Food & Drink

The ATL Food Bucket List: 50 Things You Have to Eat Before You Die

Published On 08/19/2015 Published On 08/19/2015
Double Zero | Courtesy of Wayne Howard

Bad news: you’re gonna die. Now for some good news: there’s a ton of great food in Atlanta to eat before you die, which is why we came up with 49 ATL foods you need to eat before you do. Just do us a favor and try not to eat ‘em all at once -- we don’t want our bucket list to be the (totally ironic) reason you kick said bucket.

Antico

1. San Gennaro pizza

Antico (address and info)
Westside
We all know that even bad pizza is still good, but truly great pizza can be life-changing. Enter Antico’s huge, wood-fired beauty: the San Gennaro. A perfectly thin crust with delicious charred bits topped with Italian sausage, sweet red peppers, mozzarella, and onions. Pizza simply doesn’t get any more delicious or authentic than this. Even better, customers can BYOB!

Sublime Doughnuts

2. A-Town Cream donut

Sublime Doughnuts (address and info)
Westside
We’re gonna shoot you straight here: there’s nothing on the menu you can get that won’t be beyond all your dreams for a donut. But there’s something about the A-Town Cream that simply can’t be beat. Maybe it’s the perfectly rich chocolate, the tender flakiness of the donut itself, or the silky cream filling. Whatever it is, a donut that’s a sweet, delicious ode to Atlanta is the one to get.
 

3. Pork belly risotto

Double Zero (address and info)
Sandy Springs
Tender pork belly and creamy jalapeño pesto risotto sounds good enough on its own, right? It was, and then the geniuses at Double Zero added a richly unique root beer balsamic glaze, perfectly cooked broccolini, and topped it with the gooiest slow-poached egg, making every texture and flavor explosively delicious.
 

4. Funghi fritti

Fritti (address and info)
Inman Park  
This Inman Park favorite is a premier spot for fabulous Italian eats, and its funghi fritti appetizer is an excellent place to start. It's a flavorful blend of crisp, fried mushrooms that’s popular among both people who love and usually hate the humble mushroom.

The Varsity 

5. Chili cheese dog

The Varsity (address and info)
Midtown
It's been in business since 1928, and there is arguably no more famous indigenous Atlanta institution than The Varsity. Sure, you can get chili cheese dogs at many places, but The Varsity has the... um, cheapest? Yes, but it's also pretty good, especially with thick-cut onion rings and The Varsity's signature Frosted Orange drink.
 

6. Something awesome

Gunshow (address and info)
Ormewood Park
One of Kevin Gillespie’s latest endeavors, Gunshow is a casual and inventive spot where diners don’t order from a menu, they order from a tray or cart passed around (often by the chef who prepared it). The menus and chefs (or “hired guns” as they call them) rotate regularly, so while you may not know what you’re gonna get when you arrive, you can rest assured it will pack a shton of flavor.

Courtesy of Ruby Jean Photography

7. Foie gras

Cooks & Soldiers (address and info)
Westside
This Basque-style eatery fills a void in the Atlanta dining scene that you may not have felt... until you eat there, that is. Its impossibly tender, melt-in-your-mouth seared foie gras served over black pepper sponge cake with rhubarb and dressed with a rich, 25-year-old sherry vinegar will have you planning your next visit before you even get your check.
 

8. Ghetto Burger

Ann’s Snack Bar (address and info)
Kirkwood
It’s not fancy, and it’s not supposed to be. Ms. Ann (RIP) may have gone on to that great burger shack in the sky, but her world-famous burgers are still being made and served with love. Every bite is better than the previous one, so you owe it to yourself to go eat this.

Courtesy of Emily Schultz

9. Breakfast pizza

No. 246 (address and info)
Decatur
No. 246 cranks out some fantastic Italian eats, and luckily that goodness doesn’t stop during weekend brunch, so drag yourself out of bed for this breakfast pizza, with the usual stuff like cheese and meat and sunny-side-up eggs. That’s worth waking up for.

