2 Days in Black-Owned Atlanta
There is a reason Atlanta is heralded as an epicenter of Black excellence and the Cultural Capital of America. It is the place that has produced legends, pioneered movements and has become a burgeoning city brimming with opportunities for Black entrepreneurs and creatives. The history, food and culture are all woven into the fabric of America. From its Southern charmers to soulful cuisines, Atlanta is a city to easily fall in love with. If you only have 48 hours to spend in ATL, this guide will take you on a journey through Black-owned Atlanta, bridging old Atlanta, its history and legacy, to new Atlanta, bustling and booming, giving you a taste of both worlds.
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Colby Holiday is an adventure-loving, travel enthusiast, with an insatiable heart for wandering. She is a Digital Content Creator, Social Media Manager, and the founder/editor of her travel and lifestyle blog, World of A Wanderer. Her journey inspires audiences to explore a world outside of their own and to see the wonder in wandering. You can learn more about Colby and read more of her content on www.worldofawanderer.com
Gilly Brew Bar
Kickstart your day with a cup of brew from Gilly Brew Bar’s new location on Peters Street; or, if you like your coffee served with a splash of history, head just 20 minutes outside the city to historic Stone Mountain. Right in the heart of the city you will find the former two-story Mayor’s home, built by slaves, transformed into what is now Gilly Brew Bar, a Black-owned brew bar serving up coffee elixirs and quintessential caffeinated concoctions. This place is familial. It feels like home as soon as you step onto the rustic wraparound porch, reminiscent of spending Southern summers on the front porch, with a sweet tea in hand, a cool reprieve or a moment to relax.
Walk through the door and you’re greeted with a simultaneous sensory trifecta. The vibe, rustic charm, smell of freshly-ground coffee permeating the air all greet you before the barista ever gets a chance to utter the words, “Welcome to Gilly’s.” The menu itself isn’t an extensive one; but, whether you are a coffee connoisseur or you prefer less caffeinated sips, there is something for everybody. You will find your fill of sensational seasonal elixirs, but forever staples such as the Chaider, a masala chai infused with apple cider or crafted lattes infused with fresh herbs, such as rosemary and lavender, from their garden are always a good idea.
You could easily spend hours here, hunkered down doing work or losing all track of time catching up with a friend or even chatting with a friendly stranger, but you only have 48 hours and there’s more to see and do. So, let’s keep going.
Le Petit Marche
Head back west to the historic Kirkwood neighborhood and pop into Le Petit Marche where you will be served up a hefty helping of deliciousness. “The Little Market” is known for its all-day brunch fare and their sandwiches are not to be missed. The cute, quaint space will draw you in, but it’s the impeccable food, sprinkled with a dash of Southern charm that creates a recipe of palatable perfection. Even the journals at each table, inscribed with heart-warming words from past patrons, adds to the “something special” factor of Le Petit Marche.
National Center for Civil & Human Rights
As the birthplace of icons and mecca of the Civil Rights Movement, you would be remiss to not visit The National Center for Civil & Human Rights. Though not technically Black owned, the enthralling experience will live with you long after your time in Atlanta. From the moment you step through the corridor beneath the “colored” or “whites” signs indicative of the Jim Crow era, you will soon realize this is not just a museum of objects and writings on the wall, it is an immersive experience transporting you to bygone days of a harried past with hopes for a better future.
Everything about this experience is intentional. Pay attention to the way the lights are dimmed in some areas, representing a darker, bleaker period in time; or, the way they are brighter when journeying through times of hope and redemption. Sit at the lunch counter, place the headset over your ears, close your eyes, listen to the sounds and words that fill your mind, notice the change in the pace of your heartbeat. Feel what it must have felt like for the protestors of the 1950s. The exhibitions found here are chilling, moving and inspirational. You will need at least 2 hours to make your way through the entire museum. Don’t rush it. Take it all in, and when you’re finished you can fully digest it all over lunch.
Busy Bee Cafe
You can’t come to Atlanta and not have some good ol’ down South cooking. We can save the soul food restaurants full of fancy and frills for another day. Today, we’re heading to Busy Bee Cafe, a no-frills eatery that satiates the soul and has been patronized by the likes of President Obama, Jay Z and the late Kobe Bryant. It is the only establishment in the Westside neighborhood that was around during the time of segregation and still remains today. It’s where civil rights leaders would dine and hold strategy sessions. The history runs deep.
Busy Bee has a nostalgic feeling — like Sunday dinner at Grandma’s. Photos line the walls, chatter and laughter fill the space and the food is cooked with love. It’s why people come back again and again and lines are constantly wrapped around the building.
So, what should you try on the menu? EVERYTHING! From the pork chops to shrimp and catfish, you can’t go wrong with anything. However, an absolute must-try is the fried chicken. Busy Bee has, arguably, the best fried chicken in Atlanta. It’s the right amount of crisp and seasoned to perfection. Add on some fixin’s and Southern favorites like mac and cheese, collard greens and cornbread and you’ll understand why Busy Bee has stood the test of time, and why it will be at the top of your “to-do” list every time you visit Atlanta.
Check out the street art scene
Resist the urge to slip into a food coma after Busy Bee, and instead “walk it off” while exploring Atlanta’s Black street art scene and getting those Insta-worthy shots of the city. Start off in historic Old Fourth Ward at Jackson Street Bridge, located just a few blocks from Dr. Martin Luther King’s childhood home. This bridge offers the iconic view of Atlanta’s skyline and is perfect for sunrise or sunset photos.
