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Best cheap eats in Atlanta


chefdavidrusso
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I'm going to be in Atlanta (Buckhead) on business next week and I'm looking for some good places to eat. They don't have to be truly "cheap", but I'm definately not looking for the 3-hour, white table cloth experience. Ethnic is good, no sushi though. And if it's around in that part of town, some good soul food wouldn't be a bad thing, either.

And while you're at it, some good evening entertainment suggestions would be a help.

Thanks

-David

Nothing says I love you like a homemade salami

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You might just want to check these reasonable places out ...

and a few more ...

As far as locations go, anything labeled "Midtown" is not far from Buckhead ... nor is the area called "Virginia Highland's" ...

Buckhead is the home of many fine and expensive restaurants but I have tried to avoid those in this thread based upon your specific request.

Melissa Goodman aka "Gifted Gourmet"

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I'm going to be in Atlanta (Buckhead) on business next week and I'm looking for some good places to eat.  They don't have to be truly "cheap", but I'm definately not looking for the 3-hour, white table cloth experience.  Ethnic is good, no sushi though.  And if it's around in that part of town, some good soul food wouldn't be a bad thing, either.

And while your at it, some good evening entertainment suggestions would be a help.

Okay, so you are screwed. Because Buckhead and ethnic aren't even on the same page. And it's a shame, because Atlanta's got great ethnic stuff.

The best stuff is mostly out Buford Highway, an area that's got really crap public transportation. It's so bad that private minibus companies run by Hispanics have sprung up to fill the void along that corridor. So you're either looking at hefty cab fares from Buckhead, or might consider renting a car.

If you're still up for this your best options are Vietnamese, Korean, Japanese, Indian, various Latin American. Let me know which you'd like details about.

I should start a business where I take visitors to Atlanta to cool ethnic restaurants and markets.

Can you pee in the ocean?

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I'm going to be in Atlanta .

I should start a business where I take visitors to Atlanta to cool ethnic restaurants and markets.

OK let me stretch you helpful folks a bit. I too have to be in Atlanta for a few days myself but downtown. It's my tradition to take my French buddies out for an ethnic lunch(in this case it means crabs in Baltimore, New Orleans in New Orleans, Mexican in Dallas, Asian in SF, hot dogs in Chicago, BarBQ, well you get the idea). We will be between meetings so it can't be haute cuisine (but that we do here anyway) but I strive to find places they wouldn't ordinarily go to nor tumble on. Any ideas - no cabs - all walking.? Thanks.

John Talbott

blog John Talbott's Paris

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If I understand you correctly, John, you are looking for something which "says" Atlanta" .. did you want antebellum south or maybe something on the order of "soul food"? and walking distance from which hotel (or area) .. downtown is not terribly compact.

If it is southern cooking, there is this: Pittypat's Porch which is centrally located.

and then there is

South City Kitchen

Melissa Goodman aka "Gifted Gourmet"

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OK let me stretch you helpful folks a bit.  I too have to be in Atlanta for a few days myself but downtown.  It's my tradition to take my French buddies out for an ethnic lunch(in this case it means crabs in Baltimore, New Orleans in New Orleans, Mexican in Dallas, Asian in SF, hot dogs in Chicago, BarBQ, well you get the idea).  We will be between meetings so it can't be haute cuisine (but that we do here anyway) but I strive to find places they wouldn't ordinarily go to nor tumble on.  Any ideas - no cabs - all walking.?  Thanks.

Okay, first off I'm going to have to disagree vehemently with Gifted Gourmet on her recommendation of Pittypat's Porch. Until very recently (and possibly still---I can't bring myself to visit the web site) this restaurant featured servers dressed as slaves, and the food is reportedly nasty. Do not eat there. Please. It will just encourage them to keep offering this sort of crap, and you will be embarassed.

I'm also going to go ahead and tell you that my new business venture wherein I escort visitors to cool ethnic restaurants in Atlanta will not involve many stops downtown, largely because one is hard-pressed to find a decent meal of any sort downtown. This is because most Atlantans don't live there, they live in the neighborhoods surrounding downtown (like me) or in the 'burbs. The only people who sleep downtown are business travelers/conventioneers and they are the ones who keep Pittypat's open.

With those caveats in mind, I'm going to make the following suggestions:

Mary Mac's Tea Room: Mary Mac's has been around for a very long time, and everybody who is anybody in Atlanta eats there so it's great people watching. The food is as close to real "southern" cooking as you'll get outside my grandmother's kitchen, and there's a full bar to take the edge off the experience if it all gets too surreal for your visitors.