Courtesy of Isadora Pennington

10. Popsicle

King of Pops (address and info)
Multiple locations
In a city that’s technically hot as f#@!, everyone knows the best, most refreshing way to beat the heat are these perfectly crafted, utterly decadent popsicles. Whatever flavor you pick, you can’t go wrong, but that chocolate sea salt is really what’s up.
 

11.Fried goat cheese balls

Ecco (address and info)
Midtown
Think creamy, luscious balls of goat cheese fried to crisp perfection and served with honey and black pepper. It's one of Ecco’s most famous signature dishes for a reason.

SOTTO SOTTO

12. Zuppa al Cioccolato

Sotto Sotto (address and info)
Inman Park
Inside this cozy Inman Park spot, you’ll find fabulous things to eat, but none are as decadent and delicious as its signature chocolate soup: rich melted chocolate topped with croutons, roasted hazelnuts, and homemade whipped cream; this takes chocolate to a whole new level.

Bell Street Burritos

13. Burrito

Bell Street Burritos (address and info)
Buckhead
The huge size and sheer volume of ingredients can be chalked up to its San Francisco “Mission-style” model, the best of which is the extra-large pork burrito with a Mexican Coke.

The Cockentrice

14. Charcuterie board

The Cockentrice (address and info)
Inman Park
Get the most bang for your buck at The Cockentrice (one of the best things about the Krog Street Market) with the charcuterie board. Pro tip: wash it down with a Bourbon-based speciality cocktail the Craftsman.
 

15. Shaken beef

Nam Phuong (address and info)
Buford Highway
Named after the way it’s cooked in a wok, this classic Vietnamese dish delivers bites of beef that are cooked with authentic flavors like garlic, soy, and fish sauce, and then piled atop a bed of cool watercress. The different textures and flavors are nothing short of dazzling.

Illegal Food

16. The Hank

Illegal Food (address and info)
Virginia Highlands
This dry-aged beef burger with American cheese, sweet Vidalia onion, crisp lettuce, house-made dill pickle, and homemade special sauce warrants extreme gluttony as it is... but you should make it a double anyway.

Courtesy of Rick Lockridge

17. Toasted deviled ham tea sandwiches

Revival (address and info)
Decatur
Kevin Gillespie’s newest spot is serving this elegant-without-being-pretentious appetizer that features toasted, buttery brioche slices stuffed with a creamy ham spread and piquant pickled veggies, and is nothing short of perfect.
 

18. A great milkshake

FLIP Burger (address and info)
Multiple locations
Yes, the burgers are great. But can we just focus for a second on those glorious milkshakes? From Krispy Kreme, to Cap’n Crunch, to Nutella + Burnt Marshmallow, to all the unique seasonal offerings, every flavor is incredible.

Julia Fenner Leggybird Photos

19. Bone marrow

The Spence (address and info)
Midtown
Just a glance at this gorgeous appetizer --  roasted bone marrow topped with sweet potato, pistachio, vegetable ceviche & jalapeños -- and you get an idea of why it’s so popular.
 

20. Bánh mì

We Suki Suki (address and info)
East Atlanta
This is the kind of thing you can eat every day and never tire of, because the flavors simply can’t be found elsewhere. Tart and tangy pickled veggies, fresh herbs, creamy pâté, and pork deli cuts on a toasty baguette come together like gangbusters. Pro tip: go ahead and order one for the road.

Canton House Chinese Restaurants

21. Dim sum

Canton House (address and info)
Buford Highway
Best. Dumplings. In. The. City.

Soul Vegetarian No. 2

22. Vegetarian soul food

Soul Vegetarian (address and info)
Multiple locations
Atlanta has great soul food on nearly every corner, but locals know that the meatless eats from Soul Vegetarian are among the best in the city. With classics like incredibly creamy, rich mac & cheese, fried tofu cutlets, and fresh greens, it’ll make you marvel at how you actually don’t miss the meat.
 

