First up on my Southern City Bucket-list, Atlanta.
Now that I’m currently residing down here in the Deep South (seriously though, who would’ve thought), cities like Atlanta are just too close and convenient not to visit. As we all know, travel in the US isn’t the easiest and is usually on the expensive side, so for me, taking advantage of time down here is crucial.
As usual, I decided my introduction to Atlanta should start by satisfying my inquisitive taste buds.
Cue, Peachtree Food Tours.
Peachtree Food Tours is a small, privately owned company run and founded by this guy over to the left, John. John is a retired businessman turned culinary tour guide and has called mid-town Atlanta his home for close to 20 years! Because John lives right in the middle of the neighborhood where he gives his tours, he really provides a unique and changing perspective of life on Peachtree.
He enthusiastically led us around his stomping grounds, all the while walking us through the events, past and present, that occurred on Peachtree’s very streets. One by one we sampled treats from some of his favorite independent restaurants, cafés and emerging chains.
We tried a wide variety of foods on John’s tour, but my favorite bites were definitely those symbolic of the South. Getting a taste of these tempting treats right in their homeland helped me get an authentic feel for the comfort of the southern culture.
Here’s an inside look at my Southern culinary experience in Atlanta with Peachtree Food Tours:
Bite #1: The Farmer’s Lunch
Kale Caesar Salad & Coca Cola with Peanuts
One of the first stops on our tour was at a little diner-style establishment, spilling over with a local brunch crowd. Luckily John ‘had the in’ and we were immediately lead to a spacious picnic style table outside.
We were served a little taste of kale salad topped with baked ramen noodles and a homemade Caesar dressing. I’m not usually a huge kale fan, as whenever I try to prepare it, it ends up being tough and bitter. I must be doing something wrong though, because this was not case with this salad! These kale leaves were perfectly tender, the Caesar dressing was flavorful yet light and the baked ramen added an enjoyable crunch.
As we all happily dove into our greens, John placed three classic glass Coca-Cola bottles on the table in front of us. He poured out a sips-worth and then unexpectedly funneled a handful of salted peanuts into each……I’m sorry, HUH?!
Everyone at the table, with the exception of the 3 Atlanta natives, looked rather perplexed.
He then handed us each a glass of the nutty concoction and let us into the history behind it. Apparently, in the past, this peculiar cocktail was created by busy southern farmers as a lunch substitute. When they didn’t have time to break, they’d throw some nuts in their soda and take it along while they worked.
Curiously crunchy, but suspiciously delicious. …. If you can get used to chewing your soda! Oh and John topped off our ‘Farmer’s lunch’ with some Bourbon, because well, why not.
Bite #2: Southern Comfort with a Twist
Shrimp & Grits w/ Fried Green Tomato
Is there really anything more Southern than grits?
They’re on just about on every menu down here, served as a breakfast side dish, a lunch and dinner main dish, with eggs, with cheese, with sausage, with bacon, with gravy, the list goes on and on. True southerners will pretty much throw them in with anything they can find in their fridge. They’re a mealtime classic and true southern comfort.
As a Northern Yankee myself, I wasn’t too familiar with this corn-based porridge dish. I’d tried grits a few times, but to be honest, they never left the best taste in my mouth. So, when John told us that next up we’d be sampling some traditional shrimp & grits, I have to admit I was a bit hesitant.
Luckily, we got to try some shrimp and grits with a twist and let me tell you, these were my type of grits! Mixed with French beans and sausage and kicked up a notch with gooey pepper jack and a Siracha based sauce, I died and went to creamy, cheesy heaven.
Now I know that cooking grits is simply a delicate art. If not done precisely right they’ll turn out to be exactly what their name suggests, gritty.
Our grits were served alongside another southern staple- a fried green tomato- flash fried, topped with a fresh mozzarella medallion and drizzled with a light basil aioli. Sweet and juicy on the inside, crisp and salty on the outside! Mmmmmmm!
