In the past few years, Atlanta has been gaining attention as a major food city, appearing on several “best of” lists. It’s been declared one of the South’s best food cities by both Southern Living and WalletHub, and acclaimed Zagat named it one of the most exciting food cities in the U.S. It seems the rest of the country is finally clueing into what we already knew – Atlanta is a foodie paradise. Here are the top five reasons why.
1. The Best Restaurants in Atlanta are Winning Awards
Atlanta is home to many impressive restaurants that are worthy of both local and national praise. National food and lifestyle magazines like Bon Appetit and Travel + Leisure have acknowledged the city’s food scene, and multiple nominees from Atlanta have consistently made the list of finalists for the James Beard Award every year. Case in point…
Chef Ryan Smith of Staplehouse masterfully transforms traditional American recipes with unexpected flavor combinations and modern techniques. And Miller Union’s creative wine program allows you to mix and match glasses of vino with its elevated country cooking, resulting in a delicious ode to farmstead fare. Whether you’re looking for the perfect restaurant for date night or you just want a delicious meal on a Thursday, Atlanta has you covered.
2. Get Affordability and Easy Access to the Best Food in Atlanta
If you’re a budget conscious foodie, that doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice quality for price. With the rise of fast casual dining, culinary hot spots around the city are offering affordable and accessible dining with some of the best food in Atlanta.
Fresh To Order in Midtown is a casual spot for deli-style American fare, where you’ll find chef-level dishes at budget-friendly prices. Elevating fast food with healthier alternatives, they live up to their motto of “Fine. Food. Fast.” Or try Muchacho, a mellow all-day cafe with California summer vibes. Located in a former railroad depot, their West Coast-inspired menu serves up grain bowls, breakfast and lunch tacos, smoothies, espressos and delicious adult beverages too.
3. More Restaurants per Capita Means More Variety
If you look at a map of the best restaurants in Atlanta, you’ll see that there are eight restaurants per capita in the city, according to a study by WalletHub. While quantity doesn’t always mean quality, we think you’ll find that the variety of cuisines and tastes lives up to the hype here.
Whether you’re exploring the thriving downtown restaurant scene or you’re headed outside the perimeter, you’ll find a wide range representing some of the best food in Atlanta. In modern Westside, you’ll discover places like Bacchanalia, Atlanta’s most acclaimed restaurant, and Marcel’s farm-to-table fare. If you head down Buford Highway, you’ll find hundreds of restaurants offering authentic dishes from around the world, like Mexican, Salvadoran, Chinese and Korean. Nam Phuong is a favorite Vietnamese restaurant among locals. No matter what you’re in the mood for, you’ll find it in Atlanta.
4. Deep Roots Find Inspiration in Past Traditions
Any foodie worth their weight knows about the Southern food revival, with its focus on local agriculture and native heirloom ingredients. Southern cooking, the ultimate unpretentious comfort food, is now showing up in restaurants all across the country. Some of the best restaurants in Atlanta are creating classic Southern dishes as well as refining them with new interpretations.
Kevin Gillespie, a former Top Chef contestant, owns Revival, in Decatur, GA, just outside of Atlanta, where he serves up fresh ingredients and traditional Southern fare like fried chicken, collard greens and grits. The Busy Bee Café, Atlanta’s soul food kitchen that’s been around since the 1940s, is a sure bet for the Southern staple known as the meat and three. And we can’t leave out the kind of Southern food that’s best eaten with your fingers – barbecue. Barbecue isn’t hard to find here, but pitmaster Bryan Furman of B’s Cracklin’ Barbecue is an Atlanta favorite, turning out whole-hog barbecue from heirloom-breed hogs.
5. Innovation Looks to the Future
Some of the best restaurants in Atlanta aren’t even restaurants – at least not in the traditional sense. An underground dining revolution is taking place all across the city in the form of pop-up “restaurants” and dinner series. It’s hard to keep track because the nature of pop-ups is that they’re always changing, but Kamayan ATL is one to watch out for. Their traditional Filipino fare has developed a strong cult following, which is always a sign of good food.
Another trend highlighting the best food in Atlanta right now is the popular food hall. The meeting of foodie culture and the sharing economy have converged to form a powerful partnership that everyone is on board with. The oldest of these food halls, which started in 1924, is the Sweet Auburn Curb Market. Originally designed as a place for local farmers to sell their crops, it now houses a dozen restaurants as well as some meat and produce vendors. Atlanta’s total number of food halls is projected to hit 15 by the end of 2020. Forward thinking innovations like these are creating a delicious platform that is driving Atlanta to compete with some of the top food cities in the country.