While Atlanta is home to some of the hottest new eateries and rock star chefs, these iconic Atlanta dining institutions have withstood the test of time. You can’t visit Atlanta without paying homage to these culinary veterans.
Known for business lunches and fancy dinners, this old-school mecca of steak with its private-club feel is known for prime beef, fresh seafood, and Maine lobster cooked to perfection and served with classic Southern standards. An epic wine list and impeccable service add to the fine-dining experience. Bones opened its doors in 1979, with a mission to provide only the finest service, steaks and seafood to its patrons. With so many meaty options at this Buckhead dining institution—from mastodon-sized porterhouses for two to individual petite filets—it’s difficult to decide what to order. The mixed grill is an exceptional choice as it gives diners an opportunity to sample the filet mignon, lamb chops and signature pheasant sausage. Private party rooms and personalized menus are available for special occasions and corporate dinners.
Open since 1927 and at its current location since 1962, this perennial favorite serves Southern classics like fried chicken livers, salmon croquettes, and slow-cooked collard greens. Each meal starts with a basket of homemade yeast rolls and cornbread muffins. Most menu options allow you to choose from a variety of sides, such as macaroni and cheese, black-eyed peas and applesauce. A full bar makes it easy to sit back and enjoy the retro atmosphere with its cozy oak chairs and wall-to-wall paneling. It is the kind of place your grandparents might have gone on their first date. The staff is courteous, polite and helpful.
The Majestic is a quintessential old-school diner that has served “food that pleases” 24 hours a day since 1929. Patronage in the last three decades has seen a shift from leather-clad hair band groupies lingering in the smoke-filled dining room to a more wholesome mix of father-son duos grabbing a short stack after a soccer game and sorority girls nibbling salads between classes. The eclectic short order menu includes breakfast staples, delightfully greasy burgers, and even a splash of Greek cuisine tossed in for good measure. Try the gyro omelet with onions, mushrooms, tomatoes, peppers, feta and topped with tzaziki.
Billy McKinnon quit his job as a stockbroker at 35 to pursue his first true love: cooking. He apprenticed at the famous Galatoire’s in New Orleans, LA, before moving to Atlanta in 1972 to open McKinnon’s. Located in a Buckhead strip center, this unassuming restaurant has a refreshing lack of pretense. McKinnon’s is now run by Aziz Mehram, who says more than 70 percent of his business comes from return customers, many of whom have been dining there for over 40 years. The dining room is cozy and impeccably clean, and the food is outstanding. Although the menu offers filet mignon and several chicken dishes, McKinnon’s specialty is fish. First timers should try the mixed grill, usually with tuna, grouper, and amberjack prepared three ways. Mehram’s recommends his favorite, the fried flounder. End the meal with chicory-laced coffee and traditional Creole bread pudding for the complete package.
Murphy’s has been one of Atlanta's most beloved restaurants for 34 years. Located in the heart of stylish Virginia-Highland, Murphy’s is the long-standing hub of neighborhood camaraderie and the choice destination for visitors. The restaurant draws crowds with the perfect combination of a homey setting, outstanding food, and courteous service. Executive Chef Ian Winslade creates contemporary comfort food that focuses on fresh, local ingredients. The menu includes classic favorites like braised beef brisket, and shrimp and grits alongside seasonal dishes. With dishes like Eggs T. Murphy, and crab cake benedict, weekend brunch at Murphy’s should not be missed. In addition to the restaurant, Murphy’s also serves as a local bakery and wine shop. Pastry chefs create scrumptious desserts including the ever-famous Bonzo Cake and Tollhouse Pie. Murphy’s wine programs include an on-site retail shop, wine tastings on Tuesday nights, and exclusive dinners with prestigious winemakers.
If you want old-school Italian, look no further than Nino's for a nice, dimly lit romantic atmosphere and delicious genuine food. Originally opened in 1968, Nino’s has been owned and operated by Antonio Noviello since 1982 with many of the original dishes on the menu brought from Italy by Antonio and his brother Giuseppe. Antonio’s favorite dishes are named after family members and the pasta dish, which bears the name of Nino’s, is a recipe from Mama Noviello. Popular dishes include light and fluffy gnocchi, perfectly prepared veal dishes, and spaghetti and meatballs. Add a carafe of house wine and you are set for the evening. What is an Italian dinner without dessert? Nino’s has a dessert cart with a variety of homemade items like coconut cake, cheesecake, carrot cake, crème brûlée, profiteroles, and tiramisu. You can't go wrong with any of them.
Most people don’t know that this revered bastion of Southern hospitality was almost an Italian restaurant. In the early 1960s, Anton Anthony read an article lamenting Atlanta’s lack of Southern food, so he abandoned his plans to build an Italian eatery and opted instead for a down-home concept. He created an atmosphere similar to an old plantation, complete with a veranda with rocking chairs where guests can sip mint juleps while watching the diners below. Pittypat’s Porch is named after Scarlett O’Hara’s vivacious aunt from “Gone With the Wind.” Aunt Pitty Pat was a gracious hostess, especially on her grand porch. Little has changed at Pittypat’s Porch over the decades; the menus are still printed on fans and the tables are adorned with pewter serviceware making visitors feel like they’ve stepped back in time. Fried chicken and Georgia catfish are specialties of the house. Be sure to save room for Pittypat’s famous Georgia peach cobbler and pecan pie.
“What’ll ya have?” These familiar words are heard every day at Atlanta’s most famous drive-in, The Varsity. This original Midtown hotspot has been a constant fixture in the city’s ever-changing landscape since Frank Gordy opened the first location in 1928. Able to accommodate over 600 cars, The Varsity is considered the world's largest drive-in. Ordering your food at this fast-food spot is an experience in itself thanks to the staff’s unique vocabulary—like “steaks” for hamburgers, “strings” for French fries, “rags” for potato chips, and at least 10 different names for hot dogs loaded with various toppings. Don’t forget the P.C. (chocolate milk served with ice) to go with your order. Don’t want to make use of the massive drive-thru? There's also plenty of indoor seating for you to enjoy your glorified steak and rings.