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Jan 4, 2011 12:19 PM

New Yorker Looking for quintessential Atlanta cheap eats

I'm going to be in Atlanta for a couple of days - are there any signature or must-have cheap eats that I should have while I'm there (under 20 dollars a person) both including restaurants and other food stands or carts or anything? Any location within the city, or nearby outside (I will have access to a car) is fine.

Happy to be referred to any quintessential cheap eats threads Atlanta hounds may know that I may have missed as well. Thanks.

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  1. for Chinese,esp dim sum, id do canton House--if you spend $15 for a meal, you get a lobster for $5 ( 1 per table)--- for local flavor,id do the Varsity--its a legendary car hop place,great chili dogs and smoothies and fried pies

    1. Lunch at Pura Vida (downstairs from the main restaurant....has a different name which escapes me.

      Pura Vida
      656 N Highland Ave NE, Atlanta, GA 30306

      2 Replies
      1. re: forgap

        Super Pan. That place is great. Cheap and delicious sandwiches for lunch. I believe the hours are 11-2 during the week. Hector also runs a burrito stand in his parking lot on the weekends, which I hear is good.

        1. re: David C

          I had to come back and post here because it's in this thread that I learned about Super Pan, but I didn't get there until today. I work downtown so it's not always easy to drive somewhere for lunch, but I dragged a friend there to try it. Fantastic!! I am still drooling for more pork belly buns!! Luscious, soft pork belly with a nice spice from the sauce - just enough heat to hit you a little at the end, but sweet and smoky too. The sweet coconut bun was soft and made the perfect vehicle, and the crunchy slaw topping was a great contrast with bits of cilantro. Really I could have eaten 2 more immediately, because I consumed the first one in about 20-seconds. The plaintain chips (bagged) I won't get again, and the cookies were interesting but what I really wanted was another sandwich. My friend had the chicken sandwich and it was really tender - beautifully cooked and not the tiniest bit dry. But her sandwich was too large to handle so it fell apart (hence my tastes of chicken only). I can't wait to go back!

      2. Definitely The Varsity (although they don't have smoothies), Ann's Snack Bar, Harold's BBQ, The Colonnade, Vortex.

        14 Replies
        1. re: jla1960

          their orange drink is very close to a smoothie,although i dont see smoothies on their menu,so stand corrected--thanks

          1. re: bobstripower

            To me, a smoothie is a fruit-based drink that is generally associated with a healthy lifestyle. Wasn't trying to be snarky, just didn't want the OP to think he was going to get anything healthy at the V. LOL

            1. re: jla1960

              "healthy at the V. LOL"
              "A beautiful food pyramid, including pork (hot dog), beef (chili sauce), grain (bun), spice (mustard), vegetable (onion rings), and fruit (fried peach pie)."

              Yea, at least stop in for a FO (frosted orange) and great fried pie if your stomach can handle it. The pies are really tasty and the FO will cool off your tongue if you bite into the pie too soon. All the rooms have a TV to keep you occupied while you eat. Plenty of parking.

              Nick's Food to Go ( ) has great Lamb Gyro's but it's not a place you can eat in - it's take out only unless you luck out and get a mild day without wind. It's a wall in the hole a few blocks from the State capital. You walk into a 10' X 15' space to place your order and wait for your sack. On the outside wall is a board bolted to the wall where you might be able to stand and eat. Nick says he won't build an eating porch because he's afraid the riff raf will make it their home. He had to remount the board because someone tried to sleep on it and pulled it off. Really it's not that bad, and a lot of government workers, college students, businessfolks, retirees, keep it busy. You could eat in your rental car or take it back to your lodging. But beware it's a twelve napkin sandwich - great tzatziki sauce will drip out as will some of the fresh lettuce chunks, tomatoes, onions (get it all the way). He sprinkles the regular fries in the combo with lemon juice which adds a surprising zest, not too stong. Best Gyro in Atlanta, maybe the southeast, and cheap eats.
     At the end of that video Kool Korners the cuban sandwich mecca is mentioned but the owner decided that at eighty plus he would move to be near family in B'Ham. Couldn't stay away long and ended up opening up a shop there. Too bad, you miss out on that. I read someone say they drove all the way over there just to get their cuban fix.

              Another stop could be the Silver Skillet for tender country ham and red eye gravy (a southern specialty using coffee as a base) . Have it with eggs and grits or for lunch with fried okra and black eyed peas, and mashed potatoes (hold the gravy) Get the biscuits and spoon the red eye gravy over them. (closes at 2-2:30 PM)
              When they say the ham and gravy are salty they are not lyin'

              Silver Skillet
              200 14th St NW, Atlanta, GA 30318

              1. re: jla1960

                thats for sure--but it sure tastes good,and in moderation,wont kill you--didnt take it pesonal, but at my age (65) didnt undertsand these new drinks, to me they seem the same

            2. re: jla1960

              ugh, The Varsity is definitely an iconic Atlanta spot, but it's horrible...awful...I wouldn't take my best friend there, nor would I take my worst enemy. It's overrated and a hell hole. I could take a dump on a hot dog bun and it would taste better than what they serve. It's's also a very poor representation of what Atlanta has to offer.

              I grew up in Atlanta, and got dragged to plenty meals at The Varsity as a kid going to GT games....both football and basketball (oh, dad, trying to introduce me to your college funtivities)

              It was awful then, it's awful now. I'm pushing 30 now and live within a mile of the Varsity. It's a horrible place to eat. The Arby's on Spring offers better food. MAYBE go there before a tech game to experience the ~atmosphere~, but that's it. It's horrible and diarrhea inducing.

