City & State or ZIP Tonight, this weekend, May 5th...
City & State or ZIP
City & State or ZIP Tonight, this weekend, May 5th...
City & State or ZIP

Sunday Column: Dining on both sides of the Perimeter


This way to good food

In yesterday’s Sunday Column, I summarized the ITP/OTP slapfest that broke out on this blog recently.


It seemed a simple enough request.

As I announced last week, we are busy assembling a group of local food writers to help contribute restaurant reviews and blog items as we work to expand our footprint and deepen our coverage of dining throughout the metro area.

So I ran a call-out for applicants in the Food and More blog a couple of weeks ago that specified we were looking for a writer familiar with restaurants outside the Perimeter. We also said we wanted someone who could cook, use blogging software and knew the difference between “flare” and “flair.”

But that OTP clause makes sense, right? There’s a lot of ground to cover in this megalopolis we call home. Though we try to cover Dixie like the voracious boll weevil here at The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, we’ve done a better job of chewing intown.

Alas, that brief mention of the Perimeter was one part of the entire post that got people talking. It didn’t take long at all for camps to square off on either side of I-285.

The comments started rolling in:

“Great. Just what this place needs is reviews of TGI Friday’s, Applebee’s and Chili’s. Don’t forget Outback and Red Lobster for those special occasion meals …”

Such was the initial volley from an intown reader. People joined in the jeering section, reeling off the names of chain restaurants that dot the suburban landscape and bestowing their greatest contempt on Denny’s. (One satisfied Denny’s customer felt compelled to point out the breakfasts are “memorable.”)

I thought it was curious that people complain so much about chains in suburbia when the same ones line Peachtree Road, Piedmont Road, Ponce de Leon Avenue and North Druid Hills Road. But, you know, whatever …

Then came the first riposte:

“OTP rules! and I don’t mean Chili’s”

The intown folks didn’t buy it:

“Ya sure OTP rules. Top restaurants and Chefs make it a habit to open their establishments in places with low population densities and low disposable incomes.”

Uh-oh. Battle lines had been drawn.

“Up here in redneck Johns Creek we know nuttin about good eatin or any kind of money. Lucky for us [Country Club] of the South has outside bathrooms. I think most of the money IS in North Fulton, you morons.”

It looked like war was about to break out on the blog. But then some reasonable souls started actually naming restaurants in the northern suburbs — from the upscale Trattoria One 41 to the down-home Greenwood’s on Green Street. A number of people made the unassailable claim that most of the best Korean, Mexican, Chinese and other ethnic cuisines are to be found outside the Perimeter.

“I don’t know anybody with deep roots in the area who lives or eats exclusively ITP or OTP. There’s great pho in Norcross, authentic Mexican in Jonesboro and Conyers, and killer BBQ all over the place, just for a few examples … [I]f you can’t find a great meal on either side of the Great Divide you just ain’t trying.”

One comment, from a parent of a child in a sports league, really caught my eye:

” If you have kids, you are always toting them to some game or tournament at the other end of tarnation. The consolation to the hour-long drive was going to eat someplace new.”

That really got me thinking. People who live intown often find themselves in the ‘burbs looking for food after a soccer match, or a trip to Lumber Liquidators, or a test drive at CarMax. They stay on busy streets and highways filled with shiny new construction where they see nothing but chains. They don’t know where to go, so they end up at Chili’s. They may not know, for instance, that there is such a place as downtown Alpharetta, filled with locally owned restaurants.

People who live in the suburbs and come intown to eat do so because they’ve heard about the restaurant. Maybe it was reviewed in the paper or created some buzz on the blogs. They may have a good meal, or they may stumble into a place that can’t keep up with all the attention. And then they think, “I could’ve had just as good a meal without the hour of driving.”

Before they know it, the “T” word is forming on their lips. “Trendy.” Who needs it?

Not everyone has the perspective of this commenter, whom I would like to hug, given half a chance:

“It’s just a highway, people. It means nothing. It doesn’t separate good restaurants from bad, or wealthy people from poor ones, or chains from non-chains.”

