Maybe you’re here to visit your friend who came for college and never left, or maybe you’re one of the 500 people working on Avengers 12: Hulk Goes To Camp. Either way, you’ve made it to Atlanta and regardless of whether you flew into Hartsfield-Jackson or drove in via the interstate, you deserve a medal and maybe a stiff drink.
Now that you’re here, there are a lot of bars and restaurants to choose from, and just like the 70+ streets in Atlanta with the word “Peachtree’ in the name, it can be tough to navigate your way through all of them. Luckily, that’s where we come in.
Here you’ll find our guide to the best places to eat and drink during your first trip to Atlanta. We’ve included everything from a few of the most essential Southern spots, to where to get brunch or go for a celebratory dinner. This isn’t meant to be a definitive list of the city’s best restaurants, but we think it’s a pretty good start.
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The General Muir is about as close to a real New York deli as you’ll find in the South, and while it’s open all day, breakfast and brunch are where this place really shines. This casual spot in Toco Hills serves classics likes latkes, pastrami hash, and bagels and lox, along with plenty of other dishes that’ll make you wonder how anyone ever got anything done after breakfast in 1930s New York. Since it’s right next to Emory, The General Muir is always packed first thing in the morning, but this is one place that we actually think is worth the wait.
Over in West Midtown, you’ll find the appropriately named West Egg Cafe, which is open every day for breakfast, brunch, and lunch. This place is known for their fried chicken biscuits, but if you want to ensure that you’ll need a nap immediately after you eat, go with the Peachtree Plate instead, which comes with two eggs, bacon, pimento cheese grits, fried green tomatoes, and, of course, a biscuit. West Egg is another spot that gets slammed in the morning, especially on the weekends, but after you put your name down, just walk up the street to Brash Coffee and grab a cold brew in the meantime.
There are a lot of barbecue spots in Atlanta, but if it’s your first time here, Fox Bros. is where you need to go. As a forewarning, there’s always a line at this Candler Park spot, but just get there right when they open at 11am and make an afternoon out of it. They serve all of the barbecue greatest hits, along with some less traditional appetizers like chicken fried ribs and smoked wings. Make sure to get a few sides to round things out, like the mac and cheese, collards, and brunswick stew, and if you miraculously still have room after all of that, the chocolate pecan pie is a great choice.
Maybe it’s the Southern-meets-Mexican menu, the great margaritas, or the fact that it’s super affordable. Most likely though, the reason we love Taqueria Del Sol so much is all of those things combined. The menu has things like brisket enchiladas and a fried fish taco that’s one of our favorites, and almost everything is under $5. Just know, though, their queso is really the shining star. And if you’re visiting from a queso-deprived city, there’s nothing stopping you from smuggling back a few frozen containers of it on the plane.
Maybe you just want to sit on a patio, drink coffee, and eat a croissant. Or maybe you want to reminisce with your friends about that one time you went to Paris. Either way, Bread and Butterfly in Inman Park is a great spot to start your day. Besides pastries, this all-day bistro has a small breakfast menu, with dishes like scrambled eggs with smoked trout and a daily omelet for when you want something a little more substantial. Stop here for breakfast after a walk on the nearby BeltLine, or afterwards for a glass of wine.
This tiny convenience store looks like somewhere you’d drop in for a candy bar or a gallon of milk. And yes, you could in theory buy a Mounds bar here, but more important to know is that they also serve one of Atlanta’s best burgers. If you were disappointed by your first lunch, or you’ve had enough of group brunches, squeeze into Little’s for a stack of their thin, crispy patties on a potato bun and make sure to remember to grab whatever you came in for in the first place.
There are certain rites of passage you have to experience when you visit Atlanta, like ending a night at the Clermont Lounge, or going to an entire museum dedicated to Coca-Cola. Getting lunch at Mary Mac’s Tea Room is another one and if you only have Southern food once while you’re here, this is where you should go. This Midtown institution opened in 1945 and has been the go-to spot for fried chicken, peach cobbler, and more than 36 sides ever since. The fried okra, fried green tomatoes, and sweet potato souffle are all classics, but you can’t really go wrong with any of them.
