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Around this time two years ago, COVID-19 was making its first spread throughout the United States, but thankfully, we are far removed from the initial shock that characterized the start of the pandemic. Thanks to face masks, vaccines, tests, and new health and safety guidelines, we can finally enjoy everyday activities like hanging out at a bar or catching a flight. And with spring steadily approaching, now is the perfect time to start doing the latter.
Wherever you choose to travel to, one thing remains true for most people flying out of Atlanta—you have to go through Hartsfield-Jackson. That means traffic, long TSA lines, and most importantly, great food options. Making it through Hartsfield-Jackson’s stressful security process will undoubtedly work up an appetite, and since it’s no fun flying on an empty stomach, we’ve put together a guide of the best restaurants from each terminal for you.
Before we dive into the list of eateries, however, keep in mind that things at Hartsfield-Jackson change every day, and you can always find the most up-to-date information on restaurant openings and closings by visiting the regularly updated ATL Skypointe website. Also, remember to remain as safe as possible when traveling by wearing a mask and social distancing whenever possible. With that said, here are 17 worthwhile restaurants to eat and drink at when traveling through the Hartsfield-Jackson Airport in Atlanta.
Atlanta Chophouse & Brewery
Closest Gate: Pre-Security Atrium (North Side)
If you want a sit-down meal before you go through security, this two-level steakhouse makes you feel like a high roller. Stop by for the best New York strip in the airport with a pint of local SweetWater beer. You can catch your team’s game on the three flat-screen televisions, and it’s also the perfect place to charge your phone and wait for your Uber into town.
Papi’s Caribbean Cafe
Closest gate: T8
From Havana to Atlanta, you can experience authentic Cuban food day or night in the T Concourse. Papi’s has locations around the city, named for owner Reynaldo “Rey” Regalado’s late father. Their expanded airport menu includes fish tacos, empanadas, and strong Cuban coffee. But be sure to try the tostones and the all important Cuban sandwich.
The History of the McRib
Grindhouse Killer Burgers
Closest gate: T11, additional location at D30
Skip the overpriced menu at Five Guys for a burger chain inspired by grindhouse films. Grindhouse Killer Burgers is a local success story, growing from their stall at the historic Sweet Auburn Curb Market to five brick-and-mortar locations and two more at the airport. Their griddle-cooked burgers come in beef, turkey, and veggie varieties on potato buns with their signature sauce. Insiders know that it’s great for breakfast, offering breakfast sandwiches, burritos, and avocado toast.
Closest gate: A3
The gastropub is now the only location after the Peachtree Street location closed in 2018. But some of their best dishes live on, including the pub burger, which tastes like a classier version of Wendy’s, and Cowgirl Creamery grilled cheese sandwich. Tap boasts a full bar that includes craft beer, wine, and cocktails, and it’s also a great stop if you’re searching for a different take on breakfast.
Piece of Cake
Closest gate: A Center
Maybe you’re not super hungry, and all that you need to get you through your flight is a sweet treat. In that case, it’s crucial to have Piece of Cake on your radar. With locations spread across the city from Alpharetta to Camp Creek, this restaurant has earned the reputation as one of Atlanta’s favorite spots for gourmet desserts. Next time you’re traveling with a sweet tooth, be sure to grab slices of layered cake, shortbread cookies, or a cupcake (or two).
Closest gate: A Center
You don’t have to put up with Sbarro anymore as Atlanta’s best pizzeria has a location in the airport. These pies use sourdough yeast dough baked thin with fresh toppings straight from the motherland. Nana’s house specialty pie has their secret mixture of herbs and fresh mozzarella on a crispy crust. Pair with local draft beer from Three Taverns as you listen to live jazz tunes from the piano bar or watch the incoming flights from the windows.
Willy’s Mexicana Grill
Closest gate: B Center
Travelers searching for great Georgia-made Mexican food can let out a collective sigh because Willy’s is back in business at Hartsfield Jackson. You can build your own burrito, tacos, quesadilla, nachos, and salad with proteins such as their mouth-watering red chili adobo chicken, perfectly grilled steak, and Sinaolan tofu. Plus, if you’re traveling to see family for Thanksgiving and a past or present member of the military, you get 20% off your meal.
