Regardless of whichever Atlanta nickname you use – ‘metropolis of the South’, ‘capital of the South’, ‘The A’, ‘The ATL’, ‘The Dirty Dirty’ – the city has something for everyone. Each neighborhood has something different to offer; it’s a choose-your-own-adventure kind of place, if you will. In the South where everything’s bigger and better, what else would you expect?
Anthony Bourdain visited Atlanta to film season 2 (episode 7) of The Layover; it was his only on-screen visit to the city, which is surprising since most of the cities he visited during this show were featured on other shows too. Not so for Atlanta or Georgia – but don’t worry: Uncle Tony packs a lot in during his exploration of the city.
If you’re planning a trip to Georgia and want to eat at some of the same places visited by Anthony Bourdain in Atlanta and surrounding Georgia, you’ve come to the right place. Below you’ll find all of the spots Tony ate on-screen, as well as some recommendations he made but didn’t visit (as was common in The Layover). Grab your fork and your appetite, and let’s dive in.
Want to watch the episode where Anthony Bourdain visits Atlanta?
The Layover episode is available on Amazon.
In this post, I promote travel to a destination that is the traditional lands of the Mvskoke (Muscogee) people, among others. With respect, I make a formal land acknowledgment, extending my appreciation and respect to the past and present people of these lands. To learn more about the peoples who call these lands home, I invite you to explore Native Land.
Fat Matt’s Rib Shack
While not a place for the BBQ nerds out there, that only means there’s more for the rest of us. At Fat Matt’s Rib Shack, Tony orders up a half-slab of wet, messy ribs, mac and cheese, and collards.
“I know it’s not real barbecue… I know there are better restaurants in Atlanta… but it makes me happy. Fine– it’s not barbecue, but it’s delicious – it’s the Southern version of a dirty water hotdog,” Tony explains. “You’re married to a Harvard-grad supermodel but every once in a while you just want a nasty girl in cheap heels with a really trashy Queens accent who chews gum.” Aptly said, Tony. Aptly said.
Holeman & Finch Public House
Chef Linton Hopkins runs Holeman & Finch, a restaurant designed originally with the palates of other cooks and chefs in mind. While chowing down here, prominent chef Sean Brock explains that Atlanta has the best food in the South. He clarifies that most of what we know of Southern food nowadays is loaded with lard, breaded, and heavy– but it wasn’t always this way and definitely doesn’t need to be.
As a montage of delectable plates plays – country ham (dried and eaten like Italian cured meats), deviled eggs three ways (jalapeno, coppa, pickle), Johnnycakes (made with cornmeal and topped with a poached egg, bacon, duck liver, and sorghum syrup), and sheep testicles – Tony’s quickly nodding along.
To top it all off, it’s soon time for Holeman and Finch’s famous cheeseburgers. At the time these notorious burgers were off-menu, only made available at 10:00pm and only 24 were served daily to a lucky few first-comers (with the reason being that only 24 double cheeseburger patties could fit on the griddle). Nowadays, these famous cheeseburgers are a staple of the menu, lucky for us. These burgers feature two thin patties each, meaning more surface area to accommodate for a more Maillard reaction, meaning very good things for our taste buds.
When popular Atlanta restaurant So Ba closes its doors each night, just next door, the Octopus Bar opens theirs. Open late with cooks and chefs specifically in mind, the bar offers up delicious food and libations.
It’s here that Tony begins to realize just how food- and chef-centric the city is, and wishes he has more time to see and taste it all. Also noted: the slowness of the South is not all bad. Old-style bar etiquette is admired here – one invests time into something good, and it pays off. Patience is key, and your cocktail order here is no different.
The Little Tart & Octane
While brunch (and, particularly, bacon) is big in Atlanta, Tony’s just not a brunch kind of guy. Still full from the night before, he heads to The Little Tart cafe for a croissant and coffee. “Good croissant, good coffee. Lovely place,” he comments. “Free wireless — awesome. Good to be back in the People’s Republic of Laptopistan…” and, again, just in case you didn’t believe him the first time: “This is a good croissant.”
Buford Highway Farmers’ Market
Just outside the perimeter of the city proper, Buford Hwy offers up the world: Asian, Eastern European, Mexican, South American– you name it. Here, Tony makes a visit to the Buford Hwy Farmers’ Market with Chef Richard Blais.
Perusing the aisles, Tony marvels at the variety of ingredients from far-away places. “Ddongchib… I don’t even know what that is,” he says of a dish he’ll end up eating in his own Korea episode of Parts Unknown the following year! At the market’s giant counter, the pair shares Korean beef dumplings and kimchi. Blais explains how local and global influences come together in Atlanta, in a way unlike many other places, pointing to the prevalence of collard green in locally-made kimchi as an example.