Paired with a nice, full bodied Riesling and this little lady was one happy camper.
Bonus Bite: An Award Winning Burger
This bite may not have been ‘specifically southern,’ but it sure is worth a mention!
This tasty treat has won several awards, including Atlanta’s Best Burger, and in a city full of brag-worthy burgers– that’s saying A LOT.
But, what exactly are you looking at? Half-a-pound of tender juicy beef topped with sweet caramelized onions, crispy Applewood bacon and sharp cheddar cheese smacked between two grilled Sublime donuts.
I know what you’re thinking … a little over-the-top. But seriously, for a girl who favors simple flavors, even I found the sweet, savory flavor combination of this burger absolutely drool worthy. Still skeptical? You’ll just have to find out for yourself! 🙂
Byebye burger ….
Peachtree Food Tours Practical Information
Peachtree Food Tours offers guided culinary walks through Atlanta Thursday – Sunday. The tour begins at the corner of Peachtree Street and Ponce de Leon and lasts a little over 4 hours. Tickets, including all tastings, are $100 per person. You can book your tickets here.
Peachtree Food Tours Facebook
**Note that John’s tour wasn’t particularly vegetarian or gluten-free friendly.
Looking for more Southern Comfort in Atlanta? Try:
-Southern Style Brunch-
@ South City Kitchen
South City Kitchen prides itself on serving “Southern classics with a sophisticated spin.” The menu is a bit on the pricey side, but the exquisite plates and contemporary atmosphere are worth every penny. They’re famous for their buttermilk fried chicken and garlic-sautéed collard greens and have won several awards including Best All Around Restaurant in Atlanta.
Kevin and I met my cousins (Atlanta locals) there for brunch before heading home and both of us agree it was our favorite meal of the weekend. As usual, I couldn’t decide on one menu item, so I recruited Kevin to share with me. We ended up ordering the fried green tomatoes with goat cheese as an appetizer (just had to have them again!) and splitting the fried chicken and waffles and the smoked brisket benedict as our meal. The lovely kitchen even spilt the two orders onto separate plates for us. The rest was history. I can’t imagine a better southern brunch. Or any brunch for that matter …
What to order for brunch at South City Kitchen:
- Fried Green Tomatoes
- Pimento Cheese
- Chicken and Waffles
- Friend Chicken
- Any of the Benedicts
- Shrimp & Grits
Two locations: Midtown & Vinings
South City serves brunch Saturdays & Sundays from 10am-3pm
*Be sure to make a reservation! Naturally, this place gets really busy!
-Southern style BBQ-
@ Mary Macs Tea Room
Unlike South City Kitchen, we actually found Mary Mac’s on our own through reviews on TripAdvisor. We didn’t have Saturday night dinner plans, so we decided to go out on a limb and try it! When we arrived, we were the only ‘out-of-towners’ in site and there was a line out the door. We were told over an hour for a table, but taking the wait as a good sign, we decided to stick it out. No more than 15 minutes and a trip to the bar later, we were happily seated, cocktails in hand.
Our waiter was extremely welcoming and full of order suggestions, but I’ll tell you right now, if you’re looking for healthy options, steer clear of this place. Mary Mac’s serves up some true Southern soul food. It’s heavy, it’s fried, and it’s greasy- just how it should be. And as with any good southern home-style cooking, the secret is in the sides. Get as many as you can and don’t look back. Mary Mac’s is the real southern deal.
What to order at Mary Mac’s:
- Deviled Eggs
- Fried Chicken
- Fried Catfish
- Sides: broccoli soufflé, sweet potato soufflé, fried okra, tomato pie, Brunswick stew, mac and cheese
- Homemade cinnamon rolls
Other Food Tour Posts
Have you ever been to Atlanta? What did you think of the food?
**NOTE- Travel Tuesday will resume in January 2016! We’re taking a holiday hiatus!
Disclosure: John of Peachtree Food Tours graciously invited me on his tour for purpose of this review, but as always all opinions expressed are my own.