Forget about fancy – Atlanta’s classic Southern restaurants serve up heaps of stick-to-your-ribs goodness with no need for white linens. These long-time favorites aim to please both in-the-know locals and hungry visitors with a hankering for tasty chow.
You hungry, honey? Rev up your ride and make tracks to The Varsity, the world’s largest drive-in restaurant. Constantly packed since its opening in downtown Atlanta nearly 90 years ago, it dishes up tasty vittles like fried peach pies, chili dogs, and frosted orange shakes. Bone up on the menu slang to amp up the fun. Order the “Heavy Weight” if you crave a hot dog with extra chili, or holler for the “Glorified Steak” if you like your burger with mayo, lettuce, and tomato.
The Varsity’s seven Atlanta-area locations include two at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport. There’s nothing like some piping hot onion rings and a slaw dog to start or finish your visit just right.
Skedaddle over to Pittypat’s Porch in downtown Atlanta, and fill up on Southern faves like fried green tomatoes, black-eyed pea cakes, collard greens, and shrimp and grits. First opened in 1967, Pittypat’s has an old-timey feel with antiques and menus printed on old-fashioned hand fans. Join the Southern belles with a mint julep in a rocking chair on the verandah, and top it all off with a thick slice of pecan pie or peach cobbler.
If the name Pittypat rings a bell, there’s a good reason. The restaurant was named after Scarlett O’Hara’s aunt in “Gone with the Wind.”
The Colonnade in Morningside-Lennox Park is your go-to for Southern eats like short ribs and fried chicken served up in a laid-back atmosphere. Warm up by the fireplace in The Bar Room with a cocktail in winter, or cool down with an iced tea in the summer heat.
Expect some surprises — you never know when the chef may add a dish like kangaroo tenderloin to the menu. Dig into lip-smacking desserts like coconut ice box pie and strawberry shortcake, and, Darlin’, be sure to hit an ATM before visiting. The Colonnade only accepts cash.
Mary Mac’s Tea Room
Mary Mac’s Tea Room in Midtown, a.k.a. “Atlanta’s Dining Room,” has tickled taste buds since 1945. Step inside for made-from-scratch dishes like hushpuppies, chicken and dumplings, pork barbecue with Brunswick stew, and cornbread and fried okra. Wet your whistle with down-home drinks like a Georgia peach martini or a whiskey lemonade — both with a distinct southern bite.
The Original Waffle House and Waffle House Museum
Okay, so there are 132 locations in Atlanta — and hundreds more all over the country — but you can’t miss the chance to eat at the original Waffle House in Decatur. Besides serving up yummy chow like pecan waffles, hash browns, and steak and eggs for more than 60 years, it’s also home to the Waffle House Museum, packed with cool items from the heyday of the 24-hour diner. You can dine in anytime, but book a couple of months in advance for a tour of the museum.
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