Where to Eat and Drink at Hartsfield-Jackson Airport in Atlanta
Airport dining doesn’t have to suck.
A year and some change has passed since the world was initially forced to adapt to the pandemic, and like every other normal aspect of life in 2020, the experience of traveling through the airport has been completely altered—even halfway through 2021. In addition to the health and safety guidelines that Hartsfied Jackson and various airlines implemented last year, people have started to get vaccinated against COVID-19 and subsequently started to feel more confident about flying out of the city. As a result, airport traffic has ramped back up, despite Hartsfield Jackson not exactly being fully back to how it was prior to the pandemic.
Therefore, your next trip to Hartsfield Jackson is probably still going to look a bit different when you pull up to the airport this summer. A few of the restaurants inspired by Atlanta’s most beloved eateries have unfortunately still not yet returned from their COVID hiatus, but don’t worry—many of the best locally sourced restaurants have finally returned to the airport. Keep in mind, however, that things do change, so for the most up-to-date information on Hartsfield Jackson, visit the ATL SkyPointe website. Remember to be as safe as possible when traveling this summer, and don’t forget to sport your favorite masks, continue to social distance, and be sure to get whatever COVID tests are necessary for your desired travel destination!
Alas, here is your guide to the best restaurants that are currently open at Hartsfield Jackson.
Closest gate: T8
From Havana to Atlanta, you can experience authentic Cuban food day or night in the T Concourse. 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.
Closest gate: T11, additional location at D30
Skip the overpriced menu at Five Guys for a burger chain inspired by grindhouse films. Grindhouse Killer Burgers is a local success story, growing from their stall at the historic Sweet Auburn Curb Market to five brick-and-mortar locations and two more at the airport. Their griddle-cooked burgers come in beef, turkey, and veggie varieties on potato buns with their signature sauce. Insiders know that it’s great for breakfast, offering breakfast sandwiches, burritos, and avocado toast.
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 the 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).
Closest gate: A3
The gastropub is now the only location after the Peachtree Street location closed in 2018. But some of their best dishes live on, including the pub burger, which tastes like a classier version of Wendy’s, and Cowgirl Creamery grilled cheese sandwich. Tap boasts a full bar that includes craft beer, wine, and cocktails, and it’s also a great stop if you’re searching for a different take on breakfast.
Closest gate: A Center
You don’t have to put up with Sbarro anymore as Atlanta’s best pizzeria has a location in the airport. These pies use sourdough yeast dough baked thin with fresh toppings straight from the motherland. Nana’s house specialty pie has their 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 or watch the incoming flights from the windows.
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 burrito, tacos, quesadilla, nachos, and salad with proteins such as their mouth-watering red chili adobo chicken, perfectly grilled steak, and Sinaolan tofu. Plus, if you’re traveling to see family for Thanksgiving and a past or present member of the military, you get 20% off your meal.
Closest gate: B Center
There’s fried chicken and then there’s Paschal’s. Civil Rights activist Martin Luther King Jr. planned marches at the Castleberry Hill location. You won't find the history here, but you can get stellar Southern dishes, including the best fried chicken in the city, along with breakfast. It’s been a staple since 1979 and is one of the longest-running airport vendors.
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.
Closest gate: C21, additional location at A Center (Concourse A Hours: 6 am - 9 pm)
Some of our favorite local restaurants in Concourse C are unfortunately still closed—yes, we’re still waiting for the return of The Original El Taco—so we can’t mention eating in this terminal without including Chick-fil-A. The nationwide chain and all-around institution has its headquarters in College Park (the neighborhood where the airport is) and first opened in Greenbriar Mall in 1967. If you didn’t find your way into one of the locations around the city, you can pick up some famous waffle fries on the way to your gate.
Closest Gate: C21
“What’ll ya have?” Servers in red hats greet you at the airport outposts. But you won't wait in line with college students or sports fans like at the 61 North Avenue original. The Varsity serves their 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? This restaurant wins for best translation from the Atlanta original.
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. They open bright and early with breakfast. You can order at the kiosks to save time and grab a sweet treat at the neighboring Krispy Kreme.
Closest gate: D5
Forget that Popeye’s—and pretty much every other fast food chain’s—chicken sandwich. The chicken sandwich at the Ludacris-owned restaurant is where it’s at. Named for his 2003 album, the menu has plenty of both items. The Cajun boiled peanut hummus and shrimp and grits are also favorites. The company that partnered with Luda on this Southern-style eatery also runs One Flew South, so you know it’s good. They also have a great selection of Georgia craft beer, served in pints and flights.
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.
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.
Joshua Robinson is an Atlanta-based entertainment critic and lifestyle writer for Thrillist. Follow him on Instagram at @roshrisky.