About a year ago I decided to avoid eating anything that does not nourish me in mind, body, and spirit. That meant cutting out random junk food, radically enhancing the quantity of fresh fruits and vegetables in my diet, and living a mostly pescatarian lifestyle. I still periodically indulge in fatty foods, but only if they truly have earned a place in my heart. Atlanta is a great food town for a person like me because it has a number of independent restaurants and bars which serve delightful food in vibrant environments.
A3C is a hip-hop centered music festival and conference which turns Atlanta into the center of the hip-hop universe for a long weekend in October (5-9 for 2016). It brings hip-hop artists, fans, entrepreneurs, and media to town from all over the world. I am frequently asked by festivalgoers for recommendations of the best restaurants and bars to visit because I live in Downtown Atlanta (near the center of A3C activities), eat out frequently, and have pretty good taste. I decided to create this blog post to share some of the places I hope you will enjoy while you are visiting Atlanta.
If you visit any of these places, please tweet me a pic of what you ate with the hashtag #theashleyway. Bon appetit!
A Few of my Favorite Places
Ponce City Market is a food hall, shopping destination, and great people watching locale. It has a plethora dining options, and you can drink beer and wine while strolling about. I am a big fan of Dub's Fish Camp (great oysters and chowder), Breeza (nice wine selection and kale salad), Minero (amazing tacos), and Ton Ton (RAMEN!). I would be remiss if I failed to mention H&F Burger, which many say is the best burger in the city. If you'd like to check out The Beltline, Atlanta's cool newish trail, art garden, and all around cool place, PCM is a nice launching point.
Carroll Street Cafe is an eclectic little spot with a real artsy vibe. It is located on Carroll Street in the Cabbagetown area, which is one of the areas you get your biggest bang for buck in terms of distinctly ATLien vibes from the parks, murals, and funky little houses (be sure to take pictures near the Living Walls and Krog Street Bridge). The cafe has a very impressive collection of artwork by Panorama Ray, a beloved local folk artist. It also serves up artful plates through fresh and flavorful salads, sandwiches, pasta dishes, and Spanish style tapas. It's a great spot for a breakfast or lunch meeting. I am very fond of the Nicoise salad, potatoes bravas, and their deserts.
R. Thomas Deluxe Grill is the place you are most likely to see me if I am hungry late at night. It's not everywhere that you will find a place with a super extra chill vibe 24/7. It serves inventive takes on classic diner fare in the most trippy environment you can imagine. Oh, and did I mention they are a healthy or vegan foodie's panacea too. I order the fish tacos on gluten free wraps, the Magic Potato, R's Salmon Piccata, $8 smoothie, or a random assortment of their veggies, especially the raw ones and ocean veggies. I have seen countless friends devour pounds of their wings, the burger, and the french toast. This is the spot to late night turn down.
Beetlecat is my favorite place to nosh and drink these days. They always have an outstanding oyster selection, and their lobster roll is to die for! I have also sampled most of the entrees, and never been disappointed. I always sit at the basement bar, and always meet cool people, an unusually high percentage of whom pick up my tab.
Holeman and Finch Public House is my go-to gastropub for dinner and drinks between the hours of 9-12 p.m. I normally sit at the bar because it is very impressive. The menu changes, but I have not been disappointed by their nontraditional takes on traditional American fare, including their burger which is basically a rock star in its own right. I order my food in waves here and enjoy libations and their buzzing environment.
Mediterranean Grill is the place I would eat if I was having my last meal. I have turned people out on their hummus. Their greek salad with grilled chicken is perfection in each bite. Please do yourself a favor and eat at this awesome restaurant.
Bartaco (specifically the Inman Park location) is the perfect place to try if you are in town for A3C. It is in a great Atlanta neighborhood undergoing a development boom, has a unique take on easy Mexican cuisine, and is in an airy indoor/outdoor space. I really dig the surfer-style vibe at this restaurant and its light food such as the curry shrimp taco and ceviche. Order in waves.
The Oceanaire Seafood Room has the best happy hour in Atlanta, especially for a pescatarian like me. Bar none. I always sit at the bar because my homie Kevin is an awesome bartender who knows everyone in Atlanta. The seafood chopped salad, shrimp and grits, and fish tacos are all bomb.com. I go to Oceanaire at least once a week during their happy hour (4-7 p.m.) or their generous reverse happy hour (9-close).
Superica is in the spiffy new Krog Street Market, and in a short while it has become my favorite spot for al fresco lunch and dinner meetings. I frequently order the tortilla soup, and my guests have raved about the puffy tacos. It's cool decor evokes Texas in the good ole days, and the lively bar scene is always a good call. Skip desert at Superica and grab an ice cream sundae at Jeni's Ice Cream which is also in Krog Street Market.
Papi's Cuban Grill is a real gem on Ponce de Leon Avenue. It serves authentic cuban food in a chill environment. Their yellow rice is A+.
Arden's Garden is such a happy place. This is where you must go to get your smoothies, fresh juices, and other healthy nourishments. Please try their Grand Slam of shooters, which is wheatgrass, beets, ginger, and lemon juice. It is a real hangover cure. My favorite smoothie is the Carlito's Way, and I love to grab the kale salad when I am on the go. There is an Arden's Garden near A3C on Auburn Avenue.
Jack's Pizza & Wings is at the other end of the food spectrum, where bar food reigns supreme. I think they will add candied bacon and bbq sauce to anything they make. This is the place to order pitchers of beer and slutty pizza.
