Atlanta’s ever-growing and ever-changing food scene still leaves room for a few constants: You can always get a good sweet tea and you never have to go far for tasty fried chicken. Here are a few places to start.
Watershed on Peachtree. Walking into light-filled, contemporary Watershed on Peachtree, you might expect a menu as fresh and pared-down as the design scheme. But this is New South cuisine and the mac n’ cheese and cornbread are still there. They’ve just been citified. The same is true for the Wednesdays-only fried chicken, which is soaked first in saltwater, then buttermilk before it’s fried in lard and butter with a touch of pork fat. The resulting texture is beyond juicy: It melts in your mouth. And the biscuits that come with it are so fluffy, you don’t feel stuffed.
The General Muir. Better known for its pastrami and matzoh ball soup, The General Muir started getting “best New York Jewish deli in Atlanta” accolades from the time it opened in 2013. Co-owned by James Beard semi-finalist Todd Ginsberg and Ben and Jen Johnson (also owners of Atlanta’s West Egg), this diner-deli began serving fried chicken on Friday nights, a little more like a Friday night Shabbat family dinner on the Upper West Side than a Southern picnic. Ginsberg’s approach involves steaming before frying and dredging the chicken in cornstarch with just a touch of flour. The result is a skin texture that’s more crisp than crunchy, almost like a shell, sealing in the moisture and flavor. Come early as this famous fried chicken typically sells out.
The Colonnade. Long before there was fast food or Southern-style cafeterias, there was The Colonnade. Opened in 1927, it’s been the comfort-food go-to for generations of Atlantans, precisely because not much has changed through the years. If you go on a Sunday, you’ll find hungover college students alongside a post-church crowd, all enjoying a meat and two veg, including the famous fried chicken. It’s old-school: The crispy drumsticks and wings and juicy breasts call to mind dinner at Grandma’s house, meaning you’ll quickly be overfed. But try to save room for the coconut cream pie.
Busy Bee Café. Soul-food fried chicken? You’ve got it at The Busy Bee near the AU (Atlanta University) Center, bustling since its 1947 founding. They’ve nailed the crunch that contrasts the tender meat. Peanut oil is the secret to the crispy skin of their fried chicken, enhancing the batter that’s lightly seasoned with salt and pepper. You can’t go wrong with any of the sides, but for a true Southern experience, try the collards and black-eyed peas.
Star Provisions. Think sophisticated deli-market: A Dean and DeLuca’s gone South. That’s Star Provisions, known for its wide range of gourmet sandwiches. But in a nod to Southern tradition, Star cooks its chicken in a cast-iron skillet with pork fat and a touch of Cajun seasoning. The result is crunchy goodness that’s more upscale than down-home.