There’s more to Atlanta’s food scene than just biscuits and sweet tea.
That’s according to John Kessler, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution food critic who has chronicled the city’s culinary evolution since 1997.
“Atlanta can be kind of a hard nut to crack because it is so big and so spread out,” he said. “But there really is a great modern food culture here.”
Looking to satisfy a craving for kimchi or cochinita pibil? If you have access to a car, Kessler suggests hitting up Buford Highway, where there’s a strip of fantastic restaurants featuring world cuisines.
“That’s something that people don’t know about Atlanta — it’s an incredibly diverse city with an amazing array of international cooking styles represented here,” he said.
Kessler’s No. 1 piece of advice for conference foodies is to venture outside of what he calls “the downtown gulch.” The Old Fourth Ward is just a 10-minute walk away, and other neighborhoods are accessible via MARTA.
Check out the lists below for some of Kessler’s top picks and some of the Internet’s favorite Atlanta eats, then head to the official ONA blog for even more insider food tips.
|THE EXPERT*||CUISINE||THE INTERNET**|
|Mary Mac’s Tea Room and The Busy Bee Cafe
“These places have been around forever. You get a meat-and-three, which means you pick a meat and choose from about 40 different vegetables.”
|Down-home Southern||Silver Skillet
Silver Skillet specializes in Southern-style breakfasts, complete with biscuits and fried pork chops.
“Just beautiful farm-fresh food and great wines. It’s simple but delicious.”
The food is pricey, but Yelpers rave about this award-winning restaurant that specializes in innovative Southern cuisine.
|Sushi House Hayakawa
“This is a funky place on Buford Highway popular with Japanese ex-pats. I used to live in Japan, and it’s the place that reminds me most of being there.”
This downtown Venezuelan joint serves up arepas, empanadas and cachapas every day except Sunday.
|Holeman & Finch Public House
Kessler says this is the best burger in town, but you need to get there early. They have a limited number of hamburgers each night and invariably sell out.
|Burger||Ann’s Snack Bar
Chowhound’s discussion boards light up with recommendations for the “Ghetto Burger,” a double bacon chili cheeseburger with a mystery secret ingredient.
“If you can get over to the West Side Positions District, Ormsby’s has games and skeeball — and great local beers.”
This blues and jazz dive bar in the Westside has live music every night.
*Atlanta Journal-Constitution food critic John Kessler
**Venues that received top ratings on Chowhound, Yelp and Zagat’s