When it comes to food Atlanta has a lot to offer from big-city restaurants to hole-in-the-wall neighborhood favorites.
Whether you love to picnic or prefer to dine in this list of 10 Atlanta Foods You Can’t Miss will surely satisfy your cravings from fried catfish to gumbo these dishes are a true delight!
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1. The Varsity Naked Dog
Invented in 1928, The Varsity is one of the biggest drive-in fast food restaurants in the world. This Atlanta icon serves up chili dogs, fried pies, and tall frosted oranges.
During lunch hour, mobs crowd the block-long establishment. Order at the counter in a language that sounds more like Varsity lingo than English, and wait for your meal to be delivered. It is well worth the trip. You might even want to consider a side of greasy onion rings to go with your F.O., too.
2. The Beautiful Restaurant Meat-and-Three
More democratic than a blue plate special, the meat-and-three (or “meat-and-twos”) offers a choice of protein and three authentic Southern sides—from turnips to collard greens to mac and cheese. Don’t forget dessert, too. Savannah’s Candy Kitchen pralines come in tins, boxes, and baskets decadent enough to satisfy the sweetest tooth.
Meat and threes may be set up cafeteria-style, with patrons lining up to have their plates filled, but they’re still one of the best ways to experience Atlanta food culture. And the line is always worth it.
3. The Optimist Gumbo
The Optimist takes diners on an upscale trip to the beach without leaving downtown. Located in the historic Hammer Mill (a handle making factory), this West Midtown seafood restaurant from chef Ford Fry, who also owns King + Duke, St. Cecilia and JCT. Kitchen & Bar, offers a menu of both classic and divergent coastal dishes.
From the slurp-worthy raw oyster bar to classic beach-food favorites like hush puppies and lobster rolls, the restaurant’s menu is full of high-quality seafood. Plus, the restaurant’s gumbo is out of this world.
4. 10th & Piedmont Chicken & Waffles
If a chicken and waffle combo is your idea of the perfect meal, you’ll find it at 10th & Piedmont. It’s a great place to indulge with a group of friends over brunch or dinner.
The restaurant also challenges expectations with a shrimp and grits dish featuring seared shrimp presented on a cake of grits that’s made from a mix of wild mushrooms. You can try their version of the classic burger too, which is served with a variety of tot flavors. It’s called the Flip Stack.
5. Phew Pies Lemon Pepper Wet Wings
A local symbol of culinary creativity, lemon pepper wet wings have become synonymous with Atlanta cuisine. This pizza pop-up serves pies topped with lemon pepper sauce and the signature wings that earned them their name.
Whether fried or grilled, a meat-and-three meal is a hallmark of Southern dining. Revival’s cornmeal-crusted fried catfish is the ultimate way to enjoy this Southern staple. Pair it with a fried green tomato salad and a Frosted Orange milkshake.
6. Old Lady Gang Deviled Eggs
Located in the Castleberry Hill neighborhood, this restaurant was created by Kandi Burruss and her husband Todd Tucker from the wildly popular “Real Housewives of Atlanta.” The name of the eatery pays tribute to Kandi’s mother Joyce Jones and aunts Bertha and Nora, whom are often seen on her show.
The menu features soul food classics like fried catfish, chicken and biscuits and bread pudding as well as creative dishes like mac n’ cheese chimichangas and lasagna pizza. But it’s the fried deviled eggs that get top billing on this list of best Atlanta foods.
7. Busy Bee Cafe Baked Mac & Cheese
A beloved Atlanta food, Busy Bee Cafe’s baked mac and cheese is a comforting choice that’s a right of passage at this casual diner. It’s just one of the many great dishes served at this soul food favorite, which is a must-try for anyone seeking down-home Southern cuisine.
A popular snack or dessert, buttermilk pie is a Southern staple with a storied past. Get your fix at a local eatery or order it online from Savannah’s Candy Kitchen to be shipped anywhere in the US.
8. Shrimp & Grits
A Southern soul food classic, this dish features finely-ground grits whipped up with cheese and butter then topped with quick-seared shrimp. It’s a big, flavorful meal that works for breakfast, lunch or dinner.
This Atlanta food staple is even better when soaked up with a few sips of Sweetwater’s artisan extra-pale ale, which they boil their peanuts in! This iconic snack is a must for any trip to Georgia.
9. Empire State South Pimento Cheese
Pimento cheese —a mixture of sharp cheddar, mayonnaise and dill pickle-stuffed pimento peppers—has gone from a humble Southern snack to the “it” appetizer at restaurants nationwide. In Atlanta, chefs are showing off new twists on the lunchbox staple.
At Watershed, chef Hugh Acheson recasts regional Southern favorites, including fried chicken and pimento cheese. Here, it’s served in a wonton log for an appetizer and baked into their cornbread. It’s a Dixie nirvana. And, it’s delicious.
10. Savannah’s Candy Kitchen Pralines
Savannah’s Candy Kitchen is known for its Original Pralines, made with wholesome Georgia pecan halves, fresh cream and sugar. They use a traditional recipe that started as mom’s recipes and continues today.
They also offer old-fashioned peanut brittle, divinity candy and everyone’s favorite turtle gophers. Their storefronts offer visitors a peek behind the glass as they make their confections from scratch.
This weekend, area River Street Sweets and Savannah Candy Kitchen stores will celebrate National Praline Day by donating 10 percent of sales to America’s Second Harvest Food Bank.