Things to do and eat in Atlanta
July 9, 2017 4:51 PM   Subscribe

Hi MetaFilter! I'm attending a 3-day conference in downtown Atlanta later this month. I've never been before (and likely won't have the opportunity to go again anytime soon), so I want to make sure I try some delicious food and see the most interesting sights during my trip.

My two constraints are that I am vegetarian and that most of my day (9:00-5:30) will be spent in the conference hotel. The Center for Civil and Human Rights and the Atlanta Botanical Garden would both be on my list, but their hours don't work well with my schedule. However, they're a good idea of the kinds of things I enjoy.

Thanks in advance for the advice!
posted by girasoli to Travel & Transportation around Atlanta, GA (20 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Mary Mac's Tea Room is listed in Roadfood and has a bunch of veggie options.
posted by brujita at 5:07 PM on July 9, 2017 [3 favorites]

Walk into the atrium of the Atlanta Marriott Marquis. Look up.
posted by Homer42 at 5:08 PM on July 9, 2017 [2 favorites]

Seconding Mary Mac's. The "vegetarian plate" is basically "pick a bunch of side dishes" but they're good side dishes.

Will you have a car? If not, how do you feel about subways? There's not much downtown so knowing how you might get out of downtown would help.
posted by madcaptenor at 5:20 PM on July 9, 2017 [1 favorite]

Thanks, everyone!

madcaptenor, I'll be flying to Atlanta and plan to use public transportation/lyft to get around. The conference itself is close to the Peachtree Center MARTA station.
posted by girasoli at 5:24 PM on July 9, 2017

eh, can I say I've taken four sets of guests to Mary Mac's and have never once been in any way impressed. Yawn and the food was beyond blah. If you're looking for southern food that has been boiled to within an inch of its life, slopped onto your plate and your plate carelessly dropped onto your table, you'll be at the right place.

Botanical Garden is worth finding time for - if you're lucky, you'll be in town during a time that there are evening hours (they host cocktails hours on Thursday evenings, and it is a truly magical experience).

Uber out to Decatur for the astounding Dekalb Farmer's Market. Not really a farmer's market, it is more an international food paradise located in a gigantic warehouse. They have everything you've ever cooked with before, along with a bunch of stuff you never knew existed. It is well worth a visit even if you're not planning to cook during your stay, just an awesome cultural experience and a chance to mingle with people from all over.

While you're out near the beltline - there is awesome Ethiopian food and a quickly growing Vietnamese community in Duluth. The best pho in town is out there. If you end up in Duluth, don't pass up an opportunity to visit Jeju Spa. I'm not sure where you're from, but this is an amazing Korean spa. Most of the users have family memberships (suuuuper pricy) because it is not only a spa but also a great hanging out/homework/chatting area. Looking for a cheap place to stay overnight? Jeju is 24 hours and if you're still at the spa around 11pm, they roll out mats in a (safe, clean) common area for people to sleep in. You can go and laze in the (single sex) wet areas, get a great body scrub, and then put on clothes and hang out in the various rooms each of which has a particular focus (Himalayan salt lounge, anyone?)

Beyond the Southern food (of which there is awesome Southern, both classic and new, like Empire South) Atlanta is really an foodie mecca. Pizza Antico is very popular, and a quick uber ride from you in Atlantic Station. If you'll be in Atlanta on a Thursday, food carts congregate at the symphony hall and you can try a little bit of everything. On Saturday morning, go to the Green Market at Piedmont Park (which claims it is a farmer's market but is more a crafty market with some fresh produce, but still well worth the visit) and then wander through the park.
posted by arnicae at 5:27 PM on July 9, 2017 [5 favorites]

I have to put a plug in for MARTA! A lot of Atlanta residents are not fond of MARTA. Admittedly, unless you're going exactly where it goes, it is somewhat limited in terms of routes, but you can take it straight to the airport and get off in the terminal, which is awesome.

