This special trip to Atlanta, Georgia was in celebration of Southwest Airlines' service to their 73rd destination, and part of the festivities included a progressive block party in the city's downtown where we were able to dive head-first into the best eats in town. The delicious bites we experienced in the Luckie Marietta District came from Max’s Coal Oven Pizzeria, STATS, RISE Sushi Lounge and Der Biergarten, each offering their unique and tasty take on a Southwest inspired item.
With so little time to spend in a city, The Dish Trip team was on a mission to ensure that every bite was a quality bite. With the help of local food writers and OpenTable, we were able to visit 13 restaurants in 48 hours. Here is a bite-by-bite recap of our journey, detailing some of the best spots, and our latest video of all the delicious action.
Our first stop landed us at West Egg Cafe where a husband-and-wife duo ran a packed house. Ben and Jen Johnson created vintage ambience at their unique eatery with the use of industrial items throughout the space. A card catalogue serves as a coffee station and a high school woodshop table stacked on lockers becomes a communal dining table.
This visit gave us the chance to try their famous Fried Egg Sandwich titled as “One Thing to Eat in Atlanta Before You Die,” served all day, it starts with two thick slices of toasted challah bread encasing melted cheddar, fried eggs (over hard), chunky slabs of bacon, mayo, onion, field greens, and best of all, the housemade sweet tomato jam. We decided that we need more fried egg sandwiches in our lives.
Atlanta is the home of Coca Cola so we couldn’t leave before tasting Coca Cola cupcakes. The Southern recipe, with cola extract splashed in the cake and the buttercream icing, comes from owner Ben’s mom. It was moist and flavorful with a caramelly spice and not too much hint of Coke.
Our next stop, The Porter Beer Bar, was located in Little Five Points, a hipster paradise filled with vintage clothing stores and “small town” boutiques which we instantly crushed on.
Our crew stepped inside the exposed-brick bar, voted one of the top 10 beer bars of America by RateBeer.com, to check out their impressive 430+ beer list. Behind this stellar gastro-pub is another husband-wife duo who wanted the perfect place to get a beer. Featuring some of the top local sips (SweetWater, Terrapin), as well as nationwide, sought-after beers (Stillwater Artisanal Ales, Ommegang, Dogfish Head, Victory Brewery Co.), we easily confessed that, if we lived in Atlanta, we would probably haunt this beer-centric hub every day.
We chose the Victory Donnybrook draft beer out of 30 taps, and took owner Molly Dunn’s advice to pair it with their Belgian fries and mussels. A house-made charred onion mayo was served next to the crispy potato treats in true Belgian fashion (no ketchup folks). We loved the flavor of the plump fiery mussels, and enjoyed dredging each fry in the oniony goodness.
When we pulled up to this spot we were convinced that our cab driver had driven us to an abandoned loading dock. TWO Urban Licks is a nice surprise in an unsuspecting location. We were joined by Andrea Janise, the lifestyle editor of Atlanta’s Tastemaker Magazine, and Executive Chef Cameron Thompson, who normally takes center stage with a kitchen placed smack dab in the middle of their two dining areas, fully equipped with a 14-foot wood pit rotisserie tower.
Chef prepared house-cured Smoked Salmon Chips arrived on a recycled wine barrel board with luscious layers of short-cut smoked salmon, cream cheese (spiked sweetly with chipotle), capers, and red onion. We bit into the savory starter and were left speechless by the ingredients working their combination magic on our tastebuds.
We had heard about their 26-foot wine wall and a wine barrel system using kegs, resulting in wine on tap! They are one of the few restaurants in the country who uses this practice for the wine that comes directly from California. The eye-catching system, found behind the bar in a temperature-controlled, glass-enclosed tower, showed off 42 stainless-steel barrels of wine at a time.
We were giddy with excitement about this spot, which is known for their sliders, and happy to meet a local food blogger there, Malika Harricharan. She recently published her first book, Food Lovers Guide to Atlanta, so we couldn’t have been among better company.
Once settled in our seats, we were pleasantly surprised to realize The Shed’s famous sliders were actually scallop sliders. Chef Lance Gummere has set a new standard with his delightful tiny snacks that pack big taste into each small bite, and enhanced further with jalapeno slaw and a Creole aioli. We were blown away by these delicious treats and didn’t argue with their next offering of Foie Gras Torchon with house-made pear jam. It was pure satisfaction to smear the savory, silky, sweetness together on the crustiest of breads and deserved ten thumbs up if we had that many.
For our last taste of the locals’ favorite spot, Chef Gummere took us back to his childhood, when he was a big fan of Ding Dongs. As a way of passing on his excitement, he has now created house-made Ding Dongs. Drenched in dark-chocolate ganache and packed with layers of pillowy chocolate cake and dense cream, the sophisticated take is well worth a quick trip to Glenwood.
Straight back from a food trek to Montreal, Executive Chef Ryan Smith joined us for lunch at one of the eatery’s communal tables sculpted from local, re-purposed wood. We were told this is the go-to spot for redefined Southern cuisine, marrying its stick-to-your-ribs reputation with locally sourced, flavorful fruits, vegetables, and meats.
