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Sep 21, 2009 10:13 AM

Flavors of Atlanta!

We are four women cousins, all originally from NYC, now living in four different east and west coast cities( for the curious-- Pasadena CA, Stockton CA, Boynton Beach FL, and a small town in NC.) We are going to meet in Atlanta Georgia for a long weekend, just the four of us, in March. We would love suggestions of where to eat that would really give us a flavor of the city, spanning cuisine and price. Also, we'd love suggestions of what to see and what to do, since none of us have ever been there. Three of us are baby boomers, one is a bit older, but we are all pretty energetic. And does anyone out there own/ know of a B&B where we could get rooms?

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  1. I'm not even from Atlanta, but have been a few times. One of my all time favorite restaurants is Rathbuns (Inman Park area). Situated in a former pot-bellied stove factory, this place offers small, raw, big, or second mortgage plates. It is great to pick a few small plates to share. Each time I have been (perhaps only coincidentally, perhaps it is his regular thing), Chef Kevin did the rounds of the tables. I would make the trip to Atlanta just to eat there.

    1 Reply
    1. re: Andria

      I second the Rathbun recommendation. My husband and I had a great meal there on Sept 4.

    2. I suggest you do a quick Atlanta search and you will find lots of answers. Once you do the search maybe we can help narrow it down for you.

      4 Replies
      1. re: rcburli

        I always prefer asking local people ( or folks who have learned the area). I love going to places where the tourists don't usually go. Rathburns sounds wonderful. I'll put that on our list. What about places that might be small hard to find places with wonderful local traditional food. I know when I go to New Orleans, as much as I love fine dinning in the famous restaurants I love finding the little places with wonderful oysters prepared in dozens of " down home" ways. So please, rather than searching, I'd just love to be prepared with a few favorites of folks who know the area and the local cuisine. All of live in areas where there are plenty of good restaurants, so the idea is to find a few places that are uniquely of Atlanta.

        1. re: withabandon

          Quote: "...places that might be small hard to find places with wonderful local traditional the idea is to find a few places that are uniquely of Atlanta."

          Watershed Restaurant. Several miles west of the city in an established neighborhood in Decatur. We had Sunday brunch there a couple weeks ago. If the banana fritters are on be sure to get and order or two for the table. Seriously honest southern food will be served.

          1. re: Cpt Wafer

            Watershed is, of course, EAST of Atlanta.

          2. re: withabandon

            I think they mean search these Boards for previous similar inquiries, because your question has been asked here and answered here repeatedly. At the top of this web page you will see a box that says "Search this board". Type in your search parameters and voila, you'll have lots of local people's advice.

        2. I would also suggest that you search Atlanta just to get some recent reviews. Places I have eaten in the last 6-9 months that come to mind. I think most, if not all, of these places have websites for menus and prices.

          Rathbuns (Inman Park)
          Cakes and Ale (Decatur)
          Watershed (Decatur)
          One Midtown Kitchen (Midtown)
          South City Kitchen (Midtown)
          Pricci (Buckhead)
          Murphys (Virginia Highland)
          La Tavolo (Virginia Highland)
          Leons Full Service (Decatur)
          Rosebud (Virginia Highland)
          Parish (Inman Park)
          Wisteria (Inman Park)

          These are not in any particular order. Most of these places I have been there for dinner. Rosebud and Watershed I have been there for brunch only. I happen to live on the east side of the city, hence the geographic concentration. The westside has some nice places as well. Hope this gets you started.

          Things to do: Aquarium, wander through Decatur, Oakland Cemetery, shop Lenox/Phipps/Perimeter. Others will have more suggestions I am sure.

          I do suggest a car, makes life easier.