23. The Southern Special

Mary Mac’s Tea Room (address and info)
Midtown
They really don’t make em like Mary Mac’s Tea Room anymore. A true Atlanta institution, it has offered classic Southern eats and Southern hospitality by the bucketful for more than 70 years. Don’t wear your skinny jeans, cause its servings are generous.
 

24. Ribs

Daddy D’z BBQ (address and info)
Grant Park
Daddy D’z BBQ has not only figured out the perfect blend of smoke, sauce, and meat, it's figured out the weird science that makes food taste better on disposable plates. Seriously, it does.

Chai Pani Decatur

25. Tali Special

Chai Pani (address and info)
Decatur
Specializing in “Indian street food,” Chai Pani is an eclectic, cozy spot with some of the city’s most accessible and authentic Indian treats, and its nightly specials aren’t to be missed.
 

26. Bacon wrapped dates (B.W.D.)

The Iberian Pig (address and info)
Decatur
Smoky bacon wrapped around sublimely sweet dates and stuffed with salty Spanish manchego cheese make every single bite perfect.
 

27. Pho

Pho Dai Loi (address and info)
Buford Highway  
There’s a lot that goes into truly choice pho: the meat(s), the broth, the noodles, and the veggies. Pho Dai Loi blends all of these superior ingredients into a huge, steaming bowl of loud, slurpy goodness. Oh, and it’s perfect for breakfast (or supper, depending on how your night went) since it opens at 9am.

Holy Taco

28. Braised bacon taco

Holy Taco (address and info)
East Atlanta
We’ll say that again. Braised. Bacon. Taco.
 

29. Tom ka soup

Little Bangkok (address and info)
Cheshire Bridge
A chicken-, mushroom-, and green onion-studded soup made with creamy coconut milk and outrageously flavorful spices -- the only thing that keeps us from diving into it full body-style is physics.
 

30. Bibimbap

Hankook Taqueria (address and info)
Westside
The 24-hour marinated-sirloin is beyond tender, and when paired with perfect rice, pickled veggies, a fried egg, and red pepper sauce, it’s sweet, hot, and sour. And ridiculously good.

The Optimist

31. Oysters

The Optimist (address and info)
Westside
When it comes to seafood at The Optimist, do believe the hype. Especially when it comes to those oysters. With a revolving selection of more than 10 premiere varieties, these are the freshest, silkiest, most succulent oysters in the city.  
 

33. Meatball sub

Cabbage Pie (address and info)
Cabbagetown
With perfectly spiced, thick meatballs; gooey cheese; and savory, tangy tomato sauce, the meatball sub will make you forget this place is a pretty good pizza joint. The fries are seriously legit, too.

Cara Payne Creative

33. Lamb tips  

Desta Ethiopian Kitchen (address and info)
North Druid Hills
These succulent, marinated lamb tips sautéed in a secret blend of spices practically melt in your mouth, and are even better scooped up in super-soft injera bread. Pro tip: go with the honey wine or spiced coffee.
 

34. Mac Daddy Taco

Bad Dog Taqueria (address and info)
Emory Village
A secret, off-menu item with rich, creamy, perfect mac & cheese... in a taco. Things to know: it’s typically available in the cooler months, and you don’t need to do a secret handshake or password or anything. Just act normal.

Gu's Dumplings

35. Zhong Style Dumplings

Gu’s Dumplings (address and info)
Inman Park
Offering authentic Szechuan fare in the new Krog Street Market, Gu’s features dumplings that are perfect: tender and soft, filled with mouthwatering pork, and served laced with secret sweet & spicy sauce.
 

36. Perico arepa

Arepa Mia (address and info)
Downtown
Meet your new favorite breakfast -- or breakfast anytime of the day -- sandwich. A perfect crispy, corn-based cross between flatbread/cake is utterly amazing when crammed with fluffy Venezuelan-style scrambled eggs (cooked with tomato and caramelized onions) and super-savory white cheese.

Cypress Street Pint and Plate

37. Sweet potato nachos

Cypress Street Pint & Plates (address and info)
Midtown
A slew of thick sweet potato waffle fries (think Chick-fil-A, but better) is topped with cheese, bacon, green onions, and Sriracha to make these the most strangely delicious take on nachos, pretty much ever.
 

