Busy Bee Cafe earns a James Beard Classics Award

The historic Atlanta restaurant was one of six restaurants to receive the honor this year

Busy Bee's Fried Chicken
Busy Bee’s Fried Chicken

Photograph by Drew Podo

Already well-known to Atlantans as having the best fried chicken around and being one of the best restaurants in the city, the historic Busy Bee Cafe (810 Martin Luther King Drive) has earned another accolade. This morning, the James Beard Foundation, whose annual awards are often known as “the Oscars of food,” named Busy Bee as one of the winners of their 2022 America’s Classics Awards. This award, first presented in 1998, is given to “locally owned restaurants that have timeless appeal and are beloved regionally for quality food that reflects the character of its community.”

Busy Bee certainly meets the criteria. Opened in 1947, the restaurant is as famous for its civil rights history as it is for its food, serving as a meeting place for leaders including Martin Luther King Jr. and Andrew Young. Today, politicians, celebrities, and neighborhood residents still come for the soul food—smothered pork chops, oxtails, catfish, collards, macaroni and cheese, and cornbread, among other comforting dishes. Their food also makes for an excellent takeout feast.

Busy Bee was one of six restaurants to earn a Classics award this year; the others included restaurants in New York, Oklahoma, California, Wisconsin, and New Jersey. It’s the first Atlanta restaurant to win this particular award, but two other Georgia restaurants have previously been named to the Classics list: Mrs. Wilkes Dining Room in Savannah and Weaver D’s in Athens. The restaurant will be honored at the James Beard Restaurant and Chef Awards ceremony on June 13 in Chicago.