I had never stayed in nor visited Atlanta, Georgia, before and so I had looked forward to this short but meaningful stay, primarily for a specialty coffee show and secondarily for a tour of the city’s attractions—southern cuisine and great hospitality.
Though many tourists readily go to the famous World of Coca Cola or the CNN tour, our group chose to make it a food tour, in between our coffee meetings.
Though cabs are aplenty, it’s best to get a car and have Waze on hand. We read up on food reviews as well as tips from friends who have lived in the South Atlantic city.
These are the must eats:
The plump fried green tomatoes at South City Kitchen are breaded with goat cheese and served with a light sauce.
Also at South City Kitchen, grits are the standard carbo and served as a side dish from breakfast to dinner. Shrimp and grits are must-try.
Southern fried chicken with waffles, the signature dish at Gladys Knight’s popular eatery, is served with sides of collard greens and Jalapeno corn. The Blackened Salmon is an alternative if you have had a little too much chicken.
The Sweet Potato cheesecake served with caramel and chopped pecans rounds up the meal.
Someone told us to try Mary Mac’s Tea Room for what else, but its famous versions of fried chicken, pot roast, smothered chicken over rice, and chicken pot pie. Thank heavens we were many in the group and the servers did not mind making shared combos and split orders so we could try more dishes in one go. It was almost like having our own buffet.
Amongst the resto’s many sides, the most popular is mac and cheese. Every good meaning resto has its version of what we think is for kids, but it is actually a rich version of the side dish.
Mary Macs has been around since 1945, and its servers have been there for many years… one of them for 40 years!
What about breakfast? Try all-day breakfast at Flying Biscuit. I had smothered sausage and grits, while a friend had chicken sausage and eggs with a side of a huge whole wheat pancake served with a perfect combination of a yummy compote of peaches in syrup. Brewed coffee is a perfect partner to all these dishes and that’s just for starters.
But is it really just the food? I say it is not just the food— homemade and honest (only real ingredients, nothing instant). For me, it is actually the friendly engaging service, like going to a friend’s home for breakfast or lunch. Every server, or wait staff, is unforgettably service-oriented. I can even remember their names: Jackie at Mary Mac’s Tea Room, Ms L at Glady’s Knght, and Judith at Ted’s Montana Grill. They engaged us in light friendly conversation that I found sincere and warm. They made sure to check on us throughout the meal. And these are casual diners, not a fancy five-star place where waitstaff can be as snobbish as their clients. Remember the names I’ve mentioned if ever you get the chance to visit Atlanta.
It was perfect spring weather when we went. There was a slight drizzle, but the weather was generally cool and breezy. It can get hot at noon, and surely hotter in the summer, thus the city’s monicker HOTlanta!
The dinners were memorable: Ted’s Montana Grill is owned by TV mogul Ted Turner and is located near the Tabernacle (a lounge/concert hall/ club called The Tabby) and the Sky view (the huge Ferris wheel). We tried the specialty bison steaks and bison burger. The bisons are raised in Ted’s Montana ranch spanning two million acres. Yes, you read it right, two million acres! You can also have the beef versions of burgers and steaks, but we thought it was better to try the house specialties.
And to cap your Atlanta visit, wear your jeans and sneakers and get ready for a long wait at Fox BBQ on DeKalb Avenue, a bit of a drive towards the railroad tracks. Everyone waits for at least an hour, but it is so worth it. Don’t miss the Texas fries smothered with brisket and cheese and topped with jalapeño peppers. And depending on your appetite, check the two-three or four meat choices for a combo meal. Quaff some pilsen or a glass of Margarita. I promise you will not have room for dessert. And for very good reasons. There are so much good main meals, you can leave dessert for another day.
Hotlanta it is, if you talk about food. I will be back sometime in the hot weather, but for now springtime and good food make Atlanta my Hotlanta! Come visit sometime.