Georgia from The Best Food and Drink in Georgia for 2018 Gallery
The Best Food and Drink in Georgia for 2018 Gallery
We know the first food item that might pop in to your mind for Georgia: peaches. But there’s more to the Empire State of the South than those stone fruits. Although many of the top picks are in the capital, don’t overlook Savannah as a foodie destination. The heart of the Coastal Empire is giving Atlanta a culinary run for its money. Find out the details in our first-annual guide to the best food and drink in every state.
Southern food has come into its own over the last decade. Fried chicken and barbecue has spread far beyond their roots to across the country. Trying to pick a single restaurant from the state to represent these crowded categories was quite a challenge. Hopefully you’ll see your favorite here or at least the start of a very good debate.
Facebook/Holeman and Finch Public House
Best Bar: Holeman & Finch Public House, Atlanta
Holeman and Finch Public House was at the forefront of the burgeoning craft cocktail movement in Atlanta back when it opened in 2008, and it remains a leader in the industry. To keep things exciting, head bartender Kaleb Cribb rotates the cocktail offerings seasonally; each new cocktail menu has a thematic continuity. There are six beers on tap, plus a rotating bottle and can list of a dozen or so brews; a carefully curated 50-bottle wine list; and the cocktail list, which has 10 original creations and six specially highlighted classic cocktails. The Atlanta establishment originally had only 24 burgers that were served nightly, but the burgers were so popular that they are now offered on the daily menu and at H&F Burger locations across the city.
Courtesy of Creature Comforts
Best Beer: Creature Comforts Brewing Co.’s Tropicália
Balance is an important part of any IPA, and Creature Comforts Brewing Co.’s Tropicália has all the balance. This fruit-forward beer tastes of passionfruit and citrus, but don’t worry about bitterness. This beer is as refreshing as they come.
Best Burger: Double Cheeseburger, Holeman & Finch Public House, Atlanta
Only 24 burgers used to be served nightly at Holeman & Finch Public House, but thankfully for us they’ve been made a permanent menu item. Each double-patty burger of fresh-ground grass-fed chuck and brisket comes topped with American cheese, pickles, onions, and homemade ketchup, and is served on a toasted house-baked bun alongside fresh-cut fries. Chef Linton Hopkins (who developed this burger while he was battling cancer; it’s the only food he didn’t lose his taste for) chose to offer it on such a limited basis in order to let the other items on his menu get their due, but you can save those for the second visit.
Jang C. via Yelp
Best Chinese Restaurant: Oriental Pearl, Chamblee
Atlanta has no shortage of great Chinese restaurants, but this Cantonese institution has been going strong for more than 25 years and is the best in town.
Along with the usual Chinese-American favorites, you’ll also find authentic Chinese fare including Dungeness crab in hot pot, Cantonese-style filet mignon, salted baked chicken, Cantonese roast duck, whole steamed fish, and ma po tofu. The dim sum specialties are also the city’s best.
SweetWater Brewing Company
Best Craft Brewery: SweetWater Brewing Company, Atlanta, Ga.
SweetWater was founded in 1997. Because its beers are all unpasteurized, distribution is limited to a few nearby states. This didn't stop the brewery from taking home the gold medal at the 2010 World Beer Cup for The Creeper, from their Dank Tank series. It also “keeps it green” by repurposing spent grain as cattle feed instead of sending it to a landfill, and use post-recycled content for all its cardboard packaging.
Best Cupcake: The Atlanta Cupcake Factory, Atlanta
An artisan bakery dedicated to small-batch baking, The Atlanta Cupcake Factory operates on a philosophy centered around interesting and unique flavor profiles. Sweet potato bourbon, red velvet, and coconut almond cupcakes are just some of the seasonal sweets you can enjoy at different times of year. Be sure to follow up frequently with this bakery, as its commitment to freshness means an ever-evolving menu.
Best Dive Bar: Clermont Lounge, Atlanta
Is it a dive bar? Is it a strip club? Why not both! At the Clermont Lounge in Atlanta, women dance on the stage while patrons chow down on chicken wings and sip on some ice cold PBR. What could be more divey than that? How about the bar that’s only held together by years and years of duct tape. Yeah, that’s pretty divey.
Best Doughnut: Sublime Doughnuts, Atlanta
Sublime Doughnuts dominates Atlanta’s doughnut scene, and when you step inside and see the huge doughnuts in the variety of fantastic flavors, it’s not hard to see why. From dulce de leche to red velvet cake to Reese’s peanut butter cup, you’ll have a hard time choosing just one from the stunning selection. But if you’re there early enough, make sure you try the most popular creation: A powdered doughnut cut open and stuffed full of fresh strawberries and whipped cream.
Best Farmers Market: Atlanta Farmers Market, Atlanta
Morgan H. / Yelp
Best Food Truck: King of Pops, Atlanta
What started as an ice cream pushcart has blossomed into the King of Pops food truck (which is still technically a cart). Two brothers began this journey in 2010, and instead of spreading themselves across the country they’ve decided to stay put in the South to support the community that has supported them and “have a greater impact on the place [they] call home.” They’re transparent with where they get their ingredients and what they offer, listing everything on their website. If you happen to be near one of their several locations, grab one of their creamy pops (like banana pudding), a fruity pop (such as grapefruit mint), or a “poptail” (with strawberries, water, evaporated cane juice, lemon juice, sea salt, and a refreshing popsicle to top it off).
