Atlanta has no shortage of good restaurants to fit your mood. Multiple James Beard Award winners and nominees helm restaurants and bakeries across a spectrum of cuisines that run from casual to elegant. Michelin stars have been awarded to multiple restaurants, which only serves to up the profile of Atlanta's food scene.
As multicultural as Atlanta is, it's hard to think of the city without its roots of Southern and soul food. Southern food is a complicated set of regional foods from Southern states. Soul food, although Southern in its origins, grew from the meager ingredients allowed to enslaved people pre-emancipation. While most soul food is Southern, not all Southern food is soul food, as you'll see.
Tastes are subjective, and your mileage may vary, but we've compiled a list of what we think are the best Southern restaurants in Atlanta, mostly from first-hand experience, although some were researched via the Michelin Guide and online local and national publications. This list ranges from the relatively new to venerable establishments that predate the Great Depression and all levels of service and atmosphere. Several of these restaurants started as Black-owned, women-owned, or both, in the era before Civil Rights or during a time when women owning a business "just wasn't done," and have thrived in the years since.
Bantam + Biddy
As the name suggests, co-owner and executive chef Shaun Doty's original Bantam + Biddy location near Piedmont Park leans heavily into all things chicken. Fried chicken comes in the form of tenders, while roasted chicken is available by the quarter or half. For those not feeling the pull of poultry, meatloaf, salmon, and fried shrimp are available in the entree category. Apps run typically Southern, featuring wings, Brunswick Stew, fried green tomatoes, and pimento cheese. The sides likewise lean toward the classics of grits, mac and cheese, fried okra, and collard greens.
A full breakfast menu is served until 11:30 a.m. on weekdays, which leans heavily toward Southern and Southwestern standards. The breakfast menu is served for weekend brunch until 3 p.m.; a limited breakfast version is available all day. There's also a selection of chicken-oriented sandwiches and a full array of salads to round out the menu.
While eschewing the ubiquitous Southern staples, there's no denying chef and author Steven Satterfield's deeply-rooted Southern cooking. Satterfield, a 2017 James Beard Award winner for Best Chef: Southeast, dives deep into the nuances of regional, seasonal vegetables and farm-driven ingredients. His Root to Leaf (also the name of one of his cookbooks) approach to cooking offers up the very best of what's in season at any given time.
The Michelin Guide Recommended Miller Union is named after the stockyard that once occupied the space the restaurant now sits on. Lest you think the menu is all vegetables, it features locally raised pork, beef, and poultry, and an in-house charcuterie program. The wine and whiskey lists are deep, guided by Michelin Guide Service Award winner Neal McCarthy, and the cocktail program is equally as creative as the menu. Although the menu changes with seasonality, one staple that's a must-try is the farm egg baked in celery cream.
Mary Mac's Tea Room
Mary Mac's Tea Room, located just a few blocks from the historic Fox Theater, is the last "tea room" existing in Atlanta, per its website. When it opened in 1945, proprieties of the time didn't allow women to operate restaurants, so they referred to such women-operated places as tea rooms.
The depth and breadth of Mary Mac's menu is staggering, with 20 specialty entrees and a few seafood dishes. Entrees include the classics of fried or roasted chicken, roast pork, meatloaf, fried pork chops, and pot roast. You can get lost in the list of sides alone, with 28 options to choose from. Appetizers include the must-have pot liquor with crackling cornbread, fried chicken livers, and Brunswick Stew. If you're up to the challenge after all that, the dessert menu features cobblers, puddings (bread and banana, naturally), and coconut cake.
Holeman & Finch Public House
Led by the team of Gina and Linton Hopkins, Holeman & Finch is another out-of-the-mold Southern restaurant. Executive chef Linton won Best Chef: Southeast from the James Beard Foundation Awards in 2012 for his deceptively simple cooking style.