That said, I’m ready to dive into this debate. Head first.

110 comments Add your comment

Sally Lekens

August 31st, 2010
10:23 pm

We recently moved to North GA from Lexington, KY at the end of June. We have been checking out the little towns and have found absolutely wonderful restaurants. We have sampled a variety of cuisine from Mom’s homecooking to gourmet delights. In, out, down, around, one must keep an open mind as to what is right in front of them.


September 1st, 2010
9:29 am

Chilis and Longhorns on Piedmont. New IHOP on Ponce. Houstons on Peachtree and Lenox. There are chains ITP. And for all the people saying they like ITP restaurants because they don’t have to deal with screaming kids, don’t go to Decatur. It’s ITP and people lug their little ones not just to restaurants but to bars and pubs. I live ITP now, but grew up OTP. There are great restaurants on both sides. But I rarely feel any meal is worth driving more than 20 minutes each way for whether that means I come in or go out the perimeter. Just go to the good places near you and be happy


September 1st, 2010
10:01 am

I am curious about something. How old does my child need to be for me to take him to a restaurant? At what age is it acceptable to those of you who want me to “leave him at home”?


September 1st, 2010
10:26 am

Barbara, that would be about 40 from reading all these comments…


September 1st, 2010
1:01 pm

I realize you were asking the question with quite a bit of ‘tude, Barbara but I’m going to give you my own personal opinion – 12. Children under 12 should not be in restaurants that do not have a kids menu.

If there’s a kids menu or they have crayons and find-a-maze placemats, then bring all ages of the little critters you want to. They won’t bother me because I’m typically not in those restaurants.

Katherine Bolt

September 1st, 2010
1:09 pm

I too like dining ITP and OTP – as many of the comments have pointed out, you just have to know where to look and do a little research, just like in any other big spread-out metro like Atlanta.
That being said, the uncalled-for nastiness of some of these comments is a perfect example of why content providers such as the AJC should require real and verifiable names on blog commentary. I’m sick of reading ugly anonymous comments on political websites, and especially surprised to see this type of yelling on a FOOD blog, for heaven’s sake.

deborah smith

September 1st, 2010
1:42 pm

SEN Vietnamese restaurant, Cumming (on hwy. 141 near Mathis Airport). GREAT asian fusion. Also Ginger’s on 141. Best fancy comfort food in the mountains: CRIMSON MOON CAFE, Dahlonega.

The Amazing Timbo

September 1st, 2010
2:07 pm

I would rather be around a table full of 6 year olds than one table with piss and vinegar Rottney


September 1st, 2010
2:53 pm

Timbo, please show me the common courtesy of spelling my name correctly. Your use of it is offensive.

That said, please tell me where, in my posts, is the p&v you speak of? I replied to Barbara’s post with an honest opinion. And then stated that I don’t typically go to restos with kids menus and crayons. Where’s the p&v in that?


September 1st, 2010
3:37 pm

For a few of you it sounds like in the restaurants you patronize having kids would be a genetic impossibility for the customers. I do acknowledge it is hard to find restaurants with glory holes and tapas, so it may be best to remain in overpriced shacks found ITP


September 1st, 2010
3:54 pm

If all you food snobs would smell the food, beside the trendy places what o you have to offer. Some of the best bbq is in Smyrna at Thompson Bros on Cobb Pky, some of the best chinese food is at Taystee China in Marietta. Jerusalem Bakery/Restaurant is in the same shooping center as TC in Marietta. Other Mediterean restaurants are OTP as is some of the best Indian and Mexican. places. If you also want a good red sauce Italian Restaurant try Vincents on Barrett Pky in Marietta, or for NY style pizza Big Pie in the Sky in Kennesaw. I could go on. At least when I go to a OTP restaurant I don’t feel my wallet has been picked.


September 1st, 2010
4:19 pm

Sorry Rodney, but I live ITP and my 17 month-old has probably been to more fine dining establishments than most 30 year-olds. We’re short on time and we like good food, so we eat out quite a bit. I see know reason (nor have I ever) why you can’t bring a child to almost any restaurant as long as you use some common sense. For example, we always go early (no later than 6:30), order her something to eat at the same time we order our drinks, clean up any spills as soon as they occur, and always bring something to occupy her once she’s finished with her meal.