Best French Fries: The Varsity, Atlanta
The Varsity has eight locations in and around Atlanta, and the one downtown serves an average of 2,500 pounds of fries daily. Its potatoes are grown just for the chain by Eagle Eye Produce in Idaho, cut fresh every morning, and soaked for a short time in water before being fried in rice bran oil and lightly salted.
Mary Mac's Tea Room, Atlanta
Best Fried Chicken: Mary Mac's Tea Room, Atlanta
Mary Mac’s Tea Room is an Atlanta institution that has been making diners happy since 1945. The fried chicken is one of the best dishes there, and it’s easy to see why. Mary Mac’s Tea Room makes a double-battered fried chicken that comes as a four-piece set with the legs, breast, thigh, and wing, or as a fried chicken plate of three wings or one chicken breast. Did we mention that upon your visit to Mary Mac’s you’re entitled to a complimentary cup of pot likker (the juice left in a pot after collards cook) and a piece of cornbread?
Best Hot Dog: The Varsity, Atlanta
The Varsity is not included on this list because it claims to be the world’s largest drive-in, or because it’s one of the few restaurants in America that still employs carhops. Neither is it The Varsity’s staying power (founder Frank Gordy launched it with a $2,000 nest egg and "million dollar taste buds" in 1928) and its expansion to six locations in the greater Atlanta and Athens areas (with two in the airport). It’s because it sells some truly stellar hot dogs, delivered daily along with the ground beef used to make their legendary chili (which you can also buy by the can). Learn the lingo before ordering, but if in doubt, opt for the “Heavy Dog,” topped with chili and a thin stripe of mustard.
Yelp / Joshua C
Best Irish Pub: Kevin Barry’s Pub, Savannah, Ga.
Boston, New York, and Chicago traditionally get all the attention for their Irish heritage, but let’s not forget that Savannah has the country’s largest St. Patrick’s Day celebration. It only makes sense that one of the country’s most historic Irish pubs is in Savannah. In a town where it’s okay to drink on the street, Kevin Barry’s is home not only to a good pint and good music, but also to the Hall of Heroes, an upstairs room devoted to military memorabilia.
Best Italian Restaurant: Varasano’s, Atlanta
Bronx-born software engineer Jeff Varasano found a passion for pizza that led him down a saucy, bubbly road to pizza stardom. Atlanta has been the lucky beneficiary. Varasano's serves two traditional pies: Margherita di Bufala and "Nana's," which is the house special: mozzarella and San Marzano tomato sauce with a “secret blend of herbs” (sweet roasted red peppers are suggested, too). There are 12 specialty pies with a variety of toppings (including interesting ones like Emmenthaler, a pinch of lemon zest, and spiced olives) that come standard, but menu notations suggest extras. Speaking of which, if you want to build your own or add to menu options, there are 17 toppings (including handmade meatballs). They also serve a wide variety of traditional Italian fare, like family-recipe meatballs and Sunday gravy, penne with sausage and arugula, and spectacular fresh-made doughnuts.
James Camp Photography/Yelp
Best Jewish Deli: The General Muir, Atlanta
The General Muir is a deli unlike any you’ve seen before. Chef Todd Ginsberg’s modern and upscale restaurant is subway-tiled and decidedly gourmet, but all the classics are still there. Corned beef, pastrami, matzo ball soup, bagels, and lox are all made in-house, and while the breakfast and lunch menus resemble what you’ll find at a standard Jewish deli, the big guns come out at dinner, when entrées like hanger steak with blackened winter radish and purple turnip, shaved baby celery, saffron and rutabaga puree, and beef jus; braised short rib with poppy spätzle, glazed carrot, roasted apple, baby mustard greens, and red wine jus; and charred octopus with riso di nero polenta, charred lacinato kale, Sea Island red peas, pickled red peppers, lemon, and chile oil come out to play.
JCT Kitchen and Bar
Best Lobster Roll: JCT Kitchen & Bar, Atlanta
Chef Ford Fry is slowly taking over the Atlanta dining scene, with ten restaurants in the city and environs, but the lobster roll that’s served at his JCT Kitchen during lunchtime service on Fridays and Saturdays only is a true piece de resistance. It’s an entire lobster, cut up as minimally as possible, tossed with a little mayo and chives, served on a bun baked at the venerable restaurant Holeman & Finch. Served with a mound of fries and an apple slaw, it’s a true thing of beauty.
Best Mexican Restaurant: El Rey Del Taco, Atlanta
Great Mexican food often comes down to the quality of ingredients, namely, handmade tortillas. That’s a selling point of El Rey Del Taco on the Buford Highway, site of many of America’s most underrated culinary gems. Prepare to load up on (what else?) tacos, most notably the beef cheeks (cabeza) and goat (chivo), washed down by a cool glass of horchata.
