We're officially in hosting mode for this 2018 MLS All-Star Game presented by Target, and people in Atlanta are already mad at me. There’s no way to get this perfect. What’s beautiful about Atlanta – and one of the many reasons it’s the greatest city in the world – is that inside the sprawl are handfuls of sub-cities, each littered with their own distinctive neighborhoods. And yet a culture persists in all of them that is in someway uniquely, and indisputably, Atlanta.
My Atlanta experience is different than the next Atlantan’s, and that person’s will be different from the next; however, I still feel capable of guiding you through your short stay, hosted by Atlanta United. There will inevitably be disagreements. But if having a discussion about where to go, what to do and what to eat doesn’t devolve into an argument about which is the fourth-best barbecue restaurant in Atlanta (it’s Heirloom), then have we even had a discussion about Atlanta? The good news is, even the fourth-best of things in Atlanta are amazing. You can’t go wrong. I’m just here to give you some ideas.
Where to Eat
Home grown GA | http://www.homegrownga.com/
Let’s start with the basics. After afternoons of attempting to chase down Josef and Miggy to get even the grainiest of pictures on your Insta-story (that’s why you’re here, right?) and taking in everything else this week has to offer, you’re going to be hungry. Since there are no other MLS teams in the South [Yet. We see you, Nashville!—ed.], I’m going to assume that if you’re using this guide, y’all ain’t from around here. Fortunately, there are plenty of places to get authentic Southern food or great food with a Southern twist.
If you’re a breakfast/brunch/insane-amounts-of-calories-early-in-the-day person, it’s hard to go wrong going to places like Homegrown in Reynoldstown for their signature comfy chicken biscuit, Ria’s Bluebird in Grant Park for pancakes, The Flying Biscuit Cafe in Candler Park for (duh) the biscuits, and, if you’re on the Westside, the West Egg Cafe. If you get the option to put pimento cheese on anything, do it. If you’re unsure of what that is, you’re just going to have to trust me.
Lunch and Dinner
For lunch and dinner, there are no shortage of incredible options that, in addition to being delicious, will keep you from bankrupting yourself before the end of the trip. More high-end places exist, but if you’re looking for those ,you’re asking the wrong 20-something writer.
My first recommendation is to go to the massive and extremely popular adaptive reuse project known as Ponce City Market, look at Ponce City Market, watch people who don’t know any better go into Ponce City Market, and then as soon as you can, go across the street to the tiny white building known as Eats for an incredible “Meat-and-3” plate from an Atlanta institution. I recommend you get the jerk chicken for the meat and demand that one of your three sides be collard greens.
If the intro had you wondering what my top three best barbeque restaurants in Atlanta are, I’ll settle this debate quickly: B’s Cracklin is third, Community Q is first and somewhere in the middle is Fox Bros. All three are phenomenal though.
If you’re looking for a burger and fries, the standard in Atlanta is at Holeman & Finch Public House. Famously, the restaurant sells just 24 of their double cheeseburgers each lunch and dinner. If you don’t want to work that hard for a burger, you can head to their always open Ponce City Market location if you really want to, or you can just find the nearest Grindhouse for a cheaper and equally delicious option. For some of the best fried chicken in America, find a spot at Busy Bee Cafe, The Colonnade or the famous Mary Mac’s Tea Room.
If you can’t decide what you want and you’re looking for multiple options all in one place, Krog Street Market and Sweet Auburn Curb Market have you covered. For ethnic cuisine, head to the legendary Buford Highway and take in any of the 1.3-mile road’s diverse restaurants, especially Pho Dai Loi 2 for incredible Vietnamese.
If you’re up late, leave where you’re staying and walk either a half mile to the left or a half mile to right. Either way you’re going to run into a Waffle House. If you’ve never had the pleasure of a late-night trip to Waffle House, you won’t truly be able to appreciate the South until you do. Other options include the Cookout on Moreland Avenue (entirely better in every way than the one on Ponce De Leon), Midway Pub in East Atlanta Village or Delia’s Chicken Sausage Stand.
Speaking of late night . . .
Where to Drink
The best way to attack Atlanta at night is to go by neighborhood. For a more low-key night, head to East Atlanta Village or Poncey-Highland (which includes the famous Clermont Lounge). For a solid mix of college kids, hipsters and clubs check out Old Fourth Ward. Decatur has plenty of options. Midtown is extremely LGBTQ+ friendly. Head to Buckhead to waste all of your money. Little Five Points and Virginia Highlands each have their own popular hangouts. Like with food, it’s hard to go wrong going out anywhere in Atlanta. Everyone is welcome everywhere.
Additionally, you can take some time to take in some of the South’s best breweries such as Monday Night Brewing, Torched Hop, Sweetwater, Orpheus and Second Self to name a few.
Now if you’re trying to drink a little earlier and catch a match . . .
Where to Soccer
Brewhouse Cafe in Little Five Points, one of Atlanta United's official pub partners, is the most popular soccer bar in town. Midway Pub and Elder Tree in East Atlanta Village both have plenty of scarves on the walls. As an added bonus, Elder Tree houses one of the best and most dangerously seductive drinks in Atlanta with its EAV Sweet Tea.
Meehan’s is an excellent stop if you’re downtown and if you happen to be a Liverpool supporter. Fado Irish Pub locations in Midtown and Buckhead will always have a game on.
If you’re hoping to get into a game rather than watch, check out our now world-famous 5-a-side pitch at the Five Points MARTA Station. You can also bring a ball to the gorgeous Piedmont Park fields and join a game there.
What Else to See and Do
Posing in front of the Innovation Mural on the Beltline. | Courtesy of Atlanta United
Go to Sweet Auburn and visit Martin Luther King Jr.’s house and the King Center. Go see some of the best street art in the world – use the handy map provided by StreetArtMap.org, and checklist these ATLUTD-themed specials:
- Innovation Mural at the Beltline
- Unite & Conquer Mural at West Midtown
- Unity Mural in Ponce
- Delta Mural in Oakhurst
Go catch a concert at The Masquerade, or Aisle 5, or The Tabernacle or one of the many other brilliant venues. Look at all the used chicken wings on the ground and wonder how they got there and why there are so many of them.
Go to Centennial Olympic Park, remember that Atlanta once hosted the Olympics, and then shell out some money to visit some of the more touristy yet still awesome attractions around the park, like the Georgia Aquarium and other museums that happen to be just down the road from Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Take a short trip up I-75 and climb Kennesaw Mountain for one of the best views in the state.
Walk The BeltLine. Go to Jackson Street Bridge at sunset for the customary picture of Atlanta’s skyline. Go to church organ karaoke at Sister Louisa’s. Go to metal karaoke at Dark Horse. Go see a bad movie at The Plaza Theatre. Get a Frosted Orange at The Varsity.
Ask a random stranger on the street what to do, they’ll tell you 50 more things. You won’t get bored here, I promise.
How to Get Around
Courtesy of ATLUTD.com
Traffic can be a slog – build in time. Note you can take MARTA straight to the Benz [My ATLUTD season-ticket-holding brother-in-law confirms it's the best route on gameday.—ed.] And if you're up for a bike, you can always Ride the Stripes thanks to Atlanta United and Relay Bike Share.
How to Prepare
Know the culturally appropriate response to “Knuck if You Buck” if it comes on. Listen to as much OutKast and Pastor Troy as possible. It’s spelled “y’all” not “ya’ll”. We reserve the right to banish you to Florida if you say “Hotlanta”. Be prepared for Atlanta United fans to be welcoming, hospitable and completely smug about our incredible team and culture. Grits are just ground corn.
That pretty much covers it. Welcome to Atlanta.