I will concede that there are some restaurants that are truly child-unfriendly (i.e. Quinones), but I think that relatively speaking. that list is pretty short.


September 1st, 2010
4:31 pm

I live ITP but often have to go OTP to visit family. I’ve never had a good meal at an OTP restaurant that wasn’t also a good chain also found intown (think, Roasters). All the allegedly unique fine dining establishements in Sandy Springs and Roswell that I have been to have been lousy. One exception — a sushi place on Buford Hwy just outside the perimeter.

It really isn’t worth the aggravation to drive on overcrowded sprawly highways or to pay that toll on GA 400 to eat anything OTP.


September 1st, 2010
4:33 pm

Also, OTP’ers assume that every nook and cranny ITP is crawling with people who want to mug you. News flash – ITP is pretty safe. Just don’t leave your purse on the front seat of your car like a moron and you’ll be fine.


September 1st, 2010
4:42 pm

I’m a motorcycle rider and I subscribe to Alton Brown’s three rules:
1. No interstates
2. No chain food restaurants
3. No whining
I spend a lot of my riding time searching for those Mom & Pop one of a kind restaurants. If you look, they are everywhere – ITP, OTP, and way way OTP. A lot of it is simple food, meat and three’s and BBQ, but I have also found some wonderful Italian, Mexican, and other types of foods by just going into a place that has a crowded parking lot and a name I don’t recognize. Not 100% foolproof, but I’ve had some truly memorable meals out on the road.

Jessica Smith

September 1st, 2010
4:46 pm

I’m sure this mailbox has been bombarded with this question – but here goes nothing…

Are you you still looking for food writers? I live OTP in the Duluth area. I’m very familiar with the restaurant scene in Norcross, Buford, Duluth, John’s Creek, Perimeter Mall area, and Alpharetta.

Ray Pugh

September 1st, 2010
4:47 pm

I haven’t seen one OTP’er whine that the parking lots are too small to contain their large SUVs necessary to accommodate their gigantic hypoglycemic @$$es…


September 1st, 2010
4:53 pm

It’s embarrassing to be part of a species that believes a perimeter highway surrounding a city could somehow magically separate good restaurants from bad ones.


September 1st, 2010
5:36 pm

I live ITP for 4 years and recently moved OTP. I would always try to find a new restaurant no matter where I go. In or out, I always try something new to me and it is a defeating feeling to go somewhere and find out after that is a chain. Like Nancy’s Chicago Pizza on Peachtree, it’s nice to go there and get a rare deep dish pizza in Atlanta, but it’s one of 30 or more locations in the country. Or Baldino’s, which has 2 restaurants in Atlanta but several all over the place.

Good point that ITP is not immune to chain restaurants.


September 1st, 2010
5:37 pm

To those of you all that venture inside the perimeter to eat, please dont… let the real buckheadians eat without OTP trash :)


September 1st, 2010
5:37 pm

I think my wife and I have a unique perspective because we split our time between our house in the Northern burbs and our condo in midtown. There are certainly many interesting places to eat in town but we have also found some real gems north of Atlanta.


September 1st, 2010
5:38 pm

The worst part about Atlanta suburbs is that 99.9% of them are totally devoid of any kind of culture


September 1st, 2010
5:46 pm

ITP vs. OTP battle lines – yet another reason to bring back Milton County.


September 1st, 2010
6:07 pm

I live downtown and if you ever see the possum sized rats that patrol downtown at night you would never eat downtown!


September 1st, 2010
6:08 pm

Heck yeah, Buckhead is a cultural mecca. I just cant get enough of office buildings, business hotels and what!! two malls and o yeah – the gaping bankrupt pit that has revitalized the blighted area. If you would pay $500k for a condo to be a part of this…well…I hope the valet loses your keys!


