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December/January 2008

The Flavor of Atlanta
All Roads Lead to Southern Comfort Food
by Molly MacLeod-Roth

 Greenwoods on Green Street is famous for its homemade pies and ice cream.

Food is a major player in the character of any place. You can likely get a great hamburger anywhere, but some foods are synonymous with a city. As clam chowder is to Boston, and cheese steak is to Philly, Southern comfort food is to Atlanta. Even if you’re new to the South, you know the food: the fried chicken and collard greens, the macaroni and cheese and buttermilk biscuits. It’s home cookin’ Southern style, and whether your mama or grandma cooked like this, or you just wish they had, there are a number of restaurants in Metro Atlanta that serve up the best in local flavor. Just remember a few rules: It’s best not to count calories, you better believe it’s homemade and yes, you’ll have the sweet tea.


Mary Mac’s Tea Room

When Mary McKinsey opened Mary Mac’s Tea Room (404-876-1800, 224 Ponce De Leon Ave., LD) in 1945, women weren’t allowed to own restaurants. The term “tea room” was used to show ladylike refinement. Call it what you like, but Mary Mac’s is an Atlanta institution. Step off the bustling street on the cusp of Midtown, and you’re transported to the genteel South of lore. Relax with the sweetest of sweet teas and traditional Southern favorites such as buttermilk fried chicken and pot likker (ham broth with turnip greens) with your cornbread.

  OK Café’s Chicken Wings
OK Café

The OK Café (404-233-2888, 1284 West Paces Ferry Rd., BLD) seems to be a modest name for one of Atlanta’s most popular restaurants. There is a cheerful neon sign on the outside of the OK Café that lets diners know the estimated wait for a table at a spot that serves more customers than any other full-service restaurant in Georgia. But as they say: It’s worth it. The staff is sincerely friendly and happy to recommend from the sizeable menu (the squash soufflé is divine). Grab a seat at the counter and enjoy the line cooks’ good-natured banter, or avoid the wait and take yours to go from their impressive takeout area.

Greenwoods on Green Street

Southern comfort food isn’t pretentious, and neither is the log cabin that houses Greenwoods on Green Street (770-992-5383, 1087 Green St., Roswell, L Wed.-Thurs., LD Fri.-Sun.). The cabin dates back to the 1700s—the restaurant is a bit newer. This casual, homey spot delivers something of a Southern/hippy vibe with its legendary huge portions and deliriously good homemade pies and ice cream. Think grits meets Grateful Dead. Leave your cares and your plastic behind— Greenwoods only takes cash and personal checks.

Bobby & June’s Kountry Kitchen

Bobby & June’s Kountry Kitchen (404-876-3872, 375 14th St. N.W., BL) is also located in a log cabin, although this one sits in welcoming contrast to the visible glass and steel of downtown development. Bobby & June’s is all character. Take a break from the bistros and fusion cuisine for simple Southern fare. The front porch is full of knick-knacks, and the dining room is full of a true slice of Atlanta life, as well as fried okra that will make all guests eat their vegetables.

American Roadhouse offers irresistible
fare in an inviting atmosphere.
American Roadhouse

Located in the eclectic and trendy Virginia- Highland neighborhood, American Roadhouse (404-872-2822, 842 N. Highland Ave., BL) defies culinary fads. This comfortable neighborhood eatery offers simple, fresh comfort food cooked to order. Breakfast bustles with a mix of meetings and folks perusing the morning paper. Offering some of the self-proclaimed largest portions in the country, linger over a chicken pot pie or a big plate of waffles to watch the world roll by one trend at a time.

Matt’s Rib Shack

T-Bone Smith. Chicken Shack. Fat City Wild Cats. Those aren’t specials at Fat Matt’s Rib Shack (404-607-1622, 1811 Piedmont Ave. N.E., LD)— they are some of the bands on the nightly live blues docket at this casual barbecue joint. There isn’t anything fancy about Fat Matt’s. The seating is first-come, first-serve inside and out, and the menu is short, sweet and painted on a board. Choose from ribs, chicken, chopped pork and a variety of sides— and take comfort in blues, beer and barbecue.

  The Flying Biscuit serves its namesake
  biscuits in a trendy, eclectic space.

The Flying Biscuit Café

There isn’t much that hasn’t been said about The Flying Biscuit Café (404-687-8888, 1655 McLendon Ave., Candler Park; 404-874-8887, 1001 Piedmont Ave., Midtown; 404-816-3152, 3515 Northside Pkwy. N.W., Buckhead; 770-321-4445, 1084 E. Johnson Ferry Rd., Marietta, BLD). This Atlanta eatery has been oft cited as an example of Southern comfort food with a twist. Each location has the feel of an eclectic home kitchen with oil-cloth tablecloths and mismatched Fiesta Ware. The staff is funky and friendly, and the food is rightly lauded. Southern favorites such as creamy grits and the namesake biscuits will delight any purist, and the vegetarian-friendly menu offers new classics like black bean and cornmeal Love Cakes.

Try all of these local favorites—preferably not in one day—and discover the flavor of Atlanta. Make yourself at home with the sights, scents and tastes of Southern comfort foods. When the food is this good, you’re sure to become a regular.

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