Make your way over to Krog Street Tunnel and Cabbagetown, about a four-minute drive away, for some fun photo ops with artwork by Black artists such as Choze, who reminds us of the late John Lewis’ infamous quote, “Get in good trouble, necessary trouble”, or incredible muralists such as Ashley Dopson who recently completed Atlanta’s 1,000th mural, Fish are Jumping. If you are not all photo’d out by this point, the eclectic neighborhood of Little Five Points beckons for you to strike a pose in front of ATLiens and hip hop legends, Outkast. The sounds of Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik, Hey Ya!, So Fresh, So Clean or a gamut of other hits will undoubtedly ruminate through your mind, transcending you to some indelible point in time. Ahh, the memories.
Tom, Dick and Hank
Rest up before the last stop of the evening at Tom, Dick and Hank. You’ll no longer be able to catch a Braves game just down the street at the historic Turner Field, but you can still get some of the best smoked wings in the city, not to mention the Food Network-worthy turkey ribs. Wood-paneled walls and rustic interiors lead the way to a laid back vibe where you can enjoy a few brews and finger lickin’ good barbecue. Catch a game on the flat screens or drink in views of the bustling city below from the rooftop patio.
BQE Restaurant and Lounge
History and nostalgia of old Atlanta was the theme for day 1. For day 2, we’re switching it up a bit and exploring new Atlanta. The first stop is brunch at BQE Restaurant and Lounge serving up breakfast, lunch and dinner Wednesday through Sunday. But, the real treat are the weekend brunches happening Saturday and Sunday with a live DJ, bottomless bellinis and a menu where you’re tempted to try one of everything. From red velvet chicken and waffles to gouda shrimp and grits or the Edgewood breakfast, you will be absolutely spoilt for choice.The energy of BQE moves you as soon as you walk through the door. The vibes reverberating throughout are more than just an effect of the music, it’s the culmination of people simply having a good time over good food and drinks. Before long, you’ll even find yourself doing your own little happy dance, whether from the music, food, energy or all of the above.
Shop Black Owned
“Support is a verb.”
This is a reminder and incredible message from the newly opened Village Market at Ponce City Market. This marketplace is all about spotlighting local, Black-owned small businesses that specialize in merchandise such as conscious apparel, all-natural products, home goods, beauty products, etc. The Village Market is all about supporting what you love, supporting what you believe in and putting out a call-of-action for doers. If you want to support small Black-owned businesses in Atlanta, this is a one-stop-shop for just that.
After your little shop-capade you should consider indulging in another type of adventure. If you’ve never had a ménage à trois or hollywood hooker, you’ve got to try one in Atlanta. Don’t worry, this saucy rendezvous is not what you think; these are menu items at the wildly popular vegan restaurants in Atlanta, known as Slutty Vegan. Growing from a mobile stand that garnered a two hour wait time for vegan burgers, to two brick and mortar locations in just two years, you know they must be doing something right. You can get these plant-based patties loaded with cheese, bacon, shrimp and of course the signature Slut sauce; and, the best part about it — it’s all vegan (even the Hawaiian bun)! So, no need for the walk of shame after your one night stand.
Indulge a Little
Speaking of indulging, treat yourself to a little afternoon snack at Indulge Gourmet Popcorn. The smell of decadence that greets you at the door will have you salivating before you even get to the counter to make your selections. You’ll have signature options such as white cheddar jalapeno, chocolate and caramel with pecans or white chocolate popcorn to choose from, but you cannot leave without trying the flavor of the week. Earl Grey vanilla bean cake, banana pudding, strawberry lemonade and lavender rose elixir are just a few of the tantalizing flavors you’ll find on the revolving weekly menu. Trust me, this isn’t your average popcorn and you just may find yourself circling back to Indulge before your 48 hours in the city are up.
Pin & Proper
Next, check out Pin & Proper, a little-known hangout spot that is perfect for those who like a little friendly competition. Play the hand you’re dealt in a game of Uno or see how the chips stack in your favor with Connect Four. But, if you really want to get down and dirty with some competitive fun, try your hand at Pinfall, where corn hole meets bowling meets football. Sounds a bit strange, but it’s one of those things that just…works, and is a ton of fun to boot. The object of the game is to knock down all your bowling pins with a football before your opponent does. It’s harder than it sounds; but, don’t worry, you don’t need Matt Ryan-like athletic abilities, it’s all in good fun and something so completely out of the norm that even if you’re really bad at it you’re bound to have a great time and lots of laughs in the process.
Enjoy the Suite Life
For your last night in Atlanta, enjoy a night on the town and incredible food, at Suite Food Lounge. This swanky two-story restaurant and lounge is one of Atlanta’s largest Black-owned restaurants. Get a taste of American cuisine with a Southern twist of menu options such as fried lobster tail with mac and cheese, the Suite Surf ‘N Turf, the Suite Heat fried chicken dinner and an array of other flavorful fares.
Some nights you’ll swoon to the sweet sounds of live jazz, while others your cheeks will hurt from laughter during various comedy shows. If you’re in the partying mood, the space transforms to a club after 10:30 p.m.
Cafe Circa Restaurant & Bar
Add the perfect punctuation to your time in Atlanta with a nightcap at Cafe Circa. Here you’ll find a quaint bar, tucked away on the burgeoning bar and nightlife scene on Edgewood Avenue. Cafe Circa offers a contrast of two worlds. On the first level, low-lighting and jazz music sets a sophisticated ambiance for a mellow evening with good conversation over hand-crafted cocktails. Meanwhile upstairs, you’ll feel the boom of the bass on the rooftop for a more livelier scene, with a live DJ, hookahs and a frenetic feel. Two different vibes, one building and an exceptional way to end the night in Atlanta.
Touring Atlanta is a soul-quenching experience that leaves a mind, heart and soul (and belly!) full of enjoyment. Take a day, a weekend or a week to explore and let our past and our future sink in.
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