September 1st, 2010
6:11 pm

totally devoid of any culture in atlanta suburbs? what do you consider culture butt-head…i mean buckhead…pants on the ground or gold teeth? up here in north fulton we have a frickin rainbow of people not just black and white. why do you think our schools score the highest on tests and have the best students? maybe because there are a lot of hard working overachievers from other countries (and locals) that choose to live here and raise kids—not in your dump land of pavement and drunk people. as a 30 yr. resident that has lived all over this state from atl to s. georgia — north fulton is one of the most diverse parts of georgia I have ever lived in.


September 1st, 2010
6:11 pm

Culture like you have in buckhead, arrogant punks in the bars and clubs who don’t tip well and commit murder in the parking lots!


September 1st, 2010
6:32 pm

I love food ITP and OTP. I only eat ITP food at lunch, as I work ITP. I eat OTP on weekends, as this is where I live. I would love to eat at ITP places on the weekends sometimes, but it’s not worth the hassle of driving ITP when I don’t have to. My ITP friends think the same of OTP. If we had less traffic (perpetual construction and too many people), folks would go travel back and forth more readily for food.

Gavin Taylor

September 1st, 2010
6:47 pm

I am appalled at Emily…you heart pumps prejudice. You said:

“…in order enjoy a quality meal in peace and in safe, clean, law-enforced, civil areas without being surrounded by rude, foul-mouthed, chest-thumping, loud-talking, free-meal-scamming hoodlums with “Obama” stickers on their tacky automobiles that are backed poorly into the establishment’s parking spaces and who are too busy “keeping it real” to tip their hard-working restaurant servers.”

What does with “Obama” stickers really mean? So are your ignorant, undereducated, small-minded self saying that people who did not vote for Obama couldn’t possibly be rude, foul-mouthed, chest-thumping, loud-talking, free-meal-scamming hoodlums?

People like you make American dwellers look really ignorant.
“Knowledge is Power…Lack of is Ignorance!”

…and use grammar check next time, it’s free!


September 1st, 2010
6:47 pm

Since when does OTP mean Alpharetta and the Alpharetta wannabe’s (Johns Creek). If anything, Gwinnett has the most unique locally owned restaurants.

Gavin Taylor

September 1st, 2010
6:51 pm

Ok people, I just had to address that…Let us get back to the reviews and please ignore the ignorance…even if you are boiling to comment on it!


September 1st, 2010
6:53 pm

“free-meal-scamming hoodlums with “Obama” stickers on their tacky automobiles that are backed poorly into the establishment’s parking spaces and who are too busy “keeping it real” to tip their hard-working restaurant servers.”

“….has absolutely NOTHING to do with anyone’s’ race, age or sexual orientation.”

“to have a lovely dinner out at a nice restaurant ruined by the most uncouth among us.”

“Please take your racially divisive agenda to somewhere other than the food blogs, and enjoy your meal.”

Emily–my bad, really. How could I have misunderstood your written words as anything similar to ‘racist’? Those Obama-stickered, tacky cars backed in and parked so poorly out front, belonging to foul-mouthed, loud-talking, chest-thumping, uncouth, free-meal-scamming, ‘keeping-it-real’, unlawful “hoodlum” ITP diners were really descriptions of what you MEANT to express—that you really don’t enjoy dining in restaurants that also service white Democrats. How could I have gotten it so wrong?….I will work more diligently in the future to glean hidden meaning from subjective expression.

J.Kessler, what a bounty of article idea nuggets revealed here in your public blog, and not necessarily pertaining to food… Do you have any socialogist or psychologist friends who need human behavior material for their research projects or thesis? Here’d be the place for material…(Geez!)

Gavin Taylor

September 1st, 2010
7:18 pm

I have had numerous enjoyable experiences dining at a ‘Bed and Breakfast’ type restuarant OOOOOOOTP (Lol). Blue Willow in Social Circle (Walton County, I-20 E)is spectacular. Delicious country cooking; buffet style. It’s worth the drive!


