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Please Help Boston Hound In ATL

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I will be attending a convention in Atlanta in a couple of weeks, staying at the Hilton. First, forgive me if this is a tired topic, but one of the things I most enjoy about visiting a city is seeking out some of its 'chowish' locations. The group I am travelling with are all from urban areas, and we aren't (necessarily) interested in high end places, but rather places that reflect unique Atlanta flavor that we couldn't get anywhere else. Please weigh in on some 'don't miss' venues. We have a car, but are allegedly attending convention panels, etc, so places close by are a bonus. Last year, the same convention was in Austin, and we skipped a half day make the Kreuz Market pilgrimage for 'Q. Thanks in advance to noble Atlanta hounds for their guidance.

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  1. For a historical lunch spot not too far from downtown try Harold's BBQ. It's been there for decades and has long been a lunch favorite of construction workers, politicians, cops, business folks, etc. There's always The Varsity in midtown. It's a grease joint, but the onion rings are better then most. When was the last time you had a truly fresh onion ring?!

    2 Replies
    1. re: HaagenDazs

      omg you did NOT just recommend the varsity. yes, it is very 'atlanta,' but soooo gross.

      1. re: batdown

        OK, let's review the original post. I'll use an original quote for those (see above: batdown) who aren't very good at reading:

        "we aren't (necessarily) interested in high end places, but rather places that reflect unique Atlanta flavor that we couldn't get anywhere else."

        Something else that has good, but not terribly expensive local cuisine is Woodfire Grill.

    2. Mary Mac's on Ponce and the Busy Bee on MLK are both great stops for a southern meat-n-three, not too far from downtown, either. I take all my visitors from the frigid northeast to at least one of those. ;)

      1. Unfortunately Atlanta isn't known for regional cuisine beyond southern and chicken and waffles... for a nice dinner i recommend Eno in midtown. i also recommend touring the Virginia Highlands area. Murphy's and Dish are my two favorite dinner spots in the area.

        3 Replies
        1. re: strephking

          I wholeheartedly disagree. There is plenty to offer locally and regionally here in Atlanta. Are we *famous* for it? Maybe not famous like San Francisco or the south of France, but the food is most certainly extremely good. Although Seeger's recently (and unfortunately) closed, Guenther Seeger was a HUGE supporter of local foods and local farmers. He practically invented the slow food/organic/local & fresh movement in the southeast. If you visit a restaurant like Woodfire Grill or Bacchanalia or Repast, they also like to highlight fresh, local ingredients. I say shame on you for saying Atlanta only has fried chicken, waffles, and to put words in your mouth, cornbread and collard greens. Get out more. Experience our good restaurants!!!

          1. re: HaagenDazs

            Name a local specialty in Atlanta please? One thing you can find in Atlanta that you we consider local. Please, enlighten me.
            People go to Philadelphia for Cheesesteaks, New Orleans for Beinets, North Carolina for BBQ. What do you go to Atlanta for?
            I've lived in Atlanta for 10 years and in the South all my life and to this day I have never been able to tell anyone what food Atlanta is known for. That is not to say there aren't amazing restaurants and wonderful chefs; I love enjoying the local ingredients of the south; however, we are just not known for a certain food. that is all i am saying.

            1. re: strephking

              You're right, Atlanta doesn't have a famous food item. I kind of hit that, I just was disagreeing with the thought that Atlanta doesn't have good quality cuisine. The "chicken and waffles" comment made me think that you were saying just that. Popular and good quality aren't the same; look at a Philly cheesesteak. I think I just missed your point in the first comment, my fault.

        2. ok, The Varsity gets a very bad wrap in Atlanta as being GROSS, no it is not fine dining, however, it's fun and better than McDonald's. the hot dogs and hamburgers are good, and are old fashioned (mustard, coleslaw, chili). i recommend stopping in for lunch, if just to hear the guys yell out your food to the cooks. it's assuming, but do remember your tums.

          4 Replies
          1. re: strephking

            The Varsity is a place to eat it every once in awhile and def. worth a visit for an out-of-towner. I like the chili and pimento cheese hamburger and the frosted orange, two things you don't often (if ever) find outside Atlanta.

            For me, I would want to hit a meat and three while in ATL. Others than those previously mentioned, I really like Carver's and it is very close to downtown. Bobby and June's on 14th is pretty good too. Been wanting to try Busy Bee.

            Best BBQ in ATL and comparable to Kreuz (personally I preferred Smitty's on my trips to Lockhart) are Sam N Dave's (bit of a hike) and the Fox Bros. The Fox Bros. will be opening their own restaurant in April, but for now, they serve it at Smith's Olde Bar. Because it's catered in, it can sometimes be hit or miss, but I recommend the ribs, brisket, green beans and the mac n cheese. Can't wait for these guys to get their own place and it will be forever on my list of places to take out of towners.

            Atlanta has great ethnic eats if you are willing to travel. As mentioned below, Tasty China is outstanding. Personally, I would not miss an opportunity to go there, it's that good and is permanently on my list of places to take out of towners. There's good Vietnamese (Com on Buford Hwy), Korean (Hae Woon Dae) and Mexican, most of which is found on Buford Highway. A couple of good mexican places in town are Laredo Nuevo and Taqueria Del Sol, but if you want the really authentic stuff you need to head to Buford Hwy.

            Other than that, I would try one South City Kitchen, Watershed or another higher end southern style restaurant to get some local flavor.

            1. re: offtheeatenpath

              Oh good! Thanks for the info on The Fox Bros. Where are they opening the restaurant?

              1. re: HaagenDazs

                1238 Dekalb Ave
                Atlanta ga 30307
                (little 5 pts)

                It use to be Asada. They got a website too, www.foxbrosbbq. I've had the pleasure of having their bbq when it is "fresh" and not reheated and it's infinitely better and consistent.

                1. re: offtheeatenpath

                  Oh no, when did Asada close? We had several meals there, and were usually satisfied. They tried very hard.

          2. I lived in atlanta for 4 years and now I've been in Boston for 4 years. So, I'm going to give you a few that I know are still there and I think represent the south and are signature to Atlanta.

            The Flying Bisuit Cafe- Atlant fixture. innovative breakfast with decadent recipes. Very good. If you want somethign to last you though your meetings, this restaurant will deliver. It's worth the trip. 2 locations. One in midtown and the original in Candler Park.
            http://www.flyingbiscuit.com/

            Agnes & Muriels- retro decor circa 1950s. Great meal. Dishes like meat loaf, mac & cheese, fried chicken, grits, etc. All modernized with fresh recipe variations. It's always packed. Make a reservation - can't remember it they take them. It's in an old brick house that I believe is painted pink? Good stuff!!

            Monroe Ave. in Midtown.
            http://mominthekitchen.com/

            One Midtown- this opened just as we were moving to Boston, but we made it before we left and visited again when we went for a visit last year. Great ambiance. Feels a little New York. Loud, but great decor and atmosphere. Food is great and the energy is wonderful. Open kitchen, dark and moody with great lighting. It doesn't feel really pretentious somehow.Friendly service and the food really was great. I think I had steak frites. Flavor and presentation was great. Definitely pricier than Agnes& Muriels, but a nice city restaurant where as Agnes & M is more kitsch.

            Fat Matt's Rib Shack- love these ribs and casual atmosphere. i think it's cash only. It's on Piedmont in Midtown. It's small and you may end up sitting on top of your neighbor. ITs first come first serve for tables. you order and then grab a table. They have draft beer on tap. The whole experience is fun. They push you around a little at the counter when you order, but it's part of the experience. They often have bands playing which can become ridiculously loud. I still enjoyed zoning out with my beer, my ribs and/or chicken or combo. Beans and coleslaw come with most dishes. It's small and loud.

            http://fatmattsribshack.com/

            5 Replies
            1. re: MMCC

              Forget The Flying Biscuit, it's lost it's appeal here in Atlanta. Go enjoy Thumbs Up Diner, better food and not on the verge of commercialism. Not very good anymore. For what its worth, this reviewer's favorite was eggs and bacon. That's *really* hard to make...
              http://atlanta.about.com/cs/restauran...

              Fat Matt's is ok, but it's only for the vibe. Food isn't worthy of a culinary visit. Harold's on the other hand still has ok BBQ and has a great history.

              One Midtown is a see and be seen place. Not bad, but there are better places in my opinion. If you enjoy guys with their hair buzzed and gelled, and girls with waaay too much make up, this is your restaurant.

              Sorry for the slams, but much has happened in 4 years.

              Another "add" for me is Sotto Sotto.
              http://www.sottosottorestaurant.com/

              1. re: HaagenDazs

                Agree on the biscuit. Thumbs Up is great. Another good breakfast spot, if you want Atlanta, the Silver Skillet on 14th. It has been around for who knows how many years and you will still be served by someone who was there when it all began.

                If you want BBQ, another option would be Daddy D'z on memorial. I prefer it to Fat Matts, I have not had Harolds so can't compare although I have heard good things about them.

                1. re: qrkid

                  Daddy D'z is better than Harold's IMO and isn't even in the same category as Fat Matt's. Harold's is a legacy, but Daddy D'z has surpassed them in BBQ. Again this is my opinion, and I hate to bash Harold's, but they have fallen a bit in the past few years. Point is, while Harold's is good, DD'z is a great spot - good rec.

                2. re: HaagenDazs

                  Stepping aside while local experts weigh in. I'm way out of date and suffering from Q deficiency. ;-) I'll be heading back for a visit in the Spring and will look into your updated recommendations.

                  Enjoy your trip to Atlanta, Boston Hound. Let us know how the city treats you. I always did enjoy the charm and hospitality.

                3. re: MMCC

                  Agree with HaagenDazs on the Flying Biscuit's decline. The death knell was sounded by their joining the Raving Brands conglomerate for immediate national franchising.

                  I haven't had one in a long time, but I crave a gingerbread waffle with lemon curd from Java Jive on Ponce. One of these days, I'll fulfill that craving.

                  Haven't been to Agnes & Muriel's in 4-5 years, but even then it had slid from where it was on opening.

                  It might not top heading to Kreuz for a pilgrimmage, but Greenwood's on Green St in Roswell is worth the trip N for an awesome southern meal. FWIW, my Texas BBQ pilgrimmage was from the lake area outside Austin to Cooper's in Llano. That was worth every minute of the 1.5 hr round trip.

                  Fatt Matt's is just foul. The ribs are devoid of flavor and loaded with grease from hasty cooking. If "vibe" is all that matters, and you have no other frame of reference for Q, then maybe Fatt Matt's might suffice. The Fox Bros. barbecue served just down the street at Smith's Olde Bar is a quantum leap ahead in terms of quality meat. Rolling Bones downtown does pretty good TX-style barbecue, too.

                  For something at the higher end, we had an excellent meal at Ecco relatively recently. Don't know that there's anything quintessentially "Atlanta" about it, though. And if you're into beer at all, it'd be worth a trip to Decatur for either the Belgian bar at The Brick Store or to the recently-retooled-as-a-brewpub Twain's pool hall. We made the Corned Beef Society 'meeting' at Twain's a week ago and enjoyed the beef and the beer.

                  And there's always Chick-fil-a chicken biscuits or hot Krispy Kreme glazed doughnuts.

                4. i agree with Thumbs Up, it is a must for breakfast; however, be prepared to wait!
                  the scrambled eggs with cream cheese and fresh herbs are fabulous.

                  1. At the Varsity, the frosted orange drink (FO) is something you do not find any place else and it is a treat (at least once) I love their Onion rings and they make the quintessential chili dog. Plus the original Varsity near Georgia Tech still has car hop service I believe which is fun. It's greasy, loud and often crowded but for what it is it is an experience.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: gashrink

                      Yep, they still have car service. One of my fondest memories growing up is going to the Varsity on a rainy Saturday after a GA Tech football game! I'm not sure if the record still holds it's place, but it is known as the "World's Largest Drive-In." I think it's truly worthy of a visit even if it's just for a frosted orange & onion rings as a mid-afternoon snack.

                    2. I have to add my vote for the Varsity. Yep, it's greasy and bad for you (oooo.... fried pies!), but it's an Atlanta landmark, at least for me (my parents, before they were my parents, used to go on dates there when my dad was at Tech). I grew up in the Atlanta suburbs, and when I fly home to visit, there's usually a need for a stop at the Varsity on the way home (again, oooo... fried pies!).

                      1. You wrote: "The group I am travelling with are all from urban areas, and we aren't (necessarily) interested in high end places, but rather places that reflect unique Atlanta flavor that we couldn't get anywhere else."

                        #1. Tasty China. 30 min north of downtown AFTER rush hour. Extraordinary Sichuan cuisine. BYOB. A small place in a small suburban strip center. IMHO this, this suburb, this super talented chef laboring in the middle of nowhere, this is the real Atlanta. See links at http://www.chowhound.com/topics/33461... ,
                        http://atlanta.creativeloafing.com/gy... ,
                        http://www.atlantacuisine.com/cgi-bin... ,

                        With all due respect, TC will be a Chinese Food revelation.

                        #2. The Colonnade. Cash only Southern style meat and three within fifteen min drive from the Hilton. Pours a stiff drink. Get the fried chicken, the collard greens, yeast rolls. Many past posts. VG place to bring a group. No reservations.

                        Other:
                        There's not really anything so compellingly indigenous to ATL as Kreutz Meat Market is to Austin and BBQ.

                        Chef Michael Touhy at Woodfire Grill (near the Colonnade, so its close) serves amazing Cal-style food sourced from the finest natural and organic ingredients--I heartily recommend.

                        Chef Sean Doty at 'Sean's' just opened in Little 5 Points--also very close to downtown. But even on a weekday it might be a tough, although worthwhile, reservation as this is a very talented chef. You will likely get some of your food foamed. Forgive it. He's that good.

                        I love Boston, and I love eating there, almost as much as I love forays to Cape Ann to Essex Seafood for fried clams. On that note, you should stop by the Varsity--not to eat mind you, but just to look. Heck, get a Frosted Orange and an order of Onion Rings and an order of fries to split among the group, and keep going. Sort of like in the Wizard Of Oz when Dorothy lays down in the poppy field and falls asleep....whatever you do, don't eat a Varsity hamburger or even worse, a chili dog. Unless these are your daily fare, in which case you might even enjoy them.

                        2 Replies
                        1. re: Steve Drucker

                          Agree on the burgers and dogs being not-so-good and also the onion rings are awesome fresh out of the fryer, but gross 15 minutes later. After moving back to Athens, GA following 8 years in Boston, my memory of the food at the Varsity was 100x better than reality.

                          1. re: Steve Drucker

                            Oooo! Good call on Tasty China, Steve. If I remember correctly, I first heard about this place from you on a previous post! Thanks! It's a little out of the way (maybe a 15 mile trek north of downtown) but well worth the trip.

                          2. Note the below is based on my opinion and all the restaurants I used to frequent while living in Atlanta for 10 years. I now live in New York and do miss some of the below places.

                            1. Greenwoods on Green Street is a higher end twist on southern food. Love this place. Great honey pepper fried chicken and duck in a plum sauce. Also great Blackberry Pie. Super reasonable for what you get.
                            2. Taqueria del Sol (www.taqueriadelsol.com) is very simple, but great ... expect a line.
                            3. Fat Matt's (fatmattsribshack.com) is good & fun.
                            4. Flying Biscuit for breakfast. Awesome.
                            5. I have not been to Rathbuns (rathbunsrestaurant.com), though hear it is great.
                            6. For Sushi I really like Mf Sushi (mfsushibar.com).
                            7. Alfredo's Italian (on Cheshire Bridge). Inside does not look like much with the wood panel walls, but the food is great.
                            8. Good, though more expensive are Kyma, Bluepointe, Atlanta Fishmarket (buckheadrestaurants.com).

                            I can go on and on, though I think the above is a good start.

                            1. The absolute best meal I've ever had in Atlanta was at Rathbuns - you will not be disappointed: http://www.rathbunsrestaurant.com/

                              I agree that BluePoint is good: http://www.buckheadrestaurants.com/bp...

                              I also like Canoe: http://www.canoe-atl.com/canoe_conten...

                              These aren't exactly low-end, but they're worth every penny I've spent there.

                              1. Rathbun's can be hit or miss now. do not go on a Monday; i swear they serve the leftovers on monday (i know that is not true - it's just how i feel).
                                Eats is always a good place to go for a cheap good meal (on Ponce).
                                I know someone recommended Woodfire Grill earlier; and I just wanted to double recommend it; as well as Zonolite Cafe near VA Highlands! You definitely need a reservation. Another good southern twist place, is Food 101. I have been visiting the one in Sandy Springs for years; but i haven't tried the one in VA Highlands.
                                The other night i went to this little french place on Walton Street downtown before going to a concert at the Tabernacle. They don't have a menu; the chef just chooses three apps and three entrees each night. The food was amazing!!!! If you can find it... It's near Walton and Board. It may be called Fleur de Lis

                                2 Replies
                                1. re: strephking

                                  Zonolite Cafe? Do you mean Floataway Cafe, which is on Zonolite Rd? Very good, and as you point out reservations are usually needed.

                                  Rathbun's has been quite consistent in my experience.

                                  1. re: strephking

                                    The French place you're talking about is indeed called Les Fleur de Lis Cafe, and it is great. It is located in the historic Healey Building at 57 Forsyth St, although the entrance is on Walton, between forsyth and broad. The food there is fantastic, but I wouldn't recommend it if you're in a hurry. It is a tiny kitchen, and it is just the chef back there putting everything together himself. But it is well worth the trip. Also, while they do have a wine list, you can bring your own bottle and they'll charge you $5 for corkage. It is also open for lunch, as is Loaf and Kettle which is right next door to it inside the Healey. Both are great lunch places, although Loaf tends to be a bit better for those in a hurry. Fleur de Lis also does a sunday brunch, although they have shut it down I'm told until the weather gets nicer, so hopefully that will mean it is starting up again real soon. I can't recommend Fleur de Lis enough, really a great place, with a really fantastic atmosphere and even better food.

                                    The guy who owns Loaf and Kettle has also (re)opened a place he first opened last year called Sops on Ellis, which I gather is offering a $35 three course dinner menu thursday-saturday. It will feature the bread pudding that you can find only at lunch time at Loaf & Kettle. It is on Ellis St, although I'm not sure of the exact location.

                                    Slice, the pizza joint in castleberry hill has also opened a downtown location on Poplar. It features really good pizza.

                                    Nice to see downtown getting some new culinary additions.

                                  2. I am curious to read what locals think of Pacific Rim Bistro ? When we go to Atlanta on business we often have dinner there and love the menu and the quality of the food. I have not seen any discussion about this restaurant. I think they have wonderful seafood.

                                    1 Reply
                                    1. re: gato

                                      I've not tried Pacific Rim Bistro, but have dined at its sister restaurant, Silk. The latter was, well, not very good. I'm unlikely to try Pacific Rim Bistro unless dragged there.

                                    2. Oh, dear, I'm an Atlanta native who lived in New Orleans for 18 years. Katrina brought me back. I just m not impressed with ATL's high end or most of the moderate restaurants. NOLA had better food at cheaper prices. Atlanta Fish Market, Kyma and Canoe are prime examples of the ATL sensibility: unimpressive food at high prices. But brunch or early dinner at Canoe can be a very nice experience because the setting by the Chattahoochee River is lovely. The service is better than at other restaurants mentioned in this thread.

                                      Yes, the Colannade and Mary Mac's are uniquely Atlanta. I've taken yankees to the former. I don't think they usually prefer the genuine 'retro' there. ~wink~

                                      1. I have lived in the ATL for 20 years and am passionate about food.

                                        The Varsity is a must. Locally owned and operated for three generations by the same family. Close to downtown. It is an Atlanta landmark. A foodie's trip to our city would nt be complete without a lunchtime visit here.

                                        Mary Mac's changed hands several years ago and has never been the same since. I would avoid it and think that you might find better "meat and three" type food closer to downtown than the Colonnade.

                                        Try Carvers Grocery at 1118 W Marietta St NW. Mr. Carver runs the cash register while his wife dishes out some of the best comfort food I have ever eaten in this city. It's not much to look at and seating is community style, but food like this is becoming more and more difficult to find in the newer, healthier South. They are only open for lunch Tues. - Fri. and the line gets long by 11:45. Plan to get there before then or after 1:00. I believe that they close at 2:00. Don't skip dessert.

                                        Bacchanalia is consistently held up as the best restaurant in Atlanta and justifiably so. Anne Quatrano and her husband Cliff Harrison employ only the freshest ingredients in delivering what is an unforgettable food expereince Also, very close to downtown in fashionable West Midtown. It is a four course pre fixe, but (and I hate to reveal this) you can sit at the bar and order as few as one course. Go with the wine pairings. You will not be disappointed. This place is expensive but worth it.

                                        Restaurant Eugene is in Buckhead. Linton Hopkins is a young chef who is garnering a lot of attention for his reinterpretation of Southern food. He is an Atlanta native who, with his wife, has created a lot of buzz in the past few years with this restaurant. Also, a little pricey but quiet, intimate and very good food.

                                        Rathbun's is one of my favorites for great food and energetic atmosphere. I have been there at least a dozen times and have never been disappointed. Kevin Rathbun's menu has something for everyone at a wide variety of price points. I don't think anyone could argue against the fact that this place is a good value for your dollar. It is very close to downtown but can be difficult to find. They have a website with directions that I would suggest that you check out.

                                        Ethinic food here is unlikely to impress anyone from Boston. I would steer clear of it. If you are looking for the best breakfast in town, I can't recommend any place more highly than the Silver Skillet on 14th Street. Their country ham, biscuits and red eye gravy will, as we say in the South, make you want to slap your mama.

                                        I hope this helps.

                                        1. Wow! Thanks for all the great posts. I'm leaving Wednesday and will report back with my itinerary. Burny Carbo