Eat + Drink

Where to Fill Up on Old-South-Meets-New-South Flavors in Atlanta

Dig into one of Atlanta’s best burgers at The Vortex. (Photo: Colin Murphy)

Coined the “Empire City of the South,” Atlanta encompasses nearly 50 square miles, with distinct neighborhoods and suburbs thrown into the mix. In recent years an upsurge in trendy restaurants and star chefs has placed the town firmly on the foodie map. To drool over the best of the city’s Old-South-meets-New-South flavors, visit these restaurants in Midtown Atlanta.

Shakespeare and Sweet Tea

Midtown is one of Atlanta’s liveliest neighborhoods, thanks to a bustling theater district and vibrant dining and nightlife scenes. The Shakespeare Tavern Playhouse combines these highlights and is one of the area’s most ambitious venues. Built in an intimate space and resembling a Shakespearean-era theater, the tavern offers British pub-style meals before its performances.

Mary Mac's Tea Room
Grab a taste of Old Atlanta at Mary Mac’s Tea Room. (Photo: Andrews McMeel Publishing, LLC)

Around the corner, you’ll find one of the last remnants of Old Atlanta: Mary Mac’s Tea Room on Ponce de Leon Avenue. Thankfully spared the wrecking ball during the city’s mid-century growth spurt, the restaurant hasn’t changed much since it opened in 1945.

The name “tea room” is a bit deceiving, however. There’s sweet tea, of course (or the “table wine of the South,” as the restaurant calls it), but the big draw here is old-school Southern dishes such as fried chicken and deviled eggs. An order of four sides (mac ‘n’ cheese is a must) lets you enjoy all those tasty Southern starches. Give the legendary fruit punch a try too.

Burgers and Bohemians

About 2 miles east of Midtown sits Little Five Points, the neighborhood that’s been called “Atlanta’s Haight-Ashbury.” Long known as the center of Atlanta counterculture, there’s plenty of things to do here, but one of the best is simply people watching. Stroll along Moreland Avenue and stop in The Vortex for one of Atlanta’s best burgers. You can’t miss the bar and grill’s entrance: its front door is at the center of a giant skull sculpture with red, kaleidoscope eyes.

The Vortex
You can’t miss The Vortex’s funky facade. (Photo: Colin Murphy)

Don’t leave the neighborhood without popping into the Junkman’s Daughter, featuring another colorful, can’t-miss-it facade. You can shop for everything from outrageous shoes to novelty gifts. The kitschy T-shirt collection is extensive and so are the offerings in over-the-top accessories.

Books and Beer

A little further east, you’ll come to Decatur, practically its own city, but ostensibly an Atlanta suburb. Here you’ll find the Book Nook, located in a non-descript freestanding building but packed with a treasure trove of secondhand books at rock-bottom prices. You may lose yourself here for several hours, only to emerge thirsty. Less than 15 minutes away, SweetWater Brewing Company invites you to enjoy local craft beers such as the Georgia Brown or SweetWater IPA.