September 1st, 2010
7:36 pm

@Buckhead, I live OTP, work ITP, I’m single…I’m trash solely because I live OTP??? Good grief I just like to get more for my money in housing & I can leave my door unlocked at night still…how many OTP’ers can saythat? Like so many others, I enjoy great restaurants both ITP & OTP.

@Gavin Taylor, Blue Willow Inn is fantastic LOVE IT…defintely worth the drive for both ITP’ers and OTP’ers


September 1st, 2010
7:37 pm

whoops I mean “how many ITP’ers can say that?”

edgewood adam

September 1st, 2010
8:21 pm

In no other city would there even be debate over where the best places to eat are. It is in the city. It is always in the city. Nobody leaves Manhattan to dine in Long Island. There are plenty of good places to eat OTP but not in the concentration that there are in the city. OTPers always have this inferiority complex about the city. It is never cooler to live in the burbs no matter where you are. Hide behind safety issues all you want. I bet you guys use nerf footballs too.

Gavin Taylor

September 1st, 2010
8:33 pm

Ok, NOONE waste your time commenting on the above post…lets keep naming restaurants! ;)

edgewood adam

September 1st, 2010
9:05 pm

Cabbagetown: Agave, Carroll St. Cafe, Village Pizza, 97 Estoria
Reynoldstown: Home Grown, Mi Barrio
Grant Park: Ziba’s, Six Feet Under,The Republic, Ria’s Blue Bird, Nick’s
Inman Park: Rathbuns, Serpas, Across the Street, Pcheen, the Albert, Shaun’s, Sauced,
Old 4th Ward: Vesuvias, Noni’s, Corner Tavern, Sound Table
East Atlanta Village: The Earl, Australian Bakery, Midway, Holy Taco
L5P: Savage Pizza, Niramish, Bombay, Yacht Club, Ali Baba’s
You want names. There are names. This is all within a 3 mile radius and is a tiny list of what is actually around. There are not this many independently owned, quality places to eat in all of Cobb County. Once again, there are good places to eat OTP but they have to be sought out. I just listed 30 places that will satisfy anyone and most are even budget friendly. And they are all within biking / walking distance of each other. This is leaving out the entire westside and numerous others. There is no debate. ITP dining > OTP.


September 1st, 2010
10:16 pm

Ugh- you are retarded. atlanta has some of the best private schools in the southeast (westminster, anyone?) . you sound bitter because you are poor white trash.


September 2nd, 2010
7:21 am

Another Buckhead sucker bet – $30k private schools. For $50 I will guess your weight and $100, I will tell you your horoscope and for a grand I will tell you what your dogs are thinking.


September 3rd, 2010
11:59 am

Atlanta extends beyond the perimeter, so you can be in Atlanta and OTP…moron. Check out a map. And restaurants should be reserved for those 18 and older. :)


September 3rd, 2010
12:01 pm

@Edgewood Adam – I’ve been mugged at all the places you mentioned. Thank you for making me remember.


September 4th, 2010
10:45 am

Don’t know if it still exists but Kools Korner had the best sandwiches in the city.


September 4th, 2010
2:52 pm

This is beyond stupid. ITP has not been ITP since the early 90s. Who do you think lives ITP now? Yeah, exactly. ITP is full of OTP and there is no ITP to speak of. They have strip malls, we have crap mixed use. They have SUVs, we have people who run red lights 2 minutes after they have changed. I’m not even going to get into demographics, but suffice to say there is no clear winner there either. A good place to eat is a good place to eat, it really does not matter where it is located. OTP mentality killed ITP before it even got started. Have you seen what intown “development” consists of? Yeah, poorly planned condos and half hearted attempts at mixed use and new urbanism. FAIL. Bring back the White Dot and the jack shacks and the Exit club or I say it never happened.


September 4th, 2010
3:10 pm

“SP” wrote……I live ITP. I work OTP. I REFUSE to eat at chains because I prefer my money be spent locally. That said. It’s slim pickings for quality restaurants OTP compared to ITP. Do any of Atlanta’s Top Chefs have restaurants OTP?….”

Answer: YES, the Varsity is to open in Dawsonville before the end of the year.


