News recently broke of the closing of fine dining restaurant Rose & Rye inside the “Castle” building on 15th Street in Midtown. The ambitious eatery made media waves when opening in 2017 for its team of women holding top positions, from management to chef staff, but with the building’s current owners filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in November and putting it on the market, there are fair questions to be asked about whether or not building out an eatery inside a historic space is something Atlantans will support as the city changes.
Let’s hope so.
The fact is, restaurants and bars dotted all around Atlanta are not only surviving but thriving in architecturally significant buildings that have stood long enough to claim “historic” status. Here are some of the standouts.
Walking in from street level to Ponce City Market’s Central Food Hall feels like stepping into updated history—only more fun, especially when you’re hungry.
As one of Atlanta’s most iconic and important renovated landmarks, listed on the National Register of Historic Places, this former Sears & Roebuck Co. distribution center is full of corporate offices, retail shops, and random experiences. But it’s the food and drink that keeps folks coming back.
Chief among PCM attractions for those arriving with appetites are the Italian restaurant and market Bellina Alimentari, Ton Ton ramen bar, Biltong Bar for cocktails you’d hardly expect to be fantastic since they’re served alongside dried cutlets of South African beef jerky, Tasty China Jia (the crispy quail is wildly spicy but worth it), H&F Burger, and casual Mexican restaurant Minero, whose standout chicken wings are shaken in brown bags full of spice before plated in front of you. Also don’t miss the food in other areas of the property, including Root Baking Co. on the second floor, Pancake Social on the outer edge facing North Avenue, and The Roof, where Slater Hospitality runs beer garden 9 Mile Station and the secretive 12 Cocktail Bar, which has its own elevator, security, and boasts the highest public perch in the building, in a space where a historic radio program was once broadcasted.
Tucked into the side of a sloping hill next to the Beltline, where Inman Park meets Old Fourth Ward, Parish’s presence on Highland Avenue doesn’t just predate the latest round of restaurants and bars to arrive in the past decade. It’s been around since 1890, and the building is (almost) all that’s left of the Atlanta Pipe Factory Terminal Building.
The two-story restaurant is inspired by New Orleanian cuisine, although the menu has shifted to more tavern-style eats like orange-glazed, pan-seared salmon (but with French lentils). They still serve a good chicken and sausage gumbo, alongside a solid brunch of chicken and waffles, shrimp and grits and corned beef hash, but it’d honestly be nice to get some beignets.
Hugh Acheson isn’t new to opening a restaurant in or near a historic bank. Take for example his first Atlanta restaurant, Empire State South, which sits across the street from the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta. This time he’s in the Candler Building, completed in 1906 by Coca-Cola co-founder Asa Candler, who also put a financial institution of his own—Central Bank & Trust—on the main lobby floor of the 17-story tower.
By George, which leans into Acheson’s French cuisine aspirations, is the featured restaurant for the building’s new status as the Candler Hotel, part of Hilton’s Curio Collection.
The dinner menu offerings (the wonderfully tart steak tartare or the expertly prepared steak diane could both turn a vegan into a vampire) remind you that Acheson is clearly comfortable in his Canadian skin, and intends to set a new dining standard in downtown. Breakfast and lunch are also served, and superstar drinks-master Kellie Thorn is behind ingenious sips that make proper use of cognac, armagnac, and other French spirits.
Beyond the food, the space is surrounded by marble to a level you’re not likely to see duplicated in any new restaurant in or outside Atlanta, unless it’s by someone with Coke money.
Now that tenants are arriving in this Reynoldstown adaptive-reuse development, Atlanta Dairies is once again ready to milk the benefits of its funky Art Deco, Memorial-Drive-facing facade and prime Beltline location.
Beginning in the 1940s as a dairy co-op, it now houses Wonderkid, a classic diner from the teams behind such successful F&B brands as King of Pops, The Lawrence, and Bon Ton.
Chef Justin Dixon (previously at The Shed at Glenwood) turns out delicious interpretations of classics, such as the falafel waffle and roasted chicken pot pie, served from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. After that, the late night menu goes back to breakfast, and lets anyone that’s always rapped along with OutKast on the chorus of Rosa Parks but never actually tried fish and grits to get their fill. The cocktail program is also a standout, the beers range from wonderfully cheap (but still great), to Atlanta-based crafts, and it also has the distinction of being the first place in the world dishing KoP’s soft-serve, which is obviously apropos for the concept.
