In a city that prides itself on Southern staples in all their deep-fried, butter-slathered glory, it’s easy to go overboard on buckets of chicken and buttermilk biscuits with an extra-large sweet tea on the side. It's also easy to avoid said buckets of poultry and lighten things up a bit -- if you know where to look. Lucky for you, we've rounded up a scintillating list of the best places to find the foods your body will assuredly thank you for later.
When a restaurant has a James Beard-nominated chef, you know it’s going to be good. But when he (Steven Satterfield) is also dubbed the “Vegetable Shaman” by the New York Times and literally wrote the book on how to make veggies taste delicious, you know it’s going to be incredibly good for you, too. The menu changes weekly, but always has plenty of gems, like griddled chicken with fall squash or goat cheese ravioli with mushroom, beets, and sunchokes.
OK, so True Food Kitchen MAY be a chain and it MAY be located in a shopping mall. But that doesn’t mean the food is bland or bad for you. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. All of the dishes align with Dr. Andrew Weil’s anti-inflammatory diet -- in other words, this food will help you feel better and live longer. With flavorful options like kale guacamole, spaghetti squash casserole, or spicy panang curry, it also all tastes market fresh and amazing.
Ponce City Market
NYC-based chef Jonathan Waxman’s farm-to-table fare has migrated down south into this airy, urban spot, tucked in a corner of Ponce City Market (thankfully, it’s the one PCM restaurant that takes reservations). Yes, there’s pizza and pasta if you’re down for carbs. But if your goal for 2017 is to eat more greens, start with the kale salad -- it may be the best in town. Pair it with the roasted chicken for a perfect low-carb meal.
Old Fourth Ward
This restaurant/live music venue offers plenty of vegan and gluten-free options alongside some classic comfort foods. There’s a crunchy salad with farro verde, arugula, fennel, butternut squash, and more that you can top with chicken, shrimp, tofu, or steak. Or go for the cast-iron catch of the day. You’ll also want to try their vegan take on tater tots with sweet whipped tofu, Szechuan cherry jam, and fried sage.
Old Fourth Ward
With one of the best indoor-outdoor dining scenes in ATL, Ladybird serves up spectacular food and delicious drinks right on the Beltline. While the butternut squash and kale dip only sounds healthy, other options actually are: the farm vegetable board or the steelhead trout with bok choy, ginger-garlic vinaigrette, and scallions. At brunch, go for the avocado toast or granola with seasonal fruit and local yogurt.
The double-stacked burger is always a winning pick at this industrial Westside spot. But don’t let it outshine some of the lighter and equally-as-delicious options on the menu. Focus on the red quinoa salad with avocado or citrus and beets with tzatziki to start, then go for the seared trout or flounder with sweet corn risotto for a great meal that won’t weigh you down.
Need a healthy option in Midtown, like, right now? This new fast-casual spot -- a California import -- serves up antioxidant-packed juices, smoothies, acai bowls, salads, and sandwiches (with gluten-free bread as an option). The best part: The smoothies and bowls are 100% filler-free: no ice, added sugars, or artificial anything. If you’re over acai, they also have pitaya or graviola as base options for your bowl.
This daytime spot has the requisite gut-buster options like a classic Cuban sandwich, but it’s also a great place to pick up a relatively healthy salad or made-from-scratch soup. Stop by at brunch for the incredibly satisfying avocado toast, topped with a poached egg (note: While the cafe is moving to Midtown, you can still place to-go orders at the Buckhead location).
Buckhead, Dunwoody, Decatur
Good news that keeps on giving: Burgers aren’t always bad for you. The menu at this Atlanta-based chain is entirely sourced from local farms, and the beef is 100% grass-fed. You can’t go wrong when you build your own burger (just go easy on the mayo and bacon), but if you want to up your veggie intake, get the house-made quinoa veggie burger topped with marinated beets and balsamic onions.