The Varsity: the sound track to this web site accurately conveys the chaotic scene in this enormous establishment. Should you actually decide to dine there (and I don't recommend this unless you've perhaps pretreated with Prilosec) you should order onion rings and a frosted orange. Yes, you can get a hot dog, but don't say I didn't warn you. And know what you want before you get to the cashier, because they yell at you in a friendly, down home sort of way.

Can you pee in the ocean?

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chefdavidrusso, in which hotel in Buckhead are you staying? I actually live in Buckhead, and I work at two restaurants in the Buckhead area (neither of which fit your descriptions of something you want), and I really don't find it to be a terrible place to find things to eat, though there are definite downsides to the neighborhood. It's kind of a party district, and more than a little Ghetto Fabulous.

However, there are three Marta train stations in Buckhead, and probably one of them will be convenient to your hotel, so that's why I'm asking where, specifically, you are staying. The number of Marta stations actually makes this one of the friendlier areas to be without a car, and I lived in this neighborhood, sans vehicle, for two years. So you could actually get to Watershed, since it's also near a train station.

But in the actual Buckhead 'hood, there are a couple of gems here and there as well. You might want to try Souper Jenny, which is on East Andrews, and I particularly like the New Yorker Deli on Pharr. It is true that there's not much ethnic in that neighborhood, but if you'd like a couple recommendations for just a reliable quick bite that won't be too expensive, I can come up with some more.

Oh, and ditto on Pittypat's Porch. I find even the thought of it horrifying. And if you hit the Varsity, take special care that they don't glop any of that disgusting "chili" stuff on anything you order.

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Okay, Food Tutor and therese! I knew Pittypat's was horrific for the theme alone and haven't been there in years ... that is why I mentioned South City Kitchen right afterwards ... hardly an afterthought either.

I honestly would rather see both John Talbott and Company, as well as Chef Russo try to locate and go to Watershed, about which much has been written here .. that said, I was trying to keep within the boundaries of the hotels mentioned.

Apologies yet again for saying a word about Pittypat's .. better they should eat at the long defunct Woolworth lunch counter (scene of the sit-ins in the 60's).

Melissa Goodman aka "Gifted Gourmet"

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Mary Mac's Tea Room: Mary Mac's has been around for a very long time, and everybody who is anybody in Atlanta eats there so it's great people watching. The food is as close to real "southern" cooking as you'll get outside my grandmother's kitchen, and there's a full bar to take the edge off the experience if it all gets too surreal for your visitors.

The Varsity: the sound track to this web site accurately conveys the chaotic scene in this enormous establishment. Should you actually decide to dine there (and I don't recommend this unless you've perhaps pretreated with Prilosec) you should order onion rings and a frosted orange. Yes, you can get a hot dog, but don't say I didn't warn you. And know what you want before you get to the cashier, because they yell at you in a friendly, down home sort of way.

I vote for Mary Mac's because I think that if you take a group of people to the Varsity at least one person is bound to get sick because of grease intake.
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better they should eat at the long defunct Woolworth lunch counter (scene of the sit-ins in the 60's).

Is it still open? Where is it? I'm not a native, so I don't know.

Another neat thing to see, sort of halfway between Buckhead and Downtown is The Vortex. If you check out the website, you can see that they have a very humorous list of restaurant policies on how to not act like a fool when dining there, and they have very good burgers. From Buckhead, it would be fairly simple to reach by hopping a Southbound bus down Peachtree, though you may hit pockets of bad traffic on the way there. But then again, you could just think of it as a little sightseeing tour through Buckhead and Midtown.

I'd have to say I far prefer the food at The Vortex to The Varsity, and the atmosphere is more hip.

Edit to add: Disregard the website's usage of the term "most unique," as it really is a cool place, grammar aside.

Edited by TheFoodTutor (log)
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I'd choose the Little Five Points location over the Midtown location of The Vortex. Harder to get to from Buckhead, true, but in this instance I'd say it's worth it.

Lots of other cheap decent eats in Little Five, and you're an easy stroll to all the neighborhoods up and down that strip: Inman Park, Poncey Highland, Virginia Highland, Morningside... Maybe chefdavidrusso should just switch to a hotel in Little Five? Oh, hold it, there aren't any hotels in Little Five, are there?

Atlanta's done a great job of separating the people that live here from the people who visit here.

Can you pee in the ocean?

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chefdavidrusso, in which hotel in Buckhead are you staying? I actually live in Buckhead, and I work at two restaurants in the Buckhead area (neither of which fit your descriptions of something you want), and I really don't find it to be a terrible place to find things to eat, though there are definite downsides to the neighborhood. It's kind of a party district, and more than a little Ghetto Fabulous.

