When I tell people that I grew up in Atlanta they’re often surprised. This city is home to many transplants thanks to the giant companies that attract people here as well as the massive airport and mega-highways that offer an easy escape route. Some people may see that as a negative but to them I say boo. The constant cultural exchange that happens everyday in Atlanta has created a landscape where residents and visitors alike can experience something new at any given moment. What I’m trying to say here is we have a ton of great food options. And you should try them. All of them.
This might be my hands-down favorite dish in the city. It’s the perfect execution of a deceptively complex food item. Each beautiful, flakey layer reminds you that owner and head baker Sarah O’Brien cares deeply about baked goods and we all benefit from it. When I was in Paris and had a bad croissant, it made me homesick for Atlanta. And if you’re not going to take my word for it, trust Jon Hamm.
There’s a reason this biscuit has had multiple tributes written to it. There’s a reason Home Grown has a counter that tracks how many Comfys they sell in a day. The same reason I’ll happily wait in a mid-Saturday brunch line for this thing. And that’s because it’s great. It’s crunchy and salty and savory and it has just a hint of citrus (the orange slice) to pull it all together. Basically, it’s a nap on a plate in the best way imaginable.
You could spend a lifetime eating all the burgers of Atlanta. We’ve sung the praises of Ms. Ann’s Ghetto Burger. The Holeman & Finch Burger made national headlines a few years ago and now has it’s very own restaurant in Ponce City Market. But my personal favorite, when I just want the essence of what a burger should be, is the General Muir Burger. Chef Todd Ginsberg sticks to the basics with two patties of high quality beef, American cheese, a little mayo, and some pickles for just a bit of crunch. And if you can’t make it out to Emory for this little bit of heaven, you can get the same burger at The General Muir Team’s other restaurant, Fred’s Meat and Bread at Krog Street Market or Tech Square.
I know the South is supposed to be the Comfort Food Capital but I think Vietnam might have us beat. Don’t believe me? Check the Instagram geotag on any place that serves pho and see how many photos are captioned with “soothing,” “yummy” or any other number of happy words. And no place does it better in Atlanta than Pho Dai Loi 2. You can get pho in all shapes and sizes with a whole world of ingredients alongside a cross-section of Atlanta who also seeking a little comfort in a bowl.
Just like our burgers, Atlanta has an entire galaxy of fried chicken to sample in the metro area. My personal favorite is the people’s champion, Busy Bee Café. This classic meat and three restaurant was opened in 1947 and owner Tracy Gates as steered the ship as long as I’ve been alive. Slide on up to the counter and buckle up for crispy, golden chicken that was brined over night and prepared by cooks who went through a three year training process to serve this food. Make sure you come hungry and bring cash, you’d hate to miss anything on this amazing menu.
This dish was my Atlanta version of Anton Ego’s moment of culinary inspiration from Ratatouille. That moment where a single bite reminds you that there’s nothing better than simple food made with love. Apparently the rest of the culinary world agrees too. Chef Steven Satterfield took home the James Beard Award for Best Chef: Southeast in 2017. The menu here changes with the seasons but the farm egg always remains.
This was another eye-opening food moment for me. I had this on the eve of 30th birthday and I would consider it one of the single best bites I’ve ever had. And that’s not just Staplehouse’s expert wine pairings talking. This is one of the hardest reservations to get in the city but there’s good news for those of you who are just passing through. You can get the chicken liver tart along with a few other select dishes at the bar upstairs, Paper Crane.
One time I ate five King of Pops in two days. I’m not kidding when I say I judge people based on their King of Pops flavor. Oh you like Cookies & Cream? I think you just wanted cake on a stick. You go with Blackberry Ginger Lemon? You appreciate the classics but look for a fresh take. Thai iced tea? Come over here because we’re best friends now. These pops are a classic Atlanta treat and you don’t need to wait until Summer to enjoy them. Find them in grocery stores, their bar at Ponce City Market, or just run up to the rainbow umbrella when you see it out and about.
Remember when I said Atlanta’s transplanted residents make this a great food destination? Well, here you go. Mother and daughter team Deanna and Jackie Halcrow were unhappy with Atlanta’s bagel scene after moving here from Long Island so they decided to do something about it and we’re all reaping the benefits. Head over to East Atlanta Village for a lox, caper, and onion on a rosemary sea salt bagel with dill cream cheese with a celery soda AND an iced coffee. Trust me.
Atlanta is covered taquerias. From crowd-pleasing stops like El Rey del Taco and La Pastorcita on Buford Highway or more high-end places like Taqueria del Soul. My personal favorite though are found on the South end of Grant Park in the back of a carniceria. The set up here is simple but the food is a total labor of love—they make their own chorizo and carne asada in house. The more cynical among us might call these “prison tacos” as El Progreso sits across the street from Atlanta’s federal penitentiary. I just call them great.
I grew up down the street from this place and just assumed that everyone else loved Ethiopian food. I never realized it might be more difficult to get your hands on than, say, Chinese food. What I’m getting at here is Atlanta is lucky to have places like Desta and Ethiopian food rules and you should go get some. Bring some friends because this food meant to be shared and get plenty of injera bread to grab every last bit of meat and sauce on the giant platter.
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If you’re not celebrating birthdays with a smorgasbord of meat, are you even living? We got a small group together on Friday to celebrate @soupbelly_blog’s birthday at @destaethiopiankitchen. It was my first time there and suffice it to say, I’ll definitely be back. The food was delicious and the ambiance genuine. My favorites were the lamb, the lentils, and the garlic collard greens. The bottom line: this restaurant certainly lives up to the hype.
An All-Star Special with Sausage, Eggs Over Easy, Wheat Toast, Hash Browns Scattered, Smothered, and Covered, and a Chocolate Chip Waffle at Waffle House
My family and I have gone to Waffle House on Christmas Morning every year for 20 years. I’ve gone there before work and after many celebrations. Even beloved chefs like Sean Brock and the late Anthony Bourdain sing its praises. I listed my favorite All-Star combination but truly you can’t go wrong here. just go here. Most people would pair it with a coffee or orange juice but I say get a Coke and you’ll understand what Atlanta tastes like.