The Georgian Terrace Hotel dates back to 1911, famous for a screening of Gone with the Wind that attracted major stars of the day, including Vivian Leigh, Clark Gable, and Lawrence Olivier.
Today, Livingston, an elegant two-story dining hall named after Atlanta’s 37th mayor Livingston Mims, attracts folks hungry for a Southern meal, from breakfast through dinner and on to brunch, with special pre-show dinner options for Fox Theatre ticketholders. For later-night bites and cocktails, there’s Edgar’s down below Peachtree Street, where bourbon and more is poured until midnight on weekdays, and until 2 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays, for guests on black leather banquettes between brick columns.
While the controversial white paint might make it hard to envision Golden Eagle and Muchacho as a former train station built in 1891 (more on that in a minute), you can immediately tell that’s what Kimball House used to be, as you approach the formerly forest-green Decatur Square restaurant and bar at 303 East Howard Avenue.
Known for serving some of the best and freshest oysters in the city (apparently KH’s partners, who are also behind Krog Street Market’s Watchman’s, are soon to begin farming their own oysters in Alabama), it’s also notable because the details of the interior and exterior retain some of the energy of motion you feel in any transit station. The tiled floors, high ceilings and tall windows give the feeling that you’re passing through a place where people who make moves have been coming for years, and will continue to do the same.
There was a bit of a scare when The Plaza on Ponce (or Briarcliff Plaza, depending on whom you ask), was sold in 2017 to Charlotte-based Asana Partners, particularly among Atlantans who’re big fans of watching indie/campy films at The Plaza Theatre, preceded or followed by a sturdy meal at the beloved Majestic Diner, which itself has been serving customers 24 hours a day since the start of the Great Depression. Late last year, two new restaurants opened on the property: Southern Belle and Georgia Boy.
The former is a restaurant homage to the wife of Chef Joey Ward (a talented protégé of chef Kevin Gillespie), while the latter is a hidden entry chef’s kitchen with a mind-blowing tasting menu, which changes at Ward’s whim but has included such inventive items as a fully edible snow globe. And while GB’s aesthetic leans much more steely, Southern Belle’s lofty interior, including a tall, deep-blue-painted archway, exposed brick and original tin ceiling, make it feel like a dining hall that’s been ringing dinner bells much longer.
It’s only right that Krog Street Market has high-quality restaurants, since the Beltline-adjacent building opened in 1889 as the factory for Atlanta Stove Works, where cast iron was used to make sturdy cooking ranges.
After a few years of operating as an early iteration of Tyler Perry Studios, the factory was purchased and turned into a market food hall, where today you can take almost anyone that’s hungry and be pretty sure they’ll leave satisfied.
From the impressive pizza pies at Varuni Napoli, to the seafood entrees, oysters and fabulous cocktails at Watchman’s (try the pineapple pancakes from their great new Sunday brunch), the top-tier burgers at Fred’s Meat & Bread, the always reliable dumplings at Gu’s, or the burns-so-good hot chicken at Richards’ Southern Fried, the only things that probably don’t taste good are the flowers, dog treats, and soaps from the retail stands.
Back more than 80 years ago, when the Beltline was a two-word phrase, this Reynoldstown building was constructed as a train depot. After being abandoned in the mid-20th century, it sat vacant for decades until restaurateur Jerry Slater took it over and opened popular cocktail bar H. Harper Station in 2010.
While H. Harper sadly didn’t last long enough to see the arrival of the renewed, single-word Beltline (it closed on April Fool’s Day 2016), the space was quickly purchased by one of the owners of Ladybird, another Beltline restaurant and bar, and opened as two separate restaurants—Golden Eagle and Muchacho—in 2017.
There was a bit of controversy when the new owner decided to paint the brick building, but things have since calmed down, thanks to favorable opinions of GE/M’s ambiance. What also doesn’t hurt: breakfast tacos and coffee worth eating and drinking at Muchacho, plus Golden Eagle’s respectably delicious tavern food (prime rib specials on Mondays, whole cast-iron-roasted chicken) and very fancy cocktails. Spirits enthusiasts seem to agree that, while Slater’s drinks were stellar, Eagle’s beverages are similarly brag-worthy.