How to Eat Like a Local in Atlanta

Atlanta is a food city, so much so that when locals host out-of-towners the itinerary often revolves around moving from one great meal to the next. Chain restaurants are distasteful to the true Atlanta foodie, who eschews Applebee’s for a BYOB pop-up or a ramen house with Instagram-worthy dishes worth drooling over. And while locals frequently shop at Publix or Kroger, they prefer the city’s farmers markets for the freshest stuff. If you want to eat and food-shop like a local, use this handy guide:

Holeman & Finch. Calling itself “farm to flavor, from dirt to dessert,” this popular and contemporary restaurant from food magnate Linton Hopkins — also responsible for Restaurant Eugene and Hop’s Chicken — draws a big crowd for its cocktails, communal vibe, and, perhaps most of all, its famous burger. If you’re worried they’ll run out (it happens), you can try Hopkins’ outpost in Ponce City Market, H&F Burger.

Your Dekalb Farmers Market. Bring a sweater (the place is always ice-cold), cash or a debit card (they don’t take credit cards), and your most ambitious recipes to this gigantic indoor market that’s so iconic, it’s become a tourist attraction. The sprawling store stocks just about every kind of fresh produce, spice, fish, meat, cheese, and nut you can imagine (and many you likely can’t). You’ll marvel not just at the array of offerings but also at the staffers, who somehow are able to identify obscure vegetables by sight. If all that shopping makes you hungry (and it will), stop by the in-store buffet for a delicious and affordable meal.

The Varsity. Yes, this is technically a fast-food joint. But it’s been an Atlanta institution since the 1920s, best known for its hotdogs, fried pies, chili, and cashiers asking, “what’ll ya have?” Learn the lingo before you go: A “Heavy Weight” is a hot dog with extra chili, a “Mary Brown Steak” is a hamburger with no bun, a “Bag of Rags” is a bag of potato chips, and “P.C.” is chocolate milk on ice. The Varsity may sound a little gimmicky and it may be a bit touristy, but Atlantans still love it. So put on a paper hat and dig in.

Sweet Auburn Curb Market. Sure, Atlanta is now home to two fantastic food halls — at Ponce City Market and Krog Street Market — but the longstanding Sweet Auburn Curb Market still holds its own. Founded in 1924, the market has 28 tenants, including local favorites Bell Street Burritos and Arepa Mia.

Buford Highway. This isn’t so much a specific restaurant as a corridor of culinary delights from around the world. On this road dotted with strip malls, you’ll find Atlanta’s best pho (I Luv Pho), soup dumplings (Yong He Zhi Jia), and dim sum (Canton House). But you don’t really need to know where you’re going to get good food; some Atlantans just point their cars to Buford Highway and see what moves them. They typically drive away satisfied.

Christine Van Dusen