Atlanta's Iconic Restaurants
Taste Some of Our Southern Charm
By Camille Moore
Some restaurants are almost synonymous with Atlanta: so familiar,recognizable and well-established as to be iconic. The restaurants listed here are part of Atlanta’s heritage as a prime hub of flavor sensations. Each has a unique history and a story of how it became a staple in Atlanta. It’s a diverse group of eateries, whether your tastes are fine dining, good ole Southern cooking or a quick bite.
Mary Mac’s Tea Room
Mention Mary Mac’s Tea Room and you’re likely to hear, “That place is so good!” Opened in 1945, Mary Mac’s is the last of 16 tearooms in Atlanta from the 1940s. It was declared to be to be “Atlanta’s Dining Room” by the Georgia House of Representatives in 2011. Entering through double doors, visitors instantly notice the walls adorned with newspaper mentions and an abundance of photos of public figures and families—all of whom have dined at Mary Mac’s. The restaurant is split into six dining rooms, each representing a location in Atlanta. The food at Mary Mac’s is the same as it was 60 years ago: fried chicken, macaroni and cheese, fried green tomatoes and a complimentary basket of rolls, cornbread and cinnamon rolls. The latter, by the way, are quite addictive and menu favorites.
224 Ponce de Leon Ave, Atlanta, 404-876-1800, marymacs.com
Frankly my dear, Pittypat’s Porch is a cherished Southern restaurant inspired by “Gone With the Wind.” The story is that when Scarlett visited Atlanta, she always stayed with Aunt Pittypat who cooked her delicious and traditional Southern meals. The antebellum-inspired restaurant channels Aunt Pittypat’s character with gracious hosts and a grand veranda for a prime view of the city. The white pillars surrounded by rocking chairs with classical music playing on the piano add to the ambience. The menu lists homemade breads, Southern salmon filet, Aunt Pittypat’s rib-eye steak and low country shrimp and grits.
25 Andrew Young International Boulevard, Atlanta, 404-525-8228, pittypatsrestaurant.com
Sun Dial Restaurant
If you want to impress a date, celebrate an anniversary or witness a breathtaking 360-degree panorama view of Atlanta’s opulent skyline— the Sun Dial Restaurant is the place to go. Located atop the Westin Peachtree Plaza hotel, this posh restaurant is the epitome of fine dining. The chefs use farm-to-table ingredients, and the restaurant was the winner of the 2015 Diners’ Choice award from OpenTable. The interior of the modern restaurant exudes sophistication with rich textures, achromatic gray and neutral color schemes, and floor-to-ceiling windows. Menu favorites include tender veal chops, lamb burgers and fried chicken and waffles.
The Westin Peachtree Plaza 210 Peachtree Street NE, Atlanta, 404-589-7506, sundialrestaurant.com
The Colonnade Restaurant
Located on Cheshire Bridge Road, this family-owned-and-operated restaurant has been treating Atlanta since 1927. Serving homemade dressings, yeast rolls and generous portions of steak, chicken, seafood and pork, this classic restaurant offers familiar Southern fare. The open dining room, with 200-patron seating, is a perfect spot for families to gather after church. After dining, customers may walk over to a cozy room with a gray stone fireplace, and sip on drink specials of the day like a bikini martini or gin tin.
1879 Cheshire Bridge Road, Atlanta, 404-874-5642, colonnadeatlanta.com
Chick-fil-A Dwarf House
Opened in 1946, the Dwarf Grill eventually evolved to become the Chick-fil-A empire of “Eat Mor Chikin” fame. What makes today’s original Chick-fil-A Dwarf House location memorable is an unconventional menu compared to the familiar fast food choices. In addition to chicken sandwiches, nuggets and fries, the eatery serves burgers, macaroni and cheese and a hot brown platter— an open-faced chicken sandwich with gravy and strips of bacon. The cherry red brick establishment is authentic to its name with a red functional door for “little people.” The small door is so loved it has even been the backdrop to couples’ wedding photos. And if you’re craving a midnight snack, the Dwarf House is open 24 hours, Monday through Saturday.
461 N Central Ave, Hapeville, 404-762-1746, chick-fil-a.com
What’ll ya have? Naked dog, heavy dog or frosted orange? The original Varsity opened in 1928 and has hosted governors, entertainers and millions of citizens since its inception. This iconic restaurant is the world’s largest drive-in, accommodating 600 cars and 800 patrons on two acres. It is a popular destination after a Georgia Tech football game. The Atlanta eatery honors a long list of traditions including “curb men” or car hops who once sang and danced their way to fame. The most famous of the car hops was Flossy Mae, who sang the menu to customers for more than 50 years. Famous television and movie star Nipsey Russell was also once a car hop at the Varsity. Before you dine, brush up on your Varsity lingo and have the correct order in mind!
61 North Avenue, Atlanta, 404-881-1706, thevarsity.com
The Polaris at Hyatt Regency
Ride the golden glass elevators to the 22nd floor of Atlanta’s Hyatt Regency and step into the legendary “Blue Dome.” Launched in 1967, the Polaris is a postcard image of Atlanta. The icon is featured on murals, souvenirs and the nightly news. It has been beacon of Atlanta for the last 50 years, a place where presidents and rock ’n’ roll royalty dined. The spaceship dome gives impeccable views of the city with a full rotation every 45 to 50 minutes. Visitors can enjoy a nightly cocktail hour and exquisite cuisine while socializing in the futuristic lounge. The Polaris is another vantage point for a panoramic view of Atlanta.
265 Peachtree Street, Atlanta, 404-460-6425, polarisatlanta.com