Flight Network Foodie
Never been to Atlanta? With a temperate climate, cheap flights, and a plethora of amazing restaurants, Atlanta should be your next foodie vacation. And, of course, once you get to Atlanta, you’re going to want to delve into Southern cuisine. (Don’t worry: the city also has some stellar international fare but this article is just focusing on the city’s Southern roots.)
It might be easy to think of Southern food as just fried chicken and candied yams but Southern food is so much more than that. Meat and threes, soul food, barbecue, and Creole and Cajun are all important parts of Southern cuisine and you can find all of them in Atlanta. We’re going to highlight some of our favorite restaurants, focusing on the huge diversity that makes up Southern food through this list.
You can’t talk about Atlanta’s food scene without talking about classic meat-and-three restaurants. The meat and three is exactly what it sounds like: a platter containing one meat and three vegetables. Usually served cafeteria style, meat and three establishments were the standard type of restaurants in the mid-1900s, primarily visited by white people in the segregated South. Today, they are a dying breed, with very few authentic, long-standing meat and threes left in the city.
Mary Mac’s is perhaps the city’s most famous meat and three. Founded by Mary McKenzie in 1945 as one of the city’s tearooms, at a time when women are not allowed to own restaurants, Mary Mac’s has been serving up its crispy fried chicken and famous pot likker (the juice left from cooking collard greens) to legions of fans. The restaurant is equally famous for its gregarious host named Jo Carter who personally greets every guest and even offers them back rubs at the restaurant! Mary Mac’s, 224 Ponce de Leon Ave., Atlanta, 404-876-1800
If you can’t make it to Mary Mac’s, the Colonnade has been putting out its coconut cream pie since 1927 and Matthew’s Cafeteria in Tucker has been well known for its delicious cathead biscuits (not made with cat but with shortening, butter, and flour) for over six decades. Colonnade, 1879 Cheshire Bridge Road, Atlanta, 404-874-5642; Matthews Cafeteria, 2299 Main Street, Tucker, 770-939-2357
While Our Way Cafe does not have the longstanding history of these other restaurants, the restaurant serves up impeccable Southern cuisine, including creamed corn actually shucked from real corn on the cob. No canned food at this place. Our Way Cafe, 2831 E College Ave, Avondale Estates, 404-292-9356
Celebrity chef Kevin Gillespie’s Revival is Atlanta’s newest meat and three, and upgrades cafeteria fare to the gourmet end, by adding in farm to table chops, by one of Atlanta’s hottest chefs. Revival, 129 Church Street, Decatur, 470-225-6770
If you think that soul food and Southern food are the same thing, think again. Soul food is the traditional homecooking of African Americans in the Deep South so expect more spices, as was traditionally found in West Africa, and meats served to the poor in the South, such as oxtail and chitlin’s. Many of these restaurants were also mainstays during segregation when black people weren’t welcomed at meat and threes or barbecue joints.
Paschal’s was the unofficial headquarters of the Civil Rights Movement and Atlanta’s most famous resident’s — Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s — favorite place to have a meal. Opened in 1947, the restaurant served the city’s African American community during segregated times and was the first black-owned venue at the Atlanta airport. Today, they still serve up killer fried chicken, as seen in a recent article naming it the best fried chicken in the state of Georgia. Paschal’s, 180 Northside Drive, Atlanta, 404-525-2023
Busy Bee Cafe is also something special. Still in its original location since 1947, the restaurant is tiny, holding 30 people at most, with lines out the door to get their famous fried chicken and chitlins. Busy Bee Cafe, 810 M.L. King Dr., Atlanta, 404-525-9212
If you want incredible variety, try Big Daddy’s Southern Dish, with its mouthwatering and seemingly endless array of soul food dishes, ranging from oxtails to okra and tomatoes. And, if you love your soul food but don’t eat pork, check out Metro Deli at the Sweet Auburn Curb Market, which serves up authentic dishes, including collard greens and beans, but without any pork products. Big Daddy’s Southern Dish, 5549 Old National Highway, College Park, 678-859-5191; Metro Deli, 209 Edgewood Ave, Atlanta, 404-581-0271
A couple of years back, Tripadvisor listed the state of Georgia as the best state in the country for barbecue. It makes sense: Georgians take their barbecue seriously and you’re guaranteed to find some great barbecue in Atlanta.
Fox Brothers Bar-b-q brings Texas-style barbecue to Atlanta’s wonderful Candler Park neighborhood. You’ll want some of their brisket and the smoked wings with collard greens. But, don’t leave without ordering their Frito pie, served in a Fritos bag. Fox Brothers Bar-b-q, 1238 Dekalb Ave., Atlanta, 404-577-4030
Fat Matt’s Rib Shack is known for two things: amazing ribs and jazz. Get your fingers messy and dig into some decadent ribs here and enjoy the wonderful nightly music. Fat Matt’s Rib Shack, 1811 Piedmont Ave, Atlanta, 404-607-1622
Daddy D’z BBQ Joint doesn’t look like much from the outside but there’s a whole lot of amazing inside. Set in the fun Grant Park neighborhood, the restaurant churns out incredible pulled pork, the que wrap, and broccoli casserole that everyone raves about. Daddy D’z BBQ Joint, 264 Memorial Drive, Atlanta, 404-222-0206
Atlanta isn’t near Creole and Cajun country but Hurricane Katrina brought many New Orleans’ evacuees to the city who opened up their own Creole and Cajun shops in the city.
Louisiana Bistreaux is all about authentic Cajun cuisine, from gator tails to crawfish etouffee to poboys and crab cakes. You’ll get your fill of seafood at this spot. Louisiana Bistreaux, 1375 Virginia Avenue, East Point, 404-762-6755
Head outside of the city to Roux on Canton in the adorable Roswell neighborhood to try upscale Cajun and Creole fare. Their shrimp and grits and overstuffed po boys are particularly popular, but they also serve fish tacos and other fusion cuisine. Roux on Canton, 946 Canton Street, Roswell, 770-993-0007
If all this seems overwhelming, we get it. There’s a lot of great food to try in Atlanta. So, rather than gorging non-stop, you could try an Atlanta Food Walks food tour in Downtown Atlanta which helps guests try all of the different types of Southern cuisine, from meat and threes to soul food to barbecue to Creole, with a guided tour that explains the history of these cuisines. Atlanta Food Walks, 1-866-736-6343