From Freedom Dreams to Collard Greens with Atlanta Food Walks

Food tours are becoming a bit of our “thing” and one of our favorite ways to explore a city. When Hannah and I headed out on our Civil Rights road trip through the south, we knew it was also our chance to enjoy some delicious Southern cuisine. When I asked our Atlantan friends their recommendations for Atlanta food tours, Atlanta Food Walks was the resounding favorite.

Atlanta Food Walks offers two different tours, but the Downtown Southern Food Walk was a perfect fit for the theme of our trip. Not only does it feature delicious food like soul food chicken, barbecue, fresh juices, and Creole pralines, but it also traces the Civil Rights movement and the important role food played.

There are four things that I loved up front about Atlanta Food Walks. First, they only offer small group tours with no more than 12 people. Second, the tours take you into neighborhoods you may not explore on your own and mix in the history of the area — almost like a two in one tour. Third, children are welcome. Granted, I believe all food tours are better for tweens and teens that are capable of walking and standing for up to three hours, listening quietly, and are open to sampling new foods. But, it still makes me happy when foodie families can participate in these tours together.  Lastly, there are a number of sit-down stops. Walking and standing for three hours straight can be hard for anyone, not just kids. It is nice when a food tour offers a mix of standing and sitting stops. Not only do your legs get a break, but the food at a sit down restaurant tends to be high quality and greater quantity.

Atlanta Food Tours that Blend History with Delicious Food

An important thing to remember about about food tours with Atlanta Food Walks and that is that they happen rain or shine. We were expecting rain on the day of our tour (but better than extreme heat!), so we went prepared with a travel umbrella and raincoats in a backpack. Luckily we managed to dodge the showers until later in the in day when we got drenched at the King Center.

We met our lovely guide Jennifer at Paschal’s, the unofficial headquarters of the Civil Rights movement and one of Atlanta’s most famous soul food restaurants. Jennifer grew up in Atlanta, went to culinary school, and is currently working in the restaurant and food business so not only was she professional, warm, and engaging, she also really knows what she is talking about.

Our group of four sat down to hear about how Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., who grew up not far from that location, used to meet at Paschal’s for its crispy fried chicken. Paschal’s has moved since King and his counterparts met there to plan the March on Washington and the Selma March, but they have been using the same chicken recipe since the 1940s. We really got a taste of southern soul food with their delicious fried chicken, cornbread stuffing, and candied yams. From the start I could tell that we were NOT going to walk away hungry or disappointed.

Paschals fried chicken Atlanta food tours

On our way to the next stop, we strolled through the Castleberry Hill Neighborhood. This was once called “snake nation” and home to the rough and rowdy bachelors that lived on the railroad. Today it is an up and coming art district, as evidenced by the street art adorning the many walls.

We also caught a glimpse of the new Mercedes-Benz Stadium, home to the Atlanta Falcons, on our way to The Smoke Ring. The Smoke Ring is a contemporary barbecue restaurant, which sources all of its ingredients from within a 200 mile radius. The quality of the food showed. The place was jammed for lunch but luckily our table was reserved so we got to rest yet again and sit down to a hearty tasting of Brunswick stew, mac and cheese, collard greens, pork belly, and pulled pork with three different sauces. (My favorite was the North Carolina style sauce!) Those over 21 also sampled a bourbon-based drink, while they had a special iced tea for Hannah to try.

I was already getting full when we left The Smoke Ring, but that is okay because we had a nice walk before our next stop to build up our appetites again. We strolled through the Five Points neighborhood, taking in some filming sites for The Walking Dead, as well as pausing outside of Rich’s Department Store to learn about the lunch counter sit ins that took place there. Our tour then took us through the Fairie Poplar historic banking district and into the Sweet Auburn area, a historically affluent African-American neighborhood.

Smoke Ring BBQ Atlanta

Our next stop was a break from traditional southern food at a hip juice bar called Arden’s Garden. We got our greens in a whole different way by sampling their juices and crispy kale chips. Hannah and I both fell in love with their green Yoga juice (and quite a few others!) We loved them so much in fact that not only did we buy some to take with us, I’ve also ordered from them a few times since for home delivery.

Ardens garden juices

The final stop of our tour (which typically covers 6-7 stops in three hours), was actually a four in one. At first I was a little disappointed that our last four stops were all just vendors at the Sweet Auburn Curb Market, but each was different and delicious. This municipal market, which started in 1924, is the oldest in Atlanta and features mostly family-owned businesses. The first stop was at Panbury’s, home of Southern African meat pie. It is hard to pick just one with so many delicious options to choose from but the beef and stout pie was outstanding.
Panburys meat pie Atlanta
Next up was a standing visit to Just Add Honey, a specialty tea boutique with a delicious Georgia peach tea. Following a quick sip of tea, we found some tables together to sample some more soul food from Metro Deli. We had yummy hoecakes, beans, and the most amazing banana pudding.
Just add honey peach tea
Like any good food tour, we finished off with something sweet at Miss D’s Pralines. Miss D came to Atlanta from New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina and started making authentic New Orleans-style pralines and specialty popcorns. Her popcorn is triple coated in all different flavors, including one that is butter, cheese, and caramel. We even had some extra to take home!
Miss Ds popcorn Sweet Auburn market
When our tour ended we said our farewells, armed with a map of where we walked and contact information for all the places that we visited on the tour — perfect for those of us with faulty memories or note taking. The brochure from Atlanta Food Walks also included coupons to the various establishments, if we returned on our own at a later date. Since the tour was definitely appropriate for either locals or visitors, this is a nice little bonus as the coupons are good for over a year.
Since the Sweet Auburn Market is only about a 10-minute walk from the Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic site, we walked over to continue our civil rights learning. Since the tour ends in a different location than the departure point, Atlanta Food Walks can also arrange a shuttle back to your car. You can also easily hop on the streetcar or call an Uber to get back to your hotel.
The Atlanta Food Walks Downtown Southern Food Walk is $65 per person, covering seven food stops over two miles and 3.5 hours. We received a media rate on our tour, but I can assure you that all opinions are our own.




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Publish Date: November 6, 2017


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