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Other than Southern hospitality, Atlanta conjures up thoughts of good ‘ol soul food. It is cuisine with a culture in the African-American community that dates back to the 1960s. Families across the state of Georgia pass down recipes from generation to generation, as well as a list of restaurants that have mastered the art of cooking food that puts a smile on grandma’s face after church on Sunday mornings.
The name “soul food” was created during the Civil Rights movement in the 1960s when African-Americans were attempting to hold onto a piece of their culture during the peak of segregation.
Soul food can be found in kitchens and restaurants all over the South, which spans as far as Texas and Florida. It is primarily made up of these staples: pork, greens, cornbread, fried chicken, and mac ‘n’ cheese.
As you eat a plate of soul food, you close your eyes, and it literally hits your soul. The next time you visit Atlanta, we recommend you order food at these finger-licking-good restaurants.
Busy Bee has been around for 70 years with a cuisine that boasts old-school taste with modern enhancements.
Chef and owner Tracy Gates says “I like to read old cookbooks from the 1800s from African-Americans and reading the history of culture to experiment with how they cooked food back then to now.”
In a commitment to offer the best in quality, Gates tracks her ingredients from farm to table, knowing details as minute as the date when yams are peeled and frozen. She understands the science of dirt and communicates directly with the farms where her vegetables are grown.
The restaurant has been featured on David Chang’s Netflix show “The Mind of a Chef,” and the space offers a homey, kitchen feel with staff going out of their way to accommodate families throughout the week.
My respect for soul food cuisine increased after speaking with Chef Deborah VanTrece—owner of Twisted Soul Cookhouse & Pours—who describes her cooking as “a taste of Atlanta in an upscale atmosphere with incredible service.” Walk into this restaurant and request chitlins, sausage, and rice. Fried chicken with mac ‘n’ cheese, candied yams, and sweet potato chutney are also a highlight.
Chef VanTrece’s won the Atlanta Business League's 2017 Super Tuesday Conference Award for Creative Style, with clients ranging from Mercedes-Benz of Buckhead to the government of Fulton County and the Bureau of Cultural Affairs.
“Soul food is comfort food that speaks to your heart,” says VanTrece. Don’t believe her? Just ask celebs like Gabrielle Union, 2 Chainz, Michael Ealy, and Rae Sremmurd, who have visited the establishment.
If you are a vegetarian, you may want give Soul Vegetarian Restaurant No. 2 a try. The restaurant evolved in 1979 with cuisine that takes after “Israelite vegan soul vegetarian—a term the owner, Michael, continues to use today.
A few items on the menu are free of GMOs with many organic dishes. Reggae artist Peter Tosh, Phylicia Rashad, civil rights leader John Lewis, actress Cicely Tyson and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., among others, have frequented the historical spot.
Pittypat’s Porch is a family-owned restaurant that’s been around for 51 years. In the last 30, it was passed on to new owners with customers coming back to eat its signature fried chicken, shrimp, grits, and peach cobbler.
Celebrity clientele include Zach Galifianakis, the casts from “Walking Dead” and “Star Trek,” Bobby Rush, Miranda Otto, and John Schneider.
The Pittypat’s Porch staff has worked at the establishment for an impressive 20+ years, with its customer-turned-executive chef, David Myree, eating at the restaurant with his mother since he was 12-years-old!
Horseradish Grill touts its food as authentic Southern cuisine. The restaurant opened in 1949 with an owner named Bill Daly who initially accommodated hungry golfers in a grocery-style set-up. On obsession with horses led to a rebrand and extension as the Red Barn Inn and much of this decor, under new ownership, has been maintained to this day.
Locals rave about the shrimp and grits, as well as the rainbow trout.
Makeda Waterman is a professional writer in Edmonton with 4 years of experience. Her blogs have been featured on CNBC Make It., Yahoo Finance News, Huffington Post, Glassdoor.com, Elite Daily, Fast Company, among others.