Eating Southern food in Atlanta is an absolute must. The city is the world capital of soul food, so you can’t pass by it without indulging in some deep-fried goodness. Of course, with its raging popularity, Southern restaurants in Atlanta spring out of the ground by the dozens, and it can be hard to know which ones are worth a visit.
The Best Spots to Try Southern Food in Atlanta
To avoid subpar Atlanta food, head to one of these Southern food hotspots, which have won the hearts and stomachs of locals.
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Empire State South
If you want to enjoy upscale dining and explore the variety of tastes Southern food in Atlanta has to offer, there’s no better place than Empire State South. With unique culinary twists on Southern staples, this restaurant isn’t afraid to play with and surprise your tastebuds. The most popular item on the menu is, surprisingly, the ESS Superfood, a veggie platter that even the most voracious carnivores praise with passion.
South City Kitchen
Built in a former 1920s bungalow, South City Kitchen is a reflection of the balance Atlanta continually seeks between tradition and modernity. Its open kitchen creates a trendy atmosphere, while its menu boasts classics like pulled pork, crab hash, and chicken livers.
Mary Mac’s Tea Room
If you’re only going to try Southern food once in your life, let it be here. A favorite Southern restaurant in Atlanta for years, it combines cozy atmosphere with food that tastes like home. While other places do great fusion or modern twists, Mary Mac’s Tea Room sets itself apart by serving good old-fashioned dishes like fried catfish and meatloaf with black-eyed peas and pepper gravy. For dessert, try the sweet potato souffle, or the perfect homemade cinnamon rolls.
A burst of flavor with lots of ambience makes this a top Southern restaurant in Atlanta. The seasonal menu offers new surprises, and its extensive wine menu alone justifies a visit. People come here for upscale comfort food, and that’s exactly what they get. Order the pork tenderloin or the lamb shank, or really anything on the menu, because nothing will disappoint.
Founded in 1927 and still growing strong, the Colonnade is a staple of Atlanta food and history. An unpretentious but lively atmosphere makes it a fun place to be around, but the real reason people keep coming back year after year is its authentic Southern food.
Don’t leave without trying the Southern fried chicken, and complement it with classics like the Mac n’ Cheese and the Cornbread. The cocktails are strong, and the numerous pie options make it hard to leave without ordering dessert, no matter how full you are.
JCT Kitchen & Bar
This bougie Southern restaurant has made such a splash, it’s even been featured on the Food Network. When you start your meal with apple-infused butter for your complimentary bread, you know it’s going to be an experience you’ll remember. The ambience is also superb, which makes everything even more enjoyable. Try the ribeye with a side of angry mussels and complement it with the classic JCT Cocktail.
The food at this popular Southern restaurant in Atlanta is all locally sourced. This mom-and-pop joint has quite a following, as its food takes people down memory lane and into their childhood kitchen. Try the comfy chicken biscuit, the fried green tomatoes, and the cheese grits, but don’t shy away from the less traditional food like the breakfast tacos. When you’re done eating, head to the back to peruse the restaurant’s very own thrift store.
The Food Shoppe
Get an explosion of flavorful creole goodness at great prices in this unassuming local shop. A place you could easily pass by, those who venture in are rewarded with generous portions of delectable dishes like the Chicken n’ Mac, the Jambalaya, and the Pasta Ya-Ya. Complement it with drinks, fries, and dessert as well as candy. Yes, you can get candy here!
If this ingenious food truck hadn’t appeared, Atlanta might have never known Mexican Soul Food, and what a tragedy that would’ve been. With dishes like Buffalo Chicken Tacos, Mexy Mac n’ Cheese, and Philly Nachos, The Blaxican combines everything we love about both cuisines into perfect fusion cuisine. Besides gracing the streets of Atlanta with the glory of its food, the food truck also collects donations on site and via its website, which go toward feeding the less fortunate in Atlanta.
Busy Bee Cafe
This is the place for people who don’t play around when it comes to Southern food. The traditional dishes are what you’d expect from your own grandmother (if you’re from the South, that is), and the ambience is nice but very casual.
Everyone comes for the fried chicken, which is accompanied by several sides like fried okra, mac n’ cheese, and fried green tomatoes, and which many claim is the absolute best in all Southern restaurants in Atlanta. Finish your meal with the divine peach cobbler.
More from SmarterTravel:
- Atlanta Travel Guide
- 10 Best Hotels in Atlanta
- 10 Best Cheap Hotels in Atlanta
- 10 Best Atlanta Airport Hotels
- 10 Fun Things to Do in Atlanta
- 10 Must-See Atlanta Attractions
- A Visitor’s Guide to Atlanta Neighborhoods
- The 10 Best Cheap Eats in Atlanta
- 10 Best Restaurants in Atlanta
- What to Wear in Atlanta
- What to Pack for Atlanta
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– Original reporting by Mariana Zapata
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