Food & Drink

Eat Like a Local: Ford Fry’s Guide to Atlanta

The celebrated chef has built a restaurant empire that stretches across the South. But it all began in the Big Peach, and these are some of his favorite hometown spots

Photo: Andrew Thomas Lee

A pastrami sandwich and matzoh ball soup at the General Muir.

Photo: Courtesy of Ford Fry

Chef and restaurateur Ford Fry.

Texas native Ford Fry ran high-end kitchens in Florida, Colorado, and California, but when a corporate chef job brought him to Atlanta in 1998, he fell hard. Almost a decade later, Fry began mounting a culinary takeover of the city: his first venture, JCT Kitchen & Bar, opened its doors on the Westside in 2007. Since then, he’s pioneered nine more restaurants, from Italian fare at St. Cecilia to oysters at the Optimist to steak at Marcel—and garnered five nods from the James Beard Foundation along the way. He’s taking on additional projects, too: Little Rey, slated to open in Piedmont Heights early next year, will serve up breakfast tacos and chicken al carbon platters. And Fry will soon expand to Nashville with a trio of new concepts in Germantown—Le Loup, a cocktail lounge; Sea Wolf, a seafood restaurant; and Star Rover, a honky-tonk and taqueria—as well as a Tennessee outpost of his Tex-Mex joint, Superica, that will join locations in Charlotte and Houston.

“On weekends, I can’t seem to take time off. It doesn’t feel right,” Fry says. “I just love watching our chefs in their element—and trying their food.”  But he still has an eye out for what his peers are up to. Fry’s favorite spots—from morning coffee to late-night bites—are scattered across Atlanta, but they all have one thing in common. “What really makes them great is the people,” he says.  “You can easily tell when the staff enjoys their job. When they do, it takes the restaurant to another level.”

Check out Fry’s must-try Atlanta restaurants below. (Bonus points if you make it to all three barbecue joints.)

The General Muir
1540 Avenue Place, B-230

“I love going here for lunch. Todd Ginsberg is the king of sandwiches—among lots of other things.”

Photo: James Camp

A Reuben sandwich at General Muir.

3940 Buford Hwy

“I found out about this place through fellow chefs. We are always seeking out great Szechuan. My favorite dish is the fried eggplant. It’s very interesting—super thin with a crunch, while soft in the middle with a spicy, fine dust coating. I couldn’t stop eating it.”

Photo: Courtesy of Masterpiece

Fried eggplant at Masterpiece.

Barbecue—A Three-Way Tie
“Depending on area of town I’m in, Fox Brothers, Community Q, and Das BBQ get me my Texas barbecue fix. I always order “fatty” brisket—it’s the best part. Now we just need Rodney Scott to get to Atlanta for my Carolina fix.”,,

Photo: Justin Fox

A plate at Fox Brothers with Frito Pie, fried okra, sliced beef brisket, sausage, and ribs.

Floataway Café
1123 Zonolite Road, No. 15

“Solid, simple, and ingredient-focused. You know it’s a good spot when the house-made French fries are spot-on. [Making them] takes a lot of focus each step of the way. ”

Photo: Andrew Thomas Lee

The bar at Floataway Cafe.

East Pole Coffee Co.
255 Ottley Dr NE Ste. 105

“I drink so much iced coffee, and I have a ton of shops I love depending on the area of town—Brash, Chattahoochee, Mashburn Coffee.  East Pole is my new spot when I’m near the location for our [upcoming restaurant] Little Rey. I pick these places for the folks who work there. Good people.”

Photo: Freddy Castro

East Pole Coffee Co.

Octopus Bar
560 Gresham Ave SE

“If I have the chance to get over to East Atlanta, Octopus Bar is a great choice for late-night food. It’s nice for the city to have a good option for post-work, post-shows or being out late to cap off the night. And its sister bar, 8arm, crushes it if you are near the Ponce City Market area.”


Squid our way, available at #OctopusBar

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