The Ultimate Guide to Eating, Drinking, and Killing Time at Hartsfield-Jackson Airport

A concourse-by-concourse guide to the best pre-flight meals and activities at Atlanta's airport.

Maynard H Jackson Jr terminal
Maynard H Jackson Jr terminal | TasfotoNL/Shutterstock
Maynard H Jackson Jr terminal | TasfotoNL/Shutterstock

If holiday travel takes you to the world’s busiest airport, you're in luck. There's no shortage of ways to pass the time once you get through security at Atlanta's Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport. Hopefully things go smoothly, and all you need is a quick jolt of caffeine ahead of your early-morning flight or a quick bite to eat before a red eye. But with flight delays happening more and more these days, you never know when you’re going to have a few extra hours to kill in Atlanta’s busy airport terminals.

Luckily there are great food and drink options in every concourse, from beloved local soul food eateries to delicious burger joints founded right here in Atlanta, and other activities to keep you occupied when delays stretch on longer than expected. So we broke it down, concourse-by-concourse, so you have all the best restaurants, bars, and things to do at Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson airport at your fingertips. Treat this list like your passport to worthwhile options. The best part? This passport never expires.


Papi's Cuban Grill
Papi's Cuban Grill

Papi’s Cuban Grill
Closest gate: T8
From Havana to Atlanta, you can experience authentic Cuban food day or night in Concourse T. Papi’s has locations around the city, named for owner Reynaldo "Rey" Regalado’s late father. Their expanded airport menu includes fish tacos, empanadas, and strong Cuban coffee, but be sure to try the tostones and the all-important Cuban sandwich.

Grindhouse Killer Burgers
Closest gate: T11, additional location at D30
Skip the overpriced national spots for a burger from a local chain inspired by grindhouse films. Grindhouse Killer Burgers is a local success story, growing from a stall at the historic Sweet Auburn Curb Market to five brick-and-mortar locations around town and two more at the airport. The griddle-cooked burgers come in beef, turkey, and veggie varieties on potato buns with a signature sauce. The burgers are legendary, but insiders know that it’s also a great spot for breakfast, offering breakfast sandwiches, burritos, and avocado toast.


Piece of Cake
Closest gate
: A Center
Maybe you’re not super hungry, and all that you need to get you through your flight is a sweet treat. In that case, it’s crucial to have Piece of Cake on your radar. With locations spread across the city from Alpharetta to Camp Creek, this restaurant has earned a reputation as one of Atlanta’s favorite spots for gourmet desserts. Next time you’re traveling with a sweet tooth, be sure to grab slices of layered cake, shortbread cookies, or a cupcake (or two).

Varasano’s Pizzeria
Closest gate: A Center
You don’t have to put up with Sbarro now that one of Atlanta’s best pizzerias has a location in the airport. These pies use sourdough baked thin with options like Nana’s House specialty pie with a secret mixture of herbs and fresh mozzarella on a crispy crust. Pair with local draft beer from Three Taverns as you listen to live jazz tunes from the piano bar next door.

Atlanta Bread & Bar
Closest gate: A12, additional standard Atlanta Bread locations at B7 and C30
With the Morrow location of Atlanta Bread recently closing, there are even fewer places where you can go to enjoy the local company’s mouthwatering sandwiches, bowls, salads, soups, and pastries. Fortunately, Atlanta Bread is still going strong at Hartsfield-Jackson, and its location in Concourse A comes with a bit of a twist—hence, the “& Bar” addition to its name. Beyond all of the great breakfast and lunch options that you’d expect from Atlanta Bread, you can also experience a full-fledged bar that’s powered by SweetWater Brewery, including signature breakfast cocktails like Bloody Marys (and Marias) and Salty Bulldogs to SweetWater drafts like the SweetWater 420 and the Hazy IPA.


Willy's Mexicana Grill
Willy's Mexicana Grill

Minute Suites
Closest gate: B16 and B24
If you've ever taken a gate-side nap against the wall or in an uncomfortable chair, enter this welcome alternative. Minute Suites has two locations in Concourse B that offer small suites for a little privacy so you can kick back and relax. Each room has a daybed that comfortably fits two (but up to four people are allowed per room); complimentary TV, Netflix, and Wi-Fi; plus a mini fridge stocked with snacks and drinks for purchase.

Be Relax Spa
Closest gate: B22
If Terminal B is the center of the relaxation universe in the Atlanta airport, Be Relax Spa is the capital city. With seven different specialty massage options, nail care, and even a Head to Toe treatment package that includes multiple massages, you'll forget you're even at the airport with a trip to Be Relax. 

Willy’s Mexicana Grill
Closest gate: B Center
Travelers searching for great Georgia-made Mexican food can let out a collective sigh because Willy’s is back in business at Hartsfield-Jackson. You can build your own burritos, tacos, quesadillas, nachos, and salads with proteins like red chili adobo chicken, grilled steak, buffalo chicken, or even tofu.

Closest gate: B Center
There’s fried chicken and then there’s Paschal’s. It’s been a staple since 1979 and is one of the longest-running airport vendors. Even Civil Rights activist Martin Luther King Jr. planned marches at the Castleberry Hill location. While you won't find the history at the airport’s outpost, you can get stellar Southern dishes including the best fried chicken in the city and breakfast favorites.

