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One day in Atlanta

Hi all,

I'll be in Atlanta next week, Thursday through Labor Day, but will only have Thursday available to explore and eat. Plane lands at about 0730. I'll head for my hotel, the Hyatt Regency on Peachtree, then head to the aquarium. What I need recomendations for are breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Right now, I'm thinking of just trying Paschal's at the airport for breakfast unless there is something better close to my hotel or the aquarium.

After the aquarium, I'm strongly leaning towards walking to the Varsity for lunch. Never been, sounds like great, easy lunch food.

For dinner, I'm thinking of taking Marta up to Lenox and taking a cab over to the Atlanta Fish Market. I love seafood and have a hard time finding good seafood in southern Ohio. One thing though, I will be very casual, shorts and a polo shirt; so, any restaurant with a more upscale dress-code is out of the question. Price isn't a concern, just a very light packer and will not have anything more dressy than shorts.

Any comments on the above or recommendations that are close to my locations (I will be without a car) would be greatly appreciated.


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  1. Scott:

    No worries about the shorts, so long as you're tidy and your shirt has a collar---it's still so warm in Atlanta that you're okay pretty much anywhere but the most upscale.

    I've never had breakfast at Paschal's at the airport, but have had lunch (in the adjacent bar, which is a nice alternative to the cafeteria line/food court), and the basic homestyle stuff like greens and meatloaf was fine. Breakfast likely fine, and you'll probably be hungry, so it seems like a reasonable option. You have to eat grits, no excuses.

    Whether or not considers the Varsity "great, easy lunch food" probably depends on just how functional your gall bladder is. Trust me, unless you're stomach's made of iron you could be re-living that meal for a while.

    Were I you and wanted to try a local institution I'd go to Mary Mac's Tea Room. People's opinions on Mary Mac's vary quite a bit, but I really like it, and by virtue of birth and rearing do happen to be in a position to judge the bone fides of this and other purveyors of southern/soul food in Atlanta. Great people watching at Mary Mac's, and full bar. You have to eat pot likker, no excuses. Skip dessert. For a truly bizarre experience you could take a cab farther out on Ponce de Leon to the Majestic, and get a piece of pie.

    Atlanta's not really the best place in the world to get seafood, IMO, but I can understand that you'd have a yen for it coming from southern Ohio. Fish Market's okay, and has a casual enough feel that you won't feel too downmarket in shorts. You might also consider McCormick & Schmick's---I've not been there but it's reportedly good, and much easier for you to reach.

    1. The Varsity is indeed an Atlanta institution, but I would discourage eating there if you only have one day to sample Atlanta - it is fondly and accurately referred to as "The Greasy V". For lunch you could try Son's Place - a good meat and three, soul food place or you could take Marta to the Arts Center station and try South City Kitchen - more refined than Son's Place, but shorts and a polo would be fine. As for seafood, Fish Market is good - I've also heard that McCormick & Scmick's is good - I've not been there either. In Cabbagetown area, I've had some really good meals at Agave. It is southwestern, but last time the ceviche and roasted Halibut were really good. Down the street from Agave is Six Feet Under, which is pretty casual, maybe too casual for what you might be thinking of for dinner (think beachfront fish house), but good bar area and good seafood.

      1. OMG - you can't miss Fat Matt's Rib Shack (literally a shack)...staple whenever I go to ATL. Lunch or dinner, its rules (weekend nights there's usually a live blues band, too). Bring a good appetite and cash - no plastic allowed.

        BTW - if you're @ the Hyatt Regency (the one across from the Intercontinental Hotel), their buffet breakfast is actually pretty good...in fact, they had the best grits I've ever had (and I'm not that big of a fan of grits).

        1. With no offense intended to Linda, please, please, OMG, please, *miss* Fatt Matt's. Or go knowing that it isn't real barbecue by a long stretch. There aren't that many good 'cue places in Atlanta, but this certainly isn't one of them. It has character and music, but a pork sloppy joe and ribs without smoke aren't barbecue.