Closest gate: B Center
There’s fried chicken and then there’s Paschal’s. Civil Rights activist Martin Luther King Jr. planned marches at the Castleberry Hill location. You won’t find the history here, but you can get stellar Southern dishes, including the best fried chicken in the city, along with breakfast. It’s been a staple since 1979 and is one of the longest-running airport vendors.
Sweetwater Last Cast Bar & Grill
Closest gate: B31
If you’re leaving Atlanta for a while but want one last sip of locally brewed beer, then enjoy one at Sweetwater Last Cast Bar & Grill, a bar in Concourse B that offers quick eats (with a surprisingly appealing hot breakfast menu) alongside some of the brewery’s most popular beers. Expect 420, Goin’ Coastal, and other favorites to be on tap, but don’t hesitate to ask your server for any special seasonal brews.
Closest Gate: C21
“What’ll ya have?” Servers in red hats greet you at the airport outposts. But you won’t wait in line with college students or sports fans like at the 61 North Avenue original. The Varsity serves their famous chili dogs, onion rings, and Varsity Orange beverage at this location and even has breakfast if your stomach can handle the delicious grease. Sure, you may find dozens of burgers in the airport, but how many are covered in chili? This restaurant wins for best translation from the Atlanta original.
The Original El Taco
Closest Gate: C14, additional location at F Mezzanine
Open daily from noon to 8 pm, the beloved Virginia Highland taqueria has two outposts at the airport. Here you’ll find their signature frozen margaritas along with baha fish, pork carnitas, and even vegetarian tacos and burritos. Pair with the all-important guacamole.
Closest gate: C21, additional location at A Center (Concourse A Hours: 6 am – 9 pm)
You can’t discuss the food options in this terminal without mentioning the beloved Southern fast food staple that puts the “C” in Concourse C: Chick-fil-A. The nationwide chain has its headquarters in College Park (the neighborhood where the airport is) and first opened in Greenbriar Mall in 1967. If you weren’t able to stop by one of the locations throughout the city on your way to the airport, you can always pick up some famous waffle fries on the way to your gate.
Bantam + Biddy
Closest Gate: C Center
The Southern-style diner grew from its Ansley Mall location into two others across state lines. The airport location is a standalone restaurant in “The Connection” food court that serves their most popular dishes like fried chicken, sandwiches, and Southern-style sides. They open bright and early with breakfast. You can order at the kiosks to save time and grab a sweet treat at the neighboring Krispy Kreme.
Chicken + Beer
Closest gate: D5
Forget that Popeye’s—and pretty much every other fast food chain’s—chicken sandwich. The chicken sandwich at the Ludacris-owned restaurant is where it’s at. Named for his 2003 album, the menu has plenty of both items. The Cajun boiled peanut hummus and shrimp and grits are also favorites. The company that partnered with Luda on this Southern-style eatery also runs One Flew South, so you know it’s good. They also have a great selection of Georgia craft beer, served in pints and flights.
The Market by Food & Wine
Closest gate: D Center
Formerly the Food Network Kitchen, the Market by Food & Wine has dishes inspired by surroundings like the Big Peach sandwich (on bread by Holeman + Finch) and Buford Highway-inspired pho. Grab them to go or stay and enjoy a coffee, local beer, or glass of American wine.
One Flew South
Closest Gate: E Center
This upscale dining experience completely changed the airport when it opened in 2008 as the only non-chain restaurant. Its regional cuisine, sushi, and craft cocktails have been nominated for a prestigious James Beard award for outstanding service. It’s not a stretch to say that this is the best restaurant in the airport and possibly all airports. Even the decor pays homage to its Georgia setting by using Cherokee marble and native heart pine wood.
Closest Gate: F Mezzanine
The Italian-inspired restaurant is among the best in the city. The airport has its own outpost, open for lunch and dinner from noon to 7 pm. Travelers can enjoy pasta, charcuterie, pizzas, and paninis with wine and cocktails. But their fried goat cheese balls and gelato are enough to make you hunker down into the airport like Tom Hanks in The Terminal.
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