Cuisine of Atlanta

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The cuisine of Atlanta reflects both Southern and much broader influences. The city is home to a mix of high-end chef-driven restaurants receiving praise at the national level, an ethnic restaurant scene along Buford Highway, and traditional Southern eateries.

Historic restaurants[edit]

The city's first restaurant was a tiny establishment manned by a Frenchman named Toney Maquino and he served ham, eggs, and oysters when the city was still known as Marthasville. After the Civil War, R.G. Thompson opened the city's first fine dining restaurant, named Thompson's, which served high-end fare, including steaks and oysters. Henry Durand became the most prominent restaurateur in the Reconstruction time period.[1]

By the 1920s, the restaurant business in Atlanta was thriving with notable locations starting in the city including the Varsity, Mary Mac's Tea Room, Waffle House, Chik-fil-A, and many others which have influenced the nation's cuisine.

High-end chef-driven restaurants[edit]

Since the turn of the 21st century, Atlanta has emerged as a sophisticated restaurant town.[2] Many restaurants opened in the city's gentrifying neighborhoods have received praise at the national level, including Bocado, Bacchanalia, Flip Burger Boutique, and Miller Union in West Midtown, Empire State South in Midtown, and Two Urban Licks, Parish, and Rathbun's on the east side.[3][4][5][6] The New York Times in 2011 characterized Empire State South and Miller Union as reflecting "a new kind of sophisticated Southern sensibility centered on the farm but experienced in the city".[7]

Celebrity chefs[edit]

Atlanta is home to a number of celebrity chefs who have appeared on food reality television series such as Top Chef.

Chef Atlanta-area restaurant(s)
(past and present)
Food reality series
Anne Quatrano Bacchanalia, Quinones, Star Provisions, Floataway Cafe (all together with Cliff Harrison) Chefs A' Field
Hugh Acheson Empire State South; 5&10 (Athens, Georgia) Top Chef
Jeffrey Gardner South City Kitchen Midtown Chopped
Justin Burdett Miller Union Chopped
Kevin Gillespie Woodfire Grill, Gunshow, Cold Beer Top Chef
Kevin Rathbun Rathbun's, Kevin Rathbun Steak, KR Steakbar, NAVA, Bluepointe, Buckhead Life Group Chopped & Iron Chef America
Sean Telo Noon Midtown (closed) Chopped

Other renowned chefs without food reality TV appearances include:

  • Peter Chang (Tasty China (Marietta), Peter Chang's)
  • Shane Devereux (The Lawrence (opened 2012), dinner party, Sound Table, TopFlr
  • Paul Luna (Lunatic Black Market, Loca Luna, Eclipse di Luna)
  • Art Smith (Southern Art)

Ethnic restaurants[edit]

Buford Highway, stretching from near Buckhead to Gwinnett County, is the area's international food destination. There, the million-plus immigrants that make Atlanta home have established various authentic ethnic restaurants, ranging from Vietnamese, Indian, Cuban, Korean, Salvadoran, Mexican, Colombian, Dominican, Japanese and Chinese, to Ethiopian.[8][9][10][11]

Traditional landmarks[edit]

Local landmarks include The Varsity, opened in 1928 and the world's largest drive-in restaurant,[12] and Mary Mac's Tea Room, opened in 1945, a traditional destination for Southern food. Paschal's and the Busy Bee Cafe have been soul food favorites since the 1940s.

Restaurant districts[edit]

Restaurant districts include Buckhead, Virginia-Highland,[13] and the Luckie-Marietta District downtown.[14]

Current avant-garde culinary districts are the Old Fourth Ward, particularly Edgewood Avenue,[15] and West Midtown, home to Atlanta's two top Zagat-rated restaurants, Bacchanalia and the Quinones Room,[16]


  1. ^ McConnell, Akila Sankar (May 20, 2019). "A Culinary History of Atlanta". Arcadia Publishing.
  2. ^ "Frommer's best bets for dining in Atlanta – Travel – 24-Hour Layover – 24-Hour Layover: Atlanta". NBC News. May 30, 2006. Retrieved June 27, 2011.
  3. ^ Martin, Timothy W. (April 16, 2011). "The New New South". The Wall Street Journal.
  4. ^ "TWO urban licks". TWO urban licks. Archived from the original on July 28, 2011. Retrieved June 27, 2011.
  5. ^ "Details Magazine – Official Site". Retrieved June 27, 2011.
  6. ^ "America's Hottest New Restaurants". The Daily Beast. November 18, 2010. Retrieved June 27, 2011.
  7. ^ Kim Severson, "Atlanta serves sophisticated Southern", May 6, 2011
  8. ^ Stuart, Gwynedd (June 24, 2004). "Highway to heaven | Cover Story | Creative Loafing Atlanta". Retrieved June 27, 2011.
  9. ^
  10. ^
  11. ^
  12. ^ "The Varsity: What'll Ya Have". The Varsity. Retrieved July 7, 2007.
  13. ^ "Restaurants in Atlanta", Frommers
  14. ^ Exploring the Luckie-Marietta District -- Downtown Atlanta's New Hot Spot", Daniel J. Jones, Huffington Post, 2013-08-02
  15. ^ "Revitalization of Edgewood Avenue brings new restaurants, bars to the area", Atlanta magazine, 2014-04-30 Archived August 21, 2014, at the Wayback Machine
  16. ^ "Best Atlanta Food Restaurants". Zagat. Retrieved 2012-09-29.