48 Hours of eating, drinking and exploring Atlanta

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After being grounded from travel for 73 weeks and living through the pandemic and all the hysteria that surrounds it, all I’ve been dreaming about is hopping on a plane again. It surprised no one that 4 days after the Canadian government changed travel re-entry restrictions to allow double vaccinated travelerscitizens to return to Canada, I was on a plane heading south. 

Atlanta never hit in my dreams as the first place I’d land, but you go where you’re called and life circumstances had me arriving in the ATL for a weekend. 

With only 48 hrs in Atlanta and a tired body and mind to heal, my agenda wasn’t packed with more than a few spots for eating and drinking and a whole lot of slow and easy. Not wanting to spend a lot of time traveling around the massive city, I chose the Clermont Hotel as a place to stay because it seemed to be close to much of what I wanted to check out. 

My late Friday evening arrival in Atlanta landed even later than scheduled so I was happy that Tiny Lou’s at the Clermont Hotel was open late. After arriving at the hotel and wading through the hipster crowd waiting to get in to the rooftop bar, check -in was quick and I was able to find a seat at the bar and for a cocktail and good food. The menu at Tiny Lou’s is French brasserie with a lot of great (rich) classics, but I was leaning towards the lighter side of the menu to fill my tummy. I ordered the steak tartare and hamachi crudo with Georgia peaches with a side of the most delicious truffle fries. This meal was the perfect way to welcome me back to travel adventure mode!

Slow and easy was my mindset for Atlanta, and wandering around the Saturday Freedom Farmer’s Market at the Carter Centre seemed like the perfect way to spend the morning. After coming from a place where everyone is still wearing masks indoors and out, it was a bit of shock to wander through the market stands and actually see the faces and expressions of the vendors and customers.

The produce looked so vibrant and I wanted it all. Of course, I had to “get my peaches down in Georgia”, but the real star of the market was the simple perfectly ripe tomato sandwich.

A short stroll away from the market led to the eastside of the BeltLine Trail, a former railway corridor transformed into a multi-use trail. The path was a lovely walk filled with parks and street art, somewhat reminiscent of the High Line trail in New York.

The BeltLine trail led to the Ponce City Market, the former Sears catalogue building redeveloped into a food hall with other retail spaces. After the morning’s walk, I wasn’t starving, but wanted to sample a few things to tide me over until dinner.

On recommendation, I grabbed a few tacos from Minero (fried catfish, cauliflower with salsa macha, and al pastor) and then stopped at Biltong Bar to try their South African version of beef jerky with a cocktail.

A trip to “the South” for most people means barbecue and fried food. But since my first trip to Charleston in 2014 and subsequent trips to the South, I’m more intrigued by the unique heritage produce and the dishes that celebrate the true flavours of the region. I chose Miller Union for dinner because of its honest representation of modern Southern cooking.

The menu at Miller Union was filled with so much delight that it was hard to choose. But I narrowed in on the sweet corn fritters with pecan butter and peach/chile marmalade, the farm egg baked in celery cream, roasted oysters with creamed chard, and an amazing vanilla crème bavaroise, black cocoa cake, milk chocolate ganache, dark chocolate tuile. A round of mains hit the table between starters and dessert, but they left me feeling like I should have stuck to the top and bottom of the menu where the real stars of the evening were.

The next morning morning started back at the Ponce City Market for an incredible (albeit pricy) breakfast sandwich and a chocolate pistachio croissant from the Root Baking Co.

When I started researching Atlanta, I looked into checking out one of Atlantas many museums but I wasn’t mentally prepared to be jostling indoors amidst crowds. So instead, I chose to walk the Freedom Trail towards MLK National Park to learn more about Martin Luther King through a tour of where he was born, lived, worked and was buried.

Along the Freedom trail, I also found the Jackson Street Bridge, made famous in the opening of The Walking Dead and an amazing mural of John Lewis.

When I started researching Atlanta, I realized one of the “must restaurants” in Atlanta is Staplehouse, where in normal times, a reservation is hard to get. But Staplehouse has pivoted (for now) and they’re preparing delicious creative farm to table dishes served to-go but can be eaten in, on their patio. The toasted cabbage and blistered shishito’s with furikake were both tasty, but their alkaline noodles with turnips, crispy garlic and chili crisp was the best dish I had on my trip to Atlanta.

Sundays are meant for slow and easy, and luckily the rain had stopped just in time to enjoy a drink on the rooftop of the Clermont.

One last dinner, and I chose Watchman’s located in the Krog Street Market. I really wanted to dine at Kimball House for oysters and cocktails but Watchman’s was a pleasant walk from the Clermont, which appealed to me more. I had no regrets though, as Watchman’s is Kimball House’s casual sister serving great cocktails and oysters on a pleasantly breezy covered patio. 

My selection of East coast/Gulf Coast oysters were fantastic and the shrimp roll was good but I’m always a sucker for corn on the cob, so my highlight was the Caesar elote with fresno chile, caesar dressing and grana padano.

On the first evening at Tiny Lou’s I noticed a few incredible looking desserts pass by and I knew I had to try them before I left. So I saved room intentionally at Watchman’s to return to the Clermont Hotel for a few sweet treats. 

Tiny Lou’s most famous dessert, Hello Blondie is a banana blondie with hazelnut praline, and Valrona chocolate, named after the famed “Blondie” at the Clermont Lounge downstairs of the hotel. But the real star was the Georgia Peach crepe cake with so many layers of raspberry crepes between peachy vanilla mascarpone.

I found this cute Negroni in a can at the store and had to try it. Poured over a glass with lots of ice, it was the perfect nightcap for my last night in Atlanta!

The car was packed the next morning and I was excited to head to my next adventure but there was no way I could leave Atlanta without eating barbecue. one stop to make before leaving. While researching for the trip, I looked extensively to try to understand what makes Georgia barbecue unique and couldn’t find an answer. It seemed that of the top barbecue places in Atlanta, there were mixes of Texas-style, Carolina-style, Memphis-style. I narrowed it down to Fox Bros (which was in the complete other direction from where I was headed), Heirloom Market (for their Texas/Korean-style ribs, but they were closed. I settled on Das Barbecue because their brisket is legendary.

I wanted to sample everything on the menu but settled on a tray of meats including the thickly sliced brisket, a snappy beef sausage and saucy ribs. Everything was moist and delicious. Southern barbecue is not something I can eat a lot of, so I’m happy the offerings at Das satisfied me fully.

With a belly full of Southern charm, I started to make my way north to explore the mountain area of the Carolinas before heading to one of my favourite American cities for eating and drinking.

Places I visited in Atlanta

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