Just outside of West Midtown is Nuevo Laredo Cantina, a neighborhood Mexican restaurant in Underwood Hills that’s been around since 1992. This place attracts a big lunch crowd seven days a week and for good reason; they serve great classic Mexican food and strong margaritas in a space that you could just as easily bring your grandparents to as you could your college friends. If you come with a group, the chile rellenos, tampiquena steak, and lobster tacos are the three things you should split, along with a few margaritas.
Staplehouse is the best restaurant in Atlanta, and you should make a reservation immediately if you’re going to be in Atlanta anytime soon. This Old Fourth Ward spot serves a prix fixe menu of beautifully plated dishes that are described by their random ingredients, like king crab, bamboo, and dill, and each of which will make you think, “I had no idea what this was going to be and now it’s my new favorite dish.” If you can’t get a reservation, try your luck grabbing one of the first come, first served spots at the bar, or head to either the patio or their upstairs cocktail bar, both of which serve a few items a la carte.
Walking into Ticonderoga Club is kind of like walking into your eccentric uncle’s basement and finding a fully stocked tiki bar just sitting there. There are old prints and retro antiques scattered about, and a photo of Grease-era John Travolta that’ll stare at you from across the room, all of which gives this small spot in Krog Street Market a weird charm that we really like. You can come here for a great cocktail and snack on a small plate or two, or bring a group and get the $90 chuck wagon steak dinner to split. Just like the decorations themselves, the menu here, which includes dishes like steak tartare and sweet and sour charred pork, is all over the place, but this should be one of the first places you check out during your next visit.
Kimball House is where you go to celebrate like an oil tycoon in the 1900s - it’s housed in a historic train depot, the food is expensive but delicious, and you can get great classic cocktails. Most of the menu is full of things that will make you feel a little fancier than normal, like oysters, caviar, and nice steaks, and there’s even absinthe service. If you don’t quite have the budget of a Rockefeller, though, their Happy Hour includes deals on oysters and their incredible Hawaiian rolls are only $2 each.
Miller Union is an old faithful on the Westside that does a good job of feeling a little luxurious without being stuffy. They have an extensive wine list and a seasonal menu that changes each week, so even if you make a second trip here later in the year, it’ll still feel new and interesting. One thing that never leaves the menu though, is the farm egg, which is baked in celery cream and served with grilled bread, and should be the start to every meal here.
When you’re in Atlanta for work, or just came to see the aquarium, it’s good to have somewhere to go for a nice client dinner or a date. For us, that’s Bacchanalia. This West Midtown restaurant really takes “farm-to-table” to the extreme, as you can watch the produce from your salad grow and get picked from the garden outside as you eat. As a result, the menu changes seasonally, but they always have a four-course, prix fixe menu available for $95. If you go a la carte instead, make sure to order the crab fritter with citrus and avocado to start. It’s the best dish on the menu, and might even surpass the whale sharks you saw earlier as the highlight of your day.
BoccaLupo serves some of our favorite pasta in the city, but this place doesn’t take itself too seriously, which is why it’s always one of the first places we recommend to people. The pasta menu is long, and while most of the options are pretty classic, you’ll also see things like a Spaghetti-O’s-inspired squid appetizer with tiny circles of pasta in tomato broth. If it’s your first time here, though, the black spaghetti with hot sausage and shrimp and the twenty yolk tagliatelle with wild mushrooms should be on your table. Beyond that, you really can’t go wrong.
Watershed has been an Atlanta favorite since opening in 1999, serving upscale Southern food right off Peachtree Road in Brookwood Hills. They recently revamped their menu to include some less traditional dishes, like barbecued octopus with popcorn, and a simple order of “french fries” that costs $350, because it also happens to come with a bottle of Krug brut rosé. One thing that’s still around from the old menu, however, is the beloved fried chicken, which you should definitely order, either with or without a $350 snack.
