15 Old-School Restaurants in Atlanta for a Classic Night Out
For classic throwback interiors at Atlanta institutions and bucket list meals, look no further than these standbys.
The city of Atlanta is home to a few of the best restaurants in the country, and when looking for a place to eat, sometimes you need a bit more than just a great meal. The dinner can taste amazing, but if the service isn’t there, or the vibe is off, it kind of ruins the experience. If you’re a fan of swanky establishments, the 404 has plenty to offer. So, whether you’re looking for a speakeasy-style tavern for a night of with friends, an oyster bar inspired by the coast of Massachusetts, or an upscale restaurant to impress that special someone with a place that actually has some atmosphere, then look no further than these old-school Atlanta restaurants.
This Vinings restaurant has one of the most beautiful outdoor courtyards around. Located directly on the banks of the Chattahoochee River, Canoe is an amazing balance of great ambiance, and even better food. Ivan Bailey’s hand-constructed metal sculpting and Dwayne Thompson’s furniture art will make you want to spend hours upon hours admiring the aesthetic of this place. In 2005, Canoe was inducted into Nation’s Restaurant News Fine Dining Hall of Fame because of its fresh seasonal menu and high-quality service. While the food selection is phenomenal across the board, it’s their brunch that keeps people talking. The Salmon Eggs Benedict is smoked to perfection, and the Brioche French Toast with berries and vanilla cream is literally like nothing you’ve ever eaten in your life.
For over 40 years the Hilton Atlanta’s rooftop dining area has been home to some of the best food the South has to offer, and a panoramic view of the city’s iconic skyline. Chef Christian Quiñones’ menu development along with Chef Daniel Palaima’s flawless execution is the only a few of the reasons why Nikolai’s Roof continues to appear on the AAA Four Diamond Restaurants list year in and year out. It’s European-inspired cuisine paired with a specialty cocktail, flavored vodka, or a selection from the wine list, it’s no wonder this upscale restaurant has been one of the ATL’s go-to spots for so long. As if the main room isn’t enough, the private event space gives customers more of an intimate setting to accentuate Nikolai’s award-winning dishes and four-course dinners.
Swan Coach House
So, where to start? Once a carriage dwelling for the Swan House Mansion, it was eventually turned into a restaurant, wedding space, gift shop, and art gallery during the late 1960s. Over the years, this establishment has maintained its nostalgic vibe and gives locals and visitors alike a taste of Atlanta’s deep history. The gallery hosts art exhibitions all the time, and primarily features artists from Georgia and Southeast region. The gift shop includes home decor items, clothing, accessories, handmade jewelry, and so much more. The restaurant has an assortment of Southern favorites such as grit fritters, ham biscuits, and chicken pot pie. The “one-stop shop” atmosphere of the Swan Coach House makes it not a place to eat, but an experience.
Hal's "The Steakhouse"
Plain and simple, Hal’s just has the feel of your classic American steakhouse. One of Buckhead’s top establishments exudes elegance, but reels you in with a comfortable, down-home ambiance. The upper patio’s old school steel railing adds to the breathtaking view. Now, let’s get to the food. Hal Novak’s New Orleans-inspired menu stacked with dishes like their Shrimp Remoulade, Oysters Bordelaise, the Louisiana Gumbo, and the Crawfish are all just for starters if you can believe it. Their entrees feature steak, seafood, lamb, chicken, and duck (basically every type of protein you can think of). Even if you’re not hungry, the bar itself lives up to Hal’s On Old Ivy’s reputation of providing a terrific experience when you just want to relax and unwind.
Opened by Susan DeRose and Richard Lewis in 1979, the award-winning steakhouse is not only revered within the confines of Atlanta, but nationwide. Open 7 days a week—5:30 - 9:00 pm on weekdays and 5 - 9 pm Saturday and Sunday—Bones has a strong selection of unique dishes with a Southern twist, and a large variety of new and old-world wines. Its business casual dress code makes for the perfect place to plan a special occasion or company dinner. The 34 ounce Ribeye or the slightly smaller Porterhouse are favorites among steak eaters, and the Seared Scallops make for the perfect meal for seafood lovers.
Sun Dial Restaurant, Bar & View
Sitting atop of what was once the tallest building in Atlanta, the Sun Dial became a staple in the city’s food scene. This restaurant is right in the middle of downtown, so you’re walking distance from the Mercedes-Benz Stadium, Centennial Olympic Park, the Georgia Aquarium, and that Waffle House that’s right on Andrew Young Boulevard. The restaurant features items such as the Loch Duart Salmon, the sweet potato gnocchi and a slab of pork tomahawk smothered with barbecue sauce. The menu is good, but it’s the cocktail lounge and skyline observatory that made this place famous. The Bar & View area is currently closed but be sure to get that IG selfie once it opens back up.
