Trying to single out the best Southern restaurant in Atlanta is akin to picking your favorite child. You love each one equally, but each has a unique personality and distinguishing traits. Many Atlanta restaurants pay homage to the South, but each has its own take on the quintessential classics. Here are a few places that are breathing new life into familiar Southern recipes with flavorful creativity and authentic appeal.
Empire State South (Midtown)
With its country vibe and decor, Empire State South is both charming and progressive. Chef Hugh Acheson presents modern renditions of classic Southern cuisine. A meal can be made just from the beginnings and snackies portion of the menu. Items "in jars" such as tangy pimento cheese, bacon marmalade, egg salad and catfish rillettes slathered on toasted bread are a nice way to bring the table together. Deep-fried okra blossoms with smoked pepper relish aioli or catfish sausage with hedgehog mushrooms, beets and pork jowl illustrate Acheson's contemporary side.
Mary Mac's Tea Room (Midtown)
Opened in 1945, Mary Mac's is a true Atlanta classic, rooted in true Southern hospitality and home cooking. Sit in one of the restaurant's six dining rooms and grab your pencil. Founder Mary MacKenzie initiated the concept of guests jotting down their own orders, so if the order was wrong, you knew who to blame. Our suggestion: Place an order for sweet tea, fried chicken, liver and onions, sweet potato souffle, tomato pie and pot likker greens.
Miller Union (Westside)
Chef Steven Satterfield hails from Savannah and credits his grandmother as well as vegetables as indelible culinary influences. His seasonal style is simple and refined, with reverence for the bounty of local and organic farms. Such is the case with his signature baked egg in celery cream. He steeps celery, shallots, onion, thyme, bay and black pepper in cream. He strains the mixture, adds a farm fresh egg and finishes it under the broiler. Try it with grilled bread and you'll be a believer, too.
Table & Main (Roswell)
This country house is set just off the main drag of historic Roswell, a stone's throw from the city's quaint boutiques and galleries. Start your meal with Hogs 'n Quilts. This dish features pulled pork tucked into tender blankets of chive-stuffed crepes, and it's dressed with a spicy vinegar-based barbecue sauce and apple-jicama slaw. It's incredible. Any respectable southern spot must serve up delicious fried chicken. Table & Main doesn't disappoint with its signature crispy coating, which is a mouthwatering golden brown. The restaurant's sides of potato salad with blue cheese and Benton's country ham complement the fried chicken perfectly.
Need even more meal inspiration? Check out Atlanta Eats on Peachtree TV at 7:30 p.m. Saturdays and 10:30 a.m. Sundays.