10 Iconic Foods Atlanta Is Known For

Spicy Gluten-Free Chicken and Cheddar Waffles with Blackberry-Maple Syrup
Photo: Angela Sackett Superhotmama

Atlanta is a crossroads of many different cuisines and cultures. Its abundance of Southern cooking and soul food intermingles with a plethora of international cuisines, resulting in a food scene that's truly like no other. Here we'll explore the iconic dishes that put Georgia's capital on the map as a top-tier foodie destination.

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Fried Chicken

fried chicken on rack on sheet pan
Allrecipes Photo

As the de facto capital of the South, Atlanta is a hub for soul food and Southern cooking, not to mention home to fast food giant Chick-fil-A. What do all these things have in common? Fried chicken!

Today's Southern fried chicken was born from the cooking methods of both Scottish immigrants to the South as well as enslaved West Africans who brought their own methods for cooking chicken with them to North America. It was the latter which perfected fried chicken, many of whom were forced to work in kitchens on slave plantations.

Today, you'll find many versions of the dish in the ATL, from Paschal's signature fried chicken — once the meeting place for prominent civil rights leaders including Martin Luther King Jr. — to Mary Mac's Tea Room's double-battered Southern fried chicken, as well as the many modern renditions of the Southern classic.

Try These Recipes:

02 of 11

Korean Cuisine

korean barbeque beef with gree nonions on plate with chopsticks
Kim's Cooking Now

Atlanta is a multicultural city that is only increasing in ethnic diversity, and nowhere is that more evident than on Buford Highway — a stretch of Georgia State Route 13 that features over 1,000 different immigrant-owned businesses. Here you'll find a plethora of international cuisines, including Mexican, Central American, Chinese, Korean and Vietnamese, just to name a few.

Notably, the city's metro area has one of the largest Korean populations in the nation, meaning you can find everything from traditional Korean fare to Southern-Korean fusion restaurants.

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03 of 11

Chili Dogs

three hotdogs with chili, cheese, and herbs in baking dish
Allrecipes Photo

"What'll ya have?" Step up to the counter at The Varsity and you'll be greeted with the famous question for an experience that is quintessentially Atlanta.

This legendary food joint is famous for its burgers and hot dogs, as well as its vernacular: A "naked dog" refers to a plain hot dog, while a "naked dog walkin'" refers to a plain hot dog to go. First timers should check out their famous chili dog, onion rings, and frosted orange (AKA "FO") — an orange and vanilla milkshake.

Try This Recipe: Jeff's Hot Dog Chili

04 of 11

Chicken Wings

Lemon Pepper Wings
bd.weld

Atlanta didn't invent chicken wings, but the city has certainly adopted the dish as its own, with their own take on it, of course. Here, lemon pepper reigns supreme. The Atlanta institution J.R. Cricket's has been around since 1982, and is famous for their "lemony pepper" seasoning (try them "wet," which means they're tossed in a lemon pepper sauce as well).

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05 of 11

Hash Browns

Classic Hash Browns
Classic Hash Browns.

Scattered, smothered, or covered? Waffle House regulars know before they even sit down how they're going to order their hash browns. In Atlanta, this breakfast chain can be found on just about every corner, but first timers might need to study the lingo before they go:

  • Scattered: spread out on the grill so they get crispy all around
  • Smothered: with sautéed onions
  • Covered: with melted American cheese
  • Chunked: with chunks of grilled ham
  • Diced: with grilled tomatoes
  • Peppered: with jalapeño peppers
  • Capped: with grilled button mushrooms
  • Topped: with chili
  • Country: with sausage gravy

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06 of 11

Chicken and Waffles

Spicy Gluten-Free Chicken and Cheddar Waffles with Blackberry-Maple Syrup
Angela Sackett Superhotmama

How did this unlikely combination end up on every brunch menu in Atlanta? The origins of the dish are disputed, but many agree it originated with the Pennsylvania Dutch. It eventually made its way to the South where African Americans were doing the cooking on plantations at the time, which explains why the dish became intertwined with African American cooking.

Today, the chicken and waffle combination has expanded to often include another Southern staple: biscuits. You'll even find them served sandwich style, with two waffles serving as the "bread" on a chicken sandwich.

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07 of 11

Coca-Cola

Cola Cake on a glass plate
sweetserenade

Coke or Pepsi? If you're from Atlanta, that's not even a question. Since its inception in Atlanta in 1886, Coca-Cola has been synonymous with the city. In fact, one of the biggest tourist destinations in Atlanta is the World of Coca-Cola, where you can learn all about its long history and sample Coca-Cola brand beverages from all over the world.

So it's no surprise the beverage made its way into Southern kitchens for more than just drinking, but also eating! Adding cola to cake gives it an ultra moist and dense texture, with an ever-so-subtle cola flavor. Here in Coca-Cola country, you'll find the classic cake at many bakeries and dessert shops.

Try These Recipes:

08 of 11

Pimento Cheese

southern pimento cheese
Holiday Baker

Pimento cheese — a spread made with cheese, mayonnaise, and pimentos — peppers menus all across Atlanta. And it's not limited to just a snack or appetizer: Find it deep-fried into nuggets, topped on burgers, spread on biscuits, and more. However, the dish actually originated in New York, according to Serious Eats. It wasn't until the 1920s, when importing Spanish pimentos became too expensive, that Georgia became the nation's pimento growing and canning hub. This pimento production increased the ingredient's availability both nationwide and the South, solidifying it as the "Southern" condiment we know today.

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09 of 11

Soul Food

overhead view of a partially sliced sweet potato pie. One slice has been plated in the bottom right hand corner
Meredith Food Studios

Black-eyed peas, cornbread, collard greens, mac and cheese, sweet potato pie, fried chicken, banana pudding — these are just some of the mouth wateringly good soul food dishes that are abundant in Atlanta.

"Soul food is the cuisine of the landlocked areas of the Deep South that millions of African Americans left behind when they moved North, Midwest, and West during 'The Great Migration' (1910s to the 1970s)," writes food historian Adrian Miller on Allrecipes. And according to Miller, no other Southern city boasts a more diverse soul food scene than Atlanta: "Inside the South, Atlanta has the best overall soul food scene, with a nice mix of traditional, Down Home Healthy, upscale, and vegan soul food restaurants."

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Peach Cobbler (or Peach Anything)

closeup of a white ceramic baking dish of cobbler with fresh peaches in the foreground
aki s

You didn't think we would finish our tour of the Peach State's capital without mentioning peaches, did you? Although Atlanta is not a part of the state's peach producing region (the vast majority of Georgia peaches are grown in the central region of the state), the many restaurants and markets in the city get their peaches straight from the source. And, the city pays homage to the state's iconic crop: Within the city limits alone, there are 15 streets named "Peachtree."

During Georgia' fleeting peach season (mid-May to early August), chefs and home cooks alike find as many creative ways as possible to use this juicy stone fruit that go beyond cobbler (although, there's no shortage of peach cobbler in The Big Peach).

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More Inspiration:

Peaches 'n Cream Shortcake
Peaches 'n Cream Shortcake | Photo by Kim's Cooking Now.
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