Where the locals eat
I'm coming to Atlanta this weekend (from Boston) and am looking for places to eat that the locals go to. I prefer casual, cheap eats to moderate priced places. I'll have a car, so transportation won't be a problem. Looking for breakfast, lunch and dinner recommendations. The only thing I don't need are Italian restaurants since we have so many in Boston. Any suggestions will be appreciated.
Atlanta is a large area, and the restaurants are quite sprawled out. Where are you staying? For the type of places you are seeking, the magic words may be "Buford Highway", as Chinese, Vietnamese, Korean and Mexican food are quite well represented there, and the prices are lower than you'll find at the fine dining spots. There's a blog -- Eat Buford Highway -- that covers the tons of restaurants out that way.
Classic southern cuisine is better represented outside of the city. The Colonnade is a great representation of the Atlanta spirit, but it is not the best ol' fashioned southern food you will ever eat. (You can find that at the Blue Willow Inn in Social Circle -- about 40 miles east of town. You can also find a decent version of the art form at Matthews Cafeteria in Tucker GA, if you can get out to Tucker for a weekday lunch.) Skip Merry Mac's. Skip the Varsity -- unless you miss the orange sherbert you used to eat at HoJos.
BBQ, which many vistors in Atlanta are looking for, is done well here (finally, after many years of so-so-ness) at two rather new places -- Fox Bros and Community Cue. Wallace's BBQ (several miles west of town) and Harold's (between Turner Field and the Pen) have been around longer, and have their strengths. (At Harold's, eat brunswick stew and cornbread.)
2299 Main St, Tucker, GA 30084
Blue Willow Inn Restaurant
294 N Cherokee Rd, Social Circle, GA 30025
Although no longer a "local", I've heard good things about Leon's Full Service in Decatur. Then you could go to the Brick Store Pub after. Fox and Bros is good, and you may search for recs in the Virginia Highland area; like I said, no longer local, but I've had good food in that area.
My first thought about where locals eat depends on the neighborhood.
If you live in Midtown, VA-Highlands, Little Five, Buckhead, Decatur, where would you walk for a quick bite?
Or...where would you drive to another neighborhood for something casual and cheap?
The Buford Highway experience is a good suggestion.
Matthews Cafeteria for traditional scrambled egg, bacon, sausage, grits, buttered biscuits, breakfast. They ladle on the melted butter. Plenty of calories but tasty for that sort of thing. Lunch or dinner have daily menus. Mashed potatoes like mama used to make. Lines can be long but move well - plenty of seating and parking. Casual, with lots of police, firefighters, business crowd, old retirees, young blue collars, black, white, food dished up by hispanics. Not sure how much of the veggie fare is fresh cooked but for a cafeteria it tastes good if you like southern style. Excellent fried chicken if you know how to use your fingers. Pick your menu if Monday or Friday are options: http://www.matthewscafeteria.com/
A little more upscale but still casual is the Original Pancake House http://www.originalpancakehouse.com/. I love the thick bacon and basted eggs (sunny side up) with buckwheat pancakes substituted for the buttermilk cakes (extra charge).
Excellent coffee - real cream in a small carafe. Known for the Dutch Baby. Huge 6 egg omelets. Busy on weekends so be prepared to wait or go on a weekday if that is feasible. They close at about 3PM. Call and check.
Community BBQ is tasty whether you get the beef brisket or more standard southern pulled pork. It doesn't need sauce but they have two. I get the best of both worlds by mixing the vinegar based one with the tomato based one. You must get the three cheese mac and cheese - just chosen as one of Atlanta's best here: http://blogs.ajc.com/best-of-big-a/20...
These are mostly on the east side where I live and worked for many years. There are other good choices like Fox Bros. BBQ, Harold's BBQ (by the federal pen), and for breakfast, West Egg, Thumbs Up, ... I could go on but I'm not as familiar with those so will leave the descriptions for others.
If you had given a base location it would help - but you said you didn't want to limit the area. Right downtown near the Capitol, if you will be staying nearby, there's Nick's To Go.
Best lamb gyro lunch I've had and great Greek fries kissed with lemons, fresh salad. Just no place to sit. Only a wood counter screwed to the outside of the building. Busy place for government workers and a hodge podge of others sitting in their cars in the parking lot. Specials after 11AM. Messy, it's a twelve napkin lunch, but they'll give you some extras in case you need them. Nick likes it when you tell him to leave the ketchup packets out - because it ruins the fries. Use the tzatziki sauce if you don't eat them plain. Check http://www.nicksfood.com/ and http://www.yelp.com/biz/nicks-food-to...
Weekend dining without waits are a challenge.
West Egg Cafe
1168 Howell Mill Rd NW, Atlanta, GA 30318
2299 Main St, Tucker, GA 30084
One warning. A recommendation of fatt matt's can get you expelled from certain bbq circles. I won't go into the explanation of that -- just let you know that, if you are in the Fatt Matt's neighborhood, you will do better to go around the corner to The Colonnade, which serves old style Southern food (including bbq which is really no worse than Fat Matt's), and spend some time watching the scene in one of the most entertaining restaurants in Atlanta.
But if you have a drink there, make sure you aren't driving, or you spend a long time eating.
Highland Bakery (Brunch, Peanut butter french toast)
Horseradish Grill (Fried Chicken & biscuits)
Ecco (small plates & drinks)
Fox Brothers (BBQ)
Brick Store Pub (Giant beer list & pub food)
One Midtown Kitchen (Sunday has a $25 3-course special)
I'm a recently transplanted Bostonian- I find I keep bringing my guests from the North to these places! So far, Buford Hwy (Asian options, at least) have not been that impressive compared to Boston area places...I would skip it if you only have the weekend.
40 7th Street Northeast, Atlanta, GA 30306
655 Highland Ave NE, Atlanta, GA 30312
One Midtown Kitchen
559 Dutch Valley Road, Atlanta, GA 30324