Food Fanatics Road Trip: Atlanta

Atlanta may be known as The Big Peach, but make no mistake: This city is serving up a whole lot more than cobbler and pie. Home to some of the country’s best chefs and biggest chains, this burgeoning food city has a lot to offer. So if you plan on visiting, we recommend packing your fat chef pants.

Pioneers of Atlanta’s dining scene, James Beard Award winner Anne Quatrano and her husband, Clifford Harrison, jump-started the farm-to-table movement here in 1993 with their first restaurant, Bacchanalia. Since then, the Star Provisions duo has been walking the sustainability talk by supplying their six restaurants from the 60-acre working farm where they live. 

Taking cues from Quatrano with his farmstead-driven weekly menus, Steven Satterfield keeps diners coming back to Miller Union for a rotation of seasonally driven plates. Standouts include local lettuces with radishes, beets and herb-buttermilk dressing, and grilled pork loin. (Just say yes to the life-changing housemade ice cream sandwiches.) 

Atlanta dining has evolved into a sprawling culinary adventure. Because downtown Atlanta had a bad rep for only housing big chains, diners headed to areas such as Midtown and Inman Park. Many chefs have put their hooks in surrounding suburbs, including Buckhead and Decatur, reeling in big time success. 

One of those guys, Ford Fry, launched a refined Southern restaurant, JCT. Kitchen & Bar, and now has 10 restaurants across metro Atlanta, from Italian and seafood to coastal European and open-fire hearth cooking. There's also worthy fast casuals, such as Chai Pani in Decatur, where you'll find chaat and street food sandwiches. 

Now that Atlanta’s finally getting the attention it deserves, don’t overlook some of the old timers. Slam down a Beverly at the World of Coca-Cola tasting room or head across town to Georgia Tech’s campus for the world’s largest drive-in restaurant, The Varsity. This nostalgic burger joint, which opened its doors in 1928, slings 2 miles of hot dogs, 2,500 pounds of potatoes, 5,000 fried pies and 300 gallons of scratch chili daily. Bounce those stats off your prep cooks the next time they start whining. 

By the time you feel like you’re gonna bust, it will be crystal clear that Atlanta is reshaping the country’s perception of Southern cuisine.