The pool tables and shuffleboard are deceptive -- this place doesn’t serve basic bar food. The menu from Chef Savannah Sasser, a former vegetarian turned butcher, offers vegan-friendly options, including a smoked squash burger with vegan cashew cheese, cauliflower mac & “cheese,” and even a crispy Brussels sprouts sandwich. After you’ve eaten all those veggies, treat yourself to a house-brewed beer. You’ve earned it.
While it may be famed for its fried chicken, owner Ryan Pernice says he wants to show Southern food doesn’t have to be “deep-fried with three sticks of butter.” To prove his point, there’s a seasonal vegetable plate as an entree. Still eating meat? Go on “Paleo Wednesdays” to choose from grain-free options like baby back ribs with chipotle sweet potato and greens or grass-fed beef chili with sweet potato fries.
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1. Miller Union999 Brady Ave, Atlanta
2. True Food Kitchen3393 Peachtree Rd NE, Atlanta
3. Brezza Cucina675 Ponce de Leon Ave NE Ste NE158, Atlanta
4. Venkman's740 Ralph McGill Blvd NE, Atlanta
5. Ladybird Grove & Mess Hall684 John Wesley Dobbs Ave NE, Atlanta
6. Bocado887 Howell Mill Rd NW, Atlanta
7. Joy Cafe1100 Peachtree St NE #100, Atlanta
8. Vitality Bowls855 Peachtree St NE,Suite 3, Atlanta
9. Farm Burger410B W Ponce de Leon Ave, Decatur
10. Twain's Brewpub & Billiards211 E Trinity Pl, Decatur
11. Table & Main1028 Canton St, Roswell
From its post on the Westside, Miller Union features unpretentious yet sophisticated New American cuisine with a Southern bent. The menu changes seasonally, but staples like the feta snack, butter bean or field pea hummus (availability depends on the season) with house-made lavash, and the celery cream-baked farm egg are indispensable starters (and if you happen upon the shrimp and andouille gumbo, add that to the list). The wine list is approachable, affordable, and organic with a global reach, though most of its attention leans towards the food-friendly wines of the old world. It’s also worth noting that the house-made ice cream sandwich is only available at lunch.
A haven for yogis, cross-fit addicts, and wellness gurus alike, this healthy-eating mecca is all about food that feels as good as it tastes. True Food Kitchen's menu is focused on vegetarian, vegan, and gluten-free foods. Standout dishes include the quinoa burger topped with avocado, hummus, tomato, and feta, and the ancient grains bowl with miso-glazed sweet potato, turmeric, grilled portobello, and grass-fed steak. The entrees are as colorful as they are protein-packed, and the space is equally bright and lively. And because even the most wellness-minded folks need a drink every once in a while, the cocktail menu features concoctions like "farmers market sangria," topped with organic apples and pears.
Brezza Cucina's menu may look simple, but Jonathan Waxman's killer pizza, gnocchi, and hand-cut pastas will keep you coming back to the Ponce City Market spot for more. Expect Italian classics reinvented with vegetable, seafood, and cheese combinations. The pizzas, in particular, go beyond the usual topping repertoire with takes like spicy shrimp, corn, fontina, and scallions, or short rib, onion jam, buttermilk cheddar, and balsamic.
Creative comfort food and live music unite under one roof at Venkman's, the brainchild of Chef Nick Melvin and musicians Nick Niespodziani and Peter Olson (of the comedic cover band Yacht Rock Revue). Housed inside a former soda bottling plant in the Old Fourth Ward, Venkman's serves Southern-leaning salads, hot sandwiches, and sides, plus craft beer and cocktails.
