I visited Atlanta during the International Poultry Processing Expo in January 2018 and decided to discover some of the best diners in town. I used Jane & Michael Stern’s Roadfood guide where the couple lists their favourite road trip restaurants. Once you have finished reading watch the video at the bottom of the page for more details.
In Atlanta I visited:
- Mary Mac’s Tea Room (224 Ponce de Leon Avenue)
- The Colonnade and (1879 Cheshire Bridge Road)
- The Barbecue Kitchen by the Airport (1437 Virginia Avenue)
Here is a map with the three restaurants:
Barbecue Kitchen in College Park, near Atlanta Airport
This little diner near the airport has been run by the same family for decades with many of the staff having worked there for the same length of time. They sell freshly made food and many residents call it their local breakfast joint. The Barbecue Kitchen is also famous for its fresh vegetables, sweet tea and sweet potato souffle. In the evenings they serve grilled items like hickory-smoked barbecue, grilled ham or corned beef hash as well as the Atlanta favourite: fried chicken!
The local corn muffin and salty biscuit comes with every order by default and they also serve many home made cakes like the caramel cake or coconut layer cake. If you have the time and a car, then definitely pay a visit for breakfast, lunch or dinner – or all three!
I came here in the morning and had scrambled eggs with french toast plus salty biscuits for breakfast, rinsed down with some Georgian sweet tea.
Mary Mac’s Tea Room in Downtown Atlanta
Mary Mac’s first opened in 1945 in Atlanta’s downtown district on Ponce de Leon avenue. Mary Mac’s is an old fashioned urban diner that also serves breakfast and lunch to both locals and many tourists. Out of the three restaurants this is probably the easiest to access on foot, being only a 15-20 minute walk from the Coca Cola Center. There is also a bus stop right outside, so you can the public transport here if you want.
Many famous people like Jimmy Carter and even the Dalai Lama visited here which you can see proof of one the wall where they display it in the many photos. Today Mary Mac is run by a family and about 100 staff, so it has become a major operation with many rooms offering hundreds of seats.
Their speciality is the “Chicken, Fried Chicken” which is basically a pile of fried chicken wings with some sauce and two side orders. I got sweet potato souffle and mac ‘n cheese for side and a pint of lemonade as I was there for dinner.
The wings were huge – not the European size I am used to – and after the third wing I still had another three to go but I was completely full. I came back here one more time but then I only ordered a portion of Mac ‘n Cheese as it was super tasty and very filling and I couldn’t possibly eat more meat!
The Colonnade on Cheshire Bridge Road in Northern Atlanta
The Colonnade has been serving real Atlanta dishes since 1927 and for the past 40 odd years its been in the ownership of the same family. It has stood in the same spot on Cheshire Road in northern Atlanta since the 1970s serving up various chicken, pork and beef dishes for a loyal clientele.
I decided to go for the sweet tea again, followed by a couple of hot buns and the corn muffin and finally lots of chicken liver. I also had sweet potato souffle and corn soup which I think was a bit of an overkill after the huge breakfast at teh Barbecue Kitchen. They serve at least a pound of chicken liver up on a huge plate, which was very tasty but I could not possibly finish it.
I saw many locals ask for the doggy bag to take home the leftover but I had nowhere to take it so about half the food had to go back. It’s not because I did not like it but simply I could not stuff any more food down.