38. Tamales

Mi Barrio (address and info)
Grant Park
You don’t always get cheap, authentic, and delicious at the same time, but no matter how you fill ‘em (we especially love the jalapeño and cheese) you will when your order one of these.
 

39. The Comfy Chicken Biscuit

Home Grown (address and info)
Reynoldstown
How do you make an impossibly fluffy buttermilk biscuit better? Stuff it with the juiciest fried chicken you can find and douse it with an enormous serving of glorious sausage gravy.No wonder it’s one of Playboy magazine’s top breakfasts.

Watershed

40. Fried chicken

Watershed on Peachtree (address and info)
Buckhead
There’s fried chicken on nearly every corner in Atlanta, but Watershed's still manages to stand out: long-marinated chicken fried golden and crispy brown and served alongside delectable biscuits. It is the ultimate in delicious Southern comfort food.

Holeman and Finch Public House

41. Sapelo Island clams

Holeman & Finch (address and info)
Buckhead
We know all about its burger, but don’t sleep on these tender, native-to-Georgia clams in a creamy chicken broth spiked with rye whiskey and dotted with slivered jalapeño and bacon bits.
 

42. Omakase menu

Tomo (address and info)
Buckhead
Have you ever wanted to sit and watch a master sushi chef ply you with course after course of Atlanta's best raw fish? For $100-$150, you can. And should.
 

43. Cuban sandwich

Papi’s Cuban & Caribbean Grill (address and info)
Old Fourth Ward
It features soft bread coated with butter and topped with tender, juicy pork loin and Swiss, and grilled ‘til it’s melty, and gooey, and delicious.

Zachary Meloy/Better Half

44. Silk handkerchief pasta

Better Half (address and info)
Westside
Luscious, silky sheets of thin pasta that perfectly cradle a soft, rich creamy porcini mushroom sauce -- it’s the only item on BH’s seasonal, rotating menu that never changes.
 

45. Crepinettes

The Spotted Trotter (address and info)
Krog Market
It sounds like a pastry, but it’s from the Spotted Trotter, so that means big patties of meats and spices held together by lacy ribbons of fat that not only hold the meat together, but imbue it with unheard of tenderness and flavor.

Flickr/Aimeeorleans

46. Salted caramel ice cream

Morelli’s Ice Cream (address and info)
Multiple locations
Morelli's is widely considered to have Atlanta's best ice cream, and for our money, the best flavor at this frozen dessert-slinger is the salted caramel. And we mean that literally -- we’re going to buy some right now.
 

47. Gyro platter

Cafe Agora  (address and info)
Multiple locations
Tender beef, lamb, (or both!) come thinly sliced with soft pita and a side salad dotted with salty bits of feta cheese. Pro tip: get a piece of baklava for the road.

Crawfish Shack

48. Po-boy

Crawfish Shack (address and info)
Buford Highway
Vietnamese chefs cranking out authentic Louisiana-style po-boys? One bite of perfectly seasoned seafood like shrimp and grouper, with its zingy, spicy sauce on a crisp, yet fluffy baguette, and you’ll believe it too.
 

49. Caramelized banana pancakes

Ria’s Bluebird (address and info)
Grant Park
Chef Ria Pell may be gone, but her accolade-heavy pancakes topped with the sweetest, most delicious caramelized bananas ever, live on... until you take down a whole plate of ‘em at breakfast.

50. Baked Rosemary Chicken

Chanterelles (address and info)
West End
T.I. took MTV cameras into this “southern continental” meat-n-three cafeteria and told the world that the butterknife-tender yardbird they serve with several saucy sides (sauteed cabbage, creamed corn, green beans, etc.) is one of his favorite meals of all time. Jeezy has warned lame rappers that he’ll “eat yo’ lil’ ass up like a Chanterelle’s plate,” so make sure you aren’t smelling particularly herbal if you’re foolishly determined to try him instead of the food.

