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Old Southern Food

We will be driving our youngest son to Wake Forest in August. Road trip from Boulder, CO to Winston Salem, NC and back again. After we divest ourselves of our youngest, we will swing down through Atlanta and take in a couple of sights before getting back on the road and heading west.

I'd like to eat Southern Food in and around Atlanta. I've looked at some of the "New Southern" restaurants and while price isn't that big of an issue, the food looks in many ways like what we can get back home.

I want what in my mind is "Old Southern Food". I'm thinking... fried green tomatoes, fried chicken livers, beans, okra, greens, biscuits, caramel cake, and pie, pie and more pie etc. I eat healthy all the time back home and gosh darn it, I want to clog my arteries with all manner of fried and rich food.

We are looking for dinner Friday night and lunch or breakfast on Saturday morning. We don't even technically need to eat in Atlanta. We are coming in from NC on I85 and we are leaving north/west towards Chattanooga on I75 so anything along that corridor is fine. If we eat in Atlanta on Friday night, it might have to be a place that serves until at least 9p.m. since it is a 5+ hour drive from Winston-Salem.

I should also note that after divesting myself of youngest, I might need to drown my sorrows so bar recommendations, specifically bars that specialize in bourbon, are welcome.

Where we eat.... more to the point.... where we drink, will dictate where we stay.

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  1. OK... more digging seems to have turned up Mary Mac's and Colonnade. They both seem to be what I'm looking for. Mary Mac's has had a history of mixed reviews, but it seems like they have worked out the kinks. Anyone want to warn me off either place?

    6 Replies
    1. re: cbrand

      A great query.

      Hopefully this might help your plan:
      --Supper at the Colonnade. Cocktail first, the Colonnade pours a two fisted drink at prices (cash only!) to warm your heart. Then fried chicken (half) and another entree. The center of the plate varies from surprisingly great to lunchroom gray. We've had consistent success over time with: fried chicken livers, prime rib, grilled trout, greens, fried okra, blue cheese dressed (iceberg) wedge salad (not the tossed salad). Not so much with anything with brown or cream gravies like turkey, smothered this or that. There are daily specials on the blackboard by the door, generally also very good. Get a few extra vegetables--any that sound good. Ask for extra cornbread and yeast rolls. If you do it right you will have leftover fried chicken, rolls and cornbread to snack on for your Saturday drive.
      --Hit a craft cocktail type bar. There are many--and as many opinions about which are best, depending on what's close to your hotel.
      --Breakfast. Biscuits, muffins, grits etc if you must, again many choices depending on what's near to your hotel.
      --Rather, focus instead on lunch. Pull off the road a few minutes out of downtown in Marietta and go to Tasty China for nationally best in class Sichuan food. Many threads on what to order.

      The Denver Highlands area has as many locavore fine choices as all of Atlanta (and eastern slope sourced better produce IMHO), but the above two are places the likes of which can't be found in Denver. So is the General Muir.

      Hope this helps. Please report back.

      1. re: Steve Drucker

        PS. Pie. Key lime at the Colonnade. Even if you go somewhere else stop by for a piece to go.

        1. re: Steve Drucker

          Did you mean Virginia Highlands?

          I wouldn't miss The Varsity. Not Southern food but an institution.

          How about Waffle House for breakfast. They're all over the place.

            1. re: c oliver

              The OP is from Boulder, CO so the poster was drawing a comparison between that area and Atlanta.

        2. Are you dead set on Atlanta, my recommendations for what you're looking for might be better if you look at cities like Nashville?

          1. Busy Bee cafe > colonnade & mary macs.

            2 Replies
            1. re: foodiebuddha

              I haven't been to the Busy Bee in forever, but I used to really enjoy it. I've only been at lunchtime.

              It's been a long time for me, but Greenwood's in Roswell has been a knockout in the past. Fried chicken and whatever pie they happen to be making.

              For bourbon, I've been really impressed with Pinewood Tippling Room in Decatur the few times I've been. The folks behind the bar are serious about their stuff without being overbearing/dogmatic/hipsterish. They've collected some pretty obscure stuff too if you're willing to spring for it. Food isn't too bad either.

              1. re: foodiebuddha

                I second Busy Bee! A real Southern, hole-in-the-wall experience with fantastic greens and pot likker to soak your cornbread in. Great fried chicken - love to sit at the counter.

              2. Colonnade and Mary Mac's have been around for 50 yrs or so,and are more traditional than good.Empire State South,General Muir are good places to start,but their are lots of threads that may give u more specific recs,if u are looking for really good food and bourbon

                1. Thanks to all who took the time to reply. I will definitely report back. As for finding what I now know to be called Southern Comfort food in Nashville rather than Atlanta, we already have plans to eat hot chicken and sweet potato pancakes in Nashville. So much regional food to eat.... so little time.

                  Steve Drucker... thanks for the heads up about Tasty China! We used to live in Seattle and we miss good Chinese food. Our family will be in Orange County, California in early June and I asked the kids if they wanted to eat at a beach front restaurant or drive an hour to eat dim sum. They looked at me like I was crazy and said, "Um.... dim sum... duh. Elite it is!

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: cbrand

                    Uh oh--dim sum anecdote opens up dimensions of time, space and chow.

                    On your day of arrival, you could leave the Triangle early and totally fore go road food--which is meh for the whole drive, and get off I-85 at Pleasant Hill Rd and lunch at TJ House (see recent thread here, and also at I285foodiesDOTcom); or hit Gu's Bistro for Sichuan whose eponymous chef prepares food that is arguably far superior to that of Tasty China. Then rest up to prepare for cocktails, supper and cocktails.

                    Since our first visit, the Asian community has swamped TJ House (TJHouseGADOTcom), but otherwise its still undiscovered by the wiki world. If you go, get the smoked duck, three Cup Chicken,Hong Kong Fried Rice Noodle (spicy)--these three are musts, Ma Po Tofu, Fish with Fried Bean Curd Sauce, Snow Pea Leaves with Garlic. Clean, incredible carefully prepared food that impresses with both flavor and subtlety. TJ House would be my suggestion.