Atlanta Food Walks started as the brainchild of food and travel blogger (and my personal friend) Akila McConnell. After years of traveling the world and experiencing its cuisines, she came back to her home and sought to teach visitors and locals alike about the food history of Atlanta.
The food tour interweaves the city’s most important moments with its memorable dishes. I joined one of her first tours, which starts in Castleberry Hill and ends in Sweet Auburn, two of the city’s oldest neighborhoods.
And while the food was the main focus, we had stops in Five Points, where the Rich’s lunch counter-protests took place and saw the street art on Broad Street.
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Martin Luther King Jr. dined here and the marches on Selma and Washington were planned over their food. Pictures from their old locations and the most notable patrons hang in the dining room.
Here we dined on fried chicken, which is made with a secret recipe, candied yams, and cornbread dressing. While we chowed down on the crunchy and juicy chicken, Akila explained how Southern food mostly comes from one of three places: the British, the Africans, and the Native Americans.
Each item on our plate represented one of the three. She also explained the role West African dishes played on modern soul food. As a native Atlantan, I was shocked that I’d never eaten here, but I know I’ll be back for brunch.
The Smoke Ring
Note: The Smoke Ring has now closed. Fox Brothers BBQ is a good alternative in Atlanta.
The next stop was The Smoke Ring, a barbecue restaurant offering pork in every way imaginable. Georgia native Chef Jordan Wakefield offered us macaroni and cheese, collard greens, pork belly and pulled pork. We also received three sauce styles, Memphis, North Carolina, and Alabama, with strawberry moonshine to wash it down.
Akila discussed the traditions surrounding pork, which is the most important protein in the South. Every state in the region has its own way of preparing pork and barbecue and each thinks their way is the best.
This stop represented the Appalachian region, which is known for its barbecue and being the home of the original moonshiners.
Arden’s Garden is Atlanta’s original juicery, which just opened its newest location at 145 Auburn Avenue. Owner Arden Zinn started by making juices for friends and family out of her home before opening her first shop.
Their juices are created fresh in East Point daily and sold all over the city with over 20 ingredients. Today they’re known for detox juices, cleanses, smoothies and healthy snacks.
First, we tried the Yoga 1 juice, which includes 2 pounds of produce. Next up was the delicious Apple and Ginger Juice. While we sipped, we snacked on cheezy kale chips, which are vegan. Akila brought us here to show that there’s more to Southern food than fried and buttered items.
Just Add Honey
No Southern food tour would be complete without tea, which we typically drink sweetened and cold. just add honey tea company is a tea shop created by Brandi Shelton, who had the idea after time abroad.
Here they have both teas you can purchase in loose leaf form and ready to drink concoctions to cool yourself off. The loose leaf teas are organized by style, including fruit, herbal, white and green, and black blends. We sampled the Georgia Peaches Iced Tea and a strawberry-kiwi flavored tea.
Sweet Auburn Seafood
In homage to the Lowcountry traditions brought by the Gullah peoples, Sweet Auburn Seafood features seafood dishes like shrimp burgers, gumbo and every type of fish imaginable.
On our stop here, Chef Sammy Davis Jr. (real name!) served us rich and decadent shrimp and grits. The dish has its roots in Charleston but was perfected here, as it’s among the best I’ve ever had. It had large shrimp, sausage and fresh tomatoes.
Metro Deli Soul Food
The sampling was beans and cornbread, both of which were important to Native American tribes who settled here long before the Europeans. Both still play a large role in Southern and soul food.
Miss D’s New Orleans Pralines
The final stop had to be a sweet one at Miss D’s New Orleans Pralines. Miss D herself works at the market daily, coming out to hug customers. She came to Atlanta from New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina and set up shop here. She sells nine flavors of pralines, along with flavored popcorn and candied apples.
For More Information
Atlanta Food Walks run three times per week on Thursday, Friday and Saturday at 11 am. Tours cost $65 USD for adults and $50 for children and start at Paschal’s and end at the Sweet Auburn Curb Market.
It’s a two-mile tour that lasts around three and a half hours. Parking is free at Paschal’s, which is also close to the Vine City Station and the Georgia Dome Station. The end location is on the Atlanta Streetcar line, which takes you halfway back and connects to further MARTA stations.
The tour includes 15 tastings at 7 locations. They are small, with less than 10 people, and operate rain or shine. The tour can also be adapted for dietary restrictions if given enough notice.
Your tour also comes with discounts on the places you visit. There isn’t much time to shop more or order an extra drink on the walk, so it’s a good idea to book the tour for the beginning of your visit to Atlanta so that you can return to where you liked.
Book your Atlanta’s Southern Food Tour.
I received a complimentary Downtown Southern Food Walk tour with Atlanta Food Walks, but opinions are my own.