However, there are three Marta train stations in Buckhead, and probably one of them will be convenient to your hotel, so that's why I'm asking where, specifically, you are staying. The number of Marta stations actually makes this one of the friendlier areas to be without a car, and I lived in this neighborhood, sans vehicle, for two years. So you could actually get to Watershed, since it's also near a train station.

But in the actual Buckhead 'hood, there are a couple of gems here and there as well. You might want to try Souper Jenny, which is on East Andrews, and I particularly like the New Yorker Deli on Pharr. It is true that there's not much ethnic in that neighborhood, but if you'd like a couple recommendations for just a reliable quick bite that won't be too expensive, I can come up with some more.

Oh, and ditto on Pittypat's Porch. I find even the thought of it horrifying. And if you hit the Varsity, take special care that they don't glop any of that disgusting "chili" stuff on anything you order.

I'm staying at the Embassy Suites in Buckhead, which I am to understand is about 1 1/2 blocks from a MARTA station. I think I'm going to track down Watershed, even if it doesn't fit my exact "requirements", which aren't really requirements at all but rather just a starting point for suggestions.

And therese, I can't switch hotels, as I am in fact an employee of Embassy Suites. But thanks for the suggestion :biggrin: .

Since it seems like restaurants in the Buckhead area are of the more upper end, do you have any suggestions?

FoodTutor - what are your two restaurants? Perhaps I'll check them out.

Edited by chefdavidrusso (log)

Nothing says I love you like a homemade salami

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I think I'm going to track down Watershed, even if it doesn't fit my exact "requirements", which aren't really requirements at all but rather just a starting point for suggestions.

Good for you! I think you will be quite pleased with the food there!

Embassy Suites in Buckhead is quite centrally located and you should have no problem getting transportation in its environs.

As per your comment about finding upper-end restaurants in the Buckhead area, there are a number of options ... more momentarily, if this is what you wish ...

fine dining option$$

similar theme, but with more info on the individual links

Melissa Goodman aka "Gifted Gourmet"

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One of the restaurants where I work is Restaurant Eugene, definitely upscale and, I have to say, simply one of the best restaurants around, but then, I'm biased. :biggrin:

The other is one of a group of 50 restaurants, and I see they have a location in Hackensack from their website, so while it's a good restaurant probably not a unique Atlanta experience for you. I'll PM the name of the restaurant to you, and you're certainly welcome to stop by, as it's pretty close to where you're staying.

It would be certainly very neat for you to see places like Little 5 while you're here, and The Vortex there is even cooler than the one in Midtown. I really hope you stay long enough to get a taste of the city.

Oh, and while it will be convenient to your hotel, and it will look tempting, you might want to avoid the Buckhead location of Au Pied du Cochon. My experience with this place was really iffy, and reports from others have been pretty bad as well. Given that it's open 24 hours, I'm sure they're still doing plenty of business, just by being the only place open in the middle of the night, but I don't suspect it's gotten better.

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  • 2 weeks later...
Guest MNewman

Each of these has my seal of approval and are "cheap eats" If you're pinching pennies, look to the Buford Hwy. area and you'll probably be ok:

Batavia

Bella's Pizza

Cafe Mozart

Com

Doc Cheys

Eats

El Pastor

Gruby's NY Deli

Havana Sandwich Shop

Kool Korners

Mi Pilon

Muss & Turners

Old Brick Pit Barbeque

Osteria 832

Saigon Cafe

So Dong Kong

Thumbs Up

Vortex

Waffle House

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  • 2 weeks later...

A followup to my query. But first many thanks for the help. My French-French friends and I went to Mary Mac's and had a fine and surprisingly affordable meal. I don't think we could have done better for "typical food." You guys are terrific.

PS. However, a meal (granted forced choices) at Joel did not go as well with a separate group of French-Canadians; they had done their research on it (it was not my choice) and were disappointed as was I. The gaspacho was tart and tasty to me (too tart for their Quebecois palates); the Kobe beef ruined by over-cooking and the halibut just standard.

John Talbott

blog John Talbott's Paris

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A followup to my query.  But first many thanks for the help.  My French-French friends and I went to Mary Mac's and had a fine and surprisingly affordable meal.  I don't think we could have done better for "typical food."  You guys are terrific.

Glad you all enjoyed Mary Mac's. Do you remember what you had?

