It may be that you've only passed through the bustling ATL en route to somewhere else. But make no mistake, Atlanta is an edgy foodie city that might just surprise you, as it did me. The A is a dynamic culinary destination with hundreds of excellent options. And with direct flights, in under an hour, or a road trip, you could actually head straight there for the weekend for a little indulgent TLC and delicious food.
Where to Stay: The Ritz-Carlton Atlanta
Located in downtown Atlanta, the The Ritz-Carlton hotel immediately welcomes you with contemporary Southern charm alongside a touch of luxury and glam complete with white leather chairs and glittering chandeliers in the lobby. Stop by the giant crystal jellybean bar in the foyer to scoop up bling-colored candies, on the way to the elevators. The contemporary hotel rooms, designed in shades of gold, feature plush, comfortable beds, Fritte linens, marble floors, a rainshower head in the luxurious bathroom, and Asprey amenities to pamper. Start off the day at the Club Lounge on the top floor of the hotel and eat your grits with a spectacular view of the Atlanta skyline. The Club Lounge is pampering at its finest, with a rotating bevy of snacks and meals all day. Did I mention Champagne is always on ice and waiting to be sipped? And while it might be challenging to tear yourself away from this enclave of delight, there's a whole city waiting to be explored.
Take a stroll or bike ride: Atlanta's BeltLine is 22 spectacular miles of unused railroad tracks that circle the core of the city's 45 neighborhoods. From trails and walkways to open green space and parks, the Atlanta BeltLine connects people to communities, dining, and cool places throughout the city. I picked up the trail outside Ponce Market along the Eastside Trail, which runs from the tip of Piedmont Park to Reynoldstown. Take in the plethora of continuously changing outdoor art from murals to iron sculptures.
Don't Miss: Ponce City Market: The former Sears Building turned City Hall East has been reborn and reinvented. The red brick building is ground-to-roof fun in the Old Fourth Ward neighborhood along the Atlanta BeltLine. The area's largest adaptive reuse project, this classic structure, is a vibrant, eclectic community of delectable restaurants in the central food hall, funky retail spaces, and an amusement park on the roof. Ponce City Market will occupy many hours of your time and it's a truly great place to get an introduction to Atlanta's foodie scene. I grabbed Lunch at Bella Alimentari, a coffee from Spiller Park, and shopped at The Victorian Atlanta's delightfully creative plant shop.
Cruise around: A great way to see the city in a short amount of time and orientate yourself is with Atl Cruzers. Each 90-minute tour journeys 15 miles through the heart of Atlanta, uncovering much of the city's heritage and hotspots. Travel from Downtown into some of the city's historic and eclectic neighborhoods, including Inman Park - Atlanta's first planned suburb, Old Fourth Ward - the birthplace of the civil rights movement and home to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Georgia Institute of Technology's Campus and midtown Atlanta.
Lunch at: Bella Alimentari, an Italian deli and wine bar with an all-natural wine list and seasonally inspired Italian menu. The perfect place to sit and watch the hustle & bustle of Ponce market nibbling on the handmade and locally sourced charcuterie board alongside the house-baked schiacciata bread and marinated olives.
Sip Cocktails with a View at: The Sun Dial at The Westin Peachtree Plaza Atlanta. Get a 360-degree view of Atlanta from the 72nd floor, 723 feet up in the clouds, with photo-worthy moments after an exhilarating 85-second ride atop The Westin Peachtree Plaza, the tallest hotel in the Southeast.
Dinner at: White Oak Kitchen & Cocktails, a southern-inspired menu using ingredients fresh from the region. The decor is beautifully crafted with white oak and re-purposed wood on many walls. Three signature chandeliers constructed of authentic sugar maple from the Jack Daniels Distillery illuminate the main dining room. White Oak's 360-degree bar is crafted of Georgia marble and newly planed white oak and houses a collection of over 70 whiskeys and bourbons. Start your meal with the Fried Green Tomatoes drizzled with a sherry-peppercorn gastrique, topped with pimento cheese, and swirled with Georgian olive oil. As an entrée, the beef short ribs with lemon brown butter and sides of kabocha squash puree and baby kale are hard to beat. End the meal with the decadently delicious Kentucky butter cake.
Wines Sipped: The Huntaway, Sauvignon Blanc, "Reserve" Marlborough, New Zealand, and Cabernet Sauvignon, Kiona, Red Mountain, Washington, 2018.
AG: A classic, American steakhouse, that features rich dark interiors to create a modern feel through plush saddle-colored leather booths, a combination of black and white floor tiles and hardwood floors, elegant lighting fixtures, and sleek marble tabletops. AG is everything I seek from a fine dining experience. Impeccable service and attention to detail from Executive Chef Gilles Schreiber. Start with the Niman Ranch pork belly, served with carrot sorghum puree, pickled vegetables, and black pepper jam. The Wagyu striploin is cooked table side on a Himalyan salt slab and served alongside truffle mac & cheese, grilled asparagus and mushroom fricassee. If you can still manage dessert, then the individual pavlovas are heaven on a plate.
Signature Cocktail: The Smoked Old Fashioned, crafted at the AG, is poured in a hickory-smoked glass using WhistlePig Bourbon, exclusively bottled for AG.
Brunch at: Chef Ford Fry's Beetlecat a 70s style coastal-cool-spot named after a 12-foot wooden gaff-rigged sailboat made since the 1920s in New England by the Beetle family. Try the insanely delicious Blurecrab omelet with a Red Snapper cocktail (house-made bloody mary mix, gin, shrimp, pickle). Do not leave without a donut (11 to choose from), but the Bam-Bam (fruit pebbles, cereal, milk glaze) is hard to resist. Brunch is served Saturday & Sunday 10am-3pm.