During my time at Georgia State, I’ve never had a meal plan, and although I may have had a kitchen in my dorm room at the Commons, my cooking skills have always been less than stellar. I learned quickly that any and all money my parents sent would immediately go to food. Unfortunately, I had to learn the hard way where I should and shouldn’t be eating. As I head into my senior year at GSU, I’d like to think that after three years of dining out almost every day, I know a thing or two about eating in Atlanta.
To prevent anyone from going through the hardships of navigating the Atlanta food scene, here is a base guide to all things food and drink in the ATL.
1. When you’re cramming for exams and the library is full: Dancing Goats
Not only is Dancing Goats located in Ponce City Market—aka hipster heaven—but it’s one of the only coffee shops with ample parking. If you want to sit on their swanky screened-in porch, make sure you get there early enough to snag an outlet.
What to Order: Dancing Goats brews Batdorf & Bronson coffee so you can’t go wrong with an Americano. But if you’re looking for a midweek pick-me-up, try their Affogato made with Jeni’s Splendid Ice Cream.
Location: 650 North Ave. NE Atlanta, GA 30308 (10 minute drive from Library South)
2. When you’re craving greasy food: Cook-Out
If you’re going between the hours of 10 pm and 2 am, be prepared to wait in line. However, that Big Double Burger is definitely worth the wait. Can’t decide which of the 40 shakes to try? Go for the Oreo Mint. Trust me, I tried them all.
What to Order: To get the most for your money, go with the Cook-Out tray. You get one entrée, two sides, and a drink for roughly $5. Locals don’t call it the best deal in Atlanta for nothing.
Location: 403 Moreland Ave SE, Atlanta, GA 30316 (15 minute drive from Patton Hall)
3. If you have midnight munchies: Waffle House
The Waffle House under the Petit Science Center may be a nuisance when the smell of bacon fills your 8 am lecture, but come nightfall you’ll be praising whoever decided to open one of these on campus. If you don’t want to wait in line, order through the app and pick up your order to-go. There may be a Waffle House on almost every corner in Atlanta, however; this location is walkable from the dorms, and has the friendliest staff around.
What to Order: If you don’t want to look like a WaHo rookie, order the All-Star Special. If you’re feeling incredibly ballsy, pack all your eggs, hash browns, bacon, and toast onto your waffle, then fold it in half to make the All-Star Taco.
Location: 100 Piedmont Ave SE, Atlanta, GA 30303 (four blocks from Patton Hall)
4. When you want to get your drink on: The Local
If you’re rolling in 6-deep, maybe avoid going on Trivia Night since it tends to fill up pretty quickly. But definitely make sure you try the karaoke here at least once. The Local is a great place for cheap beer, and their wings are pretty solid, but the best part about this bar is their front porch. Honestly, what Southerner would ever turn down sipping PBR on a porch?
What To Order: You can’t go to The Local without trying their wings. If you want an authentic local experience, order their house BBQ sauce wings.
Location: 758 Ponce De Leon Ave NE, Atlanta, GA 30306 (10 minute drive from campus)
5. When you’re trying to be romantic: St. Cecilia
Romance requires hard work, and so does affording a restaurant with four “dollar signs” on Yelp. It may not be cheap, but that’s to be expected when dining up in Buckhead. Despite the price, the food here is legit. Also they won’t judge you for butchering any of the Italian words on the menu.
What to order: Their Squid Ink Spaghettini is to die for, and also happens to be one of the cheaper items on the menu. That’s what we call a “win-win.”
Location: 3455 Peachtree Rd, Atlanta, GA 30326 (20 minute drive from Piedmont North)
6. When you want to grab a quick lunch for under $10: Sweet Auburn Market
Whether you’re craving burritos or BBQ, this food haven boasts a plethora of eateries to suit your mood, plus it’s only a few blocks from campus. Even during the lunch rush, lines here aren’t too bad, which means you’ll make it to your noon lecture on time.
What to order: You really can’t go wrong with any of the eateries in the market, but Grindhouse Killer Burgers is my personal favorite. They have cheap, but filling burgers, crinkle fries, and a peanut butter chocolate milkshake that is out of this world.
Location: 209 Edgewood Avenue, SE, Atlanta, GA 30303 (10 minute walk from Library Plaza)
7. When you’re craving a slice: Fellini’s
When I look back on my college years, I will always remember grabbing late-night slices at Fellini’s. Sometimes seating can be scarce, so don’t be afraid to snag a booth as soon as it opens. Also, if you’re coming with a group of 5+, don’t be those guys who just order slices instead of one whole pizza.
What to order: Building your own slice is one of the best parts about dining at Fellini’s. Customize it the way you like, but their slices are bigger than you’d think. That’s why most people stick to under 5 toppings.
