This morning my colleague popped into my office doorway. “Hey, you still free for lunch today?” I’d thrown the suggestion out a few days ago—we were long overdue for a conversation that had nothing to do with magazine deadlines.
But at her question, about 30 alarms went off in my head. No, absolutely not. Not with that massive story that has to launch on the website today and the research I need to do for that interview tomorrow and, oh yeah, the article about going out to lunch I promised the dining editor I would write two days ago.
“Or, you’re not anymore . . .” my colleague trailed off, picking up on my internal panic. We agreed to go to lunch on Friday, and I settled in to my desk to tackle the infinite to-do list. In about two hours, I will hurriedly microwave leftover Kung Pao Chicken from Canton Cooks and try not to get grease on my keyboard while I eat.
I won’t be any less busy on Friday. I’ll have the same deadlines, meetings, and unanswered emails, but I am taking that hour to leave my cluttered desk behind and reset my brain.
This is a luxury a lot of employees don’t have anymore, and restaurants are feeling the pinch. The Wall Street Journal reported last week that restaurant lunch traffic in the United States is at its lowest in four decades, with Americans taking a little over 400 million fewer trips out to restaurants for lunch, causing $3.2 billion in lost revenue. No surprises there. Hourly employees have to clock out to eat lunch, often with a short window to do so, and working through the midday meal seems to have become the norm for many salaried employees. (Enter: #saddesklunch.) A restaurant lunch, as the article notes, is also substantially more expensive than just making something at home. Why pay $8 for a salad when you can make one at home for $4?
But—if you can afford to leave your desk, and if you can afford the food itself, the occasional lunch outside of the office is beneficial for not only fostering relationships with coworkers, clients, and friends, but also just taking an often much-needed mental health break.
In case you’re thinking now is a good time for lunch, we took to Facebook to get a few suggestions on where Atlantans like to dine out. Here are some of their suggestions, along with a few of our favorites:
If you work downtown, Aviva by Kameel in Peachtree Center is beloved for its fresh Middle Eastern chicken, salmon, and vegetables. Chef Kameel himself is usually at the fast-casual restaurant, handing out free samples of baklava and soup and while reminding you that he loves you just for dropping by. The falafel is one of the best in town.
Multiple people cited the salad bar at Saltwood at the Loews Hotel Midtown as being a go-to for its massive portions and fancy toppings such as dried apricots, farro, and pickled tomatoes.
Near Ponce City Market, 8 Arm technically only offers “brunch” during the week (don’t worry, it’s served from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.), but the avocado crab toast and savory biscuit are Instagram and taste bud favorites.
Quick, inexpensive, and with locations all over the city, Taqueria Del Sol is an Atlanta lunchtime staple. Order a couple of fried chicken tacos and don’t pass on the warm, gooey cheese dip.
A Delta employee recommended Pit Boss Barbecue for those staffing the World’s Busiest Airport. (Although be careful not to let this rich meal put you to sleep!)
Joy Cafe was once a Buckhead staple for sandwiches and brunchy favorites like berry-covered waffles. Now, workers in Midtown have a good reason to leave the office and check out the new Peachtree Street digs. Don’t miss the breakfast burrito (above).
Across from the CDC, The General Muir’s hearty pastrami sandwich is best when you add plenty of chopped sweet chicken liver. Or for a lighter option, go for the smoked trout salad.
In Buckhead, you can relive the era of Mad Men-esque power lunches at Bones. We’re partial to the burger.
On the Westside, Bocado serves up quinoa salad with avocado, radish, and cucumber, along with its famous burger stack. Just up the road, La Fonda makes comforting chicken tacos and chips and queso. And Star Provisions, settled into its new spot on Ellsworth Industrial Boulevard, has excellent omlette baguette sandwiches.
In East Atlanta Village, We Suki Suki’s BBQ pork banh mi is a lunch must for its tender meat, crunchy veggies, and rich aioli. Treat yourself to a scoop of Revolution Gelato for dessert, also inside the Global Grub Collective.
Cabbagetown newcomer Petit Chou charms with biscuits and gravy and a croque monsieur. Or for an American comfort food favorite, hop over to Little’s for their ultra-cheap, ultra-satisfying burger.
On Auburn Avenue, LottaFrutta offers quick, healthy fruit and yogurt cups and fresh tropical fruit smoothies. There’s also a small grilled sandwich menu with ham, turkey, cheese, and veggie options.
Keep an eye on roaming food truck Buena Gente’s calendar to snag the best Cuban sandwich in the city. This month’s stops include Tower Place in Buckhead, Colony Square, Dunwoody, and Duluth.
What are your favorite lunch spots? Tell us in the comments below.