Looking for a dining recommendation in Atlanta? Just ask the locals. Dining is one of Atlanta’s favorite past times, with residents spending half of their annual food budget on eating away from home. Atlanta boasts more than 700 Zagat-rated restaurants from upscale gourmet cuisine to progressive variations of Southern staples. In the past five years, 45 Atlanta chefs have been nominated as semifinalists for the James Beard Awards. It’s no wonder Atlantans are letting the professionals do the cooking.
Eateries opening in Atlanta cater to the neighborhood, providing a warm welcome and inviting ambiance to invoke the feeling of dining at a friend’s house, rather than a restaurant. The city’s chefs are passionate about supporting nearby farms, with meats and produce sourced locally.
Georgia Organics, a non-profit organization that works to promote locally grown food, offers a listing of sustainable and organic farms, farmer’s markets and the businesses and restaurants that utilize their services. The guide includes a section dedicated to the Atlanta metropolitan area’s numerous farms and farmer’s markets. To help retailers promote farm fresh food from the state, the Georgia Department of Agriculture instituted the Georgia Grown program, offering a label to help consumers identify and purchase locally grown produce.
In the new kitchen of the old South, revisit favorite recipes of generations past, as Atlanta chefs get back to the basics of Southern cooking. Dig into the chow chow at Empire State South or take a bite of the pickled vegetables at Miller Union. Visit Watershed on a Wednesday night for their mouth-watering fried chicken or take a seat at Woodfire Grill for fine dining in a comfortable Southern atmosphere. Chef Ford Fry is steadily building an empire in Atlanta, with five wildly successful restaurants already open or coming soon. Fry brings high-quality, sustainable seafood to landlocked Atlantans with The Optimist. In 2013, Fry’s King + Duke was named Esquire magazine’s “Best New Restaurant of 2013.”
In a city known for southern hospitality, restaurants and breweries provide welcoming settings for neighbors to gather for good food and drink, conversation and fun. In Midtown, grab a barstool at Proof & Provision in the basement of The Georgian Terrace, where you’ll find craft cocktails to accompany your food, including anything from charcuterie to a grilled cheese sandwich. At Ormsby’s on the Westside, patrons enjoy craft beer, classic cocktails, fresh pub menu and a wide range of traditional games, including backgammon, bocce, darts, pool and shuffleboard. SweetWater Brewing Company opens its doors and taps to the public four days a week with brewery tours and tastings. Named one of the “Top 50 Breweries in the Country” by the Brewers Association, the brewery offers the perfect setting for mixing and mingling.
The Buford Highway corridor is Atlanta’s best-kept, locals-only dining secret. Just one mile from downtown yields an assortment of authentic international cuisine and super fresh seafood. Flavors of China, Japan, Korea, Vietnam and Latin America occupy restaurants and shopping centers along this highway. Guests to the South often ask where to go for the best traditional down-home Southern cuisine. Established favorites among tourists and locals include institutions like Mary Mac’s Tea Room, serving “classic Southern food in the heart of Atlanta” since 1945; and Pitty Pat’s Porch, a downtown landmark named after Aunt Pittypat Hamilton from “Gone with the Wind.” For upscale Southern fare, venture to Paschal’s and try the Paschal brothers’ secret fried chicken recipe. The Varsity, the world’s largest drive-in, offering “naked dogs walking,” will forever remain an Atlanta staple.
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