Location: 909 Ponce De Leon Ave NE, Atlanta, GA 30306 (7 minute drive from the Commons)
8. When you want to stuff your face: The Vortex
Sorry, kiddos, but you’ll have to wait until you’re 21 to try these legendary burgers. If you’re too impatient to wait like I was, place a to-go order and have a friend pick it up at the bar for you. When you are old enough to finally dine in one of their two locations, try not to make substitutions to your burger. They’ll do it for you, but you will be judged.
What to order: If you want a challenge, try their Coronary Bypass Burger, which is 2 bacon grilled cheese sandwiches for buns, 4 slices of white bread, 8 oz ground sirloin, 10 slices of American cheese, one fried egg, 9 strips of bacon and 4 oz mayonnaise. All in all, it clocks in at 3,707 calories.
Location: 878 Peachtree St NE, Atlanta, GA 30309 (3 stops on MARTA)
9. When you want to watch the game: Manuel’s Tavern
This Atlanta landmark may still be closed for renovations, but when this beauty opens back up, it’s a must-try. There’s a good chance you’ll see a few familiar faces since “Manny’s” is a local hotspot. With an abundance of TV’s and tables large enough to fit 12 of your closest friends Manny’s is a great place to pretend you know what’s happening during a sporting event.
What to order: Hands down the best item at Manuel’s Tavern is their Terry Wings. What the crap are Terry Wings? Glad you asked. Terry Wings combine all of their wing flavors such as buffalo, BBQ, and jerk into one stupidly good sauce.
Location: 602 North Highland Ave NE, Atlanta, GA 30307 (8 minute drive from M Deck)
10. When your parents are visiting and footing the bill: Cakes & Ale
Landing number one on Atlanta Magazine’s 50 Best Restaurants in Atlanta list, Cakes & Ale is classier than I will ever be. Hopefully your parents will be so impressed you picked up the phone to make a reservation that they even treat you to dessert, too. If you’re crunched for time they do have a café with a smaller menu that is just as good as the main restaurant.
What to order: The dinner menu changes daily, but if your parents are fine with paying, now is the time to branch out and try something new. If they have their swordfish available, order it ASAP.
Location: 155 Sycamore St, Decatur, GA 30030 (20 minute drive from campus)
11. If you’re “doin’ it for the Insta”: King of Pops
King of Pops is true Atlanta food royalty. Catch them at the ATL Food Truck Park or any major event. If you’re looking to get your drink on too, try their boozy pops. Just remember to lick responsibly.
What to order: Though most people go for their fruity pops, the chocolate sea salt pop is just as refreshing.
Location: 675 Ponce De Leon Ave NE, Atlanta, GA 30308 (8 minute drive from Patton Hall)
12. If you or your friends don’t eat meat: R. Thomas
If you can’t find this eclectic restaurant among the buildings on Peachtree Street, just look for the parrots. That’s right, this restaurant has freaking parrots. R. Thomas is a restaurant that proves vegetarian doesn’t always have to mean tofu.
What to order: Similar to the Waffle House All-Star Special, R’s Big Breakfast Special fills you up with everything you could possibly want to eat for breakfast.
Location: 1812 Peachtree St NE, Atlanta, GA 30309 (11 minute drive from campus)
13. Where to go when you’re trying to be healthy: Fresh To Order
Founded OTP (Outside The Perimeter), Fresh To Order will keep you healthy without killing your wallet. There may be a Five Guys one block away, but don’t give in to temptation. The staff at the Midtown location are sweethearts, and will help you navigate their menu to ensure you order something you’ll love.
What to order: The GSU dining halls aren’t terrible, but I’m not sold on their seafood. So take this opportunity to make sure you’re getting your omega-3s and grab Fresh To Order’s Coconut Curry Salmon.
Location: 3344 Peachtree Rd NE #300, Atlanta, GA 30326 (3 stops on MARTA)
14. When you want to eat outside: Republic Social House
Trivia and bottomless booze for $14? Yeah, this place is that good. The rooftop at Republic Social House has one of the best views of the city, and if it doesn’t sketch you out, one of the best views of the Oakland Cemetery.
What to order: Perhaps one of the best deals in town, Republic Social House offers dollar tacos every Tuesday. Your wallet and your tastebuds will thank you.
Location: 437-C Memorial Dr SE, Atlanta, GA 30312 (15 minute drive from Piedmont North)
15. When you want to listen to live music while you eat: The EARL
The EARL maybe a bit divey, but their burgers and live music are amazing. There is smoking allowed inside, so if you’re not down with smoke, make sure you eat on their patio. If you’re going with friends try and take one car. Parking in East Atlanta is abysmal.
What to order: A true Southern staple, the boiled peanuts at The EARL are about as authentic as they come.
Location: 488 Flat Shoals Ave. SE East Atlanta, GA. 30316 (10 minute drive from campus)