wished for a bar like this one to materialize,” he adds. “Every suburb needs a Nachbar.” Outdoor seating available.

An orange glow peeks from behind gray clouds at sunset over the outdoor seating area of The Natchbar in Louisville, KY. The Natchbar

Good Golly Tamale

Good Golly Tamale

Serving tamales with organic non-GMO corn masa, locally sourced free-range meats and produce from farms in the area, Good Golly Tamale is a stop-worthy destination for Seoul Chikin’s Stephanie Bender. “They make delicious tamales from scratch with limited-edition fillings like Thai chicken and butternut squash,” she says. “Bring a cooler to take some frozen ones to go.” Order online for takeout.

Good Golly Tamale

Buxton Hall Barbecue