A lot of people think they know downtown Atlanta, the unofficial capital of the southeast. They know it’s home to Coca-Cola, houses the busiest airport in the world, and serves up some of the best fried chicken and grits you could ever imagine. But that’s what everyone knows.
You know there’s so much more to the neighborhood than that. Call them hidden gems or under-the-radar delights, these are the types of spots locals frequent, but that go untried by the casual tourist. And no facet is more unsung than downtown Atlanta’s food scene — maybe it’s because the must-try eateries often lack the national fanfare or prime real estate that Atlanta’s better-known restaurants enjoy. But you can be sure: these are the places that give you a real taste for the city.
Come with us on a tour of some hidden culinary gems in downtown Atlanta — guaranteed to satisfy any palate.
If you’re searching for Mediterranean — go to Aviva by Kameel
Aviva by Kameel (225 Peachtree St N) is tucked away inside Peachtree Center, just a short walk from Hotel Indigo Atlanta Downtown. It’s not the easiest place to find, but it’s well worth the search.
As soon as you walk in, you’ll be greeted jovially from behind the counter by Kameel himself — and most likely offered a complimentary falafel ball as you wait in line with the hungry throngs. Once you make your way to the front of the line, you’ll slide along the cafeteria-style counter picking from a huge variety of Mediterranean goodies: shwarma, kabobs, halal meats, fresh veggies, hummus and babaganoush. There are also tons of vegetarian and gluten-free options. And if you’ve got a thirst for something sweet, the freshly squeezed juice bar should hit the spot. Aviva by Kameel may lack some ambiance, but as every local knows, it’s not to be missed.
If you’re searching for hometown barbecue — go to Smoke Ring
Just south of Philips Arena awaits Smoke Ring (309 Nelson St). This barbecue joint stands apart for its unique, Georgia-style barbecue from chef Jordan Wakefield. Signature dishes to try include BBQ deviled eggs, Brunswick stew and three sandwiches with pimento cheese — the “pâté of the South.”
After you arrive, kick back with a featured cocktail (we’d recommend the Lightning Bug or Hog Tie Tea) while your pig-sty nachos or fried gator tail are prepared for your tasting pleasure. And save room for the seasonal cast-iron cobbler to round out your meal. Trust us: you won’t be sorry.
If you’re searching for a stylish scene — go to JP Atlanta
Atlanta’s best-known architect, John C. Portman, Jr., is the creator and namesake of the new JP Atlanta found inside Hotel Indigo Atlanta Downtown. Like Portman’s locally famous Midnight Sun restaurant, which opened in Peachtree Center almost 50 years ago, the new incarnation embraces mid-century design – with a more modern twist. The seasonal menu changes, but expect reimagined, mid-century-inspired dishes such as Swedish meatballs with brown sherry cream and housemade pickles, or beef culotte steak with Swiss chard, celeriac puree, chanterelles and oxtail ragout. Though fine dining is the main attraction, the restaurant’s murals (by Mr. Portman, of course) and architecture will vie for your attention.
If you’re searching for something different — go to Asante
Have you ever heard of “coastal soul cuisine?” No? Then Asante (250 Park Ave W, NW) needs to be your introduction. Set in a tastefully appointed, two-story brick building, chef Marvin Woods has artfully combined flavors and cooking techniques from the U.S., South America, Europe, the Caribbean and Africa for a profoundly unique taste and experience. Well-known foods are given a twist that will surprise and delight taste buds. Intrigued yet? We recommend the Asante-spiced crispy okra or Columbo-dusted diver scallops with coconut rum foam.