Sorry about your dinner at Joel's. Even with the "forced choice" option (you were in the private dining room right off the bar? I dislike that room because the table is too wide, such that you can't speak to anybody sitting across from you and the acoustics are lousy in any case) it should have been very good. Joel was reportedly under the weather last Thursday, skipping an event here in Atlanta that he normally would have attended, and that may account for the off night.

Can you pee in the ocean?

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Joël for me was mixed experience that I've documented already but to sum it up, the food was good, not great, but our suggested wines were supurb, maybe even the best I've had ever.

Should've gone to the Varsity ;-)

Edited by Painting (log)

Isaac Bentley

Without the culinary arts, the crudeness of the world would be unbearable. - Kate & Leopold

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A followup to my query.  But first many thanks for the help.  My French-French friends and I went to Mary Mac's and had a fine and surprisingly affordable meal.  I don't think we could have done better for "typical food."  You guys are terrific.

Glad you all enjoyed Mary Mac's. Do you remember what you had?

Sorry about your dinner at Joel's. Even with the "forced choice" option (you were in the private dining room right off the bar? I dislike that room

At Mary Mac's we had Fried Chicken and Barbeque'd Pork with Brunswick Stew; for sides we had fried okra, fried green tomatoes, fried potatoes (I think), a bean dish and a tomato one with ice tea and/or beer. I don't want to get off topic but there was a lot of food and the French commented on how they couldn't possible manage a dessert after it all (me neither).

As for Joel we were in the private room for the scientific session but ate at three tables at the far inside end, away from the windows.

John Talbott

blog John Talbott's Paris

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At Mary Mac's we had Fried Chicken and Barbeque'd Pork with Brunswick Stew; for sides we had fried okra, fried green tomatoes, fried potatoes (I think), a bean dish and a tomato one with ice tea and/or beer.  I don't want to get off topic but there was a lot of food and the French commented on how they couldn't possible manage a dessert after it all (me neither).

The fried things will fill you up quickly. Fried chicken tends to be an especially large serving anywhere you get it, and in any case I rarely manage to finish what I'm served in this sort of restaurant. But then I rarely manage to finish what I'm served in everyday sorts of restaurants in France.

As for Joel we were in the private room for the scientific session but ate at three tables at the far inside end, away from the windows.

The section farthest from the bar, with banquettes? Siberia, but that shouldn't have affected the food.

Can you pee in the ocean?

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  • 1 month later...

If you had to eat in downtown Atlanta, where would you go?

I'm flying in tomorrow morning and departing Thursday morning which leaves time for one lunch and one dinner. My boss will be in tow so although price isn't a concern, he's not one for "interesting" ethnic options (sounds like that won't be a problem downtown, huh?).

No rental car so something near the Ritz-Carlton by cab or on foot would be great.

I wish I had more time to comb through Atlanta-related threads, but it's another last minute business trip! Oh, and I have zero sense of Atlanta's geography either. :rolleyes:

Thanks in advance.

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If you had to eat in downtown Atlanta, where would you go?

I'm flying in tomorrow morning and departing Thursday morning which leaves time for one lunch and one dinner.  My boss will be in tow so although price isn't a concern, he's not one for "interesting" ethnic options (sounds like that won't be a problem downtown, huh?).

No rental car so something near the Ritz-Carlton by cab or on foot would be great. 

Given the time and locale restraints, but no financial restraints, I'd go to Nikolai's Roof for dinner. They've got a new chef (the previous guy had been there forever and forever) and I'm guessing it could be pretty cool in a very upmarket expense account kind of way.

If you go let us know how it was.

I think City Grill still does lunch. If so that would be a great option for you and your boss. Very pretty dining room, lunch crowd almost all business folk in suits.

Can you pee in the ocean?

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Thanks for trying. Next time (and there will be more than one "next time").

I got roped into lunch with my boss and we just stayed within the hotel. Atlanta Grill was fine with some odd quirks (among them, serving soda in a pilsner glass with a straw so tall one had to remove the glass from table for a sip). Their bread basket was, IMO spectacular. My favorite was the scone-like object with onions and scallions.

For dinner, a friend and I tried to go to Two Urban Licks, but I stalled too long on the reservation process (work) and when we arrived around 8:30 pm on a Wednesday, there was a two hour wait for a party of two. Interesting look to that place.

We instead ate at Sotto Sotto, my Atlanta friend's favorite. To some, Italian might be boring but at home in DC moderate and good Italian is hard to find. Note: I don't think the online menu is 100% up to date.

Highlights included mushroom rissotto (shared as an appetizer) and tortelli di Michaelangelo (veal, chicken and pork-stuffed pasta served in a butter-sage sauce). Chocolate soup was tasty for dessert.

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