Classic Eats is a new series about old-school and beloved Southern dining establishments. Do you have suggestions? Leave them in the comments.
No restaurant signifies “Atlanta” more to me than the bright red V visible from the highway as you approach downtown. The Varsity opened in 1928 and is known as the “world’s largest drive in,” where you can still get carhop service. It was originally known as Yellow Jacket Restaurant for the mascot of Georgia Institute of Technology, better known as Georgia Tech, and is still popular with the student population. There is no better place to go before a Braves baseball game than the Varsity. It’s also one of my favorite Atlanta meals.
Everyone from students to presidents to actors have dined at The Varsity. Clark Gable enjoyed a meal during the Gone with the Wind premiere in 1939. Presidents Jimmy Carter, George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton have dined here during their tenures.
You may be intimidated by the fast talking lingo you’ll hear at the counter at the Varsity, mostly “What’ll Ya Have.” Over two miles of hot dogs are prepared daily, so you can guess that it’s a popular thing to order. A “naked,” or plain hot dog will only set you back $2. The chili is in a league all its own, but don’t forget dessert with an apple pie or a “FO,” frosted orange drink. There are also hot dogs, sandwiches and other items on the menu. And be sure to grab a paper hat as a souvenir.
If You Go
The Varsity is located at 61 North Avenue, Atlanta GA 30308, right down the street from the North Avenue MARTA station. If you’re driving from I-75 or I-85 North, you will get off at the North Avenue exit and turn left. The restaurant will be on your left. There is plenty of parking. It is open Sunday through Thursday 10:00am-11:30pm and Friday and Saturday 10:00am-12:30am. Locals know to skip the longer lines in the middle in favor of the Express Lane immediately on your right as you walk down the stairs from the parking level.