I also have to say, if you're looking for a cultural experience and a bit of comedy during your visit to Atlanta - I experience that every single time I ride the train. It is safe, I feel comfortable riding it to and from the airport late at night, it is certainly clean enough to ride on. And there are a lot of characters who also ride the train.
posted by arnicae at 5:33 PM on July 9, 2017

The Atlanta Botanical Garden is a must-see if possible. The last admission is at 7pm on most days, but on Thursday nights in July they are open until 10pm. From downtown, you'll probably need to take a Lyft or navigate using MARTA.

Most of the restaurants in the downtown area are geared toward all the tourists; you'll be able to find vegetarian options on the menus, but there aren't (m)any vegetarian-only options in the convention district.

One option that would be "nearby" (relatively speaking) would be Herban Fix (technically vegan). It's about a mile from the Peachtree Center area - walkable in terms of distance, but ATL is so hot and muggy you still might prefer a Lyft.

Other vegetarian places that have great reputations are Radial Cafe, Green Sprout (vegetarian Chinese), and True Food Kitchen.

Many of Atlanta's greatest restaurants are on the Eater 38 list - almost all of them would have quality vegetarian options. (As Mary Mac's is classic Southern cooking, it's very possible that the veggies they serve have been cooked with meat of some sort as is tradition in these parts! I don't know this for a fact.)
posted by tmharris65 at 5:56 PM on July 9, 2017

Not being from Atlanta, I can't give you better directions than Google could, but if you can get to R Thomas' Deluxe Grill, you'll find delicious and wide-ranging organic veggie fare available 24/7 in addition to a menagerie of tropical birds that live on-site. My #1 stop when I'm in town.
posted by circle at 6:10 PM on July 9, 2017

If you're close to Peachtree Center & you like Mediterranean food, try Aviva by Kameel. It's in the Peachtree Center Mall, which is right above the Marta station. They have vegetarian options.
posted by needlegrrl at 6:14 PM on July 9, 2017 [1 favorite]

Oh yeah! +1 for R Thomas!!! It is in Buckhead, about 1/3 mile north of the Amtrak station, and open 24 hours. It is a tent, decorated entertainingly, and they have a bunch of birds in cages outside. They are extremely happy birds several of which looooooove getting their heads scratched (say hello to the cockatoos for me). Everything they have is super tasty. It is a bit spendy for tent food (entrees are in the 14-20 range) but everything is extremely tasty.

And while you're at R Thomas, go next door - there is a stellar Persian place. It is not open 24 hours but has amazing falafal sandwiches and serves a complementary mezze plate that is totally delicious.
posted by arnicae at 6:18 PM on July 9, 2017

You might want to check out the Krog Street Market. The #3 bus goes from downtown to pretty close I think but can help you with trip planning.
posted by pointystick at 7:09 PM on July 9, 2017

Oh my lord, get over to The Food Shoppe. It doesn't sound, or look, like much, but that will be the finest Creole food you eat for the rest of the year.
posted by hwyengr at 8:36 PM on July 9, 2017

There are many places in Atlanta I miss, but few as much as Leon's in Decatur. It's a block from the Decatur MARTA, and the vegetarian food is out. of. sight. The cocktails are, of course, amazing too. If you're more of a beer drinker, grab a pint upstairs at their sister restaurant, the Brick Store Pub, which is just around the corner.
posted by TheNewWazoo at 9:17 PM on July 9, 2017

Here are three Atlanta adventures for you.

1. A Walk in the Park.
If you can't make it up to botanical gardens, check out our best green space. Take Marta from your convention to the Midtown Station. Exit on to the street and walk East on 10th. Check out the newly installed sculpture at 10th and Peachtree and keep going East. Take a selfie on the rainbow crosswalks at 10th and Piedmont and then enter into Piedmont Park. Stroll around and check out the lake and skyline views. You will want to end up in the Southeast corner of the park at 10th and Monroe. Walk on the Beltline to Ponce City Market. All of the food is great there. Get some gelato and take in the view from the roof. Take Lyft back to the Hotel.