While we wanted to try it all, our must have item included the Superfood Salad, Chef Smith’s signature serving that articulates the best of seasonal produce, all on one plate. It boasted winter vegetables (sweet potatoes, clementines, beets), hearty grains (farrow), goat cheese, and thin cuts of hanger steak. Each bite was a healthy masterpiece fit for meat and veggie-lovers craving a perfect lunch or dinner.
We couldn’t skip dessert at a place with their own Pastry Chef so we gave Chef Cynthia Wong’s Phatty Cakes a try. These spicy gingersnap sandwiches, which contain vanilla mascarpone cream smeared between two palm-sized cookies, have a cult following among Atlantans, and no wonder. One bite leads to addiction. The sweet treats are so good, they’ve been trademarked.
For our next stop, we popped over to The Glenn Hotel, our charming boutique hotel in Atlanta’s downtown district. The hotel boasts an intimate bar, which was designed as a living room speakeasy with endless amounts of quirky characteristics accenting the hallways. If you ever decide to set up camp there you will be treated like a celebrity, with rum punch upon check-in and luxurious rooms.
Speaking of celebrities, their popular Skylounge serves as the most attractive destination to score “dinner with a view” in Atlanta and celebrity-status locals are frequently sighted at the hotel’s rooftop bar and restaurant. There was no sign of Ludacris during our stop but we were able to enjoy the delicious cocktails and fine tunes from the house DJ.
Our next bite came from a snout-to-tail Westside restaurant, with a French name that translates to “slaughterhouse.” This is where we discovered the art of butchering. Chef Tyler Williams explained to us how the whole pig is used, making sure that no meat goes to waste. It’s not uncommon for them to bring in whole legs of beef or whole pigs, butcher them and spread it out across the menu. They also practice as a farm-to-table restaurant, sourcing almost all ingredients from their own farm.
We grabbed a seat alongside Chef Tyler Williams and discussed this meat-centric establishment and their “no waste” mindset. We found that it’s also important for them to use the whole vegetable. If leaves fall off a brussels sprout when it’s getting cleaned, that will feed the chicken that produces their farm fresh eggs. It’s one big happy, no waste family. We had the chance to try one of these eggs atop the Five-Cheese Macaroni with Bacon Jam. The dish was a perfect helping of comfort food with a little bacon loving on the side. We couldn’t get enough!
We felt it was important to try one of Chef William’s signature dishes and opted for the crispy veal sweetbreads accented with contrasting chunks of fresh pear and house-pickled cabbage. It was light and crispy, sweet and savory; a whirl of delicious contrasts in our mouths.
They surprisingly serve vegetarian options as well and we dug into their Toasted Sourdough Baguette, topped with Italian Boratta warmed throughout to create a hot and cold contrast. Our taste buds were first greeted by a warm mozzarella on the outside, followed by an oozing ricotta on the inside. Who would have thought you’d find such a wonderful vegetarian meal at a “slaughterhouse?”
This stop is a location we would have admittedly walked right by if it wasn’t for our Malika, our trusted local food expert. She knew this hidden gem was dishing up killer cuisine and was also hosting a Walking Dead Mid-Series Premiere Party. Owner Josh Calvin reminded us of our favorite all-American, laid-back, brother-in-law. The easy going kitchen master used house recipes to concoct Asian food with a twist.
We took full advantage of the rum-infused, zombie-themed cocktails, which gave Amy the amazing decision-making skills to become a member of the “walking dead.” The Dish Trip team, including Amy the Zombie, and Malika sat down to enjoy an extensive PuPu Platter with house-made shrimp cakes, crab rangoons and a new dish for the evening, kimchi dumplings. We chomped on the skewers of fully-cooked octopus and chicken kabobs which surrounded our very own tabletop fire-pit.
Malika had fallen in love with Bottle Rocket over their tuna burger, so we couldn’t wait to get our hands on one ourselves. The patty was made of chopped sushi-grade tuna, mixed with a quail egg and topped with a chipotle aioli that redefined “tuna burger” for us. We now compare all other tuna burgers to this one. So far none have come close.
Of course, no trip would be complete without a visit to a local brewery and we got our Atlanta fix at SweetWater Brewing Company. This meet up with with SweetWater’s Minister of Propaganda, Steve Farace, was extra special since they were celebrating their 15th Anniversary at a newly constructed brewery.
Always determined to share Dish Trip’s favorite hometown tastes with the friendly folks met during travels, we passed along a few Headwaters Pale Ales from Victory Brewing Company. Both companies were ironically celebrating their 15th anniversaries so Victory’s Bill Covaleski also sent a special video message for us to show the accomplished Atlanta brewery.
We sipped through their signature beers on tap in the tasting room, including Sch’Wheat, Exodus Porter, and 420 Extra Pale Ale before sadly departing from the amazing culinary mecca of Atlanta.
As you can see, the dining (and drinking) scene has uniquely evolved since the down south fried chicken days. While there are many places where you can still find “the best fried chicken around” the restaurants that our Dish Trip crew visited represented Southern style in their own creative, modern and very delicious way. It was impossible for us to explore more restaurants than we did while we were in town, but if time allowed, we’d spend days, maybe weeks exploring all that Atlanta has to offer.
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