Holeman & Finch is an ingredient-focused restaurant that celebrates what's local and seasonal. The menu consists largely of smaller plates, heavy on the vegetable elements, that embody Southern cooking by making the best of what's locally available. In-house pickling and preserving is the norm, as is its selection of charcuterie and salume. An off-menu not-so-secret is the H&F Burger, once limited to 24 per day and only after 10 p.m., which is now available any time. Although Holeman & Finch is a casual gastropub environment, those who want a more casual dining experience can visit H&F Burger or Hop's Chicken in Ponce City Market for burgers and fried chicken.
Twisted Soul Cookhouse & Pours
Chef and author Deborah VanTrece's Michelin Guide Recommended, "modern, global soul food" restaurant takes some forays into fusing global flavors into soul food classics but never wanders too far from familiarity. Deviled eggs, fried green tomatoes, and chicken wings grace the appetizer menu, but each wanders outside typical preparations.
A range of sandwiches, including pulled pork, blackened fish, and a smash burger, are relatively straightforward versions of their namesakes. Entrees start to wander farther afield, with dishes like the hoisin-glazed oxtails with ginger and garlic bok choy or Kerala-style flounder with coconut rice and local field peas. Swaying back toward the classics, the Southern marinated fried chicken is served with mac and cheese, braised collard roll, pot liquor, and a sweet potato-apple chutney. Twisted Soul is located a short distance from the Georgia Tech campus.
Silver Skillet Restaurant
Also close to the Georgia Tech campus is the venerable Silver Skillet. This breakfast and lunch diner closes daily at 2 p.m., and it's one of the hottest seats in town on weekends. Since opening in 1967, the Silver Skillet has maintained its period look and has been a featured backdrop for many movies and T.V. shows.
The breakfast menu hits all the classic notes of accompaniments, like cured or country ham (with red-eye gravy), pork chops (fried or grilled), and country-fried steak. That's before you get to the laundry list of biscuit sandwiches, omelets, and self-described "Syrupy Things," like pancakes and waffles.
Lunch is equally traditional, with entrees that include meatloaf, turkey and dressing, and pot roast. Sandwiches, likewise, stay the course with burgers, various melts, egg salad, and pimento cheese. Don't pass on the sides that feature cabbage, lima beans, collard greens, fried okra, and macaroni and cheese.
The Busy Bee Cafe
Like Mary Mac's Tea Room, The Busy Bee Cafe is another woman-established restaurant that dates back to 1947, first opened by "Momma Lucy" Jackson. The Busy Bee is a James Beard Foundation's America's Classics Award winner, given to independently owned restaurants that have a timeless appeal, regional following, and reflect their community's character. Adding to Busy Bee's bona fides, it's also a Michelin Guide Bib Gourmand winner.
The Busy Bee Cafe is located near Clark Atlanta University and is open for takeout and delivery from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. only. The menu is chock-full of soul food classics, like baked or fried chicken, barbecue ribs, fried pork chops, and oxtails, as well as baked or fried fish and shrimp. Equally important are the sides, which cover the spectrum, from candied yams to collard greens, black-eyed peas, rice and gravy, broccoli cheese casserole, and carrot souffle. What would all this be without dessert? Busy Bee offers banana pudding, sweet potato pie, cake, and blackberry or peach cobbler.
Delilah's Everday Soul
This mother-daughter effort by owners Delilah Winder and Delana Reeves operates out of a stall in the Chattahoochee Food Works in West Midtown. Winder is a cookbook author, has appeared on Food Network's "Throwdown with Bobby Flay," and the "Oprah Winfrey Show" dubbed her mac and cheese recipe the best in the nation.
Paraphrasing Winder's mission, Delilah's Everyday Soul seeks to combine modernity with culture and wisdom. Everyday Soul specializes in fried chicken, available as platters or multiple variations of chicken — barbecue or otherwise — configured into sandwiches. As with any good Southern or soul food restaurant, the sides matter. Delilah's features the aforementioned mac and cheese, collards, fried green tomatoes, and fried pickles, among other items. For those who don't want chicken, there's The Westside sandwich with pimento cheese, fried green tomatoes, and bacon, or a waffle minus the chicken.