This swanky restaurant and bar run by Executive Chef Andrew Isabella rests in Inman Park, but the oysters will bring you right to the coast of Massachusetts. Named after the Beetle Family, BeetleCat is inspired by the sea, its serenity, and its many dwellings. The high ceilings and perfectly lit main room is ideal for one-on-one dates or intimate settings, and the oyster bar gives customers a front seat view of the kitchen and the raw crustaceans on ice. It’s strictly seafood here, so indulge in the many fish variations, or catch a vibe while sipping on one of BeetleCat’s specialty cocktails. After a delectable meal, travel downstairs to the basement for some fresh air, fun times, and a mid-’70s feel.
La Grotta Ristorante Italiano
This family owned and operated business makes everyone that walks through the door feel like they’re at home. Voted the Best Italian Restaurant by Atlanta Magazine for almost 20 years, La Grotta serves some of the most authentic old country cuisine you’ll ever find. Relax in the cozy outdoor courtyard while enjoying a bottle of wine, or feast on the delicious appetizers and entrees—including lamb, beef tenderloin, chops, and more.
Mary Mac's Tea Room
If there is a restaurant that is synonymous with Atlanta, Mary Mac’s definitely comes to mind. Founded by Mary MacKenzie in 1945, this tearoom serves the legendary Tomato Pie, award-winning fried chicken, and the world-famous fried green tomatoes. The pictures on the wall and table styles make you feel like you’re in a scene from The Godfather, but Mary Mac’s oozes Southern culture. I mean, the place looks almost identical to how it did when it opened over 75 years ago. To start, you can scarf down a cup of Brunswick stew, then you can pig out with some BBQ ribs, pork chops, or their slow cooked beef pot roast.
The glow of this iconic diner’s neon lights will draw anyone in like moths to a flame. The Majestic in Poncey-Highlands has been there for almost 100 years and won’t be going anywhere soon. Similar to the times of Grease, Happy Days, and Back to the Future, this establishment brings you back to the 1950s—from its squared windows all the way to the chairs and plates. Although it is not large on the inside, it’s always filled by people with big appetites. The Majestic Diner offers its fair share of breakfast food, along with some good, old-fashioned American cheeseburgers.
Nakato Japanese Restaurant
Earlier this year, Nakato’s celebrated its 50th anniversary, since then Atlanta’s oldest Japanese restaurant has been known for providing warm hospitality and traditional Asian cuisine. There you can choose from a list of sushi, nigiri and sashimi, along with protein options, and hibachi as well. With all their chefs born and trained in Japan, you’ll be able to pair the perfect sake with your meal. The climate of Nakato’s is both welcoming and exciting, so bring the whole family.
The stone walls, red leather seating, and low-level location give this Virginia-Highland bar a 1920s speakeasy vibe, and its low-lit, jazzy atmosphere makes it the place for a chill night out with friends. Highland Tap has stiff martinis, and tasty cuts of prime rib, grilled steaks, and fresh seafood. The carpaccio and French onion soup are a favorite with locals, and the wood-fired salmon with potatoes and almond green beans will have you begging for more. If it’s a busy night and people are out, there’s a valet right behind the establishment so parking is no sweat.
What started out as a deli grew into one of Atlanta’s most popular taverns. The actual restaurant wasn’t created in 1983, but it still maintained the architecture and landscape of the early 1900s. Whatever you’re searching for—whether it be a family outing, weekend brunch, or a late-night drink—Atkins Park has something to offer. Need somewhere to watch the game? Hit this place and you’ll find several high-res TVs located behind the bar showing every sport imaginable. While the Braves are playing you can nibble on some delicious finger foods such as their Confit Wings or Fried Chicken Sliders, and if you’re really hungry you can try the Double Park Burger with an egg and bacon. Just try not to fall asleep.
Marcel is a West Midtown steakhouse named after the French boxer, Marcel Cerdan, a man who was also known to have made steak dinners mainstream. The dining area is luxurious and has the ambiance of a classic film from the 1930s. The aged steaks ranged from your traditional New York strip to a 30-ounce Tomahawk ribeye. There is also seafood and unique hors d’oeuvres to pick from, as well as a dessert list of cakes and crème brulee. Marcel also features a 32-page wine selection (yes, you read it correctly) and a cigar bar that sets it apart from many other restaurants. “Love” and “steaks” are the main themes in this establishment, so if you love steaks then this is the place for you.
If you’re feeling adventurous, take a trip to Hotel Clermont and walk downstairs—you’ll be pleasantly surprised. Tiny Lou’s menu is a mixture of French cuisine and Southern ingredients, blended together with a stylish look. The restaurant’s neon pink sign can be seen on social media pages near and far, and the food isn’t too shabby either. For dinner you can try the lobster risotto followed by a strawberry crepe cake, or head right to the lobby bar for some finger food and a stiff drink. During the upcoming summer nights, try their Clermont Daiquiri for only $13—and the vibe is free of charge.