50 of Our Favorite Meals for Takeout
We've ordered more to-go food than ever this past year. Here's what we learned.
Kiah Armstrong, Heather Buckner, Mike Jordan, Christiane Lauterbach, Austin L. Ray, Myrydd Wells
Takeout Top Three
This is what we’d order if we were stranded on a deserted island. Oh, wait . . .
The Deer and the Dove
Half duck and beef fat potatoes
Terry Koval’s greatest strength as a chef is the way he tackles cooking with unabashed joy. Order his duck, and you’ll be amazed by the smoked breast and the confit leg sharing the limelight with meltingly tender pink-eyed peas, bright Hickory Hills mustard greens, and a soothing squash puree. I always order a side of his beef fat potatoes with scallions and nutritional yeast. On the way out, score some fresh bagels from Koval’s next-door shop, B-Side. 155 Sycamore Street, Decatur
Fried chicken with three sides
The generously portioned, old-timey Southern food packed by this venerable institution is extra comforting to me in times of stress. There are rotating daily specials I watch for, but one favorite that’s always on the menu is classic fried chicken the color of pale gold. Mashed potatoes with a ladle of gravy, festive corn dressing, and little nubbins of crisp fried okra might not be available on the same day, but when they are, I feel like I’ve won the lottery. 2299 Main Street, Tucker
Taqueria San Pancho
Tacos al vapor by the pound
This humble, Jalisco-style taqueria sells boiled meats by the pound, which is one of the best possible ways to eat tacos for days. The cabeza (beef cheeks) and the lengua (beef tongue) are particularly luscious and come with tiny, tender, white corn tortillas and all the chopped onion, fresh cilantro, crunchy radishes, and spicy salsas you’ll need for ideal taco assembly. Steam the tortillas over boiling water to reheat them the appropriate way. 4880 Lawrenceville Highway, Tucker
— Christiane Lauterbach, Atlanta restaurant critic
Pork loin with tortillas and alkaline noodles with kale and turnips
No longer a prix-fixe, multicourse affair, Staplehouse is now (maybe forever?) a market slinging to-go food that’s no less ambitious—and a lot more affordable. My favorite of the composed dishes is the simplest: Bear Creek Farms pork loin smoked over pecan wood, served with thick tortillas and salsa macha you’ll want to put on everything. Alkaline noodles tossed with housemade chili crisp also slay. 541 Edgewood Avenue, Old Fourth Ward
The General Muir
Beet Reuben and matzo ball soup
Yes, it’s borderline sacrilegious to bypass the General Muir’s achingly tender corned beef for this vegetarian Reuben. But the thinly sliced, fragrantly smoked beets that stand in for the meat are a splendid understudy, especially for the beef-averse. Speaking of, several vegetarians have confessed that they bend their rules only for the GM’s matzo ball soup, which is damn near velvety with schmaltz and anchored by an oversized pillow-dumpling. 1540 Avenue Place, Emory
Pollo las brasa, ceviche pescado de Peru, and chaufa marisco mixto
Peruvian rotisserie chicken served with huacatay (creamy black-mint sauce) is the main draw, but I’m just as smitten with the chaufa marisco mixto—a massive mound of fried rice brimming with texturally perfect Spanish octopus, flounder, shrimp, and squid. And of the half-dozen ceviches, I’m partial to the straight-up flounder, served the Peruvian way with choclo corn and slices of steamed sweet potatoes. 614 Church Street, Decatur
— Mara Shalhoup, Atlanta deputy editor
Fried catfish and shrimp
This meal holds up so shockingly well in transit, it’s almost as if it were designed for takeout. The cornmeal-battered catfish is crispy and fresh, and the sides stand out as much as the seafood—small but perfectly sweet hush puppies, buttery Cajun red potatoes, and corn coated with Crawfish Shack’s signature spicy boil seasoning. Order a side of Cajun fries, too—potato overload be damned. The Old Bay in the spice mix really pops. 4337 Buford Highway, Chamblee
Busy Bee Café
Fried chicken (dark) with fried okra and baked macaroni and cheese
Hot, crispy, and endlessly comforting, the famous fried chicken at this historic restaurant is every bit as perfect as you’d hoped—and will forever ruin your favorite fast-food chicken joints. Add fresh fried okra, buttery cornbread, and creamy, extra-thick mac and cheese for a meal that will most likely lead to a nap. You’ll fall asleep full and happy. 810 Martin Luther King Jr. Drive, Atlanta University Center
Bell Street Burritos
Pork and green chili grilled burrito
It almost goes without saying that Atlanta’s best Mission-style burrito is a takeout champion. But no matter which fillings you prefer—I’m team pork and green chili (add cilantro, grilled onions, jalapeños, and chipotle salsa)—you must “grill my burrito” for a quesadilla-like effect that puts plain tortillas to shame. For those of you missing the restaurant’s squeeze-bottles of housemade salsas, you can order them by the pint. Locations in Buckhead, Inman Park, and Tucker
— Myrydd Wells, Atlanta digital editor
Grub Fresh Bowls & Wraps
Sweet and spicy salmon bowl
Steps from Delta HQ, this fast-casual spot with an unremarkable facade is actually a first-of-its-kind, Black-owned restaurant serving beautiful, made-to-order rice bowls. The sweet and spicy salmon bowl, with black and white sesame seeds, green onions, purple cabbage, and snappy edamame, rightfully hogs the spotlight. What a welcome addition to an area where locals have plenty of fine carryout food but could use more options on the healthier side. 876 Virginia Avenue, Hapeville
10-piece nigiri omakase
Mujo launched last fall as a takeout-only sushi pop-up operating Thursdays through Sundays at Cooks & Soldiers. Its strongest selling point: Edomae-style treatment of exceptionally fresh fish (often sourced from fishermen in Japan). Order the 10-piece nigiri omakase, laid luxuriously over perfectly vinegary rice, and take the smallest, slowest bites possible—it’s a whole vibe. Some rare good news that broke in December: Mujo is going brick-and-mortar this year. 691 14th Street, Westside
Lake & Oak BBQ
Brisket with Chicago Red sauce
Time, which everyone seemed to have both too much and not enough of in 2020, slows down in the good way when you bite into Todd Richards’s and Joshua Lee’s perfectly smoked brisket. This is a masterclass in meat enjoyment, magnified by the tanginess of Richards’s Chicago Red sauce. Yes, it feels overindulgent. Balance your carnivorous excess with smoked chicken collard greens and brussels and cabbage slaw. 2358 Hosea L. Williams Drive, East Lake
— Mike Jordan, Atlanta contributing writer
Noodles or Dumplings?