September 4th, 2010
3:59 pm

@huh? – I live in East Atlanta and I have frequented all of those places Edgdewood Adam mentions many many times and I’ve never had a problem with safety. You’re either incredibly unlucky or a liar.


September 4th, 2010
4:39 pm

Jesus Christ, everyone.

OK, I live ITP. Kirkwood. South of Hosea Williams, where it’s still a little rough around the edges. Actually, right off Memorial. So I’ve got some street cred, so what. Moved here from Kennesaw in 2008.

We all make choices about where we live and where we like to go. If someone wants to go to a chain, fine. It’s their money. If someone wants haute cuisine, fine. If you want to walk a block, fine. If you want to drive for hours, fine. Both sides of 285 in all directions have their little gems.

Part of the problem we have here is that in such a spread out metropolis, there are so many places that the majority of the populace in Metro Atlanta have never heard of. It won’t hurt anyone of us, ITP or OTP, to keep our ears to the ground, our eyes opened, and our noses piqued. If something’s awesome, we should give it a try when we’re feeling adventurous.

(And for everyone OTP who detests snotty “trendy” places, yes, many of us ITP can’t stand ‘em either.)


September 4th, 2010
4:43 pm

I live ITP and can’t wait to move OTP. Yeah- thats right; a mid 20’s successful educated college grad can’t stand living ITP because of absurdly high taxes, crappy crime, bad roads, and the general demeanor and worthlessness of the “indigenous” population.

Good food can be had both ITP and OTP. My favorite Greek is up in Marietta along with the best Szechuan chinese. The best Fried chicken I’ve ever had in my life is near Forsyth City. My favorite burgers in the world are ITP at Vortex along with my favorite Mexican at Bonegarden.

Paying other people to cook for me doesn’t determine where I live though. I can commute to good food. I can’t commute to good neighbors and low taxes.


September 4th, 2010
4:47 pm

I eat at plenty of upscale ITP restaurants for work, and OTP restaurants in my personal life as I live a good 20 miles north OTP. And I’ve seen good and bad on both sides. Anyone who tries to claim that either side has the “exclusive” good restaurants needs to get out more.

I, for one, would love to see a blog on good restaurants both ITP and OTP. My work takes me all over the greater metro area and I have clients everywhere from Suwanee to Peachtree City and everywhere in between, and am often looking for good suggestions for lunch and dinner for my clients.

Besides, no one knows the local restaurants as well as the locals! Ask any good foodie in the burbs and they can rattle off a half-dozen good downtown burb restaurants that can easily hold their own with anything on Peachtree Street.

People who can’t see the benefits of both are either snobs or ignorant. Try broadening your horizons….you’ll be better people for it.

Howard Beale

September 4th, 2010
4:59 pm

I have lived downtown, in the Luckie-Marietta district (near the Aquarium), with my wife for eight years (and we are both very white). We walk down along Marietta Street to restaurants near CNN, or across Centennial Olympic Park, at night, on a regular basis. We have never been mugged, bugged, victimized, threatened, or harassed by anyone, not even by any “rude, foul-mouthed, chest-thumping, loud-talking, free-meal-scamming hoodlums with ‘Obama’ stickers on their tacky automobiles,” thank you very much, Emily. But then of course perhaps we have just been lucky so far. Anyway, we thoroughly enjoy the pulse of the city, the diversity (I know that’s a dirty word to you, Emily) and the variety of local flavor in the restaurants. Unfortunately, we sometimes have to drive outside the perimeter to visit friends. The road rage up there is alarming, but I can sympathize with the Emilys who must commute an hour each way to work downtown five days a week, only to return to the land of faceless, tasteless, strip-mall chain-restaurants, with their corporate-mandated menus, hosted by jaded, disgruntled teenagers. What a sad existence that must be for you, Emily, but at least you can sleep well knowing you are “right” in your political (racial) thinking. I’m sure in your mind we are the superior race; therefore, you must surely be safer up there amongst your own kind. Hey – all this food talk is making me hungry! I think I’ll stroll across the park and find something to eat. Cheers!