20 Reasons Why Atlanta is America’s Music Capital

We have musicians who feed us

Rapper Chris “Ludacris” Bridges poses outside Chicken+Beer with some hungry fans.

Photograph by Chucky Kahng.

Many artists understand that fame can be fleeting, that tastes change, and that it’s a good idea to diversify your income. Others have discovered that wealth and fame provide an opportunity to pursue passions outside of music (think Killer Mike’s barber shop, the SWAG Shop). In both cases, Atlanta musicians have mastered the art of the side hustle—and nowhere is that more apparent than in our restaurant scene.

There’s Emily Saliers of the Indigo Girls, who cofounded iconic Southern restaurant Watershed in 1999. There’s Ludacris, who opened Chicken + Beer (named after his hit 2003 album) at the airport. And there’s country star Zac Brown, who’ll soon open Zac Brown’s Social Club—his second restaurant—in Philips Arena.

“Food brings people together the way music brings people together,” says Saliers, who was already an investor in the Flying Biscuit Cafe when she helped start Watershed.

Indie artists also play a significant role in Atlanta’s food scene. Before he was the James Beard Award–winning chef responsible for Miller Union’s elegant Southern fare, Steven Satterfield released four albums with ’90s dream-pop band Seely. And Jesse Smith—the bassist for punk band the Carbonas and frontman for power-pop group Gentleman Jesse—helped turn a former train depot in Decatur into the acclaimed Kimball House restaurant in 2013.

“I was very hands-on with my music, just like I am with the restaurant,” says Smith, who founded Kimball House with a group that includes his label head, Bryan Rackley (who is co-owner of Kimball House). “I didn’t want the quality of the music to ever suffer because I was trying to appeal to more people. And that’s similar to the way we run the restaurant.”

In addition to wanting to connect with fans, these artists also want to honor their origins.

“There’s a connection between our musical roots that were founded in the South,” Saliers says, “and our love of food that’s local to the South.”