Downtown Restaurants Near the A3C Action
Aviva by Kameel is located in the Peachtree Center underground food court, but don't let the cafeteria style setup fool you. They serve amazingly fresh mediterranean and halal food that you can tell is made with love. Try their falafel if they don't give you a sample (they will), and also enjoy their chicken shawarma, salmon, and soups. I normally order the seafood special if one is available. Their juice bar is clutch as well.
Mangos Caribbean Restaurant is a Jamaican spot right on Aurbun Avenue which stays open late (~4AM) and serves all of the curry, jerk, and oxtails you could want. I order the salad with Jerk shrimp and the patties.
Just Add Honey is the perfect place to sip on a little bliss. It's way more friendly than your average coffee shop because isn't tea just a little more cozy than coffee? They have an amazing selection of exotic teas from around the world. I love this place and how I feel after a visit. Just Add Honey is the best place to blog and sip. It has now relocated to theSweet Auburn Curb Market which is another treat.
Sweet Auburn Seafood is a newer restaurant on Auburn Ave which has top notch soul food style seafood. The shrimp and grits is amazing, as is the Kale salad which I top with grilled salmon. They have a very popping bar scene on the weekends and a lively brunch with a live band.
Harold's Chicken and Ice Bar is an Atlanta sports bar outpost of the famed Chicago fried chicken and fish shack chain. Oh em gee, they know how to fry some chicken well. If I am feeling gluttonous, I will order the perch and shrimp dinner and add a chicken breast "fried hard with hot and mild sauce." Be forewarned: you will hear Future and Drake played very loud in this place.
The Sound Table is a can't miss spot in Atlanta, especially if you are dining with a group of friends and hanging out on Edgewood Ave (you will). Their menu features lots of delicious small plates and bites to share, so order liberally. Be sure to get the fries. Wash your food down with one of their amazing bespoke cocktails. This is one of the places that makes it easy to have a meatless meal. They have the best playlists in Atlanta.
Ammazza is my favorite pizza place in Atlanta because they take pride in their crust and the integrity of the Neapolitan-style pizza. I order the Caesar salad and Inferno pizza, subbing mushrooms for the sopressata.
Miso Izakaya is where I go to satisfy my sushi cravings. It's a great place to take a date because it has zen decor and impeccable service. Plus, sushi is so darn sexy isn't it? Besides sushi, their other Japanese small bites are delectable, especially the Dan Dan noodles (I order without pork), steamed buns, green beans, and agadashi tofu. Be sure to start your meal with soul-warming miso soup.
Dua Vietnamese is probably the place I have eaten more than any other establishment in Atlanta. Please take my word for it, this place is addicting. Currently, I order the Lemongrass Tofu salad, but you cannot go wrong with their steak dishes, pho, spicy soup, or stir fries. Spice up everything with Sirracha and enjoy.
The Sweet Auburn Curb Market is just blocks away from the A3C hub, and offers the best variety of amazing food in a confined place in town. I love Grindhouse for burgers, Arepa Mia for Venezuelan empanadas, Metro Soul Food, and Rawsome Juicery.
M Bar is a new destination lounge and restaurant on historic Auburn Ave with a slick design and grown and sexy vibe. The permanent step-and-repeat in the front of this place cracks me up, but it's a good place to grab a drink and a bite in the area. Of course bottle service is available if you want to get it poppin'.
If you must eat at a chain establishment in Downtown Atlanta, I recommend Benihana, Hooters, Jimmy John's or (wait for it) Waffle House. Actually, if you want to go to Benihana, hit me on Twitter because I might join you!
Best Breakfast - West Egg Cafe (fluffy omelets) and DTox (juice experts)
Best Wings - J. R. Crickets (the 57 Forsyth street location is near A3C; the North Ave. location is open late)
Best Fast Food (if you must) - Cookout (they have quesadillas as a side item lol)
Best Doughnuts - Sublime Doughnuts
Best Non-traditional Late Night Food - Delia's Chicken Sausage Stand
Best Coffee Near A3C - Condesa Coffee on Auburn Avenue
Most Visually Stimulating Restaurant - Table 1280 at the Woodruff Arts Center
Best Bar to meet an Unassuming Billionaire or Charles Barkley- Bar Margot at the Four Seasons
Best Place to Have an Incognito Rendezvous - Lumen at the Ritz Carlton Downtown Atlanta
Have Oysters and Peel 'n Eat Shrimp and Pretend Atlanta Isn't Landlocked - Fontaine's in the Virginia Highlands
Soccer Bar with the Best Food - Brewhouse Cafe
Best Food Courts - Krog Street Market (get a six pack at Hop City and sample food from Gu's Dumplings, Yalla, and Fred's), Ponce City Market (go here!) and the CNN Center Food Court (BurgerFi, Dantanna's Sports Bar, Fresh2Order)
Near Lenox and Phipps Plaza - Cafe Bistro in Nordstrom (this is legit one of my favorite restaurants), NM Cafe at Neiman Marcus, Shake Shack, and Thirteen Pies, (I believe Twist and Prime are now closed ::sad face::)
Liquor Store near A3C - Sol's Liquor (186 Courtland St. NE)
Grocery Store near A3C - Publix (595 Piedmont Ave NE)
If all else fails, go to the nearest Publix and order a sub on their delicious wheat bread. Wash down with sweet tea.
Eat good party people. Food = Love.
Please share, and don't forget to tweet me a pic of what you ate during A3C using the hashtag #thashleyway.
Sublime Doughnuts (get the frosted croissant!)
Jeni's Ice Cream