The Colonnade started in 1927 and operated for 35 years before relocating to its current location north of Piedmont Park. The menu reads like a Southern Sunday supper served five days a week. Appetizers are limited; you have your choice of chicken livers, a shrimp cocktail, or a larger shrimp cocktail. From there, you get a poultry-heavy selection of specialties, an assortment of grilled items, from steaks to calf's liver, a selection of fish and shellfish, and some assorted items like pork schnitzel.
From there, you can wade through the pool of sides, which is a deep dive into bygone years. Cottage cheese and peaches, tomato aspic, and Waldorf Salad sit alongside the expected staples of mashed potatoes and gravy, collards, rutabagas, mac and cheese, and the like. That's not a bad thing; these dishes need preserving, and what better location to do that?
South City Kitchen
South City Kitchen has been operating in Midtown for about 30 years, serving a mix of Southern classics, reimagined classics, and globally-spiced creations. Fried chicken and trout live alongside braised goat with casarecce pasta on the entree side of the menu. New Orleans barbecue shrimp, fried green tomatoes, and cornmeal spoonbread shore up the appetizer section. She-crab soup and shrimp and grits are worth a go as well, as are sides of grits, collards, and delicata squash.
Weekend brunch follows in the same vein, with usual suspects like waffles and frittata. But there's also heartier fare like "That Sandwich," which is a sizeable arrangement of eggs, city (cured) ham, gouda, tomato, and arugula on semolina toast that's been pleasing crowds for years.
Chef Duane Nutter and restaurateur Reginald "Reggie" Washington, both formerly of the James Beard Award-nominated One Flew South in Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, chose the Summerhill neighborhood to open a second location of their Mobile, Alabama venture, Southern National. The community, founded by formerly enslaved people in 1865, was a thriving business center at the time.
Nutter's approach to Southern cooking blends regional ingredients with global flavors, never straying far from the familiar but adding flair with spicing from other regions. A fried chicken thigh gets spiced with Berbere and paired with coconut and Cajun maque choux. A roasted sweet potato gets the "loaded" treatment with lamb and curried yogurt. "Lamb Burger Helper" pairs lamb with rigatoni, fennel, mozzarella, and parmesan, all baked together. A modest but effective wine, beer, and cocktail list complements the menu.
Paschal's opened in 1947 in the historic Castleberry Hill neighborhood adjacent to downtown. Per its website, James and Robert Paschal decided fried chicken would be their primary focus, and the brothers ran with it. Expanding from their original lunch counter, the Paschals grew their restaurant, which became a central meeting point for key figures in the Civil Rights movement.
The "1947 Old Fashion Fried Chicken" is still an anchor of the menu, alongside standards like meatloaf, fried catfish, shrimp and grits, barbecue chicken, pulled pork, and ribs. One can also find lamb chops and salmon, should they want to veer from the classics. A healthy selection of classic sides, also available as a four-choice vegetable plate (which one should never pass up), includes the standard candied yams, rice and gravy, black-eyed peas, and collards. Desserts, although slim in selection, are worth exploring for the peach cobbler alone.
Soul: Food And Culture
Soul: Food and Culture is two-time James Beard Award semi-finalist for Best Chef: Southeast, and cookbook author chef Todd Richards' Krog Street Market outpost. Richards has been a voice in Atlanta's food scene since the 1990s, helming multiple high-profile restaurants.
Soul's menu, although compact for efficiency, isn't shy on big flavors. Like a few others on the scene, the menu leans heavily on chicken in the form of wings, paired with waffles, or as a choice of sandwiches. Chicken aside, the appetizer menu consists succinctly of deviled eggs and fried green tomatoes, and catfish comes as a sandwich or accompanying waffles. Weekend brunch adds salmon croquettes with creamed corn and grits and a "Hangover Chicken Biscuit" of fried chicken, bacon, pimento cheese, and gravy. It's short and to the point, but it's a fairly sharp point and not to pass up.