Most Expensive Restaurant: Bacchanalia, Atlanta
Yelp/ Daniel B.
Best Pasta Dish: La Tavola, Atlanta: Squid Ink Spaghetti
This neighborhood Italian spot is cozy and unassuming, but the locals know that it’s the best place for homemade pasta in Atlanta. Chef Brian Moll’s finest offering in the pasta department is his squid ink spaghetti, which is tossed with calamari, Calabrian chiles, garlic, and a light pesto made with Thai basil. Start with his renowned veal meatballs, and follow them up with this.
Best Restaurant: Miller Union, Atlanta
Simple, farmstead-inspired cooking is the name of the game at chef Steven Satterfield’s down-home, unpretentious Atlanta eatery, and it’s earned him multiple James Beard Award nominations. An active member of Slow Food Atlanta and a regular denizen of the city’s farmers markets, Satterfield transforms fresh seasonal ingredients into refined yet accessible plays on regional classics. Grit fritters with country ham and Thomasville tomme; chicken liver mousse with apple scrap jelly and kale crackers; red snapper fillet with parsnip, new Vidalia onions, fennel, and blood orange; cream-and-Dijon-braised rabbit with bitter greens and roasted cauliflower; and grilled pork loin with butternut squash, apple, turnip, mushrooms, pancetta, and dandelion are just a few examples of what you might find on the constantly changing menu.
Best Ribs: Smoke Ring, Atlanta
Jordan Wakefield, the head chef at this upscale barbecue spot, comes from a diverse background. Originally trained as a pastry chef, he once ran the kitchen at Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s Spice Market; Wakefield has now settled into the barbecue groove. Only recently opened, this spot quickly ran up the rankings in the barbecue-dense South.
Best Sandwich: Fox Bros. Bar-B-Q, Atlanta: Fox Bros. “Burger”
Texas-born pitmasters (and identical twins) Justin and Jonathan Fox opened Fox Bros. in 2007, and since then it’s rightfully gone down as one of the top barbecue spots in Georgia with two locations, a brisk catering business, and a retail line of rubs and sauces. Their sandwiches are things of beauty, especially their unique “Burger”: chopped brisket topped with bacon, tomato, red onion, pickles, melted pimento cheese and jalapeño mayo on a buttered and toasted brioche bun. Who needs a burger when you can have one of these?
Best Seafood Shack: The Crab Shack, Tybee Island
The Crab Shack is known as the local joint “where the elite eat in their bare feet.” It holds a reputation for serving excellent seafood by many local and national media outlets. Lucky for you, it is open year-round, so you can enjoy the famous steamed seafood and seafood platters any time you visit the idyllic Southern city of Savannah, which is a short drive away from Tybee Island.
Yelp/ Darla R.
Best Soup: Sandfly Barbecue, Savannah: Brunswick Stew
Georgia is the home base of the legendary Brunswick stew, and ask any Savannah local where to find the best and they’ll point you in the direction of Sandfly. Formulated by owner and former fine dining chef Keith Latture, it starts with chicken, beef, and pork that he’s smoked in house, and it’s rounded out with local corn, beans, onions, and diced tomatoes. It’s so thick that a spoon will stand up straight in it, and it’s absolutely stellar.
Best Steakhouse: Kevin Rathbun Steak, Atlanta
Located in a former Clorox factory in up-and-coming Inman Park, Kevin Rathbun’s steakhouse is part of an empire that also includes Rathbun’s and Krog Bar, all located on the same street. At his spacious, whimsically appointed steakhouse, Rathbun serves steakhouse classics like escargots, seafood towers, dry-aged porterhouse for two and three, a 22-ounce cowboy ribeye, and 16-ounce New York strips; but there’s also a wide selection of items that you don’t see on most steakhouse menus like Coca-Cola baby back pork ribs, eggplant fries, lobster fritters, ahi tuna poke, and Asian-style meatballs. If you go twice, order whatever you like. But if you go once, get the steak; we’d recommend that cowboy ribeye.
Tomo Japanese Restaurant / Facebook
Best Sushi: Tomo, Atlanta
Tomo is the brainchild of Tokyo-born Tomo Naito — who honed his eye for quality while working as a seafood buyer and his sushi skills at the omakase station at Las Vegas’ Nobu — and you’d be hard-pressed to find a better place for sushi in Atlanta. The room is sleek, as befits its location in ritzy Buckhead, and the skills of Naito are on full display, not only in the quality of the fish but in the creative ingenuity behind his dishes like usuzukuri, thinly sliced fluke dotted with hot sauce and ponzu jelly.
Daniel B. via Yelp
Best Taco: El Rey Del Taco, Atlanta: Cabeza
Ethnic eats abound on the Buford Highway, and this 24-hour Mexican diner doesn’t disappoint. Made-to-order tortillas come filled with exotic options like tongue, tripe, and pork stomach, but don’t be afraid of the cabeza, or beef cheek, which is meltingly tender. Shredded and topped with some cilantro and onion (and roasted onions if you ask for them), these things are groan-inducing good. For more states, check out our ultimate guide to the best food and drink in every state for 2018.