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Get a Taste of Real Southern Cooking

From Fried Chicken to Mint Juleps, Get a Taste of the South

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Mary Mac's Tea Room in Atlanta

Atlanta's rapidly growing metropolis signifies a revitalization of the New South, and its cuisine evolves to match the city's cosmopolitan flavor.

The city's Southern Cuisine expands past traditional grits, collard greens and fried chicken and into a Southern American Nouveau. And depending on the chef, you might taste an infusion of French, Cajun and beyond.

If you ask 10 locals where the best Southern cuisine is, they'll probably give you 10 different answers. Some look to down and dirty traditional grits as the true marker of a Southern dish. Others look to restaurant icons and longstanding chefs as Southern fare trendsetters.

To point Atlanta travelers in the right direction, explore a handful of restaurants and decide which cuisine matches your idea of a true Southern dish.

Head to Mary Mac's Tea Room (224 Ponce de Leon Ave.; 404-876-1800) for lunch and dinner 7 days a week from 11am to 9pm.

Opened since the 1945, Mary Mac's serves specialty drinks like Mint Juleps and Hurricanes alongside traditional meatloafs, fried and baked chicken, mac and cheese, roat pork, shrimp and cheese grits, peach cobbler, cornbread and just about anything else you can think of that conjures up an old-fashioned Southern meal.

Colonnade (1879 Cheshire Bridge Rd; 404-874-5642) was founded in 1927 and moved to its current location in 1962, bringing along its loyal customers with them.

The longstanding Atlanta favorite serves up classic pot roast, fried chicken, livers, ribs and fresh fish dishes like salmon croquettes. But they're well known for their homemade dressing, sauces pies and yeast rolls. For a local dish, try the North Georgia rainbow trout.

Owner Emily Saliers of the Indigo Girls fame opened Watershed (1820 Peachtree Rd. NW; 404-809-3561)in Decatur before relocating to Peachtree Road in Brookwood Hills.

Modern Southern cuisine ranges from jumbo sea scallop schnitzel, duck confit, pate de champagne, pan roasted grouper, baked acadian redfish imperial and of course traditional mac and cheese.

Dubbed a "neighborhood barn and grill" Horseradish Grill (4320 Powers Ferry Rd. NW; 404) 255-7277) is among Atlanta's more upscale Southern neoveau restaurants.

Once a small, family-owned grocery store, Horseradish Grill features duck burgers, venison meatloaf, sweet corn crusted North Georgia trout, grouper and daily features.

See a show at Shakespeare Tavern and head out for a dish of chicken and waffles. Now run by Gladys Knight's son Shanga, Gladys Knight and Ron Winan's Chicken and Waffles (529 Peachtree St. NE; 404-874-9393) really is a taste sensation.

The buttery, crisp waffles mixed with salty fried chicken and sweetened in syrup is addictive. Or try the collard green spring rolls, shrimp and grits, eggs, wings and brown sugar salmon.

Specializing in Southern dishes with a contemporary twist, South City Kitchen (1144 Crescent Ave. Atlanta, 404-873-7358) serves up shrimp and grist, buttermilk fried chicken, fried green tomatoes and cornmeal oysters from its Midtown location.

South City Kitchen also offer an extensive wine and cocktail menu with signature drinks like the Back Porch concocted from peach whiskey, bourbon, peach bitters and a polished with a peach slice.

Head to Donnie's Country Cookin' (3300 Clairmont Rd.; 404-728-1188) for casual, down-home Southern cooking without the extra cosmopolitan frills. Choose from country steak, BBQ pork, fried porkchops, fried okra, fried squash, biscuits and plenty of grits.

Carver's Country Kitchen (1118 West Marietta St. NW; 404-794-4410 in downtown Atlanta is where the locals come to eat. Owner Sharon Carver comes in around 4am to start cooking lunch and helped earn a spot on CNN's "100 Places to Eat Like a Local"

With an ever changing entree menu, Carver's serves up catfish, collard greens, hash brown casserole, blue plate specials and divine desserts like chocolate coca-cola cake. Carver's is cash only, and an ATM is on site for patrons caught short.

Tucked away in historic Inman Park, Wisteria (471 North Highland Ave. NE; 404-525-3363)features contemporary American cuisine with Southern flavors. Try the fried half chicken, molasses-rubbed pork tenderloin, black eyed pea hummus, or pimento cheese deviled eggs.

Unlike many of Atlanta's restaurants, even longstanding institutions, Wisteria's building is nearly a century old and is small, but cozy.

Wherever you decide to go in your hunt for southern cuisine in Atlanta, get adventurous and get outside your comfort zone. Shrimp and grits can mean down-home, slow cooked and basic to one restaurant and infused with spices and homemade pimento cheese at another.

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