Atlanta is one of those cities that can be hard to define. As a symbol of the so-called New South, it’s been an economic hub for decades with people from around the world moving to the city, sharing their own unique backgrounds in the process. It’s also a city though that keeps its long and complicated history front of mind, whether it’s in the form of grand old homes or museums dedicated to interpreting that past. These complex urban personality traits are also represented in Atlanta’s food culture, an aspect of life so expansive and complicated books can (and have) be written on the subject. All I can contribute is my own personal experiences in Atlanta in my search not only for sustenance, but for the soul of the city.
Starting Off Right
Like so many cities around the world, Atlanta has also seen a revolution in the foodie scene, making it challenging for the visitor to narrow down meal and snack options. For the early risers like me, be sure to head over to Revolution Doughnuts for some of the best pastries you’ll ever try. All lovingly made by hand with flavors like Vanilla Bean Glazed, Cappuccino Crunch and Key Lime Pie, it is literally impossible to go wrong at 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 ‘Fried Chicken’ would be the specialty of the house, and with that mandate, Robert created his ‘secret recipe’. Since first opening their doors they’ve welcomed a who’s who in the world from political leaders to civil rights heroes and countless others in between. After taking my first bite into their secret recipe chicken, I understood why everyone told me that this is the one place not to be missed on a culinary tour of Atlanta.
I wasn’t content with my amateur take on a food tour though, I wanted some expert instruction and thankfully the food tour revolution has also hit Atlanta. Atlanta Food Walks was started by a friend of mine and I couldn’t resist the opportunity to join her team on a walk around Atlanta’s Grant Park neighborhood. One of the city’s most important neighborhoods, throughout the course of the tour we learned a lot about the history of the city, how it was very much built on food and of course enjoyed some amazing bites along with the scenery. It was the ideal re-introduction to the city and featured some dishes I know I won’t soon forget.
Ponce City Market
I love when a city can reclaim old buildings and reinvent them for modern purposes, and that’s exactly what I found at Ponce City Market. This massive facility was once used by the Sears Roebuck an Co. as a retail store and warehouse but today is home to offices, apartments, shops and of course a gourmet food hall. It’s a lively mix of chef-led dining experiences, quick grab and go stalls and of course plenty of fresh breads, meats and cheeses. Food halls like this becoming more and more common around the world and I personally love visiting them. Not only is the cuisine excellent, but since it’s mostly local chefs and other culinary artists who are 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 Atlanta’s neighborhoods, so meeting up with an old college friend in Virginia-Highland was the perfect way to end my day. The neighborhood isn’t only a beautiful one, it’s just was well known for its vibrant restaurant and bar scene. It’s also home to one of the best BBQ restaurants in the city, which is how I found myself at D.B.A. Barbecue. The atmosphere was exactly what I like in a great BBQ joint, laid back and convivial. On the menu they feature a wide range of favorites from amazing burgers to classics like pulled pork and ribs, but they also have house-cured Pastrami tempting me for closer inspection. No matter what you get at D.B.A. though I guarantee that you’ll walk away just as I did, full and happy.