The Buford Highway Farmer’s Market is a must-visit for any food-loving adventurer: “the mammoth Buford Highway Farmers Market makes no sense at all in the best possible way.”
El Taco Veloz
Tony next makes a quick drive-thru visit to El Taco Veloz where he puts on his best Mexican accent and orders up Tacos con Lengua (tacos with roasted beef tongue). “El Taco Veloz: Drive right the f*ck up and get yourself some authentic-ass deliciousness.” He’s a fan.
Previously the Miller Union Stock Yards, Tony visits this farm-to-table staple (now Just called Miller Union) with Food Network host Alton Brown.
Here, chef Steven Satterfield serves up egg baked with fresh cream (pudding-like, spooned and mopped up with bread), house-made pork sausage and whipped potatoes (with cabbage, peppers, celery, and mustard), quail with gravy (deglazed with coffee!), and whiskey apples. Then, even more: fried okra, farro verde with local peppers, apple cider-braised cabbage, snap beans with Georgia pecans, and roasted butternut squash with sage and thyme.
Brown explains that “Atlanta doesn’t know what it is yet.” Southern hospitality. Food-focused. Well-dressed. Extremely diverse and modern, yet in many ways more traditional and roots-centric than anywhere else in the South. Worry not, if nothing else, all of this equates to one simple thing: good eating.
Clermont Lounge isn’t like the other girls. It’s “where strippers go to die or, rather, where strippers go to live.” Shots here are served in plastic cups.
Tony convinces Alton, after several servings of bourbon, to join him for a drink here with a popular local stripper, ‘Blondie’. She clarifies that the strippers here are different from your typical strip club – older and less conventionally attractive, but with great personalities. “Come in to laugh for a straight three minutes, before it dawns on you: you actually really love this place, this city.”
Other Spots Tony Recommends in Atlanta
While Tony spent only three days in Atlanta, he says multiple times (with progressively more vigor throughout the episode) that he wishes he had more time. Though he didn’t get to make on-screen visits to all of his favorite spots in the city, his list of recommendations, rolled out below, is long!
- Curly’s (CLOSED) – Once a go-to stop for some mean fried chicken, fried okra, curly fries, mac n cheese, and more; now closed, sadly.
- Big Apple Inn – Tony’s pick for the best pig-ear sandwich, cooked until tender, served on a soft slider-style bun with cabbage slaw, mustard, and hot sauce.
- HD1 (CLOSED) – Church of the hotdog: beef, pork, turkey, or lamb, and a whole bunch of luxurious toppings.
- Empire State South (CLOSED) – Neo-retro Southern cooking featuring Hugh Acheson’s trout mousse, boiled peanut hummus, scallops, and boudin noir (blood sausage).
- Porter Beer Bar – The mecca for all beer-lovers, from traditionalists like Tony to the hipsters he hates. Roughly 36 beers on tap and 700 bottles to choose from.
- Victory Sandwich Bar – Famous for their Jack and Coke slushie, served alongside some delicious-looking sandwiches.
- Home Grown – Take your pick: classic chicken and biscuits or chicken and pimento cheese sandwich. There’s no going wrong here.
- Sweet Auburn Curb Market – Within the Municipal Market of Atlanta, this has been the place to go for meat, fish, seafood, Southern staples, and ingredients from many lands since 1923.
- Star Provisions – Open til midnight, you can find over 200 varieties of cheese, cured meats, and fresh-baked breads here. Need we say more?
- Northern China Eatery – This is not rice country, but dumplings! Tony’s suggested order is “Fish in hot and spicy pot.” Yum.
- Crawfish Shack Seafood – Deep-fried fish, country boils. Tony calls it an “Asian mutation.” Not your typical cajun, but oh so good.
- The Colonnade – Roast turkey, liver, chicken fried steak. Over 80 years of old-school traditional classics.
- The EARL – A rock club/neighborhood dive, opened 1999, perfectly equipped with cheap beer, strong drinks, and loud music.
That’s quite enough to be getting on with, isn’t it? No? Okay, here are more ideas, just for fun!
Atlanta Food Tours to Try
In addition to all of the restaurants that Anthony Bourdain visited on-screen and his voice-over recommendations, you might also want to consider booking a food tour to sample even more of Atlanta’s top flavors. Here are a few that should satiate you:
Have any other questions about the places visited by Anthony Bourdain in Atlanta? Let me know in the comments below!