There's too much good eating to do in Atlanta to pick just five places. Breakfast, lunch, dinner, drinks, local gem — there are multiple must-stop places for each of these categories. You could just stop in at the long-time culinary institutions and never even make it to the interesting restaurants that have opened during the past decade. Fried chicken, pimento cheese, barbeque, there are tons of great things to try. Heck, Atlanta has three must-eat checklist burgers alone.
Breakfast: The Silver Skillet, 200 14th St NW
The Silver Skillet, the elder statesman of the breakfast scene, features Southern breakfast staples like country ham and redeye gravy, fried cured ham, and 10 different biscuit specials. You can swing back later for the lemon icebox pie which the menu claims is "made the old-fashioned way." If you need breakfast all day try The Flying Biscuit.
Lunch: The Varsity, 61 North Ave
The Varsity is an obvious checklist spot for any serious fast food or burger connoisseur. Greasy pressed chili cheeseburgers, chili cheese slaw dogs, great onion rings, and an icy chocolate shake to wash it all down with. (Incidentally, fast food lovers should note that the original Chick-fil-A is in Atlanta).
For something a little more discerning, there's Top Chef Masters contestant Hugh Acheson's restaurant, Empire State South. Highlights include: shrimp and grits (left), chicken liver, and steak and eggs. Or Top Chef All-Stars winner Richard Blais', Flip Burger, where you can down a hamachi and sweetbread sandwich with a foie gras milkshake.
Dinner: Abattoir, 1170 Howell Mill Rd
You've got a lot of cool, interesting places to check out dinner-wise. If you're into offal, Abattoir might be the best bet. It's a huge space (a little loud inside), with communal tables outside and fare like head cheese fritters, chicken liver, and sweetbreads, all very good. Oh, and there's a great fresh tomato and cucumber salad if you're looking for some lighter, refreshing fare. There's the added benefit that it's about a block away from JCT and Taqueria Del Sol, so you could always try all three.
Drinks: Holeman & Finch Public House, 2277 Peachtree Rd NE
There are some fun cocktails at chef Linton Hopkins' cozy spot across the way from his more formal Restaurant Eugene. If you're into cocktails with cool names, you're in the right place. Among some of the fun ones on the menu recently are "The Junk Drawer," "Boots with Laces," and "The Kilted Pistolero." The "Southern Cola," a Coke and Amaro mix, is notable for its lime ice cube, which changes the flavor of the drink over time. Those more serious about battling sobriety needn't fear — there's a hearty selection of bourbon and rye (at least 26) and 42 different beers to choose from before last call at 1:30 a.m. And of course, there's the matter of "The Burger": 24 double cheeseburgers that are available to lucky patrons starting at 10 p.m. (If you miss out you can return for Sunday brunch when they're sold by the hundreds.)
Local Gem: Mary Mac's Tea Room, 224 Ponce de Leon Ave
Mary McKenzie opened this classic Southern tea room in 1945. Since then it was expanded, and has changed hands twice. Here's what you get when you go: a friendly hello at the door, a sheet that you scribble your order on, a complimentary cup of collard green pot likker, and for anyone who loves Southern food, an array of classics. Fried oysters, chicken fried steak, smothered chicken, cheese grits, you name it. Is it gourmet? No, but it's a classic, and there's something about knowing it's there that's comforting. The chicken and dumplings were just as satisfying six years after the first time I had them. There's the added benefit that it's open on Sundays when many other places are closed.