2. MLK and Old Fourth Ward.
If you can't make the Center for Civil and Human Rights, maybe you would enjoy the MLK historic district. From Peachtree Center MARTA take the Atlanta streetcar to the King Memorial Center and Ebenezer Baptist Church. The sites will be closed by 5 but you can still walk and see the childhood home of Martin Luther King Jr. Walk a couple of blocks down to Edgewood for dinner at Staplehouse (if you can somehow get a reservation). Ammazza for truly excellent Neapolitan pizza might be your best bet. If you're up for a little night life stroll down to the corner of Edgewood and Boulevard to check out Sister Louisa's Church of the Living Room and Ping Pong Emporium (it's a bar!) and Joystick for drinks, games and conviviality. The streetcar can take you home until 11, otherwise you can take the King Memorial MARTA back to your hotel or a lyft.

3. Small town charm.
Take MARTA to the Decatur station. You will come to street level in the middle of Decatur's courthouse square with a ton of great food options around. If you want to scratch the itch for amazing southern food that's not from a steam tray, go to Revival or Leon's Full Service and let them charm you to death. Stroll around the square, grab a King of Pops if you haven't yet on any of your other walks and do a bit of window shopping. If you care for some music maybe check out Eddie's Attic, for coffee and sometimes performances go to Java Monkey, or for one of the better beer selections in town pop in to the Brick Store Pub. MARTA will take you home.

There's a lot more to see and do, so you'll just have to come back and visit us again some time. If I can be of any assistance, fee free to message me.
posted by goHermGO at 9:35 PM on July 9, 2017

I work in this area and I have so many things for you.

If you are of the cycling persuasion, there are several Relay bikeshare stations right near Peachtree Center.

My favorite food places at Peachtree Center Mall:
- Aviva by Kameel's (try to get there before 11:30, but even if you find a line, it moves fast and Kameel often brings out samples!)
- Panbury's Pies
- Gus' Fried Chicken (down the escalator and to the right)
- Gibney's Pub has a surprisingly okay lunch special and tends to have a shorter line, perhaps because it's not as obvious to get to -- the stairs down to the pub are right near Panbury's.

Within walking/biking/streetcar distance (~1 mile):
- Ebrik Coffee for excellent Turkish coffee and tea
- A couple blocks south on Peachtree Street, the Fairlie-Poplar block of Broad Street has several great non-chain restaurants -- try Reuben's Deli and Naanstop.
- Hit up Sweet Auburn Curb Market -- try Bell St. Burritos and Just Add Honey (tea).
- The Georgia Aquarium. Yes, it's a tourist trap, but it's a tourist trap with GIANT WHALE SHARKS.

Near Marta stations:
- Decatur is covered by several others; I second the Brick Store Pub and add Jeni's Splendid Ice Cream.
- Arts Center is a few stops north and has the Woodruff Arts Center (the High Museum if you like art, the Alliance Theatre and the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra if you fancy a show) as well as Museum of Design Atlanta and several bars and restaurants..
- Inman Park-Reynoldstown station will get you near the Little Five Points area for The Porter Beer Bar, or the Beltline near Krog Street Market.
posted by fifthpocket at 6:47 AM on July 10, 2017 [2 favorites]

My itinerary for a hectic evening, or split into two: grab Relay bike share and get on the PATH at the bike lines on John Wesley Dobbs going west. (From downtown, you'll be in protected lanes, bike lanes, or low traffic streets.) Ride through Edgewood, and stop by Church (it's a bar!), Joystick, and/or Georgia Beer Garden, as they strike your fancy. You can go through historic Sweet Auburn and see MLK's house. Continue to Krog Street Market, and drop your Relay there. Go inside! Check out Fred's Meat & Cheese for the best EVER sandwich: eggplant and cauliflower banh mi. (The sauce contains a little fish sauce, so ask them to avoid if you don't want that.) Grab dessert at Jeni's Ice Cream. As it cools off, continue up the Beltline. You can stop by Ponce City Market. The Beltline will take you all the way to gorgeous Piedmont Park. You can keep walking, or grab a Relay and ride around. Make sure you see Lake Clara Meer! There's also a cool Nobuchi play ground that is some neat art.