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Previous Venue Next Venue Venue Description
1. Antico Pizza Napoletana 1093 Hemphill Ave NW, Atlanta, GA 30318 (Home Park)

This tiny, family owned and operated pizza shop in Home Park doles out saucy, Neapolitan pizzas. Made using a wood-fired oven directly imported from Naples, pizzas come out perfectly charred, piled high with thick, melted mozzarella and flavorful San Marzano tomato sauce. A relaxed BYOB policy makes dining in a treat.

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2. Sublime Doughnuts 535 10th St NW, Atlanta, GA 30318 (Home Park)

Sublime is to donuts what Picasso was to painting. They're serious about the craft of creating sweet dough with a hole in the middle and their huge variety of gourmet donuts convey that with every delectable bite.

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3. Double Zero Napoletana 5825 Roswell Rd, Atlanta, GA 30328 (Buckhead)

Old school style pizza in the Neapolitan tradition is the highlight of Double Zero's Southern Italian style menu. Their "American" signature pie is a must try-- cooked with DOP San Marzano tomatoes, shredded Bufala mozzarella , crumbled sausage, and caramelized onions, spread over thick, bubbly crust, it's a savory, surefire entrant onto your ATL pizza bucket list.

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4. Fritti 309 N Highland Ave NE, Atlanta, GA 30307 (Inman Park)

This hip, high-ceilinged spot in Inman Park offers artisanal Neapolitan pizza. Cooked in a 1,000 degree oven, pies come perfectly crispy and are topped with the likes of hot salame, cotto ham, sausage, pancetta, and black olives, among other toppings. So authentic, these pies are actually certified by the Verace Pizza Napoletana Association (!!).

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5. The Varsity 61 North Ave NW, Atlanta, GA 30308 (Downtown)

Billed as "the world's largest drive-in," The Varsity in downtown Atlanta can accommodate up to 600 cars and 800 patrons. Each day, the drive-in sells more than two miles of hot dogs, 2,500 pounds of fresh-cut potatoes, 5,000 homemade fried pies, and a ton of onion rings (literally). The place was founded in 1928, was featured in Gone with the Wind, and has had been visited by three presidents (Carter, Bush, and Clinton). Basically, you need to go here just to say you did.

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6. Gunshow 924 Garrett St SE, Atlanta, GA 30316 (East Atlanta)

Prepare for Top Chef alum Kevin Gillespie's Gunshow -- the Glenwood eatery dishes out a weekly rotating seasonal menu filled with locally-sourced pork, lamb, and fish offerings served dim sum-style in an open kitchen. Grab a seat at one of the communal tables and watch the crimson-bearded chef Gillespie flex his culinary muscle.

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7. Cooks & Soldiers 691 14th St NW Ste D, Atlanta, GA 30318

Westside’s Cooks & Soldiers is an upscale restaurant with a menu devoted to the culinary traditions of Basque Country in Northern Spain. The menu offers pinxtos (the Basque version of tapas) and asador (wood-fired grill) dishes, all meant to be shared in a convivial, communal environment reminiscent of Basque dining culture. Two per order and served on toast, the traditional pinxtos include, well, traditional skewered bites like pan con tomate (add jamon iberico, trust us) and tortilla de chorizo. To follow are small, composed plates, and finally, from the asador, you’ll find larger format meats, seafoods, and vegetables. This is where you’ll find the Chuletón, you know, that 2lb steak you’ll be having for dinner.

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8. Ann's Snack Bar 1615 Memorial Dr, Atlanta, GA 30317 (Kirkwood)

The burgers at Ann's snack bar, some of the best in Atlanta, could qualify the Kirkwood spot as the eighth wonder of the world. The voluptuous, hand-pressed Ghetto Burgers bring chili sauce, bacon, a super-secret seasoning, fat pieces of onion, and fried bacon together in a burger that's admittedly difficult to eat but so worth the mess (you've just gotta dive right into this one). There isn't ample seating, but after a short wait you can sit along the bar and watch it get made right in front of you, which, trust us, will work up an appetite large enough to tackle it on your own.

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