Image by Eater Atlanta
By Mike Jordan
Atlanta University Center remains the largest consortium of Black colleges and universities in the world, which includes Spelman and Morehouse, Clark Atlanta University, Interdenominational Theological Seminary, Morehouse School of Medicine, and Morris Brown College. Located on the city’s historic westside, the area around the colleges is now known as the AUCC (Atlanta University Center Consortium). But to students, alumni, and longtime residents of Atlanta, it will forever be the AUC.
Beloved AUC restaurants have come and gone over the years, with new establishments bringing fresh dining and drinking options for students and community residents to enjoy. Whether you’re taking a study break, looking for a spot to bring the family while they’re in town, or popping out with friends for a bite to eat on the weekends, consider checking out these restaurants around Atlanta University Center.
Q – Time Restaurant
For more than 25 years, this family-owned soul food cafeteria has been an AUC favorite, both for students and faculty and staff hungry for quick and affordable breakfast, lunch and dinner fare. Dishes include French toast, pork ribs plates with two sides (and a muffin), and a variety of sides like potato salad, chunky mac and cheese, and zesty turnip greens.
Recently opened on the quieter side of Fair Street, Soulbox is billed as a “Southern Afro-Soul” restaurant slinging plates of fried chicken, mac and cheese, collards, and cornbread. There’s also saucy baby back pork ribs, oxtails over saffron rice, fried or grilled pork chops, baked turkey, and other comforting dishes to help students power through the academic year.
Local Green Atlanta
Local Green opened on the edge of Vine City in 2018. Owned by Atlanta hip hop industry veteran Zachary “Big Zak” Wallace, the food truck-turned-restaurant offers vegan, vegetarian, and pescatarian dishes. Try the Rappers Delight salmon Philly sandwich or 3 Stack cauliflower tacos (named for ATL’s own Andre 3000) with sides like Brussels sprouts slaw and air-fried Cajun fries.
Soul Vegetarian Restaurant #1
Located next to the Shrine of the Black Madonna, Soul Vegetarian #1 has been a staple of the West End community for decades, feeding students of all the surrounding colleges some of Atlanta’s tastiest and healthiest (no deep-fryers here) vegetarian and vegan dishes. Think a traditional Jerusalem rice platter, the popular roasted kalebone entree, and other takes on Southern comfort foods like barbecue tofu and onion rings.
Located across the street from the Mall West End, this Caribbean vegetarian-vegan cafeteria has served the community for more than 25 years, offering hot meals like curry vegetables with noodles, jerk “unduck” or “unfish” cakes, and raw dishes like spicy kale paired with drinks such as a glowing-red sorrel.
Bakaris Plant-Based Pizza
Just a couple of blocks west of Morehouse and Spelman in West End, Bakaris focuses on pizzas topped with fresh vegetables, vegan-based proteins, and non-dairy cheese. Try the Hawaiian pizza topped with vegan sausage and red onions or order the Killah kale salad or the Wakanda Impossible burger paired with freshly made pineapple-ginger juice.
Busy Bee Cafe
Opened by Lucy Jackson over 75 years ago in Vine City, Busy Bee Cafe became known for its soul-satisfying fried chicken and ham hocks. Jackson’s fried chicken was so legendary, that by the 1960s Busy Bee was a frequent refueling stop and meeting place for Civil Rights leaders Martin Luther King Jr., Ralph David Abernathy, Hosea Williams, Andrew Young, and Joseph Lowery. Now owned and operated by Tracy Gates, whose family took over the restaurant in the 1980s, Busy Bee continues to be a popular place in Vine City for soul food staples. In 2022, the James Beard Foundation even honored Busy Bee Cafe with an America’s Classics award.
Oak Street Eats
This ghost kitchen setup houses dozens of food options under one roof, making it a quick takeout and delivery spot for nearby students attending schools in the AUC. Place an order at Creole Soul for jambalaya and red beans and rice or order loaded baked potatoes from Load My Spud, seafood boils from the Juicy Crab, chicken wings from Crazy Ass Wings, or fish, chicken, and birria tacos from Taqueria Acapulco ATL. For dessert, there’s fried hand pies from Southern Peach Sisters.
The Hill Social
Located across from “Club Woody” library, the Hill Social is a two-story loungestaurant owned by Morehouse graduate Charles Hill. Here, folks can enjoy burgers, wings, tacos, and brunch with beer, cocktails, and hookah. A mural on the side of the building facing Parsons Street represents the core schools of the AUC.
This Vine City-based pizza service began as an underground kitchen started by Matthew “Phew” Foster in 2020. Foster purchased a portable pizza oven during the pandemic lockdown and craftily used social media and text messaging to collect orders and schedule pickups outside his apartment. The star on Foster’s menu is the lemon pepper wet pizza topped with mozzarella, butter sauce, and chopped chicken garnished with two lemon pepper wings. Another signature pizza from Foster includes one topped with oxtails and ricotta. Find Phew’s Pies popping up weekly at breweries around Atlanta, including Steady Hand Beer on Ellsworth Industrial.
Slim & Husky’s Pizza Beeria (Adair Park)
This Black-owned pizza chain based in Nashville came to Atlanta in 2019 and has since expanded to two locations, including this one on Metropolitan Parkway just south of the AUC. Owned by HBCU grads and friends Clinton Gray, Derrick Moore, and Emanuel Reed, each pizza is named for a popular hip-hop or R&B song. Try the artichoke, red onion, and sliced tomato pie called California Love with spinach basil pesto or get meatier with the red-sauced Rony, Roni, Rone topped with pork and beef pepperoni. Beer is a must at Slim and Husky’s, hence the name “pizza beeria.”
Dat Fire Jerk Chicken
A great option for Caribbean food close to campus is Dat Fire Jerk Chicken on Northside Drive. Owned by chef and Clark Atlanta University alum Jay John, Dat Fire offers affordably priced plates and tacos of jerk chicken and pork, along with other dishes like fried escovitch swai, colorful vegetable and curry plates, and a selection of patties. You can’t miss this friendly jerk joint driving down Northside with its building painted the colors of the Jamaican flag.
Paschal’s Restaurant & Bar
The original restaurant location and its historic motor lodge are no longer open on Fair Street, but the legacy of the Paschal brothers and their famous soul food (and fried chicken) are alive and well on Northside Drive. Still in comfortable walking distance of the core AUC schools, students and their families, as well as residents of the West End, Vine City, and Castleberry Hill communities, continue to pack the expansive dining room for barbecue baked chicken, fried green tomatoes, and vegetable plates of rice and gravy, black-eyed peas, green beans, mac and cheese, and cornbread. There’s also a location at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, and it serves breakfast, including a crispy fried chicken biscuit.
When rap outfit Nappy Roots decided to take the group’s beer-brewing hobby to the next level, it was Atlanta’s prominent Russell family who created space for them at one of the family’s Northside Drive properties. Located just down the street from Paschal’s, Atlantucky Brewing is where Nappy Roots members Fish Scales and Skinny Deville now make craft beer and host community events, art shows, and musical performances in the taproom. Stop in for a fresh and frothy jalapeno kolsch or the sturdy ATLKY Mud imperial stout and maybe grab some food from one of the Black-owned pop-ups featured in the kitchen or a live performance by Nappy Roots and other Atlanta musicians. Don’t miss Nappy Hour on Thursdays and Fridays, from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m., where you’ll find food and beer specials.