Atlanta is one of those cities that can be difficult to define. As a symbol of the so-called New South, it has been an economic center for decades, where people from all over the world move to the city, sharing their own unique backgrounds. But it is also a city that keeps an eye on its long and complicated history, be it in the form of large old houses or museums devoted to interpreting this past. These complex urban personality traits are also represented in Atlanta’s food culture, an aspect of life, so large and complicated books can (and must) be written on the subject. All I can contribute is my personal experiences in Atlanta in my search not only for food, but also for the soul of the city.
Like so many cities around the world, Atlanta has seen a foodie revolution that makes it difficult for visitors to narrow down their meal and snack options. For early risers like me, be sure to check out Revolution Donuts for some of the best baked goods you will ever try. All lovingly handcrafted with flavors like vanilla bean icing, cappuccino crunch, and key lime pie, it’s literally impossible to go wrong in this neighborhood institution.
Located downtown in the Castleberry Hill Arts District, Paschal’s has a rich history that dates back to 1947 when the Paschal brothers James and Robert Paschal opened their first location at 831 West Hunter Street in Atlanta, Georgia. The brothers decided that “fried chicken” would be the house specialty, and it was with that mandate that Robert created his “secret recipe”. Since opening their doors, they have welcomed a who’s who of the world, from political leaders to civil rights heroes to myriad others in between. After taking my first bite of their secret recipe chicken, I understood why everyone was telling me this was the only place not to be missed on an Atlanta food tour.
However, I wasn’t happy with my amateur approach to a food tour, I wanted an expert guide and luckily the food tour revolution hit Atlanta as well. Atlanta Food Walks was started by a friend of mine and I couldn’t resist the opportunity to take her team for a stroll through the Grant Park neighborhood of Atlanta. As one of the most important neighborhoods in the city, we learned a lot about the city’s history, how much it was built on food, and of course enjoyed some amazing bites along with the scenery. It was the ideal reintroduction to the city and included some dishes that I know I won’t forget anytime soon.
Ponce city market
I love when a city can take back old buildings and reinvent them for modern purposes, and that’s exactly what I found at Ponce City Market. This huge facility was once used as a retail store and warehouse by the Sears Roebuck an Co. Today there are offices, apartments, shops and of course a gourmet food hall. It’s a lively mix of cook-led culinary experiences, quick take-away stalls, and of course plenty of fresh bread, meat, and cheese. Food halls like this are becoming more common around the world and I personally love to visit them. Not only is the cuisine excellent, but with mostly local chefs and other culinary artists featured, it’s an easy way to better understand the foodie soul of a new city.
It was important for me to explore some of the neighborhoods in Atlanta. Meeting an old college friend in Virginia Highland was the perfect way to end my day. Not only is the neighborhood beautiful, it was also known for its lively restaurant and bar scene. It’s also home to one of the best grill restaurants in town, so I found myself at the DBA Barbecue. The atmosphere was exactly what I like in a great grill place, relaxed and sociable. The menu has a wide variety of favorites, from fantastic burgers to classics like pulled pork and ribs, but they also have homemade pastrami which makes me want to take a closer look. No matter what you get at DBA, I guarantee you will go away just like me, full and happy.