Sweetwater Last Cast Bar & Grill
Closest gate: B31
If you’re leaving Atlanta for a while but want one last sip of locally brewed beer, then enjoy one at Sweetwater Last Cast Bar & Grill, a bar in Concourse B that offers quick eats (with a surprisingly appealing hot breakfast menu) alongside some of the brewery’s most popular beers. Expect 420, Goin’ Coastal, and other favorites to be on tap, but don’t hesitate to ask your server for any special seasonal brews.


The Varsity
The Varsity

The Varsity
Closest gate: C21
Servers in red hats asking “what’ll ya have?” will greet you at the airport outpost of The Varsity. But you won't wait in line with college students or sports fans like at the 61 North Avenue original. The Varsity serves its famous chili dogs, onion rings, and Varsity Orange beverage at this location and even has breakfast if your stomach can handle the delicious grease. Sure, you may find dozens of burgers in the airport, but how many are covered in chili?

Closest gate: C37
There's no better way to kill some time in the airport than to indulge in a manicure, massage, or another spa treatment. So melt away the stress of travel at this XpresSpa location in terminal C, or check out the other outposts in terminals A, D, and E.

The Original El Taco
Closest gate: C14
Open daily from 6 am to 10 pm, the beloved Virginia Highland taqueria has an excellent outpost at the airport. Here you’ll find signature frozen margaritas along with Baha fish, pork carnitas, and vegetarian tacos and burritos. Pair each dish with the all-important guacamole.

Bantam + Biddy
Closest gate: C Center
The Southern-style diner grew from its Ansley Mall location into two others across state lines. The airport location is a standalone restaurant in “The Connection” food court that serves their most popular dishes like fried chicken, sandwiches, and Southern-style sides.



Chicken + Beer
Closest gate: D5
Forget Popeye’s and pretty much every other fast food chain’s chicken sandwich. The chicken sandwich at this Ludacris-owned restaurant is where it’s at. Named for his 2003 album Chicken-n-Beer, the menu has plenty of both items, though the Cajun boiled peanut hummus and shrimp and grits are also favorites.

The Market by Food & Wine
Closest gate: D Center
Formerly the Food Network Kitchen, the Market by Food & Wine has dishes inspired by surroundings like the Big Peach Sandwich (on bread by Holeman + Finch) and Buford Highway-inspired Pho. Grab them to go or stay and enjoy a coffee, local beer, or glass of American wine.


One Flew South
One Flew South

One Flew South
Closest gate: E Center
This upscale dining experience completely changed the airport when it opened in 2008 as the only non-chain restaurant. Its regional cuisine, sushi, and craft cocktails have been nominated for a prestigious James Beard Award for outstanding service. It’s not a stretch to say that this is the best restaurant in the airport (and possibly all airports)—even the decor pays homage to its Georgia setting by using Cherokee marble and native heart pine wood.



Closest gate: F Mezzanine
The Italian-inspired restaurant is among the best in the city, and now the airport has its own outpost, open for lunch and dinner. Travelers can enjoy pasta, charcuterie, pizzas, and paninis paired with wine and cocktails. The entire menu is solid but the fried goat cheese balls and gelato are enough to make you hunker down into the airport like Tom Hanks in The Terminal.

The Club ATL
Closest gate: F Mezzanine
Airline clubs are hit or miss even if you’re a frequent flier, but The Club ATL allows anyone to purchase a day pass even if you haven’t quite reached a premier status. For $50 guests get access to a buffet of food and drink options, lounging area, showers, and a workstation with a printer.

Jekyll Island Seafood Company
Closest gate: F Mezzanine
Inspired by the fresh seafood from one of Georgia’s Golden Isles, where it has another location, diners can enjoy the Lowcountry flavors at Jekyll Island Seafood Company, even if their travels are taking them elsewhere. The menu includes shrimp and grits, fresh oysters, and crab cakes, plus wine, beer, and cocktails.

Other things to do near the Atlanta airport

Delta Flight Museum
Photo courtesy of Delta Flight Museum

If you get stuck at the airport due to canceled flights or are dealing with a long layover, there are worse places to be than Hartsfield-Jackson. The terminals offer many ways to pass the time, but there are also a number of places you can visit just outside the airport to have a little fun before heading to your gate.

Downtown Atlanta is just 20 minutes by car from the airport, so you're not too far from a world of bars, restaurants, and things to do in all of Atlanta's central neighborhoods.

Closer to the airport's campus, The Delta Flight Museum is on site just a short Uber ride away in the hometown airline’s historic hangar. Here you’ll find vintage aircrafts, flight attendant uniforms, Olympic memorabilia, and even a flight simulator to explore.

The Porsche Experience Center is also nearby and has a museum with historic vehicles, plus a driving experience and simulators. If you feel peckish, you can dine at the onsite restaurant, which has views of the airport runways.

Another option is to settle in with a day pass at an airport-adjacent hotel. The Sonesta Atlanta Airport South, which is accessible via shuttle, offers passes for $20 through Resort Pass so you can take a dip in the pool or spread out in some prime workspace or upgrade to a day room for $75 so you can take a quick nap.

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Joshua Robinson and Caroline Eubanks are Thrillist contributors.