          Sounds like you're limited to MARTA and/or cab. There are lots of good places in striking distance. You could head to downtown Decatur at lunch or dinner- there are lots of restaurants there worth a visit, and it's imminently small-town-ish and walkable.

          There are cool, hip places to hit in Midtown, and even good places up toward Lenox. There's a small nexus of places on the NW side of GA Tech. Etc. Etc.

          Search a little- there are lots of archived suggestions.

          1. It sounds like Scott is staying at the Hyatt Regency downtown at 265 Peachtree, not the Grand Hyatt (which used to be the Nikko) that's across the street from the Intercontinental, in Buckhead at 3300 Peachtree. And that's too bad, as the downtown Hyatt Regency is sort of a rat hole, but that's the nature of work travel.

            Something else that's good to know is that it's very nearly impossible to hail a cab in Atlanta. You'll be able to get one at your hotel, but returning via cab means that the restaurant will have to call it for you, and if you're in a downmarket place like Six Feet Under that could be an iffy proposition. Don't assume that the cab driver will recognize the name of a restaurant or hotel or any other location in town, and make sure you've got the address and phone number of your destination.

            1. You can go up and down Peachtree and find just about anything! Try the oyster "nachos" at Nava in Buckhead. They look so good and taste so great, you'd want to order more!



              1. For the record, I love Fish Market. I definitely think it's worth the trip. McCorm & Schmidt is a chain - you can get that seafood in many major cities - save that for another time. However, I second the notion of getting off at the Fine Arts Center and walking around Midtown to find lunch - pop in the High Museum while you are there - or try the Decatur stop on Marta - Watershed, Taqueria del Sol would both be grreat options for a nice, casual lunch. Have fun!

                ps - skip Fat Matts. It's fine, not great, plus hard to get to without a car.

                4 Replies
                1. re: miss piggy

                  I stand with Ted and Miss Piggy on this one. Could we all just stop recommending Fat Matt's to unsuspecting tourists, and assorted clueless people in the ATL who just don't know better? Boiled, gristly, fatty ribs prepared in the absence of any smoke whatsoever do not qualify as BBQ. End of discussion.

                  1. re: pastramiking

                    Geez - my second day on chowhound.com and I'm gettin' the wet noodle treatment. Sorry...but I'm not from Atlanta...just an L.A. girl stuck in Nashville now...excited about a dive with great live blues (at least when I've been there) with what I think is good ribs. My sincere apologizes to the locals. I'll be sure to check out your recommendations the next time I do a road trip to your fair city. =].

                    1. re: Lindalicious

                      Hey, Linda- sorry, you just struck a nerve. You should look for some non-chain suggestions for barbecue in Nashvegas and check them out. I'd suggest some, but the only 'cue I've had in Nashville was at a little trailer by the Parthenon, and that wasn't even this century.

                      Then, next time you're down this way, you could try one of our Korean places and see how it compares to home. Cheers!

                      1. re: ted

                        I know that trailer! Yea , there are some pretty good barbecue places, but since I'm a wet rib girl...that apparently is another deal altogether over here (folks seem to be partial to pulled pork on a bun, usually with slaw...which I don't understand). Wish my little bro wasn't 2,000 miles away. His barbecue ribs are killer!

                2. Thanks for all the replies. I might just switch out the Varsity (may go there for a late night snack) for the South City Kitchen or something else in midtown.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: SVarney

                    The Varsity is not that bad, it's just not that great. I grew up in Athens, GA, which also has one, and I sometimes miss those pimento cheese burgers and rings right out of the fryer. Of course these days I'm sure I'd be taking some Tagamet with me for lunch too.

                    You have to eat the rings fast as the grease starts battling the deliciousness right out of the fryer to the extent that they're a limp greasy mess 5 minute later.

                    Froster oranges are over-rated.

                    They also use shaved ice, which is another small perk.

                  2. In the Atlanta Journal today - A little Varsity trivia for kicks...