Responses to everyone else's suggestions:
Ugh, no, don't go to Mary Mac's, especially as a vegetarian. It's mediocre for omnivores, too. Ammazza is great pizza but sadly closed. Your DeKalb Farmer's Market is far and not really worth the gawking if you don't actually get to take anything home. There's nothing nearby, and you can't get around the area without a car. Same for Duluth and Buford Highway - I adore Buford Highway and Jeju, but that would be an astonishingly expensive uber. Duluth is not near the beltline. I don't even like to drive out there, it takes so long.
AVIVA 10000%. I am obsessed and I love when I have conferences downtown and get to eat there a lot.

Wrecking Bar Pub is amazing for food, in-house brewed beer, and a short walk from Little Five Points. Walking around L5P is a lot of fun and worth your uber (or adventurous bike ride). Check out Criminal Records for comics and music, and Junkman's Daughter for everything. There's an indie bookstore, though I'm usually disappointed with their offerings. Go Vinda's is vegetarian as well, but go to Wrecking Bar!!! While you're in L5P, you can drink at the Porter; for divey goodness, El Myr and Euclid Ave Yacht Club are nearby.

If you really want veggie southern, you can head to Soul Vegetarian II in Poncey-Highland, then grab a drink at Righteous Room (v divey, v fun). Again, uber or (v hot, sort of scary) bike ride.

Decatur is fun too, and you cannot go wrong wandering the town square. MARTA will take you right there. There's a Jeni's ice cream there too.
posted by quadrilaterals at 9:28 AM on July 10, 2017 [1 favorite]

Aviva By Kameel, times a million!

Potential other search avenue - explore online for resources geared toward people attending DragonCon. Peachtree Center Marta is the DragonCon stop and regular con attendees are experts on the nearby food options.
posted by oblique red at 3:17 PM on July 11, 2017

Thanks for all the great suggestions! I checked the Atlanta Botanical Garden website, and it looks like I'll be around for the Thursday night hours. I'm really excited to go there, as well as MLK's house. I also looked into the Relay bike share, and it seems like there are a few pick-up locations near my conference so I may try to grab a bike one afternoon.

I'm so excited to eat after reading all your food suggestions. Everything sounds and looks (thanks Yelp!) delicious. I'm still working through everyone's suggestions, but so far, Aviva, Krog Street Market and Leon's and Jeni's in Decatur are on my list.

I'll try to report back after my conference. Thanks again!
posted by girasoli at 6:38 PM on July 11, 2017

If you're still's Eater's list of Atlanta's Essential Vegetarian Restaurants.
posted by tmharris65 at 10:18 AM on November 21, 2017

I just returned from yet another trip to Atlanta, and realized that I'd never updated this after my trip last July. Here are places I enjoyed eating at and visiting during my two trips. Thanks to everyone for the recommendations!

Mary Mac's Tea Room
Ponce City Market (Botiwalla, Honeysuckle, King of Pops)
Krog Street Market (Yalla, Jeni's, Suzy Siu's Baos)
Highland Bakery
Herban Fix
Alma Cocina
Aviva by Kameel
Blossom Tree
Panbury's Pie Cafe
Cafe Intermezzo
Sweet Auburn Curb Market (Bell Street Burritos)

I took goHermGO's advice to explore the MLK/Old Fourth Ward area, and also managed to make it up to the Carter Center and Center for Civil and Human Rights. I highly recommend all three, along with the Atlanta Botanical Gardens, Piedmont Park, Decatur, and the BeltLine.
posted by girasoli at 8:24 PM on May 20, 2018

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