Hitting the road? 15 hidden gems—just outside Atlanta!—to stop at for snacks

Whether you’re hiking at FDR State Park or going to check out a North Georgia waterfall, these are the best sandwiches—and tacos, biscuits, churros, and soft-serve—to fuel your adventure. (The cheddar grouper sandwich, by the way, is a destination in its own right.)

Road trip stops North central georgia
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Sure, you can drive an hour from Atlanta in just about any direction and wind up someplace verdant and beautiful. And fine, here’s some suggestions for state parks and other wild areas studded with spectacular waterfalls, miles of hiking trails, and hidden swimming nooks. But just as important: What are you going to eat along the way?

Heading southwest toward Chattahoochee Bend State Park, Bush Head Shoals State Park, the Thread, West Point Lake, Callaway Resort & Gardens, and FDR State Park

1. Tyrone

The Latin American–influenced Kakao Cafe serves espresso drinks alongside cubanos and chorizo-stuffed breakfast burritos. Also, crucially: churros.

Bulgogi and brie grilled cheese, from the Asian fusion restaurant She Craft Co, is a gooey, satisfying—and fortifying—lunch. Snag an Asian lemonade (with lime, ginger, and lemongrass) from the grab-and-go case.

2. Palmetto

Frank’s Family Restaurant
Cheddar grouper sandwich from Frank’s Family Restaurant

Photograph by Cori Carter

Just 25 minutes from downtown, Frank’s Family Restaurant—Greek and Italian, right off the interstate, between a gas station and a wing joint—is worth a drive simply for its divine cheddar grouper sandwich, served piping hot on crusty bread. Also notable: cheesy spinach pie and fruit turnovers the size of a dinner plate.

Frank’s Family Restaurant
Fruit turnover from Frank’s Family Restaurant

3. Newnan

Assemble a picnic from the offerings at Cleaver & Cork, a new butcher shop in downtown Newnan, which sells charcuterie fare including cheese from Sequatchie Cove Creamery, Phickles pickles, and more.

Way down yonder by the big Alan Jackson mural (it’s his hometown), Rock Salt Milk Bar offers ice cream in flavors like orange-cardamom and snickerdoodle.

4. LaGrange

Go old-school at Charlie Joseph’s, a LaGrange institution since 1920, with a slaw dog and a lemon sour. Also on offer: Brunswick stew and Frito chili pie.

Tucked behind a Piggly Wiggly off the town’s main strip, cute little Taqueria Estrella Roja offers the usual taco fillings in handmade corn tortillas as well as two immensely flavorful veggie options: zucchini and mushroom.

On your way to a hike? It’s a carb boost. After a hike? A well-earned reward. In any case, Wild Leap Brew Co. provides a spacious outdoor area for sampling some of Georgia’s best beer.

Heading northeast toward Lake Lanier, Atlanta Botanical Garden Gainesville, Don Carter State Park, Chenocetah Mountain, Broad River Trail, Panther Creek, Tallulah Falls

5. Sugar Hill

Rushing Trading Co.

Photograph by Cori Carter

The massive biscuits at Rushing Trading Co. are built—and named—with sustenance in mind: See, for instance, the Hunters Biscuit (country ham, Irish cheddar, apple butter) and the Intermediate Hike Biscuit (sausage, egg, cheese).

6. Buford

The “world comfort cuisine” at Rico’s World Kitchen includes impeccably seasoned lumpia—Filipino egg rolls—and sandwiches worth stopping for, like mojo pork with pickles and guava barbecue sauce.

7. Gainesville

In one tasty package—either individually sized or by the loaf—Diletto Bakery’s cheese and guava–stuffed bread covers two of the most important food groups (cheese, bread). Snag a mango or passion fruit juice for the road.

8. Alto

Jaemor Farm

Photograph by Cori Carter

If the huge apple fritters aren’t reason enough to stop at the Jaemor Farm and Market farmstand on Cornelia Highway, here are a few more: fried pies, boiled peanuts, and peach and strawberry soft-serve, made with fruit grown on site.

9. Cornelia

Costa de Jalisco—both a taqueria and a grocer—offers the possibility of picking up road-friendly food (including cheesy birria tacos) and snacks and Jarritos for later.

10. Demorest

Citrus zest and bell peppers add a kick of flavor to the Turkish tuna avocado melt at Sweet Breads, a brunch spot where biscuits and gravy are another fan favorite.

11. Clarkesville

The wood-fired oven at Grains of Grace enriches the flavor of everything from bagels to waffles to hot, flaky beignets, with plenty of other lunch options available in this cute cafe.

This article appears in our June 2021 issue.