The Michelin Guide may have just discovered Atlanta, but the capital of the South has long harbored a dynamic culinary scene fueled by its young, diverse populace. One day isn’t enough to get a true taste of the city, but the home of the world’s busiest airport is used to hosting visitors on a short-term basis. So put on your stretchy pants and prepare for some speed eating.
In Atlanta and elsewhere, the more butter, the better. Home Grown in Reynoldstown hearkens to classic greasy spoons in decor and fare, including the aptly named Comfy Chicken Biscuit, a fried chicken–topped biscuit swimming in peppery sausage gravy. Buckhead’s Buttermilk Kitchen draws a reliably packed house with drop biscuits and pimento cheese omelets in a cheerful setting. A casual alternative, Little Tart crafts buttery, flaky croissants and seasonal fruit galettes. The Grant Park location sits near historic Oakland Cemetery, the perfect post-meal walking destination.
A visit to East Pole in Armour Yards remedies the mid-morning slump in a bright, plant-filled space with beans roasted on site. There’s ample seating and locally roasted Brash Coffee at the Chastain, near the park of the same name in Buckhead. Good luck resisting the croissants stuffed with strawberries and cream, lemon crumble cake with roasted hazelnuts, and other creative pastries.
Miller Union’s renowned vegetable plate looks even prettier by day inside the sunlit industrial-farmhouse space. Reward your nourishing selection with a churro ice cream sandwich by pastry chef Claudia Martinez. Not far off the BeltLine (a work-in-progress trail ringing the city) in the Old Fourth Ward neighborhood is Staplehouse, a market-cafe slinging loaded grinders on semolina milk bread, seasonally inspired pizzas, and fresh salads like field pea and peach. The Busy Bee Cafe is quintessential Atlanta, iconic for its history of feeding civil rights leaders and lauded for its fried chicken and Southern sides. Tassili’s Raw Reality in the West End offers lighter fare in the form of plump, veggie-stuffed wraps.
For a meal that delights the visual senses as much as the taste buds, consider Atlas in Buckhead. The handsome restaurant resides in the St. Regis Atlanta and adorns its walls with rotating twentieth-century art from the Lewis Collection, including works by Chagall, Matisse, and Picasso. Nearby, Umi’s people-watching potential excites just as much as its well-crafted sushi. East Atlanta Village’s Banshee has fry bread with pepperoni butter, worth the venture alone, but the small plates and cocktails are stellar too. You could spend a day eating up and down Buford Highway, a vibrant corridor of international eateries just north of the city, but if you choose only one spot, make it Northern China Eatery. Standout bites at the hole-in-the-wall include plump dumplings and cold noodles. Fox Bros. Bar-B-Q, meanwhile, satisfies cravings for brisket and Frito pie. The DeKalb Avenue location is the original, but the westside outpost offers more space and a killer pulled mushroom sandwich for veggie lovers. Finally, a plug for our own Garden & Gun Club at the Battery Atlanta. Among editors’ favorites: the proper old fashioned and the shrimp and grits.
It’s worth venturing into busy food halls if you’re grabbing a drink at Ponce City Market’s Biltong Bar, an industrial-glam spot with clever cocktails and house-made jerky, or Krog Street Market’s Ticonderoga Club, which pairs kitschy-cozy decor with a standout bar program. Atlanta’s craft breweries—and there are many—are well represented on the menu of Brick Store Pub in Decatur, recently named one of G&G’s best beer bars. (If ice cream is your post-dinner craving, head just around the corner to Butter & Cream.) While it’s a full-service restaurant, Marcel in West Midtown is downright sexy with mood lighting and red leather bar stools. Slide in and enjoy a cocktail or a glass of wine; the list is a favorite among wine pros in the city.