It might be true that Old Fourth Ward and Inman Park get all the love from locals, and plenty of tourists, these days - mostly thanks to the wildly popular Atlanta BeltLine.
But on the other side of the downtown connector, a new neighborhood has been taking shape for some time. Once an area of factories, warehouses, meat packing plants and scrapyards, Atlanta's West Midtown has emerged as a hip arts district for the past 30 years, and more recently, it has become the playground of the city's top chefs. Drive down Marietta Street or Howell Mill, and you won't believe what a culinary corridor it has become. From hot chicken to Detroit pizza to Vietnamese to vegetarian to Spanish tapas, it is becoming the next melting pot in Atlanta. And more restaurants are coming. You might be asking: Will it ever stop? But a better question is: Do you want it to?
Here are 7 West Midtown Atlanta restaurants to check out. And with so many opening in the past year, they might not be the ones you think. Plus, there's a bonus idea (read to the end):
There's no subtlety here: this place has a heavy stoner vibe. Their drinks are called Cotton Mouth Cures and their logo is literally marijuana leaves (you won't find that in corporate America). A sign above the kitchen tells you "Thank you for pot smoking." And in case you didn't know (I didn't), Cheba is slang for pot. But regardless of whether you smoke, or "just say no," their toasty sandwiches are seriously good. If you like spicy, try the Red Dragon with chicken, cheddar, jalapeno cream cheese, banana peppers, garlic butter and lots of other yummies. Just be prepared to wait quite a while for your food - stoner time, right? Oh, and apparently somebody asked, because they felt the need to spell it out: "There are ZERO amounts of any marijuana-related products in our food." Really?
Cooks and Soldiers
This Spanish tapas restaurant was an early settler on the Westside. My boyfriend and I had our first date here three years ago, and it's a great restaurant for any special occasion. No one produces ham like the Spaniards, in its many variations, and the Iberian ham here is worth the extra cost. Try it on pan con tomate. And for G&T lovers, C&S makes their own gin tonic with flavors like ginger and rosemary. You'll never go back to Schweppes.
I know I have you with this menu item: Pork belly mac & cheese. Drawbar is where you bring someone you want to impress. Located in the Bellyard Hotel, it offers a luxurious setting with plush couches and small tables. But the crown jewel is the expansive terrace facing the Midtown skyline - worth crossing the highway to see. Take advantage of this city's mild climate and dine al fresco any time of year. Just get there early on weekends to find a seat.
Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams
You can now find Jeni's all over town, but if you happen to be on this side of I-75, it's worth stopping in to Westside Provisions District and joining the line for some of their inventive flavors like Everything Bagel, Boozy Eggnog or Butterscotch Popcorn. My favorite is Brown Butter Almond Brittle.
Ready for Spring? Don't wait to book our Food and Art Tour of the Atlanta BeltLine.
Farm to Table
This is the place to go for healthier food that doesn't taste healthy. The majority of their menu is small plates of veggies, served in ways you would never imagine. Instead of fried okra, try grilled okra with aji verde salsa, jicama and lime. Or roasted beet tartare. And on weekend mornings, they serve some mean brunch biscuits.
Virgil's Gullah Kitchen & Bar
Take a mini vacation to this black-owned creole restaurant, a tribute to the Gullah Geechee people, descendants of slaves off the coast of Georgia and the Carolinas. The two-story historic building was once a firehouse, and with an upstairs balcony, could easily be a relo from Charleston. With classics like she-crab soup, gumbo and skrimp & grits wit' crab, you can't go wrong. Their corn muffins, wings and egg rolls also get rave reviews. And if you want to sample their food, pay just $2 for martinis, wings or beer during happy hour on weeknights.
Take a bao and turn it into a BLT, and then add crab. Serve it in a French-style bistro, and this is Le Fat. A beautiful restaurant, heavy with French influence and one of my favorites for a special occasion. I keep coming back for the Garlic Crab Noodle, a large bowl of noodles mixed with lumb blue crab, and I also recommend the Chicken Clay Pot.
Chattahoochee Food Works
Drive a bit further north, and you'll find a food hall in the middle of nowhere. But what a food hall it is. It blows away Krog Street and Ponce City markets (not that I'm putting them down, they're pretty amazing too). From pizza to Mexican to seafood to Asian to stoner food, there is something for everyone. My favorite BBQ restaurant, Fox Bros. has even opened just outside the food hall. Parking is a bitch, don't even try to find a space in the driveway, just keep going to the parking garage. The good news is there's a nice walkway from the garage to the food hall, and hey, you need to get some steps in anyway to walk off all that food you're going to eat.
Also check out:
9 Atlanta Restaurants Locals Go to...and Don't Want You to Know About
Want to taste more Atlanta restaurants that locals go to? Come walk down the Atlanta BeltLine with us, sampling food from some of Atlanta's best restaurants and discovering this city's vibrant street art scene, including ties to Hollywood. Join a BiteLines Food and Art Tour of the Atlanta BeltLine.
An Atlanta native, Nicole Gustin is the Founder and CEO of BiteLines, which offers walking Food and Art Tours on the Atlanta BeltLine. She considers the BeltLine her backyard, and is excited to see how Atlanta is reinventing itself. To sample some of Atlanta's best restaurants and street art, come join us on a Food and Art Tour of the Atlanta BeltLine. Follow on TikTok and Instagram @bitelinesatl.