Sample Atlanta's Best Southern Food Restaurants

Pass the okra! Let's get some good Atlanta Southern food tonight.
  • If you have a special event, you can book the private dining room at the Colonnade.
    If you have a special event, you can book the private dining room at the Colonnade.
  • You can even buy a recipe book an make delicious favorites at home.
    You can even buy a recipe book an make delicious favorites at home.
  • Customers line up for the "beelicious" fried chicken at Busy Bee Cafe.
    Customers line up for the "beelicious" fried chicken at Busy Bee Cafe.

Atlanta is home to excellent Southern cuisine. If you want to dine at four-star restaurants for Southern eats, you can certainly find plenty of them in Atlanta. But there also are no-frills restaurants that have been pleasing Atlanta natives for years. The food is authentic Southern and soul food -- and always is served with a smile. Check out these picks for best Southern food in Atlanta.

  1. The Busy Bee Cafe (Downtown) – This is a meat and three that’s been around for since 1947 and was a favorite of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Expect a line out the door at peak times. Each weekday features a different special. All meals are served with choice of two sides and cornbread. Think ham hocks, chicken giblets, turkey wings and, of course, Busy Bee's “beelicious” fried chicken.

  2. The Colonnade (Buckhead) – Open since 1927, the beloved restaurant has survived many changes including locations and owners. It has continued to thrive because of generous portions of comfort food and made-from-scratch items like dressings, sauces, pies and yeast rolls. Chicken fried chicken and chicken fried steak are specialties here. Of course all plates come with choice of sides, and you’ll have a hard time choosing from the nearly thirty, yes thirty, sides offered at the Colonnade.

  3. Mary Mac’s (Midtown) – Back in the 1940s, there were 16 tea rooms in Atlanta. Instead of serving tea, these were a fancied-up versions of meat and three establishments. They were neighborhood centers where families and friends could meet. Today, Mary Mac’s is the only tea room that remains in Atlanta. True Southern favorites found here include fried okra, salmon cakes, fried shrimp, fried green tomatoes, ribs and much more. My favorite item is the tomato pie. Want to make some of these recipes at home? Buy a Mary Mac's cookbook.

  4. Matthews Cafeteria (Tucker) – It was always popular, but after being featured on TV's "Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives," this Atlanta landmark has exploded in popularity so expect long lines at peak times. Unlike the other restaurants, there is no table service here, as the name suggests. The best on the menu is chicken and dumplings.  The chicken is smoked in house for use in Brunswick stew. Matthews is open for three meals a day Monday through Friday and Sundays from 10:30 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Still in the Southern food mood? See more Atlanta restaurants with great southern dishes.


Malika Bowling is the author of Culinary Atlanta: Guide to the Best Restaurants, Markets, Breweries and More!, and founder of Roamilicious. Malika also has served as a judge at various culinary competitions and food festivals, including Taste of Atlanta. Her podcast, Just a Byte, can be downloaded from iTunes. Follow her on Twitter @MalikaBowling and Instagram

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