If you’re torn between hangover ramen and steamed shrimp hakao, you might as well pick up both!
Chow kway teow
We love this Malaysian staple at BuHi’s Mamak—and we’re just as smitten with the plant-based version at its new vegan outpost in Chamblee.
This East Lake gem offers a fiery, headache-curing miracle ramen—meticulously packed for takeout.
For your soul-healing broth, choose a cooked meat as opposed to one of the rare ones; they travel better. Locations in Avondale Estates and Midtown.
Just like you’ll find in northwest China, these noodles are an art form. We like ours spicy, stir-fried, and with seafood. Locations on BuHi in Doraville and in Kennesaw.
These delicate, velvety, slippery dumplings cradle pork or veggies and have the perfect spicy kick. Available at Krog Street Market or on BuHi.
Steamed Shrimp Hakao
These magical mini-dumplings in East Atlanta Village are a pastel rainbow of pliant dough, packed with fragrant shrimp.
Northern China Eatery
Pork and Chive Pot Stickers
You can’t choose wrong among the two dozen dumpling varieties at this BuHi mainstay. Be sure to grab a sack of 24 or 60 frozen dumplings, too.
This fairly new, highly impressive Sichuan joint in Kennesaw offers pork dumplings steamed or pan-fried (and so many other goodies).
Tales of Two Food Delivery Drivers
Kimberly Smith says delivering food helps her help others. Mathew Lovell says it barely allows him to get by.Read more
Kimberly’s three favorite takeout meals
Pad thai boraan with shrimp
(Smyrna, Tucker, and Peachtree Corners)
Thompson Brothers BBQ
Short end ribs
Gyro and Greek
Mathew’s three favorite takeout meals:
General Tso’s Chicken
I Ate 5 Evergreen Sunday Cheeseburgers So You Don't Have To
But you should anywayRead more
Three Other Great Takeout Burgers
This griddled double-stack with American cheese, pickles, and “sassy sauce,” served out of a Dunwoody Chevron station, evokes a (better) Big Mac.
One Night Stand
Available in Westview, Jonesboro, and Old Fourth Ward, this burger is big, messy, and cheesy—but, unlike most burgers with that description, it’s vegan!
Buy a burger, save a music venue. This East Atlanta Village monster is topped with American cheese, thick pickles, and Coca-Cola–grilled onions.
What Is A Ghost Kitchen?
Move over, food trucks—chefs have found an even lower-risk way to try new ideasRead more
Three Meals to order from Ghost-Kitchen Chefs
Lobster mac and cheese
Scotch Yard delivers the comfort food we’ve needed to get us through this dark winter—and this thick, rich lobster mac and cheese is the must-order panacea. The texture of the pasta is perfect, the layers of flavor are complex, and you get a full lobster tail in your takeout box—in addition to the large pieces scattered within.
How is it possible to make a Philly cheesesteak even more freakishly delicious? Replace the steak with 24-hour–marinated bulgogi. Chef Matt Scruggs’s clever mashups also include a “Spicy Kim Reuben” that swaps classic kraut with kimchi, as well as fries loaded with kimchi, melted provolone, scallions, and honey sriracha.
Crispy Chicken Sandwich
There’s always room for a new challenger in Atlanta’s chicken-sandwich wars. Nick Leahy’s new poultry-focused, delivery-only ghost kitchen makes a killer one. Crispy-fried to just-past-golden-brown, it’s got crunch, juice, flavor, and chew. It’s a chicken sandwich that’s not trying to do too much, which is what makes it great.
Same Meal, Different Price
How to navigate food-delivery apps—and do right by the driver and restaurant
If you’re fortunate enough to live within a few miles of Chai Pani in Decatur, you can (and should) make a habit of picking up food there. If you’re more geographically challenged in relation to this outrageously delicious Indian street food, well, you might choose to rely on a food-delivery app—to the detriment of your bank account and the restaurant’s bottom line.Read more