Just because you’re a tourist in Atlanta doesn’t mean you have to eat like one; with some of the country’s top attractions (The Big Peach is home to the nation’s largest aquarium, after all), blockbuster film sites, and a truly diverse population, Atlanta is a world-class city with award-winning dining to prove it. But unlike many major metropolitans, Atlanta has sprawl where others have density — no matter, the city is made up of unique, quirky neighborhoods each boasting their own distinctive personalities. And with the city’s new Beltline Project, you can now even walk between many of the hottest hoods. Here’s where to dine like a local in Atlanta.
Home to one of the city’s best-loved food halls (that would be Krog Street Market), Inman Park is poised for a culinary adventure. Stroll through and work up an appetite then, and for farm-to-table goodness, head up the road (you can walk!) to One Eared Stag, where chef-owner Robert Phalen serves up innovative, sustainable plates, like butter-braised celery root with black truffle and bee pollen and roasted tuna collar with fried bread and a sherry vinaigrette.
Just down the street, Venkman’s combines live music with flavor-packed fare in a lively setting as vibrant as chef Nick Melvin’s food — the warm feta with seasonal veggies and the most perfectly toasted ciabatta is a must-try. Don’t miss their bottomless mimosa brunch on the weekends; it goes down easy with their indulgent breakfast poutine.
Construction has been booming over on the Westside of Atlanta for several years now—and with no signs of stopping. In-the-know locals flock to Better Half, a Latin-meets-Southern-American restaurant literally built by the city — chef-owner Zach Meloy raised the money to open through a crowd-funding campaign. Meloy’s ever-evolving menu changes daily, as do the batched cocktails, but the reasonable prices and inimitable flavor combos never disappoint.
Likewise, Meloy’s neighbor Steven Satterfield, the mastermind behind James Beard-nominated Miller Union, continues to be a local favorite thanks to his thoughtful, seasonal cuisine where local produce takes center stage. Don’t miss his iconic farm egg in celery cream.
Later, switch gears and head to one of the city’s first upscale Vietnamese eateries — at Le Fat classic dishes get a modern upgrade. Think Hanoi-style pho, shaking beef, and mantou-style steamed bun brimming with soft shell crab and crispy bacon.
The pioneer of the farm-to-table movement in Atlanta, chef Linton Hopkins, has long been praised for his elegant cuisine at Restaurant Eugene — but you’ll find the locals at his decidedly more casual, but no less delicious sister restaurant, Holeman and Finch Public House. Lesser-known cuts of meat and hyper-chef-driven techniques elevate the traditional pub experience into something much more interesting in his famed “Parts Menu” — go for the bone marrow and sweetbreads.
If pasta is more your speed, you’ll be hard-pressed to find better noodles than at Seven Lamps, where chef Drew Van Leuvan turns out novel combinations, like corn-stuffed agnolotti with chanterelle mushrooms and local blueberries. Don’t leave without trying the mussels with andouille, charred jalapeno, and fennel butter.
Though plenty of posh sushi bars in Buckhead take the spotlight, locals know they can get an incredibly authentic and delicious meal at family-owned Nakato Japanese Restaurant. Bypass the hibachi room and make a beeline to the sushi bar for the omakase (chef’s choice) menu. Nakato is also home to the city’s only Tatami room, where you can dine in traditional Japanese fashion (that’s on the floor on tatami mats with slippers and kimono-clad servers) and partake in their Washoku Tasting Menu. The sushi is fresh, the service friendly and the experience one-of-a-kind.
What are your picks for travellers looking to dine like a local in Atlanta? Let us know here or over on Facebook, G+, Instagram, Pinterest, or Twitter. Remember to snap + share your Atlanta #dishpics with us on Instagram for a chance to win in our weekly giveaway.
Kate Parham Kordsmeier is a freelance food and travel writer for more than 100 publications, the Atlanta Expert for About.com, and the author of Atlanta Chef’sTable: Extraordinary Recipes from the Big Peach. Follow her on Instagram and Twitter.
Photo credits: Heidi Geldhauser (Miller Union); Thomas Lee (Le Fat); Alessandria Struebing (Holeman and Finch).