La Grotta is the classic Italian restaurant that you should always have in your back pocket for when you get burnt out on places serving things like beet spaghetti or deconstructed carbonara. This Buckhead staple opened way back in 1978 and ever since, it’s been serving the Italian greatest hits, like their house tortellini, which is stuffed with onions, prosciutto, thyme, and mascarpone cheese, and covered in tomato sauce. If you don’t eat your whole body weight in pasta here, make sure to get the tiramisu too.
Atlanta is certainly landlocked, but it also has a lot of great seafood restaurants, and while there might be newer or more formal spots, The Optimist is still our favorite. The three main reasons to come here are the great cocktails, creative seafood dishes, and high-level service. But if you need a fourth, you can practice your putting on the three hole mini-golf course next to the patio while you wait for a table. The lobster roll is the most famous thing on the menu, but definitely make sure to get the crispy octopus, something from the crudo list, and some oysters, especially if you make it here for Happy Hour.
Whether it’s after a big night of bar hopping, or a long day of sightseeing, sometimes you just want a few slices of pizza and a beer. When that’s the case, figure out where the closest Fellini’s is and go immediately. This local chain has seven locations around town, so you’re never too far from one, and they’re open until 2am each night. Stop by for a slice of their spinach and mushroom pizza or a calzone if you want something that you can save half of for breakfast.
JCT Kitchen and Bar checks off a lot of boxes for a great place to have dinner when you’re visiting Atlanta. The menu at this Westside spot includes a mix of great Southern dishes, including some of the city’s best fried chicken, and non-Southern dishes, like their spicy Angry Mussels and parmesan truffle fries. They also make great cocktails, and have an upstairs patio where you can listen to live music and get an excellent view of the downtown skyline. Basically, you can spend a whole night here and not have to travel more than one flight of stairs, which depending on how much you eat and drink, might be a good thing for everyone.
Sister Louisa’s Church of the Living Room and Ping Pong Emporium
If the name of this bar doesn’t tell you enough, just know that Sister Louisa’s Church of the Living Room and Ping Pong Emporium - better known simply as “Church” - is possibly the weirdest dive bar in Atlanta, and is the perfect last stop to end a night out. This two-story bar is decked out in religious decor from floor to ceiling, and even has red clergy robes you can throw on if you’re trying to live out some weird cosplay fantasy. There’s a ping pong table upstairs for your friend who gets aggressively competitive when he or she drinks, and plenty of space for you to document it over a $2 PBR.
There was once a simpler time when your local sports bar didn’t have six sour beer options, along with hummus and crudite on the menu. Back then, the Brick Store was where serious beer fans clustered around the horseshoe bar downstairs or the huge Belgian beer bar upstairs. This place still has the largest selection of regional and international beers in town, and since there aren’t any TVs, you won’t be battling to talk over the sports commentary when you want to declare your love for foudre-barrel aged wild ales.
At some point during your first visit to Atlanta, you’re going to end up at Krog Street Market for dinner. But once you’re done and ready for a change of scenery, head across the street to Krog Bar. This quiet and cool spot has plenty of outdoor seating and a great selection of beer, wine, and cocktails. It’s the perfect place to figure out where you want to go next, or just order another drink and spend the night here instead.
If a dive bar, a dance hall, and a strip club had a baby, it would be the Clermont Lounge. This local landmark opened more than 50 years ago and it’s one of the first places anyone will mention when you ask what you have to do or see while you’re in Atlanta. The music is loud, the floor is dirty, and the beer is cold, and while some of the dancers are tattooed from head to toe, others are old enough to be your grandma and will show you some creative ways to crush a beer can. It’s an experience no matter when you go, just make sure to bring some cash because, unsurprisingly, they don’t take credit cards.