What to Eat and Do in Atlanta Right Now

Discover the Southern city that’s always reinventing itself.

Piedmont Park, Atlanta, Georgia, America
Photo: Getty Images

F.I.L.A.: a rap lyric turned battle cry that unites anyone who's ever lived in the Empire City, transplant or not. An acronym for "Forever I Love Atlanta," the phrase's use is as far reaching as the city's notorious suburban sprawl. It's an exclamation mark while marveling the view from Jackson Street Bridge and the chef's kiss on a Buford Highway meal. It's the Band-Aid on a Falcon's loss and the faith that finally cracks a championship drought for the Braves. It's a love affair with just as much paradoxical flair as the city itself.

On one hand, Atlanta is a business traveler's paradise. You can find a steak with more accolades than Tyler Perry's studio inside the perimeter and out, and the city's high-end shopping scene rivals Rodeo. Skyscrapers house innovation from the likes of Delta, Coca-Cola, and UPS as the city defines itself as the commercial powerhouse of the South. But turn the corner, and Atlanta's shine blurs into the grit and soul of a Southern city with a storied past and reenergized present that intersect like a dream yet to be fully realized.

Unlike its interstates, Atlanta's neighborhoods never stop moving. Each little pocket is hustling, working simultaneously as time capsules and trendsetters. Nimble urban pathways and mega concrete highways thread together a tapestry of time-worn buildings and polished new construction invigorated by big ideas. Former factories turned food halls mingle with modern museums honoring a civil rights past. From Old Forth Ward to Roswell, film makers, artists, immigrants, and restauranters keep pushing the boundaries on Atlanta's potential, rewriting the script as the characters and set continue to change.

Venture away from downtown on your next visit, and you're sure to experience it all. Just listen closely to your GPS so you don't end up on the wrong Peachtree along the way.

Eat & Drink

The Bar at Kimball House
The Bar at Kimball House. Robbie Caponetto

Thanks to a smorgasbord of talent and tastes in its increasingly global population, Atlanta's kitchens go beyond classic Southern cooking (though if you're looking for killer BBQ and a classic meat and three, you've come to the right place). Don't miss oysters and cocktails at local-favorite Kimball House in Decatur, Tiny Lou's salute to French-American fare in Poncey-Highland, or Kevin Gillespie's parade of dishes at Gunshow. At Mary Mac' Tea Room, a plate of macaroni and cheese, okra, and fried green tomatoes can easily sooth you into a comfort food coma while the slow-smoked brisket at Fox Bros. Bar-B-Q is legendary.

Shop the menus around Atlanta's booming food hall scene, where some of the city's top chefs share walls in reinvented spaces. The central food hall at Ponce City Market, once home to Sears, Roebuck and Co., is a hotspot for some of the city's best dishes. It may take several meals to make your rounds, but El Super Pan, Bellina Alimentari, H&F Burger, and Hop's Chicken justify more than one trip. Pancake Social around the corner is worth waking up for as well. Head to Krog Street Market to keep the food hall flame burning. Here, Watchman's serves bright, modern takes on classic seafood plates alongside chilled oysters while Ticonderoga Club offers a spectacular bar program and a pleasantly dim escape from the hustle and bustle. Don't forget to stop by Little Tart Bakeshop where baking magician Sarah O'Brien delights with irresistibly flaky pastries.

Ticonderoga Club
Ticonderoga Club. Brian Manley

Buford Highway is home to some of the best international food in Atlanta. Take a trip to the Mediterranean at Nur Kitchen where your table will be teaming with a medley of small plates and platters or stop by Pho Dai Loi 2 for a bowl of pho. Head a little further out to Masterpiece in Duluth to taste why James Beard Award nominee Rui Liu draws crowds from across the region to a humble strip mall for world-class Sichuan cuisine.

It wouldn't be a trip to the ATL without a steak either. Get your fill of superb filets, ribeyes, strips, and more at classics like Bones and Kevin Rathbun Steak. Reserve a table at Ford Fry's Marcel or Linton Hopkins's C. Ellet's Steakhouse for an impressive cut and guaranteed good time too. No matter where you dine, expect impeccable service.

Explore

Atlanta's tree-lined streets are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to green space in the city. In Midtown, Piedmont Park's walking trails, dog parks, and grassy fields hug the urban cityscape, making it the perfect spot for a pick-up game or picnic. Don't miss the Dogwood Festival each spring when blooms are on full display. Less than a mile from downtown, Oakland Cemetery is a place of beauty and tranquility where you can also pay your respects to icons like Margaret Mitchell and Bobby Jones. Head from one neighborhood to the next on the ever-popular BeltLine. Pop on and off to explore restaurants, shops, and watering holes from Virginia-Highland to Inman Park and beyond. Get out of town to "shoot the hootch" on the Chattahoochee River. It's a popular spot for rafting just outside of the city, so don't forget your cooler.

High Museum of Art
Art Meripol

A showcase of works awaits at the High Museum of Art, where exciting special exhibitions and a permanent collection of more than 18,000 pieces fill the Midtown space. The Fernbank Museum of Natural History is a hit for families while the Fox Theater always delivers a spectacular lineup of musicals, comedians, musicians, and more. If you're spending the day downtown, be sure to visit some of the city's staples, like the Georgia Aquarium, World of Coca-Cola, and College Football Hall of Fame. You could spend all day at the National Center for Civil and Human Rights, where the American Civil Rights Movement entwines with today's efforts toward international human rights in a thought-provoking display of artifacts and interactive exhibits.

Stay

Considering traffic, pick a neighborhood home base before booking your hotel. If you'd like to be near the BeltLine and Ponce City Market, Hotel Clermont is a funky local favorite with an alluring backstory. Its Poncey-Highland location is conveniently located between Decatur and Midtown too. For a Buckhead experience with all the bells and whistles, you can't go wrong splurging for The Whitley Hotel, but newcomers like Hotel Conlee and The Kimpton Sylvan Atlanta. If you're looking for a more personal experience, Stonehurst Place is an adults-only B&B on the edge of Piedmont Park where guests can expect modern design in a space that still retains its traditional charm. Downtown, stay in the historic Candler Hotel Atlanta. Renovated in 2019, this hotel is full of treasures, from a stunning marble staircase to the rumored Coca-Cola formula hiding in its basement vault.

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