          5 Replies
          1. re: mascot

            As someone who just visited Atlanta, I do not suggest a car if possible. The few cab fares and MARTA passes did the trick and the traffic was quite significant. I would not want to drive in those conditions, especially in an unfamiliar city. Also, cabs and public transportation lend to more festive dinners :-)

            1. re: Janet from Richmond

              Janet makes a good point. As a native, I view traffic as a way of life. I would suggest figuring out where you are staying and what you want to see and then determing if you need a car. For example, if you stay outside 285 (the "Perimeter" or OTP) your public transport options are a bit more limited (at least with MARTA trains).

              1. re: mascot

                Oh my goodness. I live in Atlanta, right on Peachtree Road and know the restaurant scene very well. I disagree with a lot of the advice given so far!!! In Atlanta, you DO need a car to get around b/c you will want to visit several neighborhoods. Atlanta has a variety of very interesting 'hoods and the food scene is good in many of these.

                As for restaurants, I cannot understand the love affair w/ Rathbuns. I've been twice and both times I could taste butter in my mouth for almost a full day afterwards. Rathbuns is very trendy and in a very trendy area, but the food is just not that great. If you want a good steak with the traditional steak house atmosphere, go directly to Bones on Piedmont Rd in Buckhead. Some like Chops as well, so if you want a more modern atmosphere for the traditional steak, try Chops. Forget about Rathbuns.

                Bacchanalia is considered the finest restaurant in all of Atlanta... is always ranked number one by Zagats, etc. and I won't argue with that, however, the same couple owns Floataway Cafe in a warehouse district off Briarcliff Road and the food is equally as good as Bacchanalia and much less expensive. It is an awesome place for dinner.

                The Virginia Highlands area of Atlanta is very trendy and a great place to visit. You might want to have brunch at Murphy's at the corner of Virginia and Highland. Then you can walk/shop on Highland Avenue.

                I agree w/ mascot's recommendation for Watershed in Decatur and Wisteria in Inman Park... both great neighborhoods. Inman Park is quite trendy...

                For tapas? Go directly to Eclipse di Luna on Miami Circle.

                Inexpensive but great country French? Atmosphere on Piedmont Road

                Have a wonderful visit and enjoy your meals!!!

                1. re: rebeccaah

                  Abattoir is a more of-the-moment experience from the Bacchanalia folks. I really enjoyed it, but be wary of ordering too rich an array of eats.

                  I really like Eclipse, but I also think Pura Vida is excellent and maybe a bit more original in its tapas. Pura Vida also changes the menu pretty regularly, though my one complaint is that they don't have the inexpensive tummy fillers that I can round things out with at Eclipse (patatas bravas and calamari).

                  Holeman & Finch is also excellent, though I like Leon's in Decatur a lot and it's a better value.

                  Funny observation to call Va-Hi "trendy." It's been kinda the same for almost 20 years now (at least that I've been paying attention). But yes you could get your boutique-y shopping jones satisfied there.

                  And I always think it's worth it to make a run to deepest darkest Roswell for an excellent Southern meal at Greenwood's. Great setting and great food.

                  1. re: rebeccaah

                    Yes, in Atlanta you need a car. And, if you are unfamiliar with getting around there, a decent GPS. I go anywhere and everywhere that strikes my fancy without ever looking at a map.

            2. I live here and you need a car. You can manage the traffic if you are smart.
              Places I like that your group might enjoy...

              Baraonda (if you are going to Fox Theater for a show)
              Cakes and Ale (near the Brickstore Pub where you can have lunch)
              I like JCT Kitchen over South City Kitchen by a long shot
              Souper Jenny
              Antica Posta
              While I'm not a fan of Rathbun's, the Krog Bar is a cool wine bar with small plates right next store (same owner)

              I would stay away from the Buckhead Life Group restaurants. You can do so much better with the neghborhood spots listed by other posters (Wisteria, Watershed, La Tavola, Babbettes)

              Near the square in Decatur might be a nice place for the B&B. That way you can walk to lots of places but also drive easily to midtown, Va-highlands or Buckhead.