The unassuming Eats sits across the street from, and contrasting, the shininess of Ponce City Market and just down the street from the Clermont Lounge. Eats serves Southern and soul food cafeteria style in the not-so-meat-and-three fashion. The restaurant's claim to fame is its jerk chicken, which it's been serving daily since 1993. Entree-wise, in addition to its jerk, Eats also serves up a poultry-leaning menu of turkey meatloaf, lemon pepper chicken, and some rotating daily specials. There's also a pasta collection featuring Eats' chicken lasagna, chicken Alfredo, and spaghetti and meatballs.
A selection of side dishes comprised of the usual suspects, like mac and cheese, collards, and black-eyed peas, rounds out the à la carte entree items. There's also a small beer menu for dine-in.
Home Grown GA Restaurant
Home grown GA Restaurant sits just south of the Cabbagetown neighborhood, offering what it calls the "next-gen meat-and-three." This breakfast and lunch spot grows some, definitely not all, of the produce it utilizes on site and tries to put it all together "without clogging your arteries."
That said, breakfast plates are formidable, like the Comfy Chicken, a fried chicken and biscuit sandwich served open-faced and topped with sausage gravy, or the Kage Fighter, a plate of pancakes, sausage patties, fried chicken and more sausage gravy. Lunch follows a similar vein, with a few iterations of fried chicken sandwiches, a country-fried steak entree, fried bologna, fried catfish, shrimp and grits, and sloppy joe, to name a few. Sides are a little fresher and lighter than some of Home grown's contemporaries. Of course, there's mac and cheese, but also sauteed cabbage, spinach, and fresh tomato slices.
Roc South Cuisine
Roc South Cuisine sits on Buford Highway, a multicultural eating destination in its own right where one can find a farmers' market and cuisines from Central and South America, Asia, and Middle Eastern countries sitting side by side. Roc's quickly earned a reputation serving refined Southern classics and more. Of course, there's fried chicken, but a whole fried snapper appears on the menu alongside the fried catfish. Mac and cheese gets the lobster and truffle treatment on the appetizer menu, while crab cakes and wings sit beside various eggrolls.
A vegan curry bowl sits in contrast with a fried chicken sandwich, and lamb chops and blackened salmon round out the entrees. Seafood gumbo is available, and the list of sides steers toward the classics of candied yams, rice, greens, and cabbage. Desserts include two types of cake, peach cobbler (naturally) and strawberry pudding.
Wisteria started serving "modern Southern" food in the Inman Park neighborhood in 2001. The focus is on blending local and regional ingredients with Southern staples. Fried oysters, deviled eggs, and fried green tomatoes populate the appetizer menu, along with calamari, crab cakes, and Brussels sprouts. A Southern restaurant in Atlanta without fried chicken is a rare thing, and it's fried in cast iron here. Shrimp and grits and other seafood offerings like scallops and grouper are also present. A molasses-rubbed pork tenderloin and a beef tenderloin round out the meat category.
There are a few traditional sides, like grits, collards, and sweet potatoes, but most dishes are composed, and sides are an extra feature. A small beer and cocktail menu each complement a medium-sized wine list.
Gus's World Famous Fried Chicken
Gus's has locations in 14 states, which complicates the idea of it as an Atlanta restaurant, but Gus's version of fried chicken can hang with the best. First, the chain serves nothing but fried chicken, sides, and desserts, so keep your expectations in line with that. But you can order individual fried chicken pieces, plates, or 20-piece mixed "snacks."
The sides compete with the chicken to see who the star of the show is. The collards, baked beans, and slaw are top-notch, and the fried okra and potato salad aren't far behind. An assortment of pies are available whole or sliced, which includes chess, sweet potato, and pecan. Atlanta's Gus's is in the Peachtree Center, so it's perfect for stopping by if you're exploring the museums and sights of downtown Atlanta.
Read the original article on Tasting Table.