              1. re: mariel123

                I think that's a bit harsh to say the least.. I enjoy the Varsity. It is what it iconic drive-in serving good hot dogs and onion rings.

                1. re: jla1960

                  It took me a long, long time to get the Varsity. But it is more about the experience.

                2. re: mariel123

                  Agreed - skip the Varsity, it's an experience, but when it comes down to it, the Varsity is just a really big fast food restaurant. Don't let anyone send you to Pitty Pat's Porch, or Mary Mac's even for that matter. If you want some southern/soul food, go to Carver's (lunch only) or Busy Bee Cafe (seriously soul food on MLK, you'll probably have to wait a bit) or Watershed (a little more frou-frou southern food).

                  But what Atlanta does well that you can't get in NY is BBQ! Go to Fox Brothers, Fat Matt's, or Daddy D'z (the latter is my preference). Seriously, almost any place you go in the city will have some damn good bbq. I didn't realize this till I went to rural Alabama and found out there is bad bbq, and when it's bad, it's real bad.

                  Fox Brothers' BBQ
                  1238 Dekalb Ave, Atlanta, GA 30307

                  406 W Ponce De Leon Ave, Decatur, GA 30030

                  Daddy D'z
                  264 Memorial Dr SE, Atlanta, GA 30312

                  Fat Matt's Rib Shack
                  1811 Piedmont Ave NE, Atlanta, GA 30324

                  Busy Bee Cafe
                  810 Martin Luther King Jr Dr SW, Atlanta, GA 30314

                  Carver's Grocery
                  1118 West Marietta St NW, Atlanta, GA 30318

                  1. re: abbyloving

                    forgot to mention - you'll wait at Carver's too, but it's a lunch worth having.

                    1. re: abbyloving

                      Ted will be along soon to plaster Fatt Matt's. I can't do that because I've only been once. Wasn't impressed.

                      I think the former BBQ triad that is now represented separately by the two Dave's, Poe and Roberts, and Sam Huff, have BBQ down. Huff's BBQ 1 is really only takeout , especially in winter, and Robert's Community BBQ while good, is still serving meat that is just not warm enough. Poe may be the best bet for BBQ if that's not too far to travel. Fox Bros is worthy and closer, and I suppose Daddy D'z is worthy too. I haven't been there as when I'm close something pulls me over to Nick's. I really need to check out Daddy D'z as some of the sides even have extra appeal from what I've read.

                      Daddy D'z
                      264 Memorial Dr SE, Atlanta, GA 30312

                      1. re: JHLI

                        Sam Huff's BBQ 1 has now expanded into the former House of Wong property with traditional sit down dining available in addition to the take out from the original location. They are two doors apart in the same Lower Roswell Road shopping center.

                        1. re: JHLI

                          I will do my stand in of Ted and plaster Fat Matt's. It's awful and not truly BBQ as they boil the ribs which leads to grease bomb style ribs with the fat not rendered at all. They cover this with tons of super sweet sauce and to cover for the lack of smoke due to the ribs being finished over coals. Don't waste your time or your money.

                          Fox Bro's is good but I would recommend Community Q near Emory instead.

                          1. re: samlev

                            Just to reiterate:
                            Fat Matt's = yuck

                            We ate at Community Q on Friday night and they just kick butt up and down the street. Fox Bros is more of a good Q plus various artery bombs kinda place. Community's sides are for-sure down home Southern. My wife actually had a veggie plate. The only downside was that their ventilation wasn't full on and we came out smelling like the pit (in a good, smoky, not old-greasy way).

                            1. re: ted

                              Agreed on the side at Community Q, they truly do rock the house southern style. I also love the fact that you can get two different kinds of ribs (pork or beef) plus all the meats from either traditional Texas style or southern style BBQ.

                  2. Figo is my favorite cheap eats spot, and if you go to the one on Northside Drive, you've also got Taqueria del Sol right there as another option (depending on the lines at each). Figo is a local institution for fresh made pasta and sauces (choose your pasta shape for $3 and sauce for about $4). And tacos, well, who can say no?
                    Atlanta isn't much for stands/carts because we're a driving city.

                    1. Not sure I would consider $20/person cheap, but you can certainly hit a lot of different places. If you have a couple people, I'd hit up Antico Pizza ( for the best pizza in Atlanta. Located near downtown/Ga Tech area. Get the San Genarro and split it. Great experience to sit in the kitchen and watch them cooking the pizza. Ready in like 3 minutes. Keep in mind you it's BYOB. Dim sum is mentioned below, but I think NY may have better dim sum in Chinatown. I've heard that Vietnamese food in Atlanta is much better than northern offerings though. So I would recommend hitting Pho Da Loi or Pho Bac for some Pho, Bun or Com dishes. Personally, I love the banh mi at Pho Bac, but Quoc Huong also has very good Banh Mi and more variety. Heirloom Market BBQ ( recently opened, but has been getting very good reviews. I've eaten there once and thought it was awesome. If you are a Top Chef fan, you can go to Flip Burger.

                      Quoc Huong Banh Mi Fast Food
                      5150 Buford Hwy NE, Atlanta, GA 30340

                      Pho Bac
                      4897 Buford Hwy, Atlanta, GA 30341

                      Pho Dai Loi Restaurant #2
                      4186 Buford Hwy NE Ste G, Atlanta, GA 30345

                      Antico Napoletano
                      1093 Hemphill Ave NW, Atlanta, GA 30318

                      Heirloom Market BBQ
                      2243 Akers Mill Rd, Atlanta, GA 30339