              For your really nice meal, Restaurant Eugene or Bacchanalia.

              2 Replies
              1. re: rcburli

                These replies are all wonderful-- and fresh ( I've noticed when you search the boards some of what you find is pretty out of date.--- like it wouldn't say if any place got flooded out just recently--- to that end I hope everyone out there is okay!) I appreciate the careful attention to my request, not just the food and places to go, and the discussion of car vs no car. We are all native NY'ers, so I think we can drive anywhere ( except maybe Rome or on the autobaun sp?) One cousin is driving from North Carolina, so we will definitely have a car-- and one that is familiar to the driver-- so not quite the same as being in an unfamiliar rental car!

                Peaches are quintessential to Georgia no? So where is the best peach cobbler or pie-- or other dish incorporating the peach?

                1. re: withabandon

                  You've kind of missed peach season. There may still be a few around, but the best of them have already come and gone.

              2. Ok, I delayed adding this one for fear of being chowbashed, but here is my other recommendation. Keep in mind that I am not from Atlanta, and have visited only a few times... however, I am always the restaurant planner for my touring groups.

                So, another favorite of the groups I have brought is Mary Mac's Tea Room. Open since 1945 when women weren't allowed to open restaurants, they opened a tea room instead. Apparently, this place is virtually unchanged since it's beginnings.

                At Mary Mac's Tea room, you can eat a family style Southern meal - fried green tomatoes, fried chicken, meat loaf, corn bread, and much more to choose. Enjoy a dessert of banana bread, bread pudding, or warm peach cobbler. Add to this the Goodwill Ambassador who does the tours of the tables rubbing the backs of those who like this gesture.

                Check out their web site at for more details and to peruse the menu.

                Probably characterized as a tourist trap by many, everyone I have brought has loved this place and had a great time.

                10 Replies
                1. re: Andria

                  On that note, to get real down and dirty in the South; there is always Gladys Night's Chicken and Waffles.

                  The Porter- Little 5 Points pup
                  The Grindhouse (latest great new burger spot- off of Edgewood Ave
                  Sun in My Belly, Murphy's, Babette's and the Highland Bakery are all great for brunch.
                  Atkins Park and Fontaine's Oyster House are great for dinner down in the Virgina Highlands too.

                  1. re: shayre

                    This is getting exciting! Thanks everybody! I have yet another question-- what kind of food says Atlanta? For example, if you had come to NY thirty years ago when I grew up there and asked that question I would have said, Italian ( fine restaurants, hole in the wall restaurants, as well as pizza places and recommended various parts of the city to find those, Serendipities for desserts, Jewish deli's and listed a few good ones, and Cantonese, etc. As a many time visitor to New Orleans, my answer would be Cajun, Creole, crawfish, oysters, fine dinnig in famous places, bengnes ( how do you spell those wonderful fried sweet pastries?), hole in the wall locations for po'boys, etc. If you came now to Los Angeles where I've lived for the past thirty years , I'd say what is sort of unique to LA ( besides that like present day NYC, you can find cuisine from around nearly the entire world) is great sushi-- both American fusion creative style and traditional Japanese style, and Mexican food. Similarly, Maine= Lobster; Florida= crab you crack with a mallet. So what should we look for in that vein too? By the way, I love the history of Mary Mac's Tea Room!

                    1. re: withabandon

                      I always thought crabs were something you eat in Baltimore, not Florida.

                      Atlanta's such a mix of people from all over, I don't know that there's anything that screams Atlanta. Maybe meat and 3s like Mary Mac's or Colonnade. But that's just Southern. There isn't really a regional BBQ style, although there are a lot of good BBQ places around town.

                      FWIW, chicken and waffles is something I hadn't heard of before the mid-90's, when the shop opened up at the Great Mall of China (now Home Depot/Whole Foods strip across from City Hall East). And it gets a mention in "Swingers." Doesn't mean there aren't folks who had it in the South growing up, but I doubt it's as authentic as Gladys and Ron would have us believe.