Named after Lady Bird Johnson --a First Lady known for her fondness for the outdoors -- Ladybird Grove & Mess Hall is a modern, outdoor-themed bar and restaurant in the Old Fourth Ward. Enjoy brunch, lunch, or dinner in one of five aptly-named “mess halls,” including the outdoor "Grove" space sporting Adirondack chairs and ping pong tables to match the restaurant’s campfire motif. Ladybird’s menu has decidedly Southern bent, with dishes ranging from "trail snacks" like Navajo fry bread and pimento cheese fritters, to the shared camaraderie of large format "basecamp" dining with dishes like the Butcher’s Board (smoked ribs, grilled steak, beef cracklin, and sides). Pair your large-format feast with wine... by the jug. An outpost for sophisticated summer camp dining (upscale s’more included) in a cavernous, laid back atmosphere, Ladybird is a frontrunner on the BeltLine.
Bocado's burger -- two patties of blended short rib, brisket, and ground chuck, topped with American cheese and butter pickles -- is one of the best in Atlanta. You may very well come here for the burger but end up more than satisfied with the rest of the contemporary dishes, like deviled eggs that'll rival your grandmother's, a grilled cheese & bacon sandwich that's near impossible to recreate at home, and a lobster roll special that'll transport you to Cape Cod on first bite.
The one-time Buckhead breakfast favorite, Joy Cafe, is now a Midtown mainstay for from-scratch breakfast foods with Southern flavor. The updated, much larger 2,800sqft space is home to a full bar and large patio, but Joy Cafe remains otherwise unchanged. Breakfast is still bustling, prices still low, Joy’s Big Berry Belgian Waffle is just as big and heaping with seasonal berries, and Joy’s Famous Shrimp & Grits are still just as famous (once a feature on Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives, always a feature on Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives).
Located in Midtown, Vitality Bowls is Atlanta’s outpost of the health conscious mini-chain, which has over 40 locations across the country including in California, Colorado, Florida, Indiana, Nevada, and Texas. The superfood cafe was founded in 2011 in California, and the idea born from two parents looking to appease their child’s long list of food allergies. With health and wellness at the forefront, Vitality Bowls specializes in acai bowls and other antioxidant- and nutrient-rich menu items, like fresh-pressed juices, smoothies, pressed panini, and salads.
Farm Burger is an Atlanta-born mini-chain known for its namesake sandwich, and for its dedication to using every part of the 100% grass-fed cows raised specifically for the restaurant’s menu. Beyond just the famed Farm Burger -- topped with Vermont aged and smoked white cheddar, caramelized onions, and house sauce -- the oft special of pickled beef tongue bursts with flavor and texture, and makes the off-cut a more popular item than you'd expect from a burger joint. The “Build It” burger option takes toppings to the next level with premium choices like herbed cracklings, oxtail marmalade, and roasted bone marrow. To really round out your Southern experience, start with the boiled peanuts, and with your burger (or off-cut) of choice, get a side of whole-fried okra, extra buttermilk dressing. Thank us later.
Twain’s Brewpub & Billiards is a laid-back, neighborhood favorite. The Downtown Decatur brewery and pool hall is home to more than just what its name boasts: the pub hosts trivia nights, live music, foosball, shuffleboard, and darts, as well as a menu of elevated bar fare with Southern twists. Expect items like beer cheese, a scotch egg, fish and chips, burgers, and the heart-stopping waffle thigh sandwich (buttermilk fried chicken thigh with bacon jam on a cheddar waffle). The food-friendly house brews are poured by the pint or by the pitcher, and rotate seasonally with the menu. If you happen upon the Nashville Hot Chicken, get it.
A restaurant with the tagline “a Southern tavern,” Table & Main is appropriately located in a renovated farmhouse on Roswell’s Canton Street. The modern restaurant -- from the team behind Osteria Mattone across the street -- serves up a seasonally-rotating menu of simple, flavor-forward dishes rooted in Southern tradition, like cornbread muffins (with honey butter!), the famous fried chicken with collard greens, shrimp and grits, and buttermilk breaded and fried okra. In keeping with the Southern theme, Table & Main also features an extensive list of bourbon, rye, and American whiskey, clocking in at nearly 50 different labels to choose from.