                      1. re: ted

                        Yes, Soft shell crabs and fabulous crab cakes in Maryland, but hard shell crabs in Florida.
                        And thanks for your comments in general-- and to all who are posting!

                        1. re: withabandon

                          Technically, both places have hard shell crabs in Maryland (and other mid-atlantic and upper south coastal states) and stone crabs in Florida.

                          1. re: bbqdawg

                            I've caught stone crabs in SC and you definitely get blue crabs in the Gulf and into FL on the Atlantic side. South FL definitely is thought of in terms of stone crabs.

                            I just think of MD in terms of where you'd go to get a bucket of steamed blue crabs dumped on the table in front of you to attack with various implements. Haven't found anywhere like that in FL/SC/GA.

                            I went on a trip to MA once with a nutty client who kept insisting that we had to get some of those "Boston crabs." Pretty sure he had the wrong "B" town in mind, and he kept saying it for the whole trip, probably just to annoy me.

                      2. re: withabandon

                        What kind of food says Atlanta? I've lived here for four years now and been to hundreds of places, repeat visited many places I liked dozens of times. I have a quick sum up that sometimes surprise people, but to which I find other local foodies agree.

                        The basic traditional representation (and what most visitors have in mind) is a mid-upper-scale Southern bistro (Watershed, Murphy's, JCT Kitchen, Shaun's, South City Kitchen). Sometimes they are only mildly Southern. Another sort is old fashioned meat-and-three soul food places, all have similar menus, with foods like fried chicken, shrimp & grits, chicken liver, collard greens etc. etc. etc. (Mary Mac, Carver's Grocery, Colonnade) I think those are very representative of traditional Atlanta, and they are attractive to visitors because they are rare outside of the South. However, to be honest if I move out of Atlanta, I wouldn't miss this type of food.

                        More current food scene in Atlanta, I would say gastropubs and especially passionate beer pubs (the sort that serves over 200 different beers and ranked A and higher on have really blossomed. So much so that this particular genre is now as good as if not better than major food cities like San Francisco, NYC, DC, Chicago (all these from opinions of people who've lived there). Places like Holeman & Finch, Porter Beer Pub, Brick Store (ranked 2nd best beer pub in the world), Bookhouse are very much worth your time.

                        Surprises now come. Did you know that Atlanta's suburb Duluth has become the premier Korean American community in the US? The Korean food scene is exploding in Atlanta although people who don't travel outside midtown/downtown/Buckhead and not very passionate about food haven't caught on yet. It's all happening on Buford Highway and Duluth, northeast of the city. Other reasonably strong ethnic cuisines include Vietnamese, Mexican, and Japanese (especially dedicated sushi houses and a recently opened Izakaya). The good Japanese restaurants are covered by major magazines, Zagat etc and most people have heard of them (do not go to RuSan's). But local non-foodies are ill-informed when it comes to good Vietnamese and Mexican cuisine. Probably partially having to do with most of the good places locating on Buford Highway, not exactly in-town.

                        Lastly, there are a few deli/quick food stops worth stopping by. Alon Bakery, Muss & Turner, and the food shop on Bacchanalia's premise. Muss & Turner is a ways west of the city, but highly, highly recommended.

                        1. re: Dio Seijuro

                          Dio Seijuro, just wanted to say that I read your Duluth rec in another thread. It prompted me to head out that way a few weeks ago for dinner at Budnamu where we enjoyed the stuffed duck cooked in clay. The duck was quite good as were the numerious banchan offerings. My experience is detailed in another post on the South board. So, thanks so much for the heads-up on Duluth.

                          1. re: Cpt Wafer

                            That sounds delicious. I am glad you found the suggestion useful. : )

                        2. re: withabandon

                          You might want to check out this blog which